From the Anthropology Major to an Exciting Career: Meaningful Stories and Multiple Perspectives at the Career Night

On Tuesday, January 27th, the Anthropology department hosted a Career Night for Anthropology Majors in collaboration with the Career Center. The event included a panel of five speakers, a Q&A session, and time for students to network with the speakers while fueling up on pizza and salad.  The speakers shared with the audience of 25 students fascinating stories about their career aspirations and career paths, discussed challenges and successes in finding employment, and commented on the value of the skills they learned in the anthropology program.  The AU alumni and professors also shared practical career advice and provided thoughtful answers to students’ questions.

The panel, moderated by Anthropology Professor David Vine, included three AU alumni and two AU faculty members:

  • Sarah Block, the Programs Initiatives Coordinator with Ayuda, has a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology and M.A. in Public Anthropology, both from AU
  • C. Annie Claus, Professor in the Anthropology Department has done research focused on the social ecology of marine and coastal environments and the politics of international conservation
  • Christopher Daniels, B.A. in Anthropology, is currently pursuing his M.A. in Public Anthropology at GWU
  • Ness Nesbitt, bilingual case manager with the National Abortion Federation. holds aB.A. in Anthropology from AU
  • Nina Shapiro-Perl, Filmmaker-in-Residence at AU, has her Ph.D. in social anthropology from the University of Connecticut

Since the panel featured professionals at different stages of their career development, from recent undergraduates and young professionals to seasoned and accomplished experts in their fields, their stories created a very interesting and rich picture of experiences that the anthropology major can lead to. The audience heard about doing research for conservation projects, organizing services for immigrants, making documentary films, conducting social work, etc.  All the speakers agreed that what they have learned through anthropology courses, e.g. the knowledge of the subject matter, qualitative research methods, and abilities to ask relevant questions, has been critical in a variety of contexts and has also served as a solid foundation for the development of new, industry (or career) specific skills.   The speakers talked about how they had found their passion through volunteering, interning, and doing scholarly research and how their anthropology education had been broad enough to accommodate their passion and make it work for them. For example, Sara Block, mentioned that while in the Master’s in Public Anthropology program at AU, she was able to focus on immigration issues in her research which ledto her current job with Ayuda.  As Programs Initiatives Coordinator, she serves the immigrant population while also building new business skills in fundraising and marketing.

The speakers also discussed job search strategies that worked for them.  For example, Nina Shapiro-Perl found her way into film-making first by “serendipity,” as she put it (just chatting to one of the moms in the day care), but also by taking risk and initiative, and understanding her own skill set.  For Sara Block and Ness Nesbitt, their internships led to their first jobs. For Chris, his long-term internship with the Smithsonian Institution, did not lead to a job with the organization, but helped him develop his professional network, explore and validate his career interests, and decide about graduate school.  The speakers stressed the importance of knowing your skills and being able to articulate them well to the employer.  They strongly encouraged students to work with career advisors on that.