272: Social Science Transferable Skills for Viable Careers with Dr. Sandy Oh

272: Social Science Transferable Skills for Viable Careers with Dr. Sandy Oh

In this episode, I’m joined by Dr. Sandy Oh, to discuss social science transferable skills. Dr. Sandy Oh has a PhD in cultural anthropology and has taught writing at UC Irvine while leading UX research for a LA-based civic tech organization. As an award-winning qualitative researcher and DEI advocate, she’s contributed to projects like “Godfather of Harlem” Season 2, nominated for NAACP Image Awards.

Her global career includes launching an online learning platform in South Korea and collaborating on educational innovations, all while leveraging her diverse background in anthropology and writing to inform and inspire.

On the show, she shares her background in cultural anthropology, outlines the essential skills she developed during her studies, and explains how these apply to various careers including user experience (UX) and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

We explore her career journey, highlighting the importance of creativity, adaptability, and seeking out opportunities within and beyond academia and she provides listeners with valuable practical advice on leveraging your social science skills to navigate and succeed in various professional fields.

You can connect with Dr. Sandy at the following links:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/prof_oh/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sandyoh/

Substack: https://doctorsandyoh.substack.com/

TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@doctorsandyoh?lang=en

My website: thespeculativeanthropologist.com

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272: Social Science Transferable Skills for Viable Careers with Dr. Sandy Oh


Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: [00:00:00] Welcome to the top global ranked and award nominated grad school femtoring podcast. The place for first gen BIPOCs to listen in on conversations about grad school, and growth. In this podcast, you'll learn about all things higher education, personal development, and sustainable productivity. This is Dr.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Yvette Martinez Vu, and I will be serving as your femtor, providing you with tips and tricks and everything else you need to know to successfully navigate grad school. For over 14 years, I've been empowering first gen students of color along their personal and professional journeys, and I'm really excited to support you too.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Welcome back everyone to another episode of the Grad School Femtoring Podcast. This is your host, Dr. [00:01:00] Yvette, and today we're going to cover the topic of transferable skills for social science majors with our special guest, Dr. Sandy Oh. She has a PhD in cultural anthropology, has UC Irvine while leading UX research for an LA based civic tech organization. Dr. Sandy Oh is also an award winning. qualitative researcher and DEI advocate and has contributed to projects like Godfather of Harlem Season 2, nominated for the NAACP Image Awards. She's also launched an online learning platform in South Korea and collaborated on educational innovations. Passionate about surfing, hiking, and classical music, she aims to continue research and DEI work while partnering with creative storytellers, leveraging her diverse background in anthropology and writing to inform and inspire. Welcome to the podcast, Dr. [00:02:00] Sandy.

Dr. Sandy Oh: Thank you so much for having me. I'm so happy to be here.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: I'm really happy to have you here. I'm happy that we could bring you in to talk a little bit more about what I anticipate will be a very, uh, trendy and timely topic for a lot of my listeners. I hear about it time and time again. Folks, especially grad students who come to me and ask, How can I transfer my skills?

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: And, you know, they, they're wanting to know what their options are. And there's only so much that I can say, you know, I don't know everything. So I'm really excited just to have, to hear your perspective, especially as someone trained in the social sciences, because I have a humanities background. So it'll be really helpful to hear from you today.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: But before we dive into the topic, I want to hear more about you. If you're comfortable letting us know a little bit more. Okay. about who you are and anything else that might come up for you about your background and backstory that helped you, [00:03:00] you know, get to where you are today. I

Dr. Sandy Oh: I mean, there's a lot that I could say here and I just want to start off by saying one of , the pieces of evidence I think from my career path that the social sciences is. does have many applications in fields outside of social sciences is that, for instance, I teach writing. So I'm in the School of Humanities at UC Irvine, and this actually surprises a lot of people.

Dr. Sandy Oh: We could definitely talk about this some more, but a little bit about me you know, I'm the daughter of immigrants. I'm Korean American. , I wound up studying South Korea, uh, for my PhD dissertation. There are many different reasons why I do think that one major reason that I don't really talk about in my publication so much or in official academic settings, but it's very real to me.

Dr. Sandy Oh: And I think it's real for a lot of children of immigrants and, you know, first gen, and I am technically first gen, depending on which definition you [00:04:00] use And that is, I chose South Korea as my field site because it was a way for me to reconnect. with, , where my family came from, right? Growing up in the US, I think we just get pulled in so many different directions.

