What To Do Now in Grad School (Special Request Post)

Apologies for missing Tuesday’s post and then delaying on Thursday’s post. I had a family health crisis (thankfully, fully resolved) that kept me away from the computer this week.

Today’s post is a Special Request post for K, who asks, what can a grad student do right now (even from the first year) to prepare for the job market?

This is an excellent question and one that I have wanted to write about for some time. I have no patience, no patience whatsoever, with the “love” narrative (“we do what we do because we love it and money/jobs play no role”) that prevails among many advisors and departments and profoundly mystified graduate students (see the most recent example, in the Chronicle this week, here).

It is my view that graduate school is meant to prepare one for a job and career. And it is from that belief that all of my work as The Professor derives.

For those of you who feel otherwise, that is your right.

But my remarks are always addressed to those who wish to prioritize being competitive for permanent, tenure track employment, with salary, benefits, and retirement, at the end of their Ph.D.

So, Dear Graduate Students, here are things that you can do now:

1. Never forget Dr. Karen’s primary rule of graduate school: Graduate School Is Not Your Job; Graduate School Is a Means To A Job. Do not settle in to your graduate department like a little hamster burrowing in the pine shavings. Stay alert with your eye always on a national stage, poised for the next opportunity, whatever it is, to present a paper, attend a conference, meet a scholar in your field, forge a connection, gain a professional skill.

2. Year one and every year thereafter, read the job ads in your field in the Chronicle and your disciplinary professional organization website, and track the predominant and emerging emphases of the listed jobs. You don’t have to slavishly follow trends, but you have to be familiar with them and be prepared to relate your own work to them in some way.

3. Do not forget the rule of increasing returns (in grants). A $500 book scholarship situates you for a $1000 conference grant, which situates you for a $3000 summer research fellowship, which puts you in the running for a $10,000 fieldwork grant, which then makes you competitive for a $30,000 dissertation writing grant, and later a $100,000 postdoc.

4. Make strong connections to your advisor and also to other faculty members in your department and in affiliated departments outside your department. Interact with these faculty members as a young professional, without forgetting the letters of recommendation that you will one day need.

5. Minimize your work as a TA. Your first year will be grueling, but learn the techniques of efficiency in teaching as fast as you can, and make absolutely, categorically, sure that you do not volunteer labor beyond the hours paid. Believe me, this will take vigilance. Do it. You are not a volunteer and the university is not a charity.

6. Attend every job talk in your department and affiliated departments religiously. It matters not if these are in your field or subfield. Go to all.

7. Attend national (not just local or regional) conferences annually.

8. Take every opportunity available to you to present your work publicly.

9.  Remember that the best dissertation is a finished dissertation.

10.  Write your thesis and dissertation with an eye to publication. In many if not most fields it is now necessary to have at least one refereed journal article while still ABD.  Strategize your Masters thesis or one chapter of your dissertation to be your first publication, and send it out at least one year prior to the Fall you will first go on the market.  Do not be seduced by expressions of interest or invitations from editors of edited collections. These are where good publications go to die.  Your first piece needs to be in the highest ranked refereed journal you can reasonably manage.

Bonus Advice: Put the amount of work into your job letter and teaching statement and research statement that you would put into a dissertation chapter or refereed journal article. Far, far more hinges on these documents than any other piece of writing that you do.

There is more to write.  I am preparing a longer piece on this subject for the Chronicle of Higher Education.  If the Chronicle does not publish the longer piece, I will post it here on the blog.  For now I stop here.

In the meantime, I think I can hear about a third of my readers saying “Oh yeah! I can do this!” And a third saying, “Aaaaaarrrggghhhh…..I can never do all this!” And another third saying, “I refuse to do all this! What a distasteful exercise in tactical drudgery.” The choice is entirely yours. But be aware that the best and most competitive candidates, the ones whom I have watched and assisted as they sailed through a first year on the market with  something like 10-15 conference interviews and 5 campus visits, and 2 competing offers, had every one of these elements of their record locked and loaded.

Good luck.

