The 2024 Professional Development Hub: Your One-Stop Shop for MLA Professional Development

Written by
Ayanni Cooper and Mai Hunt

Dec 21, 2023

Dec 21, 2023 • by Ayanni Cooper and Mai Hunt

Every year, the MLA Annual Convention schedule is packed with panels featuring a diverse array of research from across language and literature disciplines. The convention is not only a celebration of engaging and innovative work but also an opportunity to meet with scholars and leaders from across the humanities landscape to discuss pressing topics for the profession and to take time to focus on your own professional development.

As you are making your way through the 2024 online program, consult the Professional Development Hub as your point of contact for MLA resources in support of your career development. Having transformed the former Career Center into a nexus for mentorship, career planning, and professional advancement for all MLA members, the MLA’s office of academic program services and professional development envisions the Hub as a central location to learn about convention sessions geared toward professional development at all stages of your professional life.

In this post, we will share some of the professional development offerings taking place at the 2024 Professional Development Hub, located this year in the Pennsylvania Convention Center (room 201, level 2), with a special focus on diverse career pathways.

The hub hosts one-on-one mentoring to help you define and work toward your career goals. Convention attendees can sign up for a thirty-minute meeting with a mentor on Friday, 5 January, or Saturday, 6 January, between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. ET. Mentees can choose to focus their sessions on academic careers, in English or in languages other than English, or on diverse career pathways for humanities PhDs. Sign up now to secure your spot.

If you would like to consult a variety of perspectives, consider stopping by “Group Mentoring for the Career-Curious: Ask Us Anything” on Saturday, 6 January, from 10:15 to 11:30 a.m. ET. This networking opportunity will bring together students and faculty members for informal conversations on topics such as sharing strategies for navigating the convention, identifying short- and long-term goals, and finding other opportunities for connection, mentorship, and support in Philadelphia and beyond.

Other opportunities for informal group mentoring include inaugural discussion groups exclusively for graduate students. On Friday, 5 January, from 3:30 to 4:45 p.m. ET, “Working at a Teaching-Intensive Institution” will offer a guided conversation for graduate students to learn about teaching-intensive institutions, including liberal arts colleges, community colleges, and regional comprehensive universities. This discussion group will help you work through the varied challenges and opportunities that arise when working with diverse student bodies and in departmental and institutional structures that might look different from where you have been trained. Another session for graduate students on 6 Saturday from 1:45 to 3:00 p.m. ET, “Seeking Mentorship with and beyond Your Adviser” will explore tips for finding continued support throughout graduate school and your professional development journey in a peer-mentoring setting.

Want to learn more about working at community colleges? The virtual panel session “Careers in English at Community Colleges and the Job Search,” on Thursday, 4 January, at 5:15–6:30 p.m. ET, offers a primer on working within this specific teaching-intensive context. Faculty members in English currently working at community colleges discuss teaching loads and service expectations and offer advice on preparing for the application process.

For those interested in exploring career opportunities in different professional sectors, two concurrent panels will bring together speakers with backgrounds in languages and literatures now pursuing career pathways beyond academia. To learn more about what you can do with your degree in languages and literatures, attend either “Beyond the Professoriat: Career Pathways for Job Seekers in Languages” (virtual) or “Beyond the Professoriat: Career Pathways for Job Seekers in English” (in-person) on Thursday, 4 January, from 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET. Representatives from across the humanities ecosystem at different types of institutions and organizations discuss topics such as identifying passions and opportunities, developing multiyear job-search and career strategies, transferable skills from graduate school training, and the roles doctoral preparation and research play in one’s day-to-day work life. Come to hear about exciting opportunities in museums and libraries; government, nonprofit, and for-profit organizations; industry and financial services; K–12 teaching; and the language industry.

If you are looking for more support in planning for life beyond academia, discussion groups hosted at the Professional Development Hub can offer more intimate and personalized  interactions on specific topics for faculty members. This year, two sessions in particular can help you navigate difficult decisions that might arise over the course of your career trajectory.

On Friday, 5 January, from 8:30 to 9:45 a.m. ET, “Setting Mid-Career Priorities” will address the challenges and opportunities that arise for faculty members post-tenure. Stop by to share stories and advice on how to set mid-career goals. “When Leaving Academia Might Be the Right Move,” on Saturday, 6 January from 5:15 to 6:30 p.m. ET, will bring to light what it would mean professionally and personally to leave academia. If you find yourself grappling with difficult questionswhy leave? or what’s next?this session offers a space for reflection and exploration.

Finally, if you are looking for more inspiration and guidance as you browse the online program, explore curated lists of convention sessions organized by theme, interest, and career path. When in doubt, stop by the 2024 Professional Development Hub at the Pennsylvania Convention Center (room 201, level 2) on 4 January from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. ET and on 5 and 6 January from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. ET to meet the Academic Program Services and Professional Development staff in person and see all that we have to offer!