PhD Career Exploration Fellow Spotlight: Emily French (Hosted by the Philadelphia Museum of Art – Publishing)

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. Emily French, a PhD candidate in Art & Archaeology of the Mediterranean World, was placed as a Fellow with the Philadelphia Museum of Art – Publishing. Read about Emily’s experience in the CEF below!

Describe your experience working with your host:

I had a great experience with my host. I had a series of 8 informational interviews with everyone in the publishing department, as well as a few others in the museum. I learned all about the field of museum publishing, including what a typical day-to-day looks like, how museum publishing is different from more conventional publishing, and trends in the field. I feel like I got an honest look at the field over the course of the semester, and many people sent me resources about the field that I can explore further. Many of the people I spoke to also helped me brainstorm other potential career paths!

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

Beyond what I learned about museum publishing, I learned a lot of basic but crucial things like how to research careers, what an informational interview is, and how to read job ads. The whole process now seems less murky. I also reevaluated my own career goals, and I am more confident that pursuing non-traditional academic jobs is the right path.

How does your CEF experience benefit your future career plans?

I will definitely now consider publishing, and especially museum publishing, as I’m exploring my options. I also have a LinkedIn profile that I can use to network, and I now feel equipped to do career research and request/hold informational interviews effectively.

What was the most valuable part of your CEF experience?

The most valuable part of the CEF for me was learning about all of the different paths people have taken into their careers. There are opportunities out there, and I feel a lot less behind in exploring my options. As PhD students we do have useful skills, and I feel much more able to articulate those now.

Top reason PhD students should apply to the CEF:

The CEF is relatively low-impact and you get so much out of it –career knowledge, new skills, and even tangible things like a LinkedIn profile or resume!There’s not really anything to lose, but a lot to gain.

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