The summer after my first year at UC Berkeley, I looked for a summer job on campus that would give me the chance to both learn a new skill and earn some much-needed cash. Despite having no experience in coding or web development, I was lucky enough to be hired by Digital Humanities @ Berkeley as a Digital Communications Assistant. Digital Humanities (DH) staff trained me in website management and by the end of the summer, I was able to assist in copying and migrating the redesigned website to a new address. The skills I learned that summer have been useful ever since in organizing and hosting data relevant to my own research and looking at large volumes of digital data in new ways.
Thanks to these new DH connections, I was hired the following year as a Digital Humanities Program Assessment Fellow, a paid GSR position that also allowed me to take part in the Center for Teaching & Learning’s Graduate Student Assessment Fellowship (GSAF) program. Through the program’s bi-monthly seminars, I learned different methods for assessing the effectiveness of workshops and course offerings within a program or department. These skills have allowed me to be more aware both of long-term learning goals and how to measure progress toward them in my weekly lesson plans; they have also helped me in planning and assessing the outcomes of larger-scale academic workshops and conference sessions.
This year, after returning from two semesters of research abroad, I applied for a position as a Professional Development Liaison (PDL) with the Graduate Division at UC Berkeley. PDLs are hired as 25% Student Assistants to help promote and expand professional development efforts across a variety of graduate programs at the University. Through this internship, I have further built upon my existing skills in communications, project management, needs assessment design, academic program development, mentoring, leadership, and event planning.
From my experience in the above programs, I have learned that searching for a paid graduate student position that offers professional development opportunities does not have to be intimidating; it can easily allow you to earn a bit of extra money while simultaneously learning new skills that will make you a stronger job candidate, regardless of whether you pursue academic positions or an alternative path.
Here are a few pointers to help you get started in finding campus employment for graduate students
- Look for positions outside of your department. Organizations like Digital Humanities @ Berkeley, the Graduate Assembly, the Center for New Media, the Graduate Division, the Center for Teaching & Learning, the Academic Innovation Studio, the College of Letters & Science, Berkeley Research Computing, or your field-specific institutes usually look for a few new graduate student interns each semester, and some programs are quite competitive in their selection process. Keep your eye out for emails advertising positions in September/October (for the fall term) and December/January (for the spring term).
- Seek positions with flexible hours or remote work opportunities. Keeping your work flexible will allow you to do the work during times you are not occupied with teaching, and enable you to keep your favorite work slots open for your academic research and reading. Discuss flexible options with the position’s supervisor or administrator when you begin, and they may be willing to accommodate you, even if that flexibility was not listed in the original job description.
- Apply early and often. A wave of positions tend to open up cyclically at the beginning of each term, so it is good to submit applications to several organizations at once (with a good resume that shows your previous work experience and skills as well as a carefully customized cover letter) and have your pick of the positions afterwards. Once you have several offers in front of you, you can reevaluate them in the context of your academic schedule for the semester and see which combination might by the best match for you and your career goals
- Do not bite off more than you can chew. It can be difficult to manage more than your standard academic duties as a student and GSI or GSR, so know your limits and make your availability clear to your on-campus employer early in the interview process.
Clear everything properly with your department and Campus Shared Services (HR). Graduate students are allowed to work 50% time (20 hours a week) during the fall or spring semesters. Many of these positions are 25% or 50%. If you are teaching 50% time as a GSI or have a 50% GSR position and want to work an additional 25%, you will need to get approval from your Head Graduate Adviser confirming that you are in good academic standing. You should also run your hiring paperwork by your departmental human resources coordinator to make sure that all positions have been officially entered onto your payroll and associated with your SID. Most campus positions pay between $15 and $25 per hour, so check which pay grade classification the position has when applying.
Maelia DuBois is a Professional Development Liaison at the Graduate Division and a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of History with a specialization in German history.
This piece originally appeared in a slightly different form on the Career Development Blog of the History Department at UC Berkeley.