Dr. Sandy Oh: Growing up as an Asian American, especially in my generation, like in the 90s, we didn't have a lot of Asian American role models. And so that sense of disconnect and those questions, especially in adolescence of like, where do I fit in? Where do I belong? They were very real for me. And so I do think that my pursuing a PhD, in anthropology, spending a lot of time in South Korea, reading a lot about the history, the politics economic policies even, , it was a way for me to kind of resuscitate this part of me that I thought was lost or maybe not lost, just not cultivated.

Dr. Sandy Oh: As much nurtured as much as I would have liked it. So those are some of like the other biographical tidbits of, how I wound up where [00:05:00] I am today.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: do think that a lot of listeners will resonate with that, that in your desire to nurture a part of yourself through your area of study. I'm sure a lot of us have fallen into our areas of study precisely because of that. I know I definitely had, , my grad school area. Subject area specialization was definitely tied back to my culture, my community, my identities, and the history behind that.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: So it's great to hear that. For folks who maybe landed there, landed in the humanities, because of whatever reason that came up for them, and suddenly they find themselves thinking, okay, now I gotta figure out a job, and I'm trying to figure out what my options are, and I'm trying to learn more about transferable skills.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Can we start with the basics of what even are transferable skills? And also, what do they look like for social science majors? Because I'm sure [00:06:00] I could think about a couple of things as it relates to the humanities, but you tell me about the social sciences.

Dr. Sandy Oh: Yeah. I think this is such an important conversation because the social, the social sciences, they're so important in terms of helping us understand why the world is the way it is, why we are the way we are, why conflicts arise, why Why , certain policies work, why others fail sometimes miserably.

Dr. Sandy Oh: And so baseline, I think studying the social sciences can help all of us just better navigate the world. Right. But let's talk about the hard skills. Okay. So as a student, especially as a grad student, just because of the volume of At the end of the day, we are trained to read. read very quickly, be able to process, , things like dense social theory, and then we're trained to talk about it, write about it in a more succinct manner.

Dr. Sandy Oh: And I [00:07:00] think that kind of distillation process just has so many applications, no matter which career path you take, because at the end of the day, we are all sifting through Enormous amounts of information, especially with social media, right?

Dr. Sandy Oh: And so to be able to really identify key points that are relevant to whatever it is you're interested in, whatever whatever project you might be working on right now, that in and of itself is extremely valuable.

Dr. Sandy Oh: And then of course, there's all the writing stuff, which is, you might be writing under the gun. You need to be able to address different audiences. Of course. The way I speak to fellow anthropologists at the AAA conference is quite different from how I talk about the same issues to my family members, friends, people I just strike up a conversation with in the wilderness.

Dr. Sandy Oh: , and then I've found that I have to, really think about the way I tailor my message again in my writing courses because I [00:08:00] am trained as an ethnographer. , really a lot of showing, not telling at the end of the day, cultural anthropologists are storytellers. And that's really how I made that jump to the school of humanities, because that skill set is the same, but maybe the way I talk about it, the way I teach it it might look different, , on the outside.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: that's so interesting that you just said cultural anthropologists are storytellers is if you're comfortable. Can you say a little bit more about that?

Dr. Sandy Oh: Yeah. Yeah. So I remember in grad school, I had one professor and he just put it very simply. He said, Hey, as cultural anthropologists, we're Dumpster divers. We just go out into a super confusing world. We're like sifting through all of this, , information. A lot of it seems conflicting, contradictory, but we've got to find the golden nuggets.

Dr. Sandy Oh: And once you find those golden nuggets, and often for us it can take the form [00:09:00] of finding paradoxes or finding two things that seem like they don't belong. And really going out, hanging out with people, trying to understand their day to day, trying to understand what kinds of conflicts arise, why those conflicts arise understanding the social values of a particular population practices, , and then we get into like, kinship relations and of different forms of economic organization.

Dr. Sandy Oh: I know, , we live under capitalism. There are many, many different iterations of capitalism as well, depending on where you are in the world and then really trying to understand. So for instance, if we stumble across a conflict. We need to understand like why that conflict is arising. Okay. Who are the active agents in maybe mediating the conflict?

Dr. Sandy Oh: Who are the ones who are maybe like adding fuel to the fire,

Dr. Sandy Oh: , all of these different details, and that's where the story really [00:10:00] comes out. And that's when we can start to really analyze and assess, like, you know, what are the gendered roles? How are these hierarchies produced? How are they maintained?