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What To Do Now in Grad School (Special Request Post) — 58 Comments

  1. As always, these posts are highly appreciated especially for grad students currently in the thick of it and looking ahead to the future.

    One request I have, especially for posts like these, is to include a postscript or other note that includes advice for grad students in the natural sciences. While I can see that many of these pieces of advice generalize quite well (and I take them to heart), a career path in the sciences does progress a little differently than those in the humanities or social sciences. If I remember from an earlier post, you do advise job-seekers in the sciences, so any advice in this general direction would be greatly appreciated.

    (For example, how does the necessity of the postdoc change this? What about the necessity for publishing in particular scholarly journals?)

    • Good question. I’m not sure that the nec. of a postdoc changes anything in this post per se; you’d simply prioritize your essential postdoc first, and the job only after that. But because postdoc apps are so similar to job apps, the general orientation is the same.

      Publishing is essential for all. Your comment reminded me to go in and revise the post! Obviously in the humanities a single article is adequate, or at most 2-3, while in the natural sciences I know that you may have 10-15, but be first author on only one. I am not an expert on this; I’d love to have a sciences consultant who would volunteer to assist me on blog posts like this. Anyone?

  2. Great advice; I wish I’d had it in grad school!
    But hopefully more than 1/3 of your grad school audience will take it to heart. I mean, the reason most of us follow you blog (I think!?) is to achieve access in our quests to obtain academic success.

    • Note to self: Do not quickly hit “send” when 2-yr-old reaches for the computer.

      Last line should read “….is to achieve success in our academic quests.”

    • I think I infuriate a lot of people in academe. They don’t necessarily comment, but I’m pretty sure they’re out there. I hear echoes and rumors of their reactions from various places. But I have a single mission: to assist those who want to transform their academic interests into a paying academic career. What is gratifying is to see how much, over the past couple of years, thanks to the work of New Faculty Majority and people like Bill Pannapacker and Josh Boldt, Lee Bessette, etc., the tide has shifted from open contempt for a so-called ‘careerist’ position, to increasingly politicized support for it. Not that this changes my own mission, but I am glad that vulnerable ABDs and Ph.D.s are being subjected to less bullshit than previously.

  3. What about service as a grad student? Helping organize conferences in your department, serving on committees that have grad student reps, that sort of thing? I avoided it at all costs when I was in grad school (on the assumption that research research and more time for research was the way up and out), but in retrospect that may have been a mistake. My fellow grad students who did such things got practice (that I sorely needed) in interacting with faculty as professionals and getting to know scholars from other institutions and in other departments.

    • Yes, absolutely, within reason. It is crucially important, while still in grad school, to learn how to
      “make things happen” on a campus, and in particular how to find and manage money to execute departmental events. It is a central technique for learning to interact with faculty as potential peers rather than as slavish graduate students, and for acquiring a wider range of professional contacts from outside your department/campus. But there is a risk of becoming too gung ho about this kind of thing. It is good to do about once, maybe twice at most. Beyond that, it’s back to the publications!

    • I did service that was skill increase. Specifically, I served on the campus financial aid committee. It was about ~5 hours of work each year, but I learned a ton about how that all works and it went on my CV.

    • Be careful here. I agree with Karen — if you do this, do only a little and choose what’s most valuable. There are numerous committees that have grad student reps on them that are pointless, mainly because you cannot be part of most of the conversations (if you, for example, were a grad student rep on a dept advisory committee, most places will bar you from being in any meeting where any personnel matters are discussed, or basically, 90 percent of the meetings). If you organize a conference, don’t volunteer. Find a way to be paid to do it, either by getting on a grant or applying to be the RA for the organizer. But even so, be careful. You don’t need to know how to do clerical work, which is what much conference organizing is, and you will probably not end up making real contacts. You make contacts at a conference, and not really so much by organizing one.

      • I agree, organizing conferences often makes you hate conferences as well as resent the people you can see behaving badly behind the scenes!

      • People also organize conferences because they have developed an attachment to the community they are in and because they want to sustain that community. Yes it’s often a form of free labor (but so is reading blog-posts on academia 🙂 ). But people get attached to the means by which their labor gets exploited.

