~~ “You tell the truth, you tell it well. In the crowded and fetid swamp that is the job market, that is oxygen.” – a reader
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MORE ABOUT THE BOOK
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.
This single handy guide addresses the most important issues facing any Ph.D., including:
-When, where, and what to publish
-Writing a foolproof grant application
-Cultivating references and crafting the perfect CV
-Acing the job talk and campus interview
-Avoiding the adjunct trap
-Making the leap to nonacademic work, when the time is right
“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.
ABOUT THE BLOG
I post once a week, usually on Friday, on topics related to the academic job market, academic life and politics, general professionalization skills related to writing, publishing, conferencing, networking, and scholarly comportment, and the tenure process.
I also put up posts on the Post-Ac/Non-Ac job search by my Panel of Post-Ac Experts, on Monday or Tuesday.
Let me know if there’s a topic you want to see me post on! I am always happy to put Special Requests into the queue. Comment here, or email me at: email@example.com. You can always get to a particular Category by clicking it in the Categories column to the right—————>
Please note that as of January 2013 the rate of comments to this blog has exceeded my ability to respond individually to each one. I’m sorry that not all comments will get a personal response by Dr. Karen. If you have a really pressing question, do consider getting in touch to get on my calendar to work together. I strive to make services affordable to all.
At The Professor Is In, we have a particular commitment to supporting black women in the academy, as well as other scholars of color. This is a core company mission. If you are a member of these communities, and finances are an issue in working with us, please get in touch to discuss possible arrangements.
Here’s a short glossary to help you follow the discussions in the blog:
TT– tenure track
VAP–visiting assistant professor (position)
ABD–all but dissertation (status)
SLAC–small liberal arts college
R1–top ranked research-intensive institution with Ph.D.-granting departments, such as University of California at Berkeley, University of Michigan, etc.
R2–research institution with primarily MA-granting departments
I am delighted to offer another guest post in my series of contributed posts by black women and other women of color. [It is a company mission of TPII to support black women in the academy, and if you are a black woman in need of career help, please get in touch. We can work with you to make it available].
If you’d like to submit a post or an idea for a post for
consideration, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I pay $150 for accepted
posts. The posts can be anonymous or not, as you prefer and can be about
your experiences of racism/microaggressions in grad school or the
career, your post-academic musings, hard-won advice for other
students/faculty of color coming up, intersectional practices in
teaching or research that you have found valuable, and also of course,
makeup and clothes, or even tech gear you’ve found that helps in your
work. More information can be found here.
Today’s author prefers to remain anonymous. Her bio: the contributor is a female scholar, a person of color, and a native of a South American country. She came to the USA to earn her doctoral degree at a large public university in the Northeast. After finishing her doctoral degree in a social science field, she is now starting a new job as a faculty member at a liberal arts institution.
As my peers are preparing for the beginning of classes in two weeks, I was wasting yet another day on visa and immigration matters. This time it wasn’t about forms, but about calls, emails, and meetings that I needed to make, write, and hold to explain my new employers why I wasn’t yet able to complete the hiring paperwork and officially start my new job as an assistant professor. I should have been prepping for my courses, finishing the last touches on my syllabus, and submitting another paper for publication. I desperately needed to be productive before the academic year starts. But no, academia was finding another subtle way of telling me that I don’t belong here.
I wished so much that my main concern was to balance my time between teaching and researching, like most of my fellow junior faculty. I wanted my worries to be about how to better model some statistical relationship, or how to frame this paper that I’m struggling to write, or how to promote my work in social media. But my main concern was to be able to officially start a job that I was offered based on my own merit. The fact that I was selected from a pool of hundreds of admirable applicants, wasn’t enough accomplishment. Accepting this job offer didn’t really allowed to start my academic position as a junior faculty. I wasn’t authorized to run this new race that I so much desired to run. It felt like the academic job market wasn’t over. If my working permit wasn’t approved, I could lose this opportunity at my dreamed job.
The ways in which the system works against underrepresented minorities are countless. Particularly in academia, you can find several eye-opening analyses that report how implicit bias holds women back here and here. Most of the time we think that the system denies them jobs and wages that they deserve, or that it prevents them from competing for promotions and tenure on an equal footing. And it does. Fewer times, however, we think about when the system denies them the opportunities to participate in the contest in the first place, even when they won a ticket to it. To my identity as a woman of color, I realized, I needed to add the layer of migrant.