Dr. Sandy Oh: Okay. Who's maintaining them? Who are the invested actors in terms of like maintaining a particular ecosystem? And, , of course we're always documenting what people say and also documenting what they do. And sometimes they line up more frequently. They don't line up. And that might seem really confusing, but if we really take a step back and marinate over all the data that we've collected, All these things that look like they don't belong, we can find that they actually do, , fit together in a bigger, fairly confusing and often complicated puzzle.

Dr. Sandy Oh: But they do belong together. And so that's where the storytelling comes in. And as well, , , we don't develop statistics. We're not into finding like a percentage number of people who do this versus [00:11:00] that. We want to really understand what people are saying. Those words. So we write about those words that have been said, who said them, who was the audience, et cetera, et cetera.

Dr. Sandy Oh: And so from that, we really paint a big cosmology often out of something that might seem very minuscule. And , maybe if we weren't paying attention, we would even think like, this is not important at all. When in fact, no, this is the key to understanding the social values of a particular group.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Wow. You just said a lot, but to be able to, to

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: analyze them. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. No, it was great. It was great. In fact, you were already tying into the next question of like, What even are the transferable skills that helped you transition, helped you kind of, , tap into different careers and different types of jobs. you you went into like what it is that you do as a cultural anthropologist. And I can already imagine how [00:12:00] valuable that skill set is, especially in today's tumultuous world where there are a lot of problems of like pinpointing, like what are the issues at stake and, , how can we turn this into.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: This data into a narrative or a story that helps us reach our goals. So yeah, I would love to hear a little bit more about, about that, about how, , as someone with a PhD in cultural anthropology, how did you tap into your skill set? What were the skills that helped you to gain experience in the world of, I'm thinking specifically UX, user experience and DEI work. And I say those two because those are the two most common. Career paths that I hear graduate students consider as their options beyond the professoriate. I know there are many, many more, but those just happen to be popular ones. So I mean, if you want to talk about something else, that would be great too.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: But just in general, what are the skills that [00:13:00] helped you tap into, , doing this different kind of work?

Dr. Sandy Oh: Well, I think that's a great question. And there are so many layers to the answer that I can give. I think for one, I was always kind of a cultural anthropologist. I was always kind of a social scientist. I just didn't realize it. And I think that was really, excuse me, a byproduct of the fact that I am the daughter of immigrants.

Dr. Sandy Oh: Right. So there's a lot of things that my parents had to figure out. , they're busy figuring things out, and I'm busy figuring things out alongside with them. There are a lot of, yeah, there were just a lot of things that we had to figure out together, but also in our own independent world. And so that was kind of the basis as to why I was so curious about like, why are people doing this?

Dr. Sandy Oh: Like, how are they doing this? Like, why are some people excluded from this activity, et cetera, et cetera. So, you know, just taking it a step back, like forget the ivory tower stuff. I think a lot of us are already [00:14:00] doing this in our daily lives, right? This is more like a more official training path, the academic

Dr. Sandy Oh: route. so, First and foremost, if I am a cultural anthropologist and my primary task is to understand an ecosystem, the people within it, who they are, what they're doing, why they're doing it, and how they're doing it. Well, that can set one up to navigate, , a very tricky job market or a very tricky , trying to carve out a career path, especially for those of us who are children of immigrants, first gen.

Dr. Sandy Oh: And this is so much a part of our daily lives. Well, now you just have like leveled up your skill

Dr. Sandy Oh: set. Cause so much of what we have to do at work is. actually figure out what a company or what an organization needs from us,

Dr. Sandy Oh: right? What they are trying to achieve. So that's the first step. And [00:15:00] then as far as the UX and the DEI stuff, well, , if I have a degree in basically deep hanging out,

Dr. Sandy Oh: then that has a lot of different applications, especially in UX research, where, for instance, if a tech company wants to roll out an app, To a new audience, well, it is advisable that they understand who that target audience is, right?

Dr. Sandy Oh: Because you can't just take something that was successful, for instance, you can't just take something that was successful in place A and assume that Just by transplanting it in place B, you're going to have the same results. No, like people have different expectations. People are even like attuned to different aesthetic designs.

Dr. Sandy Oh: And so that relationship between the individual and the material world, understanding that connection is very, very important, right? So I do think that's one of the reasons why so many of us go into UX research. Yeah. And then of course, you know, a big [00:16:00] part of being a cultural anthropologist is crafting good questions being able to dialogue with many different kinds of people.

Dr. Sandy Oh: And so essentially, you know, I could make the other joke that I have a PhD in interviewing,

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: ha

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: ha.