        • You raise a good point, Niels. In academia, everyone does a ton of unpaid and to some degree unrecognized work; the main type is peer review, but organizing conferences is another. People do it because they care and want to keep the ship afloat, and that’s totally fine and admirable. But grad students (and some young assistant professors) generally lack the perspective to understand how much is too much, and tend to get a bit mystified about the role that the labor will play in their ultimate career success. Ie, they think it’s going to yield amazing benefits, and pour themselves into it…. to their ultimate detriment. So, while I totally support the willingness of faculty to do various forms of professional service, grad students should move cautiously indeed.

  4. Excellent advice. The people who respond “I refuse to do all this” should drop out now. They are wasting their time if they think they will get a job without being on top of everything.

  5. I’d like to echo Kirstin’s request regarding service. What types are best? Where might you get the best return? Or is it something better saved for your career and a faculty position?
    Honestly though, the fewer people that follow your advice, the better for me! I think you’re absolutely right about these sorts of things and if people are too “noble” (naive?) to follow it, it’s their loss.

    • The best types of service are without a doubt, search committees. Always pursue opportunities to serve on those, and thrust yourself into the activity with a will. There is no better training for your own job search. Serving on the department speaker series committee is good because you get to network. Becoming the grunt labor for a major conference is often not good, if it involves the work hours of a part time (if not full time) job, and the benefits are not commensurate with the investment. But it depends on the conference. The opportunities for networking on a national scale are certainly invaluable, and if it’s run by a responsible and organized faculty member (miracles do occur) then your burden will not be onerous.

      • I agree wholeheartedly with Karen’s advice that service work should further your career, so search committees are FABULOUS. Just volunteering to pick up a candidate at the airport, if they are someone you want to meet, can be a great opportunity (I did that with a senior scholar when I was a grad, I impressed her during our car ride, and we still keep in touch). Conversely, I have a Black female grad student who has great leadership abilities who frequently gets asked to do service work helping other students of color. I tell her that yes, as the African American women’s adage goes, you should “lift as you climb.” But if you aren’t climbing, you can’t lift anyone, and you can’t be a role model to future students if you never stop being a student yourself. Everything from student to associate professor should be about getting yourself to the next level; after that, you put your energies into helping others do the same.

        And thank you for your blog, Karen. I’ve found it helpful not only in thinking about my own career trajectory (although I found you late in my process), but how to better mentor my own students.

  6. WRT publications, I think that trying to get something submitted 1.5-2 years before the fall that you’re on the market is important. At least in my subdiscipline, you’ll need that much time for review and R&R, at least. That means that you probably need to start working on it around your 2nd or 3rd year in your program (if you’re on a 4-5 year plan.)

    Also, in my social science discipline, it is generally assumed that you need a few pubs to get a job.

    If I could advise someone just starting, I’d say that turning at least 2-3 class papers from your first year and a 1/2 into conference papers, and that at least one of them should be turned in to a submitted article in your 2nd year. (SIDENOTE: only take courses that are going to allow you to either learn a method that you might use later or that the content learned/paper written will be something that it close enough to your research interests that you’ll get a content or publication benefit from it. Never take a class because it “sounds fun.”)

    And then in the 3rd year, at least 2-3 manuscripts submitted — doesn’t matter if you’re 1st or 2nd author, but gotta get those out.

    • In my discipline (also social science), you will be hard-pressed to get an interview if you go on the market without at least 1-2 journal articles (or conference proceedings, depending on where most people in that field publish). My university won’t even look at an applicant for an assistant professor position if there isn’t at least one journal pub in an ISI-ranked journal (which raises another issue about rankings, but I won’t get into that here). I started submitting to journals at the end of my first year and continued at a steady pace, submitting at least one paper per semester. By my third year, I started to have publications in press; by the time I went on the job market, I have several more.