I fulfilled a cherished professional aspiration when I earned my first academic appointment at a liberal arts institution. Two years ago, I had started applying for dozens of academic jobs, while finishing my doctoral dissertation. In addition to the fears of being unable to persuade my committee that I was ready to become a doctor, I dreaded that if I didn’t find a job, I was going to be kicked out of the country. I faced this type of existential anxiety almost every day. Specially during the hard moments in grad school, but also during the easy ones. My life in academia could end up at any moment, no matter how well I performed. Someday, authorities will come out in the clear and finally declare out loud and shamelessly that immigrants were not welcome here. I didn’t need to wait too long for that day, though; republican supporters are already chanting “send her back” at Trump rallies.
The racist chant made me relive a recent trauma. It reminded of that time earlier this year when a CBP agent jokingly yelled at me and my partner “Don’t let them in!” when approaching us in the immigration checkpoint in the airport. Good morning, sir. I wish I had the courage to tell you it’s not funny to play with the lives and hopes of immigrants. Your joke is not amusing, it’s cruel. Instead, I followed his lead and smiled nervously. Then, I proceeded to answer every intrusive question they asked about my personal life, why did I travel to that international conference, why did I attend that family meeting, how much money was I bringing with me, etc. In spite of the humiliation, I answered with a submissiveness unknown to me. Or at least it felt to me like that. I thought I was showing respectful obedience. As my partner reveled to me later, I was not. I was bold and confident, may be even too brave. You can’t piss off the boss, he told me. But, listen, I cannot let them get away with disrespectful treatment of immigrants! If they abuse me like this, an educated immigrant, fluent in English, living for years in the USA, wouldn’t they feel entitled to insult those whom they see as more vulnerable? I have a responsibility. Long story short, they finally let me go after I spent the most terrifying 30 minutes of my life in a little room that smelled of despair. I cannot begin to fathom what the migrants are suffering in detention centers at the southern border.
Back to my current situation. I should have completed the hiring paperwork two weeks ago. My working permit was recently approved after a high-ranked government official made inquiries to USCIS on my behalf. But the employment card is taking forever to be shipped to my address. I have spent countless hours and dollars in immigration paperwork already. Not including the number of visas that I had to pay for over the years, I’ve spent well over six hundred dollars in migration-related matters only this summer. I’m broke. Not just because of the already expensive out-of-state moving ordeal but also because of the more than 5 years I lived on a graduate student stipend. That takes a heavy toll, folks. I won’t even touch on the subjects of expensive conference fees and late reimbursement policies.
The consequences extend far beyond the economic realm. Anxiety kicked in because of the unavoidable waste of time on immigration matters, and because my obsession with making my working days the most efficient and productive (fixation I probably share with many folks in academia) could not come to terms with this additional complication. But, most importantly, I was afraid that I was losing opportunities to get to know my colleagues and staff, and to gain an early grasp of the responsibilities of my new position by attending faculty meetings, getting settled in my office, and taking part in new faculty trainings. All those activities would help me perform better at my duties and would be crucial to let the feeling of belonging sink in. How could I truly be a “newly appointed faculty member” if I could not even occupy my new office? Was there a better way to exacerbate my feelings of inadequacy?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of the skills that I developed in jumping all these obstacles throughout my life. But I refuse to get used to them. And no one should either.
Walking out of Erev Rosh Hashanah services in a torrential downpour in the dark, my rain-soaked (adorable! fuscia!) suede high heeled shoe caught in the rain-soaked fabric of my super-cute wide-legged jumpsuit (not THE jumpsuit but another one), and got stuck, and I pitched forward, landing (and bouncing twice) on my forehead. It was absolutely ghastly, and terrifying to be lying in the parking lot dazed, stunned, and bleeding onto the asphalt in the dark storm.
I ended up in the ER with a broken right elbow, two gashes in my forehead, a banged up knee, and some level of mild concussion. My blood pressure dropped to 75/25, which certainly got their attention…. And they were worried about a possible broken neck and got me into a brace asap.
Everyone at the ER (nurses and doctor both) were super impressed with my lipstick, though, which stayed on like a champ through the whole ordeal! Shoutout to Lipstick Queen Rear View Mirror Lip Lacquer in Drive My Mauve. I had Kel take the photo below just for today’s anticipated blog post, much to her bemusement. (My hairdresser’s FB comment to the below picture: “your hair looks great!”)
