By Leslie Jernegan
As the assistant director of development and training at California Primary Care Association, Jodi Samuels hasn’t followed the standard career path of an alumna with a PhD in French.
But then again, Samuels isn’t one to follow a narrow path. Her interests span too broadly. Her realization during her graduate studies that she didn’t want to pursue a career in academia was exactly what animated her to begin exploring other options.
“Even if you want to go into academia, there is value in looking at other careers as well. For me, it was being fortunate, being open to opportunities, and taking advantage of them when they occurred.”
Splitting her time between being a TA and being a program assistant helping build a new program in UW–Madison’s Department of French and Italian, Samuels discovered her desire to have a widespread career with a bigger impact on society as a whole.
While Samuels’s current position doesn’t utilize her degree in French, per se, she gives much credit to other skills gained during her studies.
“As an undergrad I didn’t necessarily develop the main skills to the extent that I did as when I was in the PhD program,” Samuels says. “…the research skills, knowing how to organize, the reading, knowing how to bring together information and take academic speech and translate it into something more understandable for a wider audience – those directly link to what I have now in grant writing, development and training.”
Although Samuels followed her aspiration of helping her community and working for a nonprofit, she doesn’t hesitate to note how impossible it might be to satisfy all of her interests in her work life, and emphasizes that one considers external factors when contemplating a career.
“If you’re not able to know for yourself other things you can pursue, or other things that can give you passion and happiness outside of your work, I think you’re giving yourself a short trip,” Samuels says. “I think it’s really hard to see that as a grad student because you’re just looking at focusing on your degree and then you can get out and figure out what to do with that.”
Samuels’s greatest advice for professional and personal satisfaction: think about what success means to you, personally and professionally.
“Think about what’s important in life, what you want out of life, your quality of life, your community, your environment,” Samuels says. “That may really impact your happiness much more than what your job or your salary is.”