Dr. Sandy Oh: which lends itself very well to UX research,

Dr. Sandy Oh: Roles. So, uh, that for me is, was how that transition took place. And as far as the DEI stuff goes, I know that's kind of like a, a hot button term these

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Yeah, I know.

Dr. Sandy Oh: on who you're talking to, but at the end of the day, it's, again, for me, if we just kind of like bring it down several notches, it's just about understanding, like, for instance who are your employees in a company?

Dr. Sandy Oh: What do they want out of their careers? What are some of the challenges that they face? , uh, rooted in their own positionalities based on, uh, gender, [00:17:00] sexuality, religion, class, race and then working with them to help them succeed. Right now, then there's the other part of it too.

Dr. Sandy Oh: , whereas, as I mentioned earlier, growing up, I didn't have any real, like Asian American role models in pop culture. And so especially somebody who's worked in entertainment that's something that I think about a lot too. Like

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Mm hmm.

Dr. Sandy Oh: product, product, you know, TV episode, TV show cultural product that we're trying to make, you know, who is it for?

Dr. Sandy Oh: Is there a need to tell these kinds of stories right now? How do we tell them so that they resonate? And, , usually the answer is like, yeah, there is a need for a more diversified body of television episodes. , movies, books, uh, all that kind of stuff. Because , the U. S. is very diverse.

Dr. Sandy Oh: And then if you talk about global [00:18:00] audiences, it just gets more and more diverse, right? And so for me, it's more like, let's just make things that will resonate with lots of different people. And even in the case when maybe you are targeting a specific audience. The key is to tell a story that is really maybe for your more niche audience, but that will effectively resonate with a much broader audience.

Dr. Sandy Oh: So one of the fundamental, like, , ideas or the mantras that cultural anthropologists work with is making the strange familiar and the familiar strange. And, , I would say another subset of that idea is. Finding the universal in the particular and the particular in the universal, right? And so I think just leveling that playing field a bit I think it can restore [00:19:00] a sense of humanity in terms of like, yes, We are all different.

Dr. Sandy Oh: Yes, we all have different challenges. We all come from very different places. We have, , our unique histories, but then there's also the part where it's like, yeah, , we're humans. We feel happy, sad, angry all that kind of stuff. So that's kind of where I see all of these, Parts coming together.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: That's so funny because the more you talk about it, the more I'm like, well, we have our differences, but there's also so many commonalities between , your work in cultural anthropology and then my training with a PhD in theater and performance studies. Performance studies is the intersection of theater and anthropology.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: So, I, I

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: find it super interesting, everything that you've said thus far. And I'm, I'm curious, , knowing what you know and , knowing that you've already been doing this, you know, as a child of immigrants, you've been doing this work, you already have that skill set, but [00:20:00] then you chose to major in that or pursue an advanced degree in that. How did you go into different roles? Like, , not why, yeah, but like what came up for you that helped you navigate what you have, which is a multifaceted career. You have experience in academia and in different disciplines within academia. You have experience in media and entertainment. You have experience in online learning. What came up for you that helped you navigate those transitions?

Dr. Sandy Oh: well, I would say to some extent it was out of necessity. And I think that that kind of grit and resilience that I inherited that from my immigrant parents. And it was just knowing that, well, I better make myself. Relevant

Dr. Sandy Oh: in many different capacities. And, , maybe if I was not the child of immigrants, I wouldn't [00:21:00] have those, like, that wouldn't be the thing that drives me as much as it does, but it is who I am.

Dr. Sandy Oh: And so, going back to the necessity thing, I finished up my PhD and I'm sure, as , the academic job cycle, like there is a yearly cycle. There's a time of year where you apply, then there's a time of year where interviews are generally conducted, and then there's a hiring period. And if you miss that, well, then you basically have to wait out till the next year.

Dr. Sandy Oh: And so I finished without an academic job. And so I was like, okay, well, what am I going to do? And I had to really think about. Okay. Forget like all this fancy , theoretical training that I've had and all this like highly specialized knowledge that I now have, , what is it that I can do with what I've just learned and what I've been asked to do?

Dr. Sandy Oh: And, you know, I passed the big exam, became a doctor. And for me, it was really just, Reading and writing.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: hmm.

Dr. Sandy Oh: if it's just reading and writing, well, then there's a lot of things that one can do. And then I [00:22:00] also thought, okay, there's also storytelling. So I decided to try my hand at entertainment. And my, my first job was being a researcher in a writer's room for Godfather of Harlem.