      • it would be helpful if you could clarify your field. That rate of grad student publishing is definitely not the norm for humanities, and IS the norm for the sciences, and then the social sciences fall at different points in the middle. The experimental social sciences operate akin to the sciences–ie, you’d better have a LOT of publications by the job market–while, as I say in another comment, a field like humanistic cultural anthropology requires so much intensive and lengthy fieldwork that around 2 journal articles would be closer to what a person can realistically aim for.

        • My program is very interdisciplinary, but I would say my comment holds true for most “social sciencey” communication programs (i.e., we work on research teams and are running studies–qual and quant–year round), as well as more information science/iSchools (which would be expecting multiple proceedings pubs). During my final year in school, I had a dozen pubs, which was admittedly higher than most of my colleagues, but nearly all students in my program finish with at least two pubs in press or published, and usually more.

  7. I’d also recommend being kind to your fellow graduate students. Not just because it’s the right thing to do; but also because they may become future collaborators and colleagues.

    • Totally Michele. Being known as a friendly kind colleague starts early.

      (And as a side note, this may be a good reason to not sleep around at conferences. ;))

  8. Advice I wish I’d gotten: try to draft a dissertation chapter as soon as possible after having your prospectus approved and/or your field-work completed with an eye to the following fall’s grant season. You will need a writing sample, and a dissertation chapter will go far to showing that you’re well on your way to completion. Do NOT wait to start writing chapters until you are done with research, as you may never reach that point.

  9. You forgot the component of your audience that will go “Arghhhh I didn’t do those things!/ should have done those things/I didn’t know to do those things.”

    I am curious whether you’d think I am successfully doing these things- biggest hurdle is getting shot down in my attempt to present at many conferences. I don’t know why, as I have had success in other aspects of my academic career but that’s my Achilles heal. (The AAS for example.)

    Also, my advisor is adamantly against graduate students publishing because he thinks it junks up the world of academic scholarship with immature work. He’s also almost never NOT gotten what he wanted academically- everything comes easy to him (including his choice of tenure track positions when he went on the market), so he just doesn’t “get it”.

    • Do you mean your abstracts keep getting turned down for conferences? I can’t comment on the quality of your abstracts of course, but I can call your attention to some things you might not know:

      1. Many panel chairs fill their panels partially or completely via invitations (to friends and/or to high-profile scholars working on the topic). You can get yourself invited to be on panels by networking and making sure people in your field know what you’re working on, and by reaching out to close colleagues who are in the early stages of organizing panels or conferences.

      2. Most panels fill well before the deadline. In addition to the above, many panel chairs will accept good proposals as soon as they come instead of waiting until after the deadline to read them all and decide. So submit your abstract as soon as you possibly can, or at least ask if the chair is still accepting proposals. This will also give you time to submit to a different panel if the first one is full.

      As for your advisor’s cluelessness, I’d suggest going to him for field-specific research questions, but reaching out to another faculty member for career advice (or at least a second opinion when you’re not sure he’s right).

    • If you’re getting turned down repeatedly, your abstracts are probably bad. Conf. abstracts should follow a relatively strict formula, which i describe in the blog post: How to Write a Proposal Abstract. Follow the model in that very carefully. And you could consider asking me to review one of your abstracts and help you edit it to be effective. Once you see how it’s done, you can probably carry on successfully on your own.

      Your advisor is definitely an obstacle. You don’t nec. need his permission to publish, however. Just do it.

  10. I think this is a good foundation. I’d add/reinforce a few things:
    1. Be kind. This does not mean be a pushover. But it does mean reaching out to help others, especially when doing something small can be really transformative for someone else.
    1a. Assume a pay-it-forward mentality. Ask to see an older grad student’s successful fellowship application. In turn, send yours to others who ask. My dissertation prospectus got around…this took me all of 5 seconds to attach and send as an email, but earned a lot of gratitude. Agree to read other people’s work; they’ll be your eyes and ears later.
    1b. Recognize and avoid the leeches. They exist. If someone always asks and never gives (in general, not necessarily to you, run).

    2. Service is a great opportunity to meet other faculty. They have friends in other institutions; it’s good to be known — so long as it’s for positive things. Best possible service: sitting on a hiring committee. Even if they don’t care about your opinion, you’ll get to see CVs, cover letters, research statements, teaching philosophies, etc. You will get to hear how committees talk about candidates. You will realize that there is a strong degree of randomness when it comes down to the top group. These are all good things.

