The Book

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The definitive career guide for grad students, adjuncts, post-docs and anyone else eager to get tenure or turn their Ph.D.  into their ideal job

Each year tens of thousands of students earn their Ph.D.s but only a small percentage land a job. For every tenured professor or well-paid former academic, there are countless underpaid and overworked adjuncts, and many more who simply give up in frustration.

To ensure success, you need a plan. You need to learn when, where and what to publish, how to write effective job documents and ace your interview, how to cultivate references and craft a competitive CV, how to avoid the mistakes and ‘adjunct traps’ that sink many of your peers, and how to make the leap to nonacademic work, when the time is right.

Karen Kelsky has made it her mission to help readers solve the mystery of the academic job market. As a former tenured professor and department head, and  creator of the popular and widely respected advice site The Professor is In, she has helped thousands land their dream careers.

Blurbs and Reviews (and see some reader reactions below):

“Kelsky offers smart, frank, and often witty advice to lead applicants through the complicated process of securing a tenure-track position..this cogent, illuminating book will be indispensable.” – Kirkus Reviews (see full review below)

“This book reveals the unspoken norms and expectations of the job market so that graduate students, PhDs, and adjuncts can weigh the risks and chances of success in a tenure-track job search, or they may seek nonacademic options. Kelsky offers wide-ranging, valuable advice and an important perspective for job seekers choosing either of these two career paths.” – Booklist (see full review below)

“Karen Kelsky’s The Professor Is In offers a compendium of smart, clear, direct advice to anyone seeking to turn a PhD into an academic job. She covers everything from how to build a competitive profile, to writing cover letters and resumes, to negotiating for that final job, postdoc, or grant. She’s not afraid to give examples of ‘don’ts’ and she models the ‘do’s.’” I’m about to meet with a doctoral student on the job market right now—and I’m giving her my copy of The Professor is In.” Cathy Davidson, Distinguished Professor, CUNY Graduate College, Director, The Futures Initiative.

“If you would like your academic career to begin in delusion and end in disillusionment, then by all means, ignore Karen Kelsky. If, however, you want unvarnished straight talk about the academic job market—and how to navigate it—then heed her, and heed her now.” —Rebecca Schuman, education columnist for Slate

“Every graduate student in academe should read this book. But also: if you teach graduate students, if you mentor graduate students, if you worry about graduate students, and even if you’re thinking about becoming a graduate student, you should read this book too. It’s just that indispensable.”– Michael Bérubé, Director, Institute for the Arts and Humanities, Penn State University

“It’s tough out there, but no one understands how academic jobs are landed better than Karen Kelsky. If you are a graduate student, The Professor Is In offers sound, realistic advice, and it may be the most valuable book you ever read if you intend to have an academic career. – William Pannapacker, Professor of English at Hope College and columnist for the Chronicle of Higher Education

“Explains in exquisite detail exactly how to land a tenure track job. In her genial yet unabashedly thorough book, Kelsky coaches readers through the critical topics they need to know. I wouldn’t want to navigate the inhospitable weirdness of the academic job market without it.” – Adam Ruben, author of Surviving Your Stupid, Stupid Decision to Go to Grad School

There’s no one way to guarantee that you get a job in academia, but there’s a thousand ways to lose one. In this book, Karen Kelsky levels the playing field, providing practical insider knowledge to demystify the job market and help you improve the odds. – David M. Perry, Journalist, Chronicle of Higher Education, Director of Undergraduate Research, Dominican University

“A realistic account of what it takes to turn a Ph.D. into a job when all the jobs seem to be disappearing, The Professor is In offers sobering, impeccable advice from one of the most honest voices in higher education today.”–Greg M. Colón Semenza, Author, with Garrett Sullivan, of How to Build a Life in the Humanities: Meditations on the Academic Work-Life Balance

“Karen Kelsky tells the disheartening truth about the difficulties of getting through graduate school and finding a tenure-track job in a funny, irreverent, and ultimately encouraging way. Getting a job is about more than being smart; read this book if you want to be prepared, professional, and on your game.
-Elizabeth Reis, Professor and Chair, Women’s and Gender Studies Department, University of Oregon