Dr. Sandy Oh: And there, each episode is event based. And so,

Dr. Sandy Oh: Bumby Johnson, real life gangster played by Forrest Whitaker, , legend has it, you know, history, there are, there's also some like historical evidence. Him and Malcolm X were really good friends. And then of course this was the time of like Adam Clayton Powell Jr.

Dr. Sandy Oh: And the civil rights movement. The whole story takes place predominantly in Harlem. And so we wanted to create a show that was ultimately one hour fictionalized crime drama, but we wanted the audience to to watch each episode and give them a sense of like, this is real. So that's really where I came in because the writers, they're very good at [00:23:00] crafting, , character arcs, seasonal arcs, uh, really chiseling out each episode and then there was all this stuff where it's like, well, , Sandy, given what was going on at the time, uh, according to historical record, How do you think Malcolm X would have reacted to this situation?

Dr. Sandy Oh: Right? And then I would give my two cents based on the research that I did, which was really a combination of going through peer reviewed publications. So again, That was the part where I was like, okay, I know how to research. I know how to read really fast. I guess now the difference is I had to make it really succinct.

Dr. Sandy Oh: You know, you're working on really tight deadlines. Everyone has a million things going on. I had to find a way to communicate really, really effectively with the least amount of words, write notes with like bullet points. Not these extremely long sentences with full of jargon, all that kind of stuff.

Dr. Sandy Oh: Yeah. And then [00:24:00] going through old newspapers and of course, there's several layers of analysis to that, which is, okay, this is what happened. And then it's also, okay, this is what the headline says. This is how they spun it. Right? Is that really what happened?

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Right!

Dr. Sandy Oh: and then also conducting interviews with, , for instance civil rights scholars.

Dr. Sandy Oh: And that was really fun because, , like in a few instances I would get on a call with them and like the executive producers, they would be on a call, but they gave me the green light. They're like, Hey, this is your conversation. Like steer it.

Dr. Sandy Oh: We're just gonna like absorb the information. So that was also really fun too, because I, , on the one hand, I, I met my colleagues as a fellow academic.

Dr. Sandy Oh: The end goal was a bit different versus like, , meeting for coffee at a conference or talking about a possible publication. Uh,, But because I had that experience, it was very transferable [00:25:00] to this very, very different setting. So I had a lot of fun with that job.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Wow. , I got so caught up in imagining your role and how, yeah, how fun it must have been, , to, to get to interview colleagues, to get to use that knowledge, to then impart it on a TV show that will, you know, be shown to so many people that will potentially have, , that positive impact. And now I got so caught up in it. I'm like, what was I going to ask next? Because I was going to talk about other career options. And then there's the part of me that, , loves I love any kind of performance art. I love media. I love all this kind of stuff. So I, I, think it's really, really neat that you have this experience because it's opening up the possibility and the potential for someone else to see themselves in you and to think, you know what?

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Maybe I can do that too, or maybe not even exactly that, [00:26:00] but do it in a different way, come up with their own thing. So I appreciate you for sharing about this experience. And I also still want to open it up to asking you about other potential career paths or anything else that you've discovered along the way of how you can lend your skills, both anthropological skills and also just more general social science skills, to a wide range of paths.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Mm

Dr. Sandy Oh: Yeah. And I think that's a great question because honestly, I think with a social science degree, the path to a particular career, I think it's, A lot. It's, it's really unclear in a lot of cases, right?

Dr. Sandy Oh: It's not like you go to school for nursing and then afterwards you get your degree and then you go work as a nurse, right?

Dr. Sandy Oh: I don't, I'm not an engineer. I imagine it's something similar where that career path is a bit more straightforward.

Dr. Sandy Oh: , what do you do with a social science degree? Like, what do you do with a humanities degree? And I [00:27:00] think that

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: hmm.

Dr. Sandy Oh: it's really important. Just again, it sounds like so neoliberal to some extent it is, but it's really about understanding the skillset, right?

Dr. Sandy Oh: Because the other part of all this is, especially if you go to graduate school and you're a TA, well, guess what? You have public speaking skills. You have to address a group of people week after week after week. You're going to conferences, and Yes, if you go work in a different setting, your audience is fundamentally going to be different.

Dr. Sandy Oh: But that ability to put together a presentation, to engage with a group of people, that just, , is so applicable in so many different settings as well. And again, in the writer's room, I think that was really invaluable. There were moments where I I would be at work and be like, this kind of feels like a grad seminar.