    3. When your advisor creates an opportunity for you, take it, no questions asked. This means write book reviews, meet with other scholars, show someone around campus, whatever. Do it and do it well.

    4. Figure out who the best mentors in your department are (this is not hard). Figure out a way to get to know them (assuming they are not in your field), so you can access their advice and they can give you tips. They’re the ones who tend to know who has written the best dissertations in the department. Read them, and figure out what worked so well.

    5. Apply for everything, within reason. Learn to tailor your work early. Don’t be disappointed by rejection (be sad for a minute, then move on). You won’t get everything, but as the cliche goes, you can’t get what you don’t apply for. Know what the big fellowships are in your field. Figure out how you need to position yourself by what year to have a shot (there are no guarantees, but if you know you need a chapter for Fellowship A, make sure you are on a timeline to accomplish this).

    6. In the humanities, a published chapter is becoming the norm, but don’t let it get in the way of actually getting a dissertation done. People still get hired without published articles, so long as their work is big, ambitious, and thorough.

    7. Craft the best possible dissertation committee for you. This may mean the biggest names, but it might not if you know you can’t work with Bigwhig X. Make sure there is variety — not simply in content knowledge. You want someone who will read every footnote and someone who will ensure the structure/organization makes sense (this is perhaps more important in the humanities than the sciences). You want people who give realistic, constructive criticism.

    8. Avoid content-tunnel vision. Just because the required first year seminar doesn’t read stuff on your region/time period/topic, does not mean you are wasting your time. Use class papers to test out ideas and topics. Best to discard stuff in coursework than midway through a dissertation. Read with an open mind. Even if you fundamentally disagree with Scholar K, she might provide an excellent organizational model or offer writing to mimic or point to an important source. Learn from everyone and everything.

    • These are mostly excellent. But I’m going to dispute a couple.

      #3: this is anecdotal and impressionistic, but i’ve heard of far, far more stories of advisors getting people roped into ridiculous, thankless, pointless editing or publishing or organizing work than of advisors providing excellent and meaty professional opportunities. The point here is that you, the student, must never, ever simply trust your advisor. That is, in a way, my message and probably one I need to make more explicit. You must never assume that your advisor has your back, wishes you well, or, even if he/she does, actually has the professionalization skills to guide you correctly. The fact is, many people are venal and selfish, and many others are lazy and ignorant, and it’s a minority that are caring AND knowledgable enough to actually be able to help. The biggest error of grad students is mindlessly trusting their advisors. So you must develop the skills to judge, on your own, whether the “opportunity” is actually something that will serve you in your career, or whether it’s some bullshit task requiring a million hours of work for $0 that won’t even yield a usable line on your cv, or will yield a cv line that is substantially LESS valuable than the line (ie, publication) lost to the opportunity cost. Move carefully, and try to cultivate a mentor you can query whose judgment you CAN trust, before agreeing to anything.

      #6: I do NOT endorse telling my readers “don’t obsess about the publication; the important thing is an ‘important’ diss.” The fact is, grad students are always trolling for excuses NOT to publish, because publishing is scary, one of the scariest things you can do. And you still have to do it. At the same time, graduate students are ALWAYS trolling for excuses to obsess over the minutiae of their dissertations, and justify spending one more day/week/month/year perseverating on it to make it quote-unquote perfect. The fact is, the diss just needs to be done. And the publication(s) just need to get out. So, Dr. Karen’s official position is: DO OBSESS over publications. Absolutely feel bad that you don’t have one. Make that feeling bad the motivator to get off your butt and write one. It is that important. And, don’t wait to derive your motivation from the ethos of your dept or advisor. The issue of whether and how much to publish in grad school is contested in some fields (History is the main one), and contested by individual advisors. But “other people” are not sinking or swimming by your record. Only you are. Take responsibility for it, take the bull by the horns, and get a publication out.