“This is the book I wish I had when I was a grad student. As The Professor Is In, Karen Kelsky delivers generous, savvy advice for academic job seekers. Unflinching, supportive, and honest, there is no other book like it. All Ph.D. students (and their advisors) should have a copy on their shelf.” – Carole McGranahan, Associate Professor, Anthropology, University of Colorado at Boulder

Kirkus Reviews:

In 2010, after 15 years as a tenured anthropology professor and department head, Kelsky (Women on the Verge: Japanese Women, Western Dreams, 2001) left academia to found The Professor Is In, a counseling service and blog aimed at helping graduate students mount a job search. Aware of the current competitive job market, with colleges and universities increasingly trying to save money by staffing departments with part-time adjuncts, Kelsky offers smart, frank, and often witty advice to lead applicants through the complicated process of securing a tenure-track position. She has no illusions about her readers’ ability to do this on their own. Graduate study is infantilizing, she maintains, a process of hazing that leaves students “insecure, defensive, paranoid, beset by feelings of inadequacy, pretentious, self-involved, communicatively challenged, and fixated on minutiae.” Advisers range from moderately helpful to neglectful to downright discouraging. They may not have any idea of the realities of the market into which they are sending students, which Kelsky thinks is “terribly, patently unfair, in that several generations of Ph.D.’s are now victims of an exploitative system that trains them for jobs that no longer exist, and denies that fact.” The author covers in detail every aspect of the job search: building a strong record through carefully chosen publications (prestigious peer-review journals are the gold standard, and in the humanities and social sciences, a book contract is crucial); going after grants; presenting at national conferences; honing a CV; writing a succinct, sophisticated cover letter and teaching statement; presenting oneself in an interview and during a campus visit; and negotiating an offer. “Grad students,” she writes, “remain in an extended juvenile status long after their peers outside of academia have moved on to fully adult lives.” For those students—and anyone who cares about them—this cogent, illuminating book will be indispensable.

Booklist:
Kelsky, entrepreneur, blogger, and former academic, reports that the “American academy is in crisis.” State funding has declined for public colleges and universities; tuition and student debt have increased; costly administrative hirings (of deans, provosts, etc.) are balanced with numerous budget cuts, including fewer educational programs and faculty positions, eliminated course offerings, and closed campuses. Adjuncts, many with PhDs, are hired as temporary teachers with salaries at a fraction of tenure-track faculty. The author aims to empower current or future PhD job seekers to make informed career choices, indicating they will find almost no university opportunities for permanent and secure tenure-line positions commensurate with their advanced training. This book reveals the unspoken norms and expectations of the job market so that graduate students, PhDs, and adjuncts can weigh the risks and chances of success in a tenure-track job search, or they may seek nonacademic options. Kelsky offers wide-ranging, valuable advice and an important perspective for job seekers choosing either of these two career paths.

— Mary Whaley

Science Careers:

When venturing into a foreign land, wise travelers bring along a reliable guidebook that explains important landmarks; the local culture, values, and folkways; and the problems, misunderstandings, and dangers that can arise. That’s why graduate students and postdocs pondering the tenure-track job market need to read an astute and revealing handbook published this month, The Professor Is In: The Essential Guide To Turning Your Ph.D. Into a Job.

Trained as an anthropologist, author Karen Kelsky has the perfect combination of expertise and experience to explain to both newcomers and old-timers what they’re likely to encounter on the academic job market and how to improve their chances of reaching their destination. A former tenured professor at a midwestern university who has served as a department chair and been a member of multiple hiring committees, Kelsky is able to recognize and interpret both the overarching patterns of behavior and belief that shape the faculty job application process and the small but significant details that can strengthen or undermine interactions with decision makers.  [Read the rest here]

EarlyWord (library book review site):

Kelsky is the faculty mentor we all wish was in the office next door.

