“A place to reflect upon our right to work and earn a fair wage.” Memory Lines is a memorial in Sydney, Australia, that has sociological interest, specifically to applied sociology. It commemorates workers who died at work, and provides a space to ruminate over the dignity and respect of all workers. It also pays respect to the traditional owners of this land, the Gadigal people. The statue was commissioned by Fair Work Australia, who look after the rights of workers.
Here’s a brief visual overview about how sociology is used beyond universities. Applied sociology is the use of sociological concepts and methods to answer specific client questions and to address community concerns.
This graphic has been going around for a few weeks yet surprisingly with little analysis. A Backstage Sociologist first published it in late April, writing only:
Teaching and learning are not market transactions: They are sacred encounters of soulcraft. This graphic leaves one who teaches social science and the humanities with a heavy heart and despairing about the eventual extinction of well-educated citizens.
I suspect there is more to this chart and part of the soul searching should happen within sociology itself. I see the steep rise in business graduates and perhaps to a lesser extent in the life sciences and communications are partly a development in technology and the reality of the job market.
One way that sociology might address this is through a stronger focus on applied sociology. Without question, developing the sociological imagination has many personal and professional benefits, as critical thinking can help to improve civic participation and empower us to understand our lives in a broader context.
Then again, if you are a poor or otherwise disadvantaged young person thinking about the debt and other commitments you need to balance, pursuing a degree in sociology can be daunting. We are largely positioned as an academic discipline. There are few academic jobs for our graduates. Market forces may be driving graduates away from social science, but our discipline can be doing much more to demonstrate the applicability of our theories and methods to specific jobs and industries.
You can read more from my website Sociology at Work, with links to resources that can help provide tangible examples of how sociology students might find work in different industries, and how they might specifically use their degrees.
In this video, I discuss the careers panel that I sat on as part of the annual conference for The Australian Sociological Association (TASA). I focus on the panel discussion about how to translate theory into practice when you’re working outside academia. I also cover workplace ethics in the video, as well issues about managing professional identity outside of academia and the importance of networking. I was asked about how I manage my research consultancy business. I talk about how to market yourself and how to establish a professional reputation with prospective clients using social media.
Read a summary of the video on Sociology at Work.