PhD Career Exploration Fellow Spotlight: Drew Starling (Hosted by The Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies)

In the spring of 2021, 44 PhD students from a range of academic disciplines at Penn participated virtually in Career Services’ PhD Career Exploration Fellowship (CEF) program, where they were matched with a host organization to learn about different careers beyond academia. Drew Starling, a PhD candidate in History, was placed as a Fellow with the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at Penn. Read about Drew’s experience in the CEF below!

Describe your experience working with your host:

The CEF provided me with the opportunity to conduct more than fifteen informational interviews, some with people at the Katz Center, my host institution, and others with people with whom I was put in contact by my hosts and their contacts. Through these informational interviews, I was able to learn more about working in a wide array of fields, including academic research center administration, public programming and the digital humanities, library and museum curation, and fundraising and development. Everyone at the Katz Center and beyond was extremely honest, thoughtful, and generous in describing what their career path had been, in detailing what their work entailed, and in providing me with suggestions and further contacts.


What did you learn from this opportunity (about yourself, about career fields, the job search, etc.)?

The CEF allowed me to gain insight into a number of different career paths and helped me to think about what I did and did not want in a career.

How does your CEF experience benefit your future career plans?

Through the CEF program, I was able to build my network and to gain exposure to careers in which I did not even know I was interested. I was also able to begin to imagine more concretely what a career outside of academia and an academic-adjacent career may look like.

What was the most valuable part of your CEF experience?

While some of the career development workshops were useful, easily the most valuable part of the CEF experience was getting to meet with interesting, kind, and generous people, who taught me a lot about the pros and cons and ins and outs of a number of different academic-adjacent career paths.

Top reason PhD students should apply to the CEF:

While I would imagine the program will look different next year, anyone who wants to have an easy gateway to expanding their non-academic or academic-adjacent professional networks should consider applying for a CEF.

By Helen Pho
Helen Pho Associate Director, Graduate Students & Postdocs