6

I'm finishing grad school in STEM. I have a postdoc offer already, but will be applying for more. During grad school I volunteered at a suicide line taking phone calls. If you volunteer a certain number of hours (I have) they will write you a letter of recommendation.

I chose to volunteer just to volunteer. It has been helpful training in other areas though. Learning how to listen, empathize, etc. has been really helpful and surprisingly relevant to other areas of life.

Is there anything I can use that letter for as I go from grad school/postdoc to TT and beyond? If not that's fine, I was just volunteering to volunteer.

6
  • 2
    If you have to write a diversity statement or some other such non-academic statement, then you might want to mention this experience, but even then an actual letter from where you worked taking phone calls will likely seem strange. And even if you have to write such a statement, I think mentioning this experience would be more appropriate for a teaching position than for a postdoc. In any event, if you're not sure, then I would go with what @Anonymous Physicist said and not mention it. Jan 30, 2021 at 9:16
  • @DaveLRenfro Some postdocs have teaching components Jan 30, 2021 at 16:46
  • 2
    Some universities/colleges have roles that naturally include a welfare/pastoral component: e.g. see new.ox.ac.uk/cox-and-salvesen-fellows. If applying for those kind of roles, I could imagine this kind of experience being relevant. For a more generic academic post, it's not as relevant. Jan 30, 2021 at 20:27
  • 1
    Let me thank you for your service. What you did there is probably more important than most of us academics do in our research.
    – user111388
    Jan 30, 2021 at 20:31
  • @Dave - please consider converting your comment into a proper answer; answers-in-comments may be deleted.
    – cag51
    Jan 31, 2021 at 16:12

2 Answers 2

13

If you have a PhD, a letter that does not describe your teaching and research ability is not helpful for applying for academic jobs.

So no.

1
  • Thanks for the direct answer, that is what I was looking for. I already have enough letters that describe those. I will accept in a few minutes when it lets me.
    – user134601
    Jan 30, 2021 at 5:04
4

If you have to write a diversity statement or some other such non-academic statement, then you might want to mention this experience in it, but I would advise against including an actual letter from where you worked, as this will likely seem a bit strange and probably also goes beyond the intended application materials you are requested to submit. Moreover, even if you have to write such a statement, I think mentioning this experience would be more appropriate when the position involves some teaching. In any event, if you're not sure, then I would go with what @Anonymous Physicist said and not mention it.

Incidentally, certain subfields of psychology are considered STEM, I think, and probably for psychology such a letter would seem a lot less strange and perhaps even helpful. Indeed, in some research areas not restricted to STEM (e.g. suicide prevention research), such a letter would be very appropriate.

You must log in to answer this question.