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. Elliot Montpellier, a PhD candidate in South Asia Studies and Anthropology, was placed as a Fellow with the Penn Libraries – Museum. Read about Elliot’s experience in the CEF below!
I had an excellent experience working in the Penn Museum Library. Working within the Penn Libraries is an excellent way of making the most of the CEF since you’re learning on the job, but also having the opportunity to provide useful insight as a graduate student that can have a direct impact on the services and programming for graduate students on campus. Due to the pandemic and remote work, my experience with my host mostly involved informational interviews and conversations about the exciting work taking place in the Museum Libraries. I had a chance to contribute first-hand to surveying faculty research and data management practices as well as read relevant scholarly literatures in library and information science towards developing new library services and policies for research data and digital scholarship. I was able to contribute my own disciplinary background to this work, seeing the direct links between my research and my ability to bring that expertise into this work. Focusing on these services and policies aimed at supporting liaison librarians, was an excellent chance to have interesting conversations about institutional priorities, constraints, strategic planning, and so forth. These conversations also developed into a CEF project which will help support graduate students in anthropology building data management and research planning capacities.
Through my informational interviews, I also had the opportunity to attend other meetings focused on analytics and user experience research taking place in the library. These informational interviews were also key in thinking about how to apply my experiences at Penn, research-focused and otherwise, in future career plans. Building these meaningful connections in the informational interviews and having the time to have extended conversations with library staff about the things that excite them most in their work was definitely the most rewarding part of my CEF experience. The practical advice and peer support built into the program for thinking through some of the practical elements of the job search process was also incredibly helpful. For any PhD student with an eye to being prepared for the job market, whether one has a curiosity about non-faculty career opportunities or already has a clear plan in place for post-graduate career interests, the program is worthwhile!