Dr. Sandy Oh: You know, we're sitting around a table, we're discussing ideas. Maybe we're having some [00:28:00] heated, but very productive debates. Right. And then of course, uh, sometimes they would straight up just. Give me what was essentially the mic and be like, Sandy, what do you think? And then I would have to give my two cents.

Dr. Sandy Oh: So, look, I think the first thing is, is to really remember what you do bring to the table rather than what you don't. Cause I do think a lot of people get caught up in like, well, I haven't done that before, like I've never worked in tech or I've never worked in entertainment. Like I don't know how to do these things.

Dr. Sandy Oh: Right. It's a whole new world. And sure. To some extent it is going to be a whole new world, but on the other hand, you very well might be just doing a whole lot more of what you've already been doing. And I think one way, if to anybody who's feeling some sort of apprehension or anxiety, I think for me, one way to really overcome that is to talk to people who have these jobs, right?

Dr. Sandy Oh: And ask them [00:29:00] about what it was like to transition from you know, an anthropology grad program to a tech company, , how did they do it? And then ask them questions such as like, , you know, what skills are you using? Today, like on a day to day basis that you learned in grad school and often you'll get some really, really great answers.

Dr. Sandy Oh: It really can inspire people to also think about what they have to offer. In a different light. And for anybody out there who, for example, is a medical anthropologist, which I am not, , I know quite a few medical anthropologists wind up working like in government positions nonprofits, because there's always a question of, , for example,

Dr. Sandy Oh: being able to effectively communicate to the public of like a new public health initiative,

Dr. Sandy Oh: or like why you should get vaccinated. Because again, you need to consider your audience and even [00:30:00] like the implementation of a program. The success really hinges on have you tailored it, you know, appropriately for the group that you want to take up a certain practice.

Dr. Sandy Oh: All of that kind of stuff. So, uh, there are definitely a lot of applications. It's just, yeah, we just got to think about it a little bit differently sometimes. But I think a big key is finding people who are already, , one or two steps, maybe even further than that ahead of you and just to learn from how they did it.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Yeah, what I heard you say is that it's important to get creative around the possibilities of the type of work that you can do and then actually talk to people to demystify it a little bit and to make it seem more real and more feasible. And that's actually really great advice. I'm wondering if you have any other advice for folks looking to explore their career options and who are [00:31:00] considering paths outside of academia and especially like If there's anything that if you could go back in time, you could even say to your former self, any of those things, any advice or things that you wish you knew before you were at this point in your career.

Dr. Sandy Oh: Well, I think what I'm about to say next is. Particularly tailored for graduate students, which is , the academic job market is really tough. It's very competitive. , everyone's qualified,

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Right.

Dr. Sandy Oh: you know, and if you don't get a job, , don't take it personally because often it's just a crapshoot.

Dr. Sandy Oh: , I know that we like to believe in a meritocracy and all that kind of stuff, but most of the time, Actually not the case

Dr. Sandy Oh: at all. Sometimes it's luck, for graduate students especially, I think and I think more graduate students these days are doing this. From my understanding is Start early, you

Dr. Sandy Oh: know, if you want to finish your PhD, do it, [00:32:00] but make sure you're still talking to people.

Dr. Sandy Oh: Make sure you're keeping up with like the availability of internships that will no longer be available to you after you graduate or shortly after you graduate.

Dr. Sandy Oh: Because those are the places where A, you can make money. B, build your networks. C, concretely see for yourself how your skills are transferable,

Dr. Sandy Oh: Before you graduate.

Dr. Sandy Oh: And In my own experience, , with my cohort , those of my colleagues who went into like a non academic route shortly after graduation, that's exactly what they were doing. , When they went to AAAs, sure, they presented their academic paper. They were also at the career fair talking to like, , the

Dr. Sandy Oh: corporate representatives that were there and actually they invested more time talking to them than like networking with other academics,

Dr. Sandy Oh: for instance. Or I had colleagues [00:33:00] who started working, , like especially in the dissertation writing phase and, , sure enough, like when they graduated, , they were offered a full time job, right? And so, These were people who were actually actively, , cultivating these relationships , building their resumes, learning how to build their resumes in a particular way for actually several years

Dr. Sandy Oh: before they actually got those jobs.

Dr. Sandy Oh: Right. And so I think that's really important because lately you know, I go out and I talk to a lot of people and for instance, I've noticed that The people with a job title, Organizational Anthropologist, in many cases, they didn't study anthropology,

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Oh.

Dr. Sandy Oh: they were able to secure these jobs for many, many different reasons.

