Daniel BeckerResearch and Instruction Librarian, Harvard Kennedy School

Can you describe your career path and how it has led to your current work?

I started graduate school hoping primarily to become an educator; the research aspect of the PhD was fun, but I was mostly looking forward to teaching. I did end up teaching for a while—as a teaching fellow and a summer school instructor at Brandeis, as well as as a two-year visiting instructor at the University of Maine at Farmington—but in the process somehow never quite got around to actually writing my dissertation. Then the Great Recession hit and basically wiped out most of the already limited faculty positions that existed in my field, and it became quite clear that it was time for a Plan B. That turned out to be librarianship, and I couldn’t be happier with that choice: I still get to do the research I enjoy, and more importantly, I still get to be the educator I wanted to be.

What services and/or resources did you use while at Brandeis for your career search?

For a good part of my time at Brandeis, I worked at the library, and all of the staff there were incredibly supportive. That experience gave me a first glimpse of librarianship, and a whole army of role models to emulate. And when it became clear that I was not going to finish my dissertation and move into a different career, my professors and my fellow graduate students in the history department were understanding and encouraging.

What skills from your Brandeis degree have you found most valuable in your current work?

Pretty much all of them! By and large, the skills I need as a librarian—research skills, unconventional and conceptual thinking, technology savvy, attention to detail, etc.—are not really all that different from the skills of a historian, so my Brandeis degree prepared my surprisingly well for a career in a field that isn’t even taught at Brandeis.

What advice do you have for current students as they embark on their career exploration or job search?

Don't be afraid of leaving academia if that’s where your job search takes you! Sure, you may feel a little sad, but leaving the ivory tower behind is not some kind of failure, and that lingering sense of sadness will pass.