249 posts categorized "Social Institutions: Work, Education, and Medicine"

September 12, 2022

The Social Psychology of Kindness

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

In my last post I wrote about how the stress of animal care has led to workers leaving the profession, and how I had hoped a brief note of appreciation after my cat’s surgical procedure might be a small antidote to this stress.

I have been particularly attuned to front-facing workplace stress since my own stints as a server in a restaurant and working in retail during and shortly after college. I know what it is like to be yelled at by a stranger for something you didn’t do or can’t control, and how it feels when there is nothing you can do but smile even when that is the last thing you feel like doing, something called emotional labor.

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September 05, 2022

Emotional Labor and Animal Care

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

My cat recently needed oral surgery to have three teeth removed. It was an expensive procedure, as it required anesthesia and monitoring for most of the day. The local animal clinic is a busy place, too busy for its small storefront location, and humans are required to wait outside due to space limitations and the ongoing COVID pandemic. There is constant shuffling of newly arriving animals and those who have finished their appointments.

But staff there do a great job; they are quick to recognize when a patient arrives outside and immediately check in with the patient’s person. Vet techs later come to greet the animal with care, and the vet comes out after an examination, sits down with the person to discuss their findings. I received several phone calls throughout the day with updates about my cat’s progress, including when she was out of surgery and in recovery. When I came to pick her up a vet tech sat down and talked with me about her medication and follow-up care.

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August 22, 2022

Applying Sociology: Career Pathways to Consider

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

What to do with your degree in sociology? Students and graduates often ask this question, and it has many answers.

I recently wrote about how core concepts in sociology can help guide your career path, and how your career interests can guide your course path through the sociology major. I’ve discussed the tools your degree helps you build, how sociology can aid in an already chosen, non-academic career path, and how think tanks could be a great option for putting research skills to use.

Many sociologists with doctorates also pursue careers outside of academia. Footnotes—a magazine published by the American Sociological Association (ASA)—recently included essays written by sociologists with non-academic careers. The 2022 annual ASA meeting featured a Sociology in Practice Settings Symposium as well as sessions including “Exploring and Using Research Methods in Practice Settings” and “Applied Research with the Federal Government.”

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August 08, 2022

How to Apply Your Degree in Sociology to Any Career

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

One of the most frequent questions students ask me is what they can do with a sociology degree. My answer: it is only a useful degree if you plan on working with people. Or working alone but with clients. In other words, a sociology degree provides a lot of useful applications for any career.

Any degree provides a skill set, and often the skill sets you develop within one major overlap quite a bit with others. Rather than thinking of a degree as training for a specific career (i.e. being a sociology major is for people who want to be sociologists), a degree helps you fine-tune your unique skills and interests for a career which will likely evolve quite a bit over time. According to a 2021 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people born between 1957 and 1964 held on average 12.4 jobs in their working life.

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July 11, 2022

Class and Geographic Mobility in Academia: Global Perspectives on Class Cultural Mismatch and Linguistic Imperialism in Higher Education

Colby King author photo Kamil Luczaj photo (1)Calvin-odhiambo

By Colby King, Kamil Luczaj, Assistant Professor of Sociology,  University of Information Technology and Management (Rzeszow, Poland), and Calvin Odhiambo, Associate Professor of Sociology, USC Upstate

In January 2022, we held a panel discussion about our research as well as our individual experiences, describing what we know about how social class inequality and geography play a role in social mobility. We discussed how social class mobility intersects with race, language and dialect, geographic background, and gender in career opportunities, particularly how these issues heighten class cultural mismatch, creating challenging circumstances even for successful academics experiencing upward class mobility.  

Dr. Luczaj is a sociologist from Poland. He is interested in international academic careers and working-class cultures. His research addresses the complex relationship between class position and migration experience. For example, he has published a study on foreign-born scholars in Central Europe, and a meta-analysis on foreign-born scholars “on the peripheries.”

Originally from Kenya, Dr. Odhiambo’s experiences as an international academic illustrate many of Dr. Luczaj’s research findings. Dr. King is not an international academic, but has experienced social class mobility through his academic career, and has also written about efforts to support students, faculty, and staff in higher education from first-generation and working-class backgrounds.

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May 16, 2022

What Sociology Students Should Know about “Think Tanks”

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Have you ever heard the term “think tank” and wondered what it meant? It sounds like a locked glass room filled with smart people who just want to ponder life’s questions. That’s not entirely wrong (except, I assume, for the locked part).

A think tank is typically a nonprofit organization that focuses on a particular set of issues to make policy recommendations. They might study issues like inequalities in the job market, racial inequality, foreign policy, technology, and social change. They may be affiliated with a university, an advocacy group, or another organization, but they might also be stand-alone independents. (Here is a list of some of the major think tanks in the U.S.)

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May 02, 2022

Not My Job: Navigating Bureaucracies

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

I was recently cc’d on an email sent by a colleague. It was addressed to another colleague and to someone in our dean’s office and it concerned a student who was upset about a requirement they needed to meet. The sender was angry that, based on information the student shared, a class they had taken would not meet a particular university requirement.

This email was problematic on a number of levels that give us insight into the concept of bureaucracy:

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April 18, 2022

Work and the Body

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Several years ago, the small company my husband worked for had an employee challenge: get the company’s logo tattooed on a visible part of your body, and the company would donate several hundred dollars to the charity of your choice.

My husband did not take them up on this offer (and his team was soon after acquired by another company anyway), but several of his coworkers did. More than just a charitable impulse, it seemed like a way for these employees to demonstrate their commitment to the small startup. This was a company that expected its workers to be not just good employees, but “heroes” that would be available at any hour to meet its clients’ needs, albeit with little room for growth in terms of career or salary.

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March 14, 2022

Student Debt, the Racial Wealth Gap, and (the lack of) Investment in Public Higher Education

Colby King author photoBy Colby King

In late December of 2021, President Biden extended the pause on student loan repayment for 90 days, until May 1, 2022. People with student debt breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that they would have at least a few more months of the needed financial flexibility this pause has provided.

The pause was extended amid an ongoing debate about what should be done about student debt, which has become a substantial social problem. What is the scope of this problem? The Student Debt Crisis Center maintains a twitter account that regularly updates about the total amount of student debt. Their most recent tweet as of this writing showed that student debt had accumulated to $1,885,848,223,792.

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March 07, 2022

Age and the Great Resignation

Author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

You have probably heard that many people have been voluntarily leaving their jobs in 2021 and 2022, often called “the great resignation.” Much has been made about people deciding that they prefer to work from home and maybe even change where home is, sometimes relocating to lower-cost, slower paced communities during the pandemic. Perhaps people have decided that their work wasn’t fulfilling and they are looking for a permanent change, having been “awakened” by the sudden change thanks to the pandemic.

There is an almost romantic story being told about people “finding themselves” as those looking to hire wring their hands about the lack of labor supply. The data tell another story. As Forbes reported in January 2022:

Fully two-thirds of the folks leaving jobs this past August weren’t actually ‘quitting.’ They were retiring. One million were ‘normal’ retirements, an additional 1.5 million opted for early retirement. That’s a whole different story.

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