How to Look for Work in Applied Sociology

This is our second post in the 2019 series of Careers in Applied Sociology. The first post gave an overview about the challenges and opportunities in finding satisfying work. This post provides advice about how to get started in your career path. We begin with some options you might consider as a sociology graduate, finding opportunities for work, and setting up a targeted job search.

This is a preliminary guide only, of course, so do what feels right for yourself. Let’s move onto a few general tips on finding work strongly connected to your sociology degree.

Consider your options early

  • Get the word out: Introduce yourself to your sociology professors and let them know you’re looking to forge a career as a sociologist and to keep you in mind if they have any research assistant work. Many senior sociologists will have grants and while they tend to employ PhD students and postdocs, they will also take on undergraduate students to help them if they show promise.
  • Do an internship if you can: An internship can lead to a new career, so if you’re still studying, approach your department head to find out if they have any internship programs. Internships should be paid or provide credits towards your degree. See the video below to learn how Dr Sue Malta went from an undergraduate intern to a researcher in the not-for-profit sector. (Video summary here)

Find graduate opportunities

Optimise your job search

  • Tap into your networks: Research by Professor Spalter-Roth and collegues has identified sociology graduates rely most on informal networks in their job search (family, friends and colleagues).  Public job advertisements on commercial and government websites or newspapers is the next most common method. The least used methods are past or current employers and employment agencies (though the rate of success of finding work through these methods is not discussed)
  • Use social media: It’s always a good idea to let colleagues know you’re looking for work, but cast a wide net using your social media contacts. Make sure you’re actively forming ties with other sociologists online (and not just academics, as they don’t always have a good eye on applied opportunities). Don’t be shy about tweeting or posting to LinkedIn a friendly, “Hi everyone, I’m looking for this type of work…”  Two of my most significant roles have come about because of my social media networks, and my social media profile helped me establish a consultancy, so make technology work for you!
  • Know your keywords: You’d be lucky to find half a dozen job ads at any given time that use the word “sociology.” Check out our list of keywords for research roles. In addition to these job titles, also search for your sociological skillset. This might be your methods training (qualitative, interviewing, surveys, ‘statistical analysis’) or your research expertise (housing, health, policy, ‘gender equity’). Narrow your search with boolean searches that fit your experience (education AND ‘social research’)
  • Set up job alerts: now you know your keywords, sign up to multiple job websites so that you get daily updates. This will save you time and you can be ready to apply as soon as possible. State and federal government agencies do at least quarterly bulk recruitment rounds and most will have a talent pool that you can sign up to. I found my latest job by going through bulk recruitment (it can be lengthy, so start applying as soon as possible).
  • Look at both generalist and niche job boards: A general job site like Seek (or your national equivalent) has the broadest jobs available as most employers will advertise on these big sites. The professional society in your country will post jobs; most of these tend to be academic roles, but occassionally they will have applied roles. Sign up to their e-newsletters to see what’s available; I’ve advertised to recruit sociologists many times with The Australian Sociological Association
  • Join a local applied sociology group: If you’re lucky enough to have an applied group in your country, like the one in Australia or the Sociologists Outside Academia Group in the UK, it’s worth signing up to their email lists. They will often be approached by employers directly for applied jobs they need filled quickly.  For the USA, check out this resource.

That’s it for now! Next time, we consider how to prepare an application and how to optimise your CV for your next exciting career prospect.

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