Hanh Bui PhD'21, English: Teaching and Research Fellow, Shakespeare's Globe
Can you describe your career path and how it has led to your current work?
Well, the path doesn't go in a straight line! My first job after college was teaching English in Vietnam, where I also did some freelance writing and worked as a project manager in a US-based multimedia company. After that I moved to New York, where I worked in several editing/media type jobs before settling into the role of associate producer at CNN. I wasn't really happy, though, so I kept looking for an opportunity to go back to school, which was a long-cherished dream. But as a mid-career professional, the idea of pursuing a PhD in English with no job security at the other end was kind of a non-starter. So I applied and got into law school - I could teach literature and the law! But I didn't end up going, choosing instead to start a family.
It just meant I had to wait a little longer before doing what I had always wanted to do, which was get my PhD in English so I could teach and write. I started the doctoral program at Brandeis in 2013. After I completed coursework and my teaching obligations, I moved to London with my family in 2016, which has been absolutely amazing. In 2020, right before the global pandemic kicked off, I started a job as a Research Assistant at Shakespeare's Globe. But only three weeks in, I was put on furlough for the rest of my 9-month contract when the theater had to close. You can imagine I spent most of the lockdown feeling pretty sorry for myself, at least from a professional point of view. Luckily, in 2021 I was rehired by the Globe, this time as Teaching and Research Fellow, and I've been in this role ever since.
What advice do you have for current students as they embark on their job search?
This type of advice is really hard to give and I'm never sure it's actually helpful. But I guess, for starters, it'd be good to maintain an identity beyond "job seeker" so that other people/things/activities can make you feel good or bring you some sliver of joy even when things look bleak. I'd also encourage students to think broadly about writing and publishing, beyond journal articles, reviews, book chapters. Blogs (not just your own) and online publications are always hungry for new content, and it'd be a way for you to participate in public discourses and hone your ability to speak to non-specialists, which is a super valuable skill. At the Globe I help to organize and host "Anti-Racist Shakespeare," a series of free webinars that unpack issues like race and social justice in Shakespeare's plays. Our audience is made up of secondary school teachers, students, theater artists, and general lovers of Shakespeare, not just researchers. It's important to know how to connect to people with different life experiences and knowledge - how to make your subject of expertise accessible to a range of folks inside and outside the academy.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently as a graduate student that may have made the transition to your career easier? Or is there anything you did as a graduate student that you believe other grad students should do to position themselves for a career better?
I wish I had made friends in different departments - history, philosophy, religious studies. I also wish I had spent more time getting to know the faculty in our department - especially outside my field - maybe helping with their research projects so I had a better idea of what it takes to conceive of, plan, execute, and finish a book project! I would totally recommend registering for courses in the graduate consortium - Tufts, BU, etc. Beyond that, I'd encourage grad students to pursue other passions outside their scholarship and to purposely develop an intellectual community, no matter how casual some of those contacts might feel or be. Really, anything to sustain your mental health during the long path to finishing the program and getting that job. Pets are always a good idea.