Alumni Career Profile: Brianna Mills, M.A. '09

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your current job.

I am a Research Associate at the Institute for Community Health in Cambridge and have been for just over a year and a half. After graduating, I turned a summer internship into a consulting position, and then was offered a permanent position.

What I most enjoy about my job is the variety of responsibilities. Working for an organization that provides evaluation services as well as doing research, I am always getting to put my skills to use in a new area of public health.  Multitasking is always a challenge when working on multiple projects with competing deadlines.

A typical week for me involves three things: meetings, data collection, and data analysis. I'm working on anywhere from four to eight different projects at a time, and that translates into a lot of meetings. Some people might call my crazy, but I actually enjoy meetings, because they are a great place to learn from my colleagues. Outside of meetings, as a qualitative research associate I spend most of the rest of my time working with qualitative data, from designing survey tools to conducting interviews and then analyzing the data.

What was your first job upon graduation from Brandeis? How did you go about getting it?

Working at ICH was my first job, but I started as a consultant before being hired full-time.

What did you do before you came to Brandeis?  What other degrees do you hold?

Before coming to Brandeis for my Master's in Anthropology I completed my BA with a double major in Anthropology and Theater at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. I spent most of my undergraduate career working as a museum assistant.

How did your graduate degree from Brandeis qualify you for professional career? 

I think the most useful part of my Brandeis experience was the departmental culture. As a graduate student I was a professional and a colleague as well as a student.  Building a sense of oneself as a skilled professional is essential when you are entering a profession where people hire you to be an expert.

What advice would you give to graduate students as they plan for their career?

Build your skills. In an academic environment, it's more common to identify your interest areas, like “post-modern poetry” or “self-concept and body modification among Pacific cultures,” but outside of academia people are more likely to want know what your skills are. Building skills could mean taking specific courses, like statistics or qualitative research methods, but it could also mean just sitting down and translating your interests into skills – have you ever organized a conference, have you conducted any surveys or interviews? Transcribed your data, done qualitative or quantitative analysis? You have more skills than you might be aware of.

What services and resources at Brandeis (or specifically Career Services) did you find to be the most helpful?

Sue Levine in Career Services was incredibly helpful to me in taking my academic work and translating into professional skills. As an international student, I am also incredibly grateful to the staff at the ISSO for walking me through all my options and visa requirements. Most of all, the faculty and staff are a great resource for networking for students, especially those who work as well as teach. It was a professor who introduced me to a colleague of hers who works at ICH, and that connection led to my internship, and eventually my job.

When and how did you begin to think about and explore your career options?  What advice would you have for other students?

I was thinking about my career options before I even applied to Brandeis. If you haven't been thinking about what you want to do with your degree yet, that is where you need to start. I thought about what I most enjoyed doing, what my friends and family would ask for my help with (research) and then looked for positions and a career track that would let me do what I wanted to do. But that is because my priority was doing what I loved to do, and that is not for everyone. Your job doesn't have to be your main priority in life.

There's an old saying about taking your car to be fixed by a mechanic: you can have it done well, you can have it done quickly, or you can have it done cheap, pick two. I would adapt that for careers like this (with the caveat that gross generalizations are rarely totally applicable): You can do what you love, live where you want to live, or earn what you want to earn. Pick two.

Please feel free to comment on anything else you think would be valuable for students to know.

When you leave grad school and find a job, your may temporarily experience something known as “free time.” But don't worry, it soon goes away.

Brianna is working as a Research Associate at the Institute for Community Health in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your current job.

I am a Research Associate at the Institute for Community Health, and have been for just over a year and a half. After graduating, I turned a summer internship into a consulting position, and then was offered a permanent position.

What I most enjoy about my job is the variety of responsibilities. Working for an organization that provides evaluation services as well as doing research, I am always getting to put my skills to use in a new area of public health.  Multitasking is always a challenge when working on multiple projects with competing deadlines.

A typical week for me involves three things: meetings, data collection, and data analysis. I'm working on anywhere from four to eight different projects at a time, and that translates into a lot of meetings. Some people might call my crazy, but I actually enjoy meetings, because they are a great place to learn from my colleagues. Outside of meetings, as a qualitative research associate I spend most of the rest of my time working with qualitative data, from designing survey tools to conducting interviews and then analyzing the data.

What was your first job upon graduation from Brandeis? How did you go about getting it?

Working at ICH was my first job, but I started as a consultant before being hired full-time.

What did you do before you came to Brandeis?  What other degrees do you hold?

Before coming to Brandeis for my Master's in Anthropology I completed my BA with a double major in Anthropology and Theater at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. I spent most of my undergraduate career working as a museum assistant.

How did your graduate degree from Brandeis qualify you for professional career? 

I think the most useful part of my Brandeis experience was the departmental culture. As a graduate student I was a professional and a colleague as well as a student.  Building a sense of oneself as a skilled professional is essential when you are entering a profession where people hire you to be an expert.

What advice would you give to graduate students as they plan for their career?

Build your skills. In an academic environment, it's more common to identify your interest areas, like "post-modern poetry" or "self-concept and body modification among Pacific cultures," but outside of academia people are more likely to want know what your skills are. Building skills could mean taking specific courses, like statistics or qualitative research methods, but it could also mean just sitting down and translating your interests into skills - have you ever organized a conference, have you conducted any surveys or interviews? Transcribed your data, done qualitative or quantitative analysis? You have more skills than you might be aware of.

What services and resources at Brandeis (and/or specifically Career Services) did you find to be the most helpful?

Sue Levine in Career Services was incredibly helpful to me in taking my academic work and translating into professional skills. As an international student, I am also incredibly grateful to the staff at the ISSO for walking me through all my options and visa requirements. Most of all, the faculty and staff are a great resource for networking for students, especially those who work as well as teach. It was a professor who introduced me to a colleague of hers who works at ICH, and that connection led to my internship, and eventually my job.

When and how did you begin to think about and explore your career options?  What advice would you have for other students?

I was thinking about my career options before I even applied to Brandeis. If you haven't been thinking about what you want to do with your degree yet, that is where you need to start. I thought about what I most enjoyed doing, what my friends and family would ask for my help with (research) and then looked for positions and a career track that would let me do what I wanted to do. But that is because my priority was doing what I loved to do, and that is not for everyone. Your job doesn't have to be your main priority in life.

There's an old saying about taking your car to be fixed by a mechanic: you can have it done well, you can have it done quickly, or you can have it done cheap, pick two. I would adapt that for careers like this (with the caveat that gross generalizations are rarely totally applicable): You can do what you love, live where you want to live, or earn what you want to earn. Pick two.

Please feel free to comment on anything else you think would be valuable for students to know.

When you leave grad school and find a job, your may temporarily experience something known as "free time." But don't worry, it soon goes away.