      • As for #3, in my experience in the departments I’ve been in (which I acknowledge may not be indicative), the advisors who gave their grad students opportunities were looking out for them. Those who didn’t care about their students, didn’t create opportunities for them. I’m sure there are lazy, selfish advisors out there, but I rarely find that those people are the ones who offer their students opportunities. They’re too selfish or lazy for that. In the end, perhaps it comes down to judging character: is your advisor a good person or not (this has little to do with whether the person is a good scholar)? Does your advisor treat people with respect? Is your advsor someone who is constantly thanked in acknowledgements for going above and beyond (as an editor, a mentor, a committee member, a chair, someone met at a conference, etc)? There are signs. As in the rest of the world, it’s more about being (as a grad student) a savvy judge of people than anything else.

        #6: I think this comes down to know your field: know the norms, know the standards. There are certain fields where it’s much harder to get a journal article out early for practical reasons — one reason the article is contested in history is because a good one hinges on archival access and publishing often, though not always, demands material from multiple archives so if someone hasn’t been everywhere yet (not uncommon in the dissertation stage), it may preclude the article. Ideally there would be a seminar paper that could become an article but it may need a more substantive archival foundation. Bottom line: all advice needs to be calibrated for the particular field/subfield. Look at the newest hires to figure out what’s most important.

  11. Another great post, as usual!
    To what extend do these strategies apply to untenured faculty, or those at teaching-intensive places who want to move up to a better department?

    P.S.: Another question: what happened to the “Dr. Karen’s (Partial) Rules of the Job Talk” post? Suddenly it disappeared.

    • Wow, good point. They apply in their entirety to anyone on the tenure track. Good catch.

      And another good catch on the post! I did accidentally delete it when I was fussing with trying to get this post up while my children were yammering at me over the breakfast table! It’s fully restored now!

      • Thanks! I am a fan of your blog. I wish I had this advice when I was in grad school (and the wisdom to understand it!)

  12. Hi Karen,

    Thanks for a great article. I wish I had been taught this stuff as an undergrad and understood more about the whole PhD process.

    Mind you I have been off practising law, doing business and other things and now returning to academia. I think I now have the skills and mindset to make it work whereas if I had gone straight on from my degree it wouldn’t have been so good.

    Do have to concentrate on publishing though. I really appreciate your straight talking style and the fact you don’t pull your punches. We need to be told the truth and not molly coddled. The real world is harsh and we need people like yourself to help us.

  13. Great post. I shared with PhDs at my own PhD-granting institution, and they received it enthusiastically!

    A word of caution. If your research is dependent on fieldwork, please wait to present your findings at national conferences once you have done that fieldwork, rather than presenting your proposed theoretical framework or methodology. I have seen many a graduate student present too early, only to have the impression among more senior colleagues that said individual is not ready for ‘real work’ or is ‘still figuring out’. All this to say, timing matters when putting yourself out there.

    • That is true. It is helpful if you can strategize the opportunity to do some form of smaller preliminary fieldwork, or a bit of local fieldwork for a term paper, and then present a version of that, if it’s adequate (a big if!). I did that in grad school, and it’s why I so strongly recommend doing a Masters thesis. I turned my Masters thesis into an article in Public Culture, f you can believe it. I had several advantages: I lived and went to school in Hawai’i, which is rife with fascinating and important topics of study, I had stumbled on a truly salacious yet meaty topic which everyone wanted to know about, and I was fortunate that one of the external reviewers for the mss. broke anonymity and got in touch and said,”I am committed to mentoring you and helping you get to where you want to be in the field, and I’ll work with you on developing this piece to its full potential.” I can’t overstate my gratitude to that scholar, a leader in my field, or the difference that that opportunity made in my career. This certainly echoes the “Pay it Forward” thematic!

      In any case, the point here is that I did have preliminary fieldwork, and milked that in conf papers and publications for several years, until my diss fieldwork was done and I was ready to launch with that.

