Mindsets over Skill Sets: Applying Humanities Theories and Methods to the Problems of Career Management

AHA Session 242
Sunday, January 6, 2019: 9:00 AM-10:30 AM
Monroe Room (Palmer House Hilton, Sixth Floor)
Derek Attig, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Mearah Quinn-Brauner, Emory University

Session Abstract

How does advanced training in history and other humanities fields prepare you to navigate the uncertainty, crisis, and confusion that often marks the experience of “career” over the course of one’s life?

In this highly interactive session, presenters and participants will engage in collaborative theory-building toward the application of humanities methods to the challenges of what is known in career services as “career management.” For many reasons, much of the ongoing work on career diversity for historians and other humanists emphasizes transferrable skills and knowledge of specific kinds of workplaces. What does it mean, these efforts ask, to translate high-level skills developed as a humanities scholar (like critical thinking, pattern recognition, etc.) into a career as a curator or a data scientist? Radically expanding this notion of “transferability,” this session asks a different question: How do the specific methods and habits of mind learned in the humanities equip us to navigate and manage our careers (whatever path those careers take) over a lifetime?

Emphasizing mindsets over skill sets, this session will address three significant career management challenges and examine how each could be addressed using theoretical frameworks and ways of thinking that characterize History and Literary Studies as disciplines and the humanities as an interdisciplinary endeavor. Those challenges are: Change and Uncertainty, Identity and Belonging, and Reading. These themes will structure the session, and for each, the presenters will offer an analysis of the career challenges and propose specific humanities theories or methods that could be mobilized to address them, then open for discussion.

After discussion of these three topics, the session will close with a big-picture brainstorming session, with facilitators and attendees working together to identify, articulate, and map additional nodes where humanities methods meet career challenges, with an eye toward future work at the intersection of humanities methods and career management.

In addition to aiming to better equip humanists to navigate their careers, this session will challenge traditional boundaries between “academic” and “nonacademic” and between humanities disciplines. Indeed, by creating space for collaboration across those borders, the session aims to challenge the ways that differences of terminology and setting obscure shared habits of mind and prevent us from theorizing the humanities and their usefulness broadly.

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