Academics findas corporate trainers.
Academics in search of extra cash, or just keen for a change of pace, are taking their talents to the corporate sector. The critical thinking, problem solving, and communication skills they developed inside the ivory tower are highly valued elsewhere. Academics straddling both worlds say the trick is to find a way in and then tailor your skills to suit the new audience.
How to Get In
Some faculty members make cold calls to corporations, offering training sessions on everything from improved statistical analysis and conflict resolution to boosting productivity through teamwork. Others invest in a brochure and Web site, outlining their areas of expertise, and then do a direct mailing to companies in the region.
That may be an unnecessary expenditure of time and money; far better to reach out to the business sector via your own institution, says Aaron W. Hughey, a training consultant and professor at Western Kentucky University. Hughey is co-author of the study, “Out of the Ivory Tower and Into the Real World: Advice for Academics Who Want to be Corporate Trainers.”
“More and more colleges and universities do outreach with local business and industry. Just let it be known on campus that you’re available for these things. Once you do two or three training sessions, it becomes a matter of networking,” he says. Rates in his area run from $60 to $100 per hour. Urban centers on the east and west coasts fetch a larger fee.
The advantage of working through your institution is that no time is wasted on logistics. “Businesses know that we’ll bring people to their plant, factory or organization and conduct the training there,” says Hughey. “If you’re just getting into, this is a wonderful way to begin.”
Know Your Audience
Topics for training sessions vary, depending upon the nature of the business organization and industrial trends. “There are always fads, but conflict resolution, improving management, and customer service are popular subjects,” says Hughey. “And the perennial favorite is how to deal with difficult people.”
Once you nab the assignment, do your homework. Research the company and the character of the target group you’ve been hired to work with. Managers are interested in boosting productivity; non-supervisory trainees are looking for ways to move up. Don’t use a lecture format or waste your breath on theory, experts say. Your audience is looking for practical applications. Prepare a lesson plan with clear objectives appropriate to the group’s needs.
If you want to do more than dabble and are ready to embrace business full time, the Web is awash in helpful sites from your fellow academics. Some were forced into the commercial world during tenure wars of the past decade; others grew tired of their precarious existence as “roads scholars” and “freeway flyers,” piecing together low-paying jobs as adjunct faculty. These folks generously share their experiences in Web sites full of practical tips on alternative careers. One of the best, “The Escape Pod and PhDs Work,” was founded three years ago by a trio of English professors known as the “Girls With Glasses.”
Although some areas of the academic job market have picked up in recent years, long-term prognosis for the humanities sector is grim, according to Modern Language Association reports on employment and Bureau of Labor projections. Non-technical departments will rely increasingly on poorly paid, part-time, adjunct professors to plug their faculty gaps.
But as the saying goes, don’t get mad, get even: You can still make a lot more money in the business world. If you’re a humanities expert, take comfort in the fact that you and your kind are traditionally the most adaptable of all. Take those carefully honed skills in research, writing, thinking and communicating, and get thee to a headhunter.