  14. Pingback: 4 Things To Do in Grad School To Prepare for a Non-Academic Career | Jessica Langer, PhD

  15. Thanks for this post- It’s very helpful to have someone demystifying the process of going through grad school.

    I think it’s also important in many fields to get substantive teaching (not just TA’ing) experience, ie teaching your own class(es). When I interviewed for jobs at liberal arts colleges, I found that being able to talk about my teaching with confidence and conviction was really important to hiring committees. Also, when you are teaching, try different techniques and assignments- then you can speak about your teaching methods and goals from your own experience, which will be impressive. Obviously teaching while ABD is going to take time away from writing your diss., publishing an article, etc.- but I assume that many are in my situation and have to teach anyway to pay the bills.

    • A.C., Unfortunately, this blog post is a truncated version of a much better essay that makes your point and many others as well. I am anxious to have that post up and inthe public sphere. I hope it will be soon. in the meantime, yes, experience teaching one’s own class is essential, but like all other things, must be timed and planned carefully. After about 3 sole-taught courses, little value is added from further experience.

  16. To any 1st, 2nd, or 3rd year grad students out there: Pay attention and take this advice. It is never too early to start thinking about where you want to be after you graduate. Start figuring this stuff out now and find out what your university has in place to help you. (PhD career services, CV/Teaching philosophy writing workshops, etc.**) And start going to these things NOW!!!!! Think about it this way: Do you really want to be fretting about how to put together your job portfolio from scratch and looking at your CV going “Gee, I really wish that I had…” all the while writing your dissertation and planning your defense?

    ** I’m not trying to suggest a competitor to Dr. Karen…I’m sure that even she would tell you that the first step in writing a good teaching philosophy is simply writing a teaching philosophy…THEN, you can send it to her to be critiqued 😉

    • thanks! it’s true. And in terms of professionalization: the more the merrier. Except, beware general career services, as opposed to Ph.D. career services. General career services offices are well meaning, but too ignorant of the conditions of the PH.D. job market to be reliably helpful. And indeed, sometimes do great harm, albeit with the best intentions.

  17. $100,000 Postdocs???? I had to laugh when I saw that. What field? What university compensates their postdocs with more than a living wage in 2012? (Note: I am ABD in the humanities where we rarely see anything offered above 50K).

    On another note, in terms of the article, great advice : )

  18. Karen, I appreciate this article and your advice. How would you adapt it (if at all) to apply to creative/non-research-based majors within the humanities – i.e. music composition, visual arts, etc.?

    • oh dear, that’s definitely not my expertise. I have, however, worked with a few fine arts clients. it seems to me that you must still have a meaty and substantial cv with lines being added at a steady clip as you progress through graduate school, featuring the right kinds of performances/exhibits/shows/media coverage and public talks in significant quantities to show that you have established a national (not local) reputation. IF there are opportunities for publication (and you must check carefully with your advisors) take them! You must also closely track the advertised jobs and tailor your approach to emerging trends in your art. obviously the digital turn has completely transformed the worlds of music and art, so you’ll want to go out of your way to gain expertise in how that works in performance, and marketing, and also teaching.

      And you must learn to speak of your work with the proper level of sophistication and ambition to be seen as a contender, while also gaining the teaching expertise in the basic technique and studio classes that jobs require. A couple of the clients with whom I worked struggled to articulate a really ambitious “envelope-pushing” point to their artistic work, and without that they just didn’t read as “impressive” enough, if that makes sense. You still have to be able to articulate the point: “in contrast to much work that focuses on xxxx, my work brings a new attention to yyyy and the critical role played by zzzzz in our understandings of qqqqq.”

  19. My question is about chapters in edited collections. I understand the *disadvantages* of publishing chapters in edited collections (don’t count toward tenure as much; not as good as refereed articles on a CV for a TT job search). Yet, many people with great CVs also have a number (sometimes a lot) of chapters in edited collections–so, what are the unique advantages of this? Networking with the editors? It comes out faster and it’s slightly less work because there is no endless peer-review/re-review process? Maybe it takes you 1/2 or 2/3 of the time and effort to get a chapter out (vs an article), and it’s still a publication, so it’s worth it as long as you have refereed papers too? Anything else?