That was one week ago, and I’ve bounced back amazingly fast. I don’t even need a regular cast for my arm, after the ER splint got removed three days after the incident. I’m a little dizzy and various parts still hurt, but overall doing very well.
I count myself very lucky indeed. Very, very lucky. We know more than one person who had a similar fall and ended up permanently impaired. I’ve been able to come back to work, first working with voice recognition software, and now getting back to typing. I am taking it slow, but each day is better than the one before. I drove the car for the first time yesterday!
Anyway, the nature of forehead injuries is that, because of gravity, the bruising travels downward to your eyes and then under them to your cheeks. I ended up with two huge swollen, purple shiners and bruising that sunk an inch below that and is obstinately still there (yuck).
About 4 days in, bored with lying about, and sick of my purple face, I decided to experiment with makeup to see what I could do. This was purely for entertainment’s sake, since I didn’t have anywhere to go. I just wanted to see what my products would do if put to a very difficult test. And I was thinking ahead to the next #MakeupMonday of course!
Here are the results.
I begin, right arm in cast and sling, just trying to get set up at my makeup desk, fumbling my phone every which way. Everything had to be done left-handed!
Finally I get a system.
Here is where I started. Believe it or not, this was NOT the worst day for bruising and swelling. It actually got a lot worse after this. Kel said I looked like one of those blue people from Avatar–100% correct.
I apply my skin care and primer.
I apply my beloved Becca UnderEye Corrector and some concealers. I immediately discover that the dewy, lightweight concealers I exclusively use are 100% NOT up to the task.
(By the way, I couldn’t put any real makeup products on the liquid stitches on my forehead, just to make sure they didn’t dissolve. So those stayed mostly untouched for this exercise.)
I move on to foundation: I used a sample I had lying about of Jouer Essential High Coverage (full coverage) foundation, which was horrendous and pilled up all over my face. Do not buy this product. I had to try and fix it with my Lancome Teint Idole, which is the heaviest foundation I have (still only medium coverage tho), compared to my BareMinerals Complexion Rescue, and my Nars SheerGlow. The Teint Idole corrected the texture (because it is magic), but I ended up a weird pale color which was disturbing but couldn’t be corrected, as I had severely limited energy to devote to this experiment.
I do my eyes – coincidentally my regular plum shadow palette exactly matches my bruises! I incorporate the bruising into the shadow technique for a dramatic smoky eye, lol.
And contouring: lots and lots of contouring to deal with the swelling.
I blend the contouring and add some highlighter.
I add blush and mascara and do my brows.
I add lipcolor- Nars PowerMatte Lip Pigment in American Woman. I try and build up some concealer. My concealers remain sadly wimpy.
I am entertained by the results.
I keep fussing with concealers and powders to see if any additional coverage is possible. It is, but only with a super-cakey outcome that would not be wearable (by me at least) outside.
It was a fun experiment with pretty dramatic results!
Then I washed it all off and took a nap!
I was hoping the bruising would be gone by today, but it’s not. So today I asked Kel to drive me out to Ulta to see if I could find a better concealer. Internet research (and daughter) maintain that It Cosmetics Bye Bye Undereye Full Coverage Concealer is the go-to product, so I picked it up. And, wow, yes. It’s a whole other class of concealer.
Of course under normal circumstances I would never want anything so heavy –it’s seriously heavy. But I cannot deny: it covered my bruises. And, it blended pretty evenly, I must say, for being so thick and gloppy. I would totally wear it out in public.
Application requires a learning curve though. I am finding my weird little silicone applicator (found years back at TJ Maxx) seems to do better than either brush or beauty blender.
The internet says to warm it between my fingers before applying and I will try that next time.
Anyway, the results are pretty astounding:
This is end of the day after it’s partly worn off, just to show you the heavy lifting it’s doing!
I think I may need to adjust the shade a tad darker and cooler (from 25 Medium Natural [N] to 24 Medium Beige [C]). I don’t anticipate using it again after the bruises heal, god willing! But I’m glad to have it just in case.
Anyway, there you have it – an excellent test of makeup in the face of (get it? get it?) a critical fashion injury!