I can attest that her ideas work. Kelsky makes the case for sucking it up, jumping through the hoops and not making excuses. No one has time to write. Write anyway. Are academic leaves available? Apply for them. This was exactly my problem. My teaching and the daily tasks of my department left no time. There was a leave that I could apply for but I hadn’t been in position very long. I thought that my projects weren’t “good enough,” “research oriented enough” or “what these leaves were for.” I went back to the call for proposals only to discover that I had just a 24-hour window before the deadline, so I sucked it up, jumped through the hoops, made no excuses and got my application in.

A month ago, I received a letter from our director that I am approved for a 6 week writing leave. Seriously, this book is life-changing. [Read the rest here]

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Readers (from emails):

“I wanted to send a quick note to express my gratitude for your excellent book.  I am about to go on the market for the first time as an ABD.  I actually have exemplary advisers and allies in a program that places professionalization at the core of its mission.  The book, however, offers cogent summaries of so many important issues and gives concrete advice on how to write job market materials.  Having it to turn back to in reference–no matter the hour of day or stupidity of the question–is a balm for anxieties produced by the job market.  I know I will use it as a touchstone as I draft and revise my applications.”

“Reading it has been a real pleasure, because you write with such pep and zest and vim.  As a poet, I admire your keen appreciation for style (in terms of your advice about diction, syntax, clothing, etc.). You’re one of the few humanists who still pay close attention to form—and your eye for beauty makes each of your own sentences so clear and pleasing. Perhaps The Professor Is In is secretly a work of aesthetic philosophy”

“Thank you for the book. It’s giving me fortitude to refresh my approach for the upcoming job search (academic and beyond).

“Please know that I’ve found your book to be, by far, the most useful thing in my office this application season (next to my laptop). Thank you for demystifying this process and offering the step by step guide (and I really do need all the steps explained). Your attention to detail has already served me well and I’m only at the letter writing stage. The only lament among my peers (we all read your blog) is that we wish we had been reading your blog from day one. Thank you for all the work you do and what you offer. The same goes for your team. Thanks to all.”

“My morning routine before heading to the office these days? Quickly scanning my bag for the following items: Keys, wallet, your book, laptop, phone — then I know it’s going to be a productive day with my job applications. Many thanks; it has been a phenomenal resource these past two months. ”

“I also gave a copy of your book to one of my favorite former
undergrads, who was waxing on about how she wants to do what i’m doing. It was very eye-opening for her to see the reality of pursuing an academic career. I honestly hope she finds something else to do that makes her happy, or if she enters a phd program, at least she has her eyes wide open. It’s a good gift for those situations – you should market as a stocking stuffer this holiday season:)”

“I ordered your book before I sent my first email, and am currently on page 101. I would be further but I’ve been reading many of the chapters twice. I went into grad school with the intention to teach, but there wasn’t anyone at XXX to talk to about my long term goals. Grads and advisors in film don’t have much dialogue in the way of looking for and applying to teaching positions…

My father taught business law for 25 years. He’s shared some of his experience playing the game, but he and I have had many animated exchanges since I began your book. Which by the way, is a shock to my system. An eye opening education, I do say.”

 


Comments

The Book — 17 Comments

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  7. Dear Karen,
    I am buying your book, and I was wondering if you would have any recommendation for other books similarly providing advice for early career academics (applying for a postdoc or other grant writing proposals after the PhD). Thanks.

    • i have a section on grant-writing in the book, including a really great template for grant organization. Anyway, I suggest: Marketing For Scientists: How to Shine in Tough Times (Kuchner).

      • I have received your book today. It is really great! There is so much more than on your blog, which I had already used for drafting my academic CV. I am not applying to any US institution, but I assume that many of your comments are valid for the European market in general. I hope your book will provide enough advice to help me secure a job or fundings after the PhD. If not, I shall definitely hire you. Have a terrific day! Now back to reading your book…

  8. I cannot speak highly enough about this book. I have two weeks to put together application materials for a position in another country, and no time to scour the Internet for a sample research dossier (?!), etc. This book is my Bible and if it lands me a job, I will return to toast the comments section.

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