    Basically, what would your official advice be on the ratio of referred papers to edited collection chapters for someone (with a book in the works; in the humanities) hoping to win the tenure-track lottery? 70/30? 90/10? 100/0?

    Thanks so much, your blog is really helpful.

    • Good question. Have you read my post, “Should I Do an Edited Collection?” Read it now: http://theprofessorisin.com/?p=922

      The best ratio for the tenure track job seeker is ideally 100/0, but it’s ok if you end up at like 90/10 or 80/20, as long as you have high ranked competitive refereed journal articles in abundance. In other words, as long as you HAVE the journal articles, then the chapters will seem impressive and valuable. If you have only chapters without the articles, then the chapters look like stop-gap measures and the sign of an immature scholar.

      It is true that a chapter can have a lower barrier to entry, and it is a line on the cv, but it just doesn’t do the “work” for you on the market. And since we all have a finite amount of material, the stuff you put out as a chapter is then lost to the journal article option. So in many ways you’re selling your best material at a discount. And believe me, the one thing ed. colls. are NOT is faster. They are deadly slow, YEARS in the making, and often the graveyard of work.

      Now, on very rare occasions, there will be a high status ed. coll. filled with famous people and important work, that aspires to be a “field-defining” text. If you are invited to participate in one of those, it’s probably a good use of your time and material. But you need to examine that claim closely. Every editor CLAIMS that their collection is improtant and field-defining. But only about 5% of them are. So don’t trust the editor. Demand to know who the committed participants are, and demand to know the publisher. If they’re still fishing for publishers, be very very wary indeed. Find someone you CAN trust before committing.

    • This is a link to a fantastic piece of writing about the humanities job market. I wish this essay had had greater impact in the years since it was written (2007). I might write a blog post about it. Thanks for sharing it.

  20. With respect to publishing, its very important to be realistic about the timeline. I think that a lot of people get the attitude of “oh if I work hard, I can get it published faster”. The bottom line is that most of the time you will be waiting on other people (supervisor, co-author,reviewer etc) so its out of your hands! Plan for 2 years at least! I’ve written a bit more about this here
    <a href "http://www.epidemiologyprograms.com/publishing-in-gradschool&quot; title = "Publishing in Grad School"

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  23. Karen,

    Thank you so much for the insight and advice that you offer. I just started (literally yesterday) my Ed.D at Johns Hopkins University. I want to make sure that I am a competitive candidate for a job teaching at the university level when I graduate which is why I am reading your insights.

    1. I am working hard on publishing articles and presenting at workshops, but am wondering where grant writing comes into play? I don’t know very much about grant writing and how it can help me in my career goal in academia.

    2. Also, I have had articles published in educator magazines (some prestigious ones and some not) and am wondering if that counts for anything (will impress potential employers) or if I am wasting my time and really should be focusing on publishing in journals?

    Thank you so much for your time and assistance. I look forward to hearing from you!

    Motivated but Nervous,
    Rebecca Friedman

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  26. Overall good advice, but I want to challenge the first assertation a bit. I am in my last year of my PhD program and I have maintained an average of 4 conferences a year and one large fellowship a year. I agree that grad students should not get bogged down with department politics or get too wrapped up in being “a big fish in a small pond” on campus. They should connect and collaborate nationally and internationally as much as possible to best position themselves for future career opportunities. In my last year, I’m now at the point where I know one faculty at almost every job I am applying for. Nonetheless, I disagree with the assertion that the PhD is not a job. I have reconciled myself to the realities of the job market and the demands of an academic career that can take a toll on personal life. I have therefore accepted the fact that my PhD might be the only university work that I do. My publications during my doctorate might be my last, and all the exciting conference travel and free money grants that I received during grad school are now coming to an end. It was *fun* while it lasted, but there is a good chance that I will not find a job in academia, or the job that I land will not be a good fit for me and my family. I am at peace with this- these years of grad school were not a means to an end but a life journey in itself. At the very least, this is the mantra that I have to maintain to keep my sanity while on the academic job market and I approach inpending unemployment/homelessness may 2019.

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