While writing her PhD dissertation last year, Kay Peterson began commiserating with her two roommates. All were wrapping up doctorates in English, and all realized that the likelihood of landing tenured jobs teaching college English was next to zero.
So together they did what any student with poor job prospects might do - get on the Internet. They gave themselves a funky sounding handle - "girls with glasses" -and started researching things an English major can do in the business world.
Along the way, the threesome also taught themselves HTML, the language of the Internet. And out popped "The Escape Pod for Humanities Ph.D.'s," a Web site dedicated to helping bereft PhDs figure out how to move into the business world (220.127.116.11/athens/Troy/7167/ index.html).
As it turned out, the Internet was a good place for English majors since many technical people need those who can research, write, and put "content" together for their Web sites, Peterson says. Last December, her Web expertise and a variety of internships she engineered for herself - plus her PhD - won her a job with FastWeb, a Chicago-based Internet startup.
Other sites dedicated to helping PhDs are popping up, too. One, "PhDs Work" is geared to science-related doctorates (members.aol.com/phdswork/welcome.html). Another, provocatively called "Sellout," was created by Mark Johnson, a Boston University PhD in English (www.ironstring. com/sellout/index.shtml). "I still believe there's no calling or career more honorable than teaching," he says. "But when there's not a lot of opportunity to pay the bills you have to look for other ways."