Dr. Sandy Oh: Right. And in fact, , I spoke to somebody who was approached to start teaching. , , . But, uh, [00:34:00] basically teaching more of these business anthropology courses

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Okay.

Dr. Sandy Oh: in a university because faculty members approach this person, , disclosing like, this is an area we don't have experience with.

Dr. Sandy Oh: We

Dr. Sandy Oh: can't actually adequately mentor our students for this. Would you teach this course to help them? Right. So, and I'm sure graduate students, they're very well aware of this, right? That in many programs, you're basically being trained to become a tenure track professor, even though the jobs don't exist.

Dr. Sandy Oh: , and some people think it's like, Oh, it's cause they're out of touch, blah, blah, blah. But I think in many cases, it's just the faculty members, , they want the best for you. It's just, they don't know how

Dr. Sandy Oh: to help you navigate

Dr. Sandy Oh: this very different career path. Right. And so at that point, if your program is not offering.

Dr. Sandy Oh: Mentorship or workshops or anything else or courses, even [00:35:00] then then unfortunately the burden does fall on you, but there are lots of people out there who have managed to have, , very successful careers , as like organizational anthropologists, for example. And so, uh, yeah, definitely like talk to them and learn about what they do.

Dr. Sandy Oh: Mm hmm.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: was really, really great advice and insights. What stood out to me is how you were talking about there's so many different folks that you've seen who have landed jobs outside of academia and for some of them they started early. And I can resonate with that because I gained work experience while in grad school out of a need, out of needing to pay my bills, having to have part time jobs on the side. And it just so happened that that skill set lended well to me getting a full time job immediately after I got my PhD. So I lucked out in that sense. I wasn't intentional about, , about thinking I want to get that work [00:36:00] experience to line it up so that I can get the next job. But I do see, because I have a lot of conversations behind closed doors, a lot of grad students talk to me, and they're coming to me to tell me the things that they would never tell their advisor, which is I kind of want to explore some other career paths, or I want to learn some new skills.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: And I, I would, I would want to echo what you said about consider what options you have, whether it's part time work, whether it's an internship. I have an intern right now, and I haven't said this publicly. I have an intern. who they secured funding from their institution to work with me because they specifically wanted to learn my skill set, shadow me, support my work, and they're interested in consulting and coaching another humanist like me and That I would have

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: never considered that as an option for my business because I'm always thinking how can I make sure I can pay my folks and pay [00:37:00] them adequately and I can't afford to have multiple interns. This person I didn't have to worry about because they got the funding from their institution so don't discount looking out for opportunities within your institution or even this hasn't happened for me but I've seen other folks so again like not in my situation but I know of other folks who have.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Even considered volunteering and I'm very much anti like doing work for no pay, right? I'm, I don't believe in that. That's why I don't believe in unpaid internships. But, but, this is a big but, if you can volunteer for two hours a week and get some solid training skill set, it might be more than two hours, it's just whatever you can commit to, whatever's within your capacity with it, whatever is like financially feasible for you, that could also be an entryway to something else.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: So, Just echoing everything that you've said, get creative, talk to people, look for the resources, and before [00:38:00] you know it, you'll be carving out your path. Yeah.

Dr. Sandy Oh: Yeah. And that's amazing. This, , the setup that you have with your, your intern and I love it and I do agree with you. I'm very much like, don't do work for free. However, I just want to add one more piece of advice, which is and I'm saying this because I know that the job market is just so gnarly right now and that can be so psychologically taxing.

Dr. Sandy Oh: So I do think. People out there who are starting to feel really down about maybe not getting the job that they want, you know, getting ghosted by recruiters, anything like that. Volunteering, I think, can actually be helpful for one's mental health during that period because You're still connected to people.

Dr. Sandy Oh: Maybe, , you could still go out and tell people what you're looking for. You might find support. You might find a mentor. But most importantly, I think it will help people feel less alienated. So on the one hand, the [00:39:00] unpaid part is like really not good. And I'm not cool with that. , on the other hand I do think that can contribute to just having a little bit, , more mental, like psychological stability during that very tumultuous time.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: That's a different form of compensation and in some ways restoration, I would say. So thank you for giving us that other insight on, on the value of volunteer work. I don't think we talk about volunteer work, or I, I haven't heard a lot of conversations about volunteer work within and outside higher ed spaces.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: So yeah, I appreciate that insight. So now that we're closing up, I want to hear from you. Anything else you wanna share about you, about your work, or about how others can reach you and connect with you?