This post and a companion post on the Academic Job Market were the summaries of two talks I gave at the University of Durham in the UK, offered by Katie Harling-Lee. For anyone curious about my in-person talks, this is how I spend the one hour (followed by 30 minutes of Q and A.) Thank you, Katie, for taking the time to provide these.
Katie Harling-Lee is a PhD student in the Department of English Studies at Durham University, UK, funded by The Wolfson Foundation. Her primary research is in musico-literary studies, exploring the thematic use of music in the contemporary novel with a particular focus on the use of Western classical music in conflict situations. In the early stages of her PhD studies, she is preparing herself for the academic career market, but also co-runs the blog Object [https://medium.com/objects], endeavors to find time for ‘fun reading’ alongside her research, and tweets on the academic and nonacademic world as @KatieOsha. Find her at her personal website: k.harlinglee.com, and also here: academia.edu and here: https://durham.academia.edu/KatieHarlingLee.
In just an hour and a half, Dr Karen Kelsky presented a room full of budding PhD students with enough advice to warrant over 2,500 words worth of notes. This post is the boiled down version, highlighting the points that I wish all PhD students were taught during their studies.
Turn your PhD into a job. Yes, academic study can be a passion, but it is also job preparation, packed full with training opportunities. This idea can sometimes be frowned upon in the ivory tower of academia, but like it or not, universities are in crisis — and there is no time like the present for starting your job preparations, both for academic and nonacademic routes. You must prioritise your employability with each decision you make, and your PhD will provide incredibly useful job training once you realise how to articulate the skills you have on a job application. This post focusses on Karen’s tips for preparing for a non-academic career, but you can see this post [link] for a summary of her tips on ‘hacking’ the academic job market.
What is post-ac?
Post-ac is the wide-reaching term used to refer to working in the non-academic world after completing PhD study. There are other terms in use, including alt-ac, non-ac, out-ac… But as Karen pointed out, if only 5-35% PhDs (depending on the field) get a tenure track job, then the tenure track career is the ‘alt-career’, and the normative is taking the PhD and doing something outside of the professorship. This post will help you do that. To start, think of the ‘post-ac’ stage of your career not as the final resting point, but as a temporary stage, on the way to the place where you will eventually land: a world of employed PhDs not in academia.
How long should you try in academia before transitioning out? There is no hard and fast rule, and it all relies on personal circumstances; one year is not long enough, but after three years, you should consider asking yourself some serious career questions. Because this is such a precarious time, consider making plans now, rather than waiting three to five years before you figure it out. The non-academic transition can be brutally hard, as academia often becomes a life and identity for us, rather than just a job, and it can be hard to see a route out. But believe me (and Karen), there are many. Start by thinking like an entrepreneur. In fact, you may not know it, but you are already entrepreneurial: you came up with a field and a research question(s), you found a university, you got funding, you found insights into your research question(s), you defended them verbally, and then you published your results. All of these PhD accomplishments are the mark of an entrepreneur, and you will bring these skills with you to whatever is next in your career.
The Job Search: What To Do When You Leave Academia
Just get a job! Academia has a clear structure and plan, while the wider job market does not. The non-academic world is much more improvisational, so just try something, gain new skills, new insights, and be flexible in your choices. You don’t have to know how this will all turn out, and that is okay. Just take a step, then evaluate your situation. Take another step, and evaluate again. Each small move opens different paths, and you cannot anticipate where they might all lead. Along the way, cultivate mentors in your field who aren’t academic. Job mentors can be anyone, and they can mentor you through just one conversation, or a handful. The important thing is to talk to people and become aware of the non-academic network around you.
The Job Search: Networking
Networking is absolutely key, because 70-80% jobs are not advertised, and there are three main ways to do this. One option is to arrange a 30-minute informational interview with someone who works in the field you want to work in. Ask them questions to inform yourself about that field of work, such as: When do you hire? What qualifications do you look for? How do you think of PhDs? How would you recommend I build up my record? A second option is through digital networking on Twitter and LinkedIn. To do this successfully, keep your skills up-to-date and make sure that you have endorsements. The third option is to meet people in person by going to events. When choosing this option, identify your networking goal beforehand, and research and plan your interaction. When executing the plan, remember people’s names, acquire contact details, and establish and maintain communication after the event.
What jobs can I do?
