PhD Career Exploration Fellow Spotlight: Joan Ryan (Hosted by the Price Lab for Digital Humanities)

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. Joan Ryan, a PhD candidate in Sociology and Demography, was placed as a Fellow with the Price Lab for Digital Humanities. Read about Joan’s experience in the CEF below!

Describe your experience working with your host:

I previously had no idea what the digital humanities were. With the Price Lab, I learned that data science was a lot more comprehensive in subject matter than I thought, and that the applying data science to the fields of the social and sciences and humanities required a large degree of creativity and problem-solving skills.

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

I learned that the technical skills I had were more applicable to more than just the data sciences, and that I did not have to limit myself to certain career paths based on what statistical programming languages I can use. I also learned to appreciate the broad applicability of the social sciences, where I had previously worried about my competitiveness in the data science industry as a job market candidate with a PhD in sociology.

How does your CEF experience benefit your future career plans?

Being able to make the professional connections I did through the program will allow me to continue to build on and leverage those relationships to get some hands-on experience with a project in the digital humanities. The workshops conducted were also helpful with understanding what employers are looking for in a CV, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile.

What was the most valuable part of your CEF experience?

Having to prepare a CV, cover letter and LinkedIn profile in preparation for the workshops meant that I had templates that I could already draw from when I eventually go onto the job market, which is hugely helpful with alleviating some of the anxiety about the job search. Being able to have my application materials reviewed and to also review other students’ materials was eye opening as I got to see the vast variety of careers other graduate students were preparing for, and I was able to learn about other types of careers that I might also consider.

Top reason PhD students should apply to the CEF:

The program provided support with taking the first step towards the daunting process of being on the job market.

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