Dr. Sandy Oh: Yeah, sure. I do have an Instagram account and it is P R O F underscore. So [00:40:00] Prof_Oh. So you are more than welcome to reach me there. That's probably the best way because then I also have links to like my website and stuff like that. And then just wrapping up. Yeah, I just really, really want to encourage everyone to think creatively, which Maybe that's not what you want to hear from me because I know everyone is, feels like everyone's spread so thin.

Dr. Sandy Oh: Inflation,

Dr. Sandy Oh: like job market stuff, like trying to finish up the dissertation. But I say that because I think that that can also instill a sense of confidence in terms of understanding your own value, right?

Dr. Sandy Oh: And Again, grad students, maybe you don't really need to hear this. Maybe you already know it.

Dr. Sandy Oh: But in grad school, we are trained to become like specialists in, , these bodies of literature or this geographical region. But often we wind up working in, in jobs where that super highly specialized knowledge isn't actually needed,[00:41:00]

Dr. Sandy Oh: right? And I would say that is the case for me right now as a writing instructor.

Dr. Sandy Oh: But. That doesn't take away the fact , cultural anthropology, ethnographic writing, and teaching writing in the human, the school of humanities, it's the same principle. I'm a broken record to everybody, which is show, don't tell, show, don't tell, show, don't tell, thick description,

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: here.

Dr. Sandy Oh: And so,

Dr. Sandy Oh: Yeah, there really is like a very, very clear, uh, transition and very clear application of skills that actually did not require any creative thinking of my part at all.

Dr. Sandy Oh: Uh, so yes, think creatively, but also sometimes you don't have to think so creatively because the answer is right in front of you. It's like so clear and it's so obvious that

Dr. Sandy Oh: maybe you just haven't thought of it yet. I never thought I would be a writing instructor. And a lot of people, including my own family, they're still really confused.

Dr. Sandy Oh: Like, but you studied anthropology. Like, why are you [00:42:00] in

Dr. Sandy Oh: this school of humanities? Like, why are you teaching writing? And once I explained, they're like, Oh, that makes sense. And of course, if I was teaching an anthropology course, there are still some elements there are aspects where I'm going to have to help.

Dr. Sandy Oh: I'm going to have to support students. Navigate really dense texts, right? I'm still helping and supporting students navigate texts in order to

Dr. Sandy Oh: become stronger writers. So again, that's another example of like, I didn't have to think creatively at all. It's just something I've been doing this entire time, it's just now I'm doing it in a different department.

Dr. Sandy Oh: Yeah,

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Yeah, and you, you're right that sometimes, sometimes you have to get creative. And sometimes the thing that's there that you can do and tap into is right in front of you. It's often our strengths that we can tap into that we often don't notice enough because they come so easy to us that we don't realize that it's [00:43:00] might be harder for other people and that it's something that we could potentially make a living out of. So I definitely resonate with that and resonate with the importance of getting a little bit more creative because a lot of folks are, are, I feel like in the academic pathway, there's this like straight and narrow path, or sometimes we're put on these pipelines and they're very predictable pipelines. And so it gets us out of thinking creatively and also thinking expansively. And so I love that. I love the whole like, think about what are the things that are obvious, But perhaps easy strengths of yours and then what also how can you get creative and think outside the box of other possibilities and some of them just think big as expansively as you can and see where you end up from there. Yeah.

Dr. Sandy Oh: absolutely. And sometimes like, don't do that and just be like, Hey, this is what I have to offer. Yeah. Absolutely. And I can offer it here, there, and the other place

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: [00:44:00] Yeah, exactly.

Dr. Sandy Oh: Yeah, it's both. Yeah.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Well, I want to thank you so much, , Dr. Sandy for showing up, sharing space with me, sharing your wealth of knowledge and offering some, some really interesting new insights for me on the value and importance of social science skills and how applicable they are, how far reaching they are. Thank you.

Dr. Sandy Oh: Well, thanks so much for having me. It was really fun.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Thanks so much for joining me in the Grad School Femtoring Podcast. If you like what you heard, here are four ways you can support the show. The first is to make sure you're subscribed and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. If you email me a screenshot, I'll send you a surprise freebie. The second way is to get your copy of my free Grad School Femtoring Resource Kit.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: [00:45:00] which includes essential information to prepare for and navigate grad school. You can access it at the link in today's show notes. The third way to support my show is to follow me on social media. You can find me on Instagram with the handle at grad school, femtoring and on LinkedIn by searching my name.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: The last way to show your love is to order a copy of is grad school for me. My graduate school admissions book for first gen BIPOCs. Thanks again for listening and until next time.

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