Transition Q&A:
Ann M. Aly

What did you hope for in terms of employment as you completed your PhD?
For the first couple years of my grad program, I wanted a tenure-track position. After a couple of personal/familial crises and a further look into academia, I changed my mind. The last couple years of my program, I focused on jobs related to teaching, research, and education in general.

What was your first post-PhD job?
My current job! I began applying to non-academic jobs during my last year of grad school and received an offer the spring before I graduated.
What do you do now?
I am the Workshops and Certification Program Manager at the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), which is a non-profit educational organization that supports language teaching and learning.
How did you get this job?
One of my weekly job hunting tasks was googling different combinations of traits I wanted in a job. One week, this listing (as well as others) came up on my current organization’s website. I applied, interviewed (three rounds), and had an offer within 6 weeks.
What kind of tasks do you do on a daily and weekly basis?
I consult with teachers, professors, and administrators about their professional development needs, coordinate workshops and events for language educators, develop new professional learning content for our members, and oversee training for individuals who are becoming certified in our language assessments.
What most surprises you about your job?
What surprises me most is how much my training in customer service from an old grocery store job comes into play. If a client is upset, impatient, or if an error happens, those service techniques to resolve a situation and mediate are super helpful (and definitely not taught in grad school).
What are your favourite parts of your job?
I love helping schools and universities determine what their needs are for professional development. Sometimes this is a workshop, working with a consultant, or providing them with information on recent research.
What would you change about it if you could?
Our organization is small, so sometimes one person can end up with a very large workload, which involves a lot of administrative tasks. I tend to find that a lot of administrative work can distract from larger projects or more exciting content creation.
What’s next for you, career-wise?
I’d like to incorporate more research into my current job – there’s still so much work to do in the field of language acquisition and linguistics.
What advice or thoughts do you have for PhDs in career transition now?
Start looking for work as soon as you’re ready. If you wait until your dissertation is done (or nearly done), it may be too late for you to be selective and find a job you really want.
Ann M. Aly
Ann earned her PhD at UCLA in Linguistics. She is the Workshops and Certification Program Manager at the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL).

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