So many! Karen listed some of the main areas: higher education administration, consulting, non-profits, financial services, secondary school teaching, academic or trade publishing, cultural and historical organisations, entrepreneurship, freelancing. The thing to remember is that in the non-academic job world, you need to shift your academic identity into skills. Employers aren’t looking for a philosopher or a physicist, they’re looking for skilled workers. To get you thinking about the many skills you already have, here’s a list of just a few (read Karen’s book [link] for a list of 100+ skills):
Thought leadership (your PhD)
Innovation (your research contribution)
Teaching and training
Cover letter and Resume (CV in the UK)
A resume (CV) is a marketing document, and you will change it for every job that you apply for. You need to identity the needs of the employer and the position and, just like in academia, the job search is about them, not you. So, describe how your background makes you uniquely suited to fulfill those needs, and do so in a way that is reader friendly.
All that invisible volunteer work that is part of your academic life will be the bread and butter of your CV. Think about all the things you have done and re-evaluate them from a non-academic point of view: for example, if you organised a conference, then that’s event planning. Quantify the skills you have, tallying them into knowledge and achievements; think about how many pages you can read or write in a week, and tally that up! Think about how much money you raised in funding. Think about how many sources you consulted and handled. Put numbers to the skills, use action words, and be specific, making them concrete achievements which the non-academic world can understand and appreciate. For example, don’t write ‘was responsible for filing documents’ but do write ‘filed and maintained confidential student records’. Wherever possible, describe your accomplishments: not ‘raised funds for annual service project’, but ‘raised $11,050 for the annual Kids Read benefit, a 15% increase from the previous year’. Also, when describing your responsibilities, you need to be aware of the language of academia and the language of business. For example, a presentation is a pitch, teaching is leadership, writing is communications, grading is valuation and management, and writing a dissertation is the execution of a large-scale strategy. Be aware of the language you use, and also consider using the same key words that are used in the job advert. You can even use a word cloud (my favourite tip) to pick out the key words and make them easier to pinpoint [image example?].
The Non-Ac Cover Letter
The cover letter is where you address certain challenges, because PhDs don’t always have the best reputation. You will have to manage other people’s reactions to your PhD, so make sure the language you use is accessible and fits the job, making the distance between you and them as small as possible. Downplay your academic credential, and up-play the skills you have gained from the experience. You also need to show that you can work in a team: show that you can communicate, have an ability to work with others, and that you’re collaborative and likable. Demonstrate your intellectual ability, but along the lines of problem solving and data analysis rather than your specific academic research. And communicate your adaptability and perseverance — you are able to overcome adversity, troubleshoot problems, and take different points of view, all because of your PhD study.
When formatting your cover letter, you should follow the principles of business letter writing: 12-point font, 1 page, date, name and address in the top left, beginning ‘Dear…’. Here’s an example of how to structure your paragraphs:
Paragraph 1: Introduce who you are, the position for which you’re applying, and note where you saw it advertised
Paragraph 2 (and 3): Make connections between yourself and the job in these body paragraphs. Write about what is interesting about this job, explain weaknesses and gaps, if you have them, and treat your PhD as a problem you have to explain. You can also be more emotional to show your enthusiasm, unlike in the academic job world, because you’re making a pitch of yourself. Remember to explain why you’re changing careers, because not everyone knows about the difficulties of the academic world. Create a narrative (you’re allowed to use ‘passion’ here), for example: ‘I discovered that my passion is not for abstract academia, but for hands-on action into…’. Don’t let it be a long narrative, but do address it. Also, do not use the term ‘overqualified’, because there is too much judgement in that word.
Final Paragraph: Conclude and invite further communication, followed by a salutation and your contact info. For example, ‘I look forward to an opportunity to discuss my qualifications with you further. I can be reached at the phone number below. Sincerely, …’
The DIY Career
The idea of ‘good jobs’ is going extinct, and many people are considering the DIY or entrepreneurial route. You could consider starting your own business (like Karen!), or freelancing. To do so, you need to think about your identity, and how these can become skills which could be used for creating that DIY career. Karen used her own situation as an example: she had her academic skills, a hobby of Japanese paper crafting, and ‘weird obsessions’ with the job market and professionalization. She took these and set up an Etsy site selling paper-crafting jewellery. Later, after realizing that she wasn’t making enough money from her Etsy shop, she developed the Professor Is In. It’s all about innovation and entrepreneurial spirit, so embrace that, and be aware of the improvisational element: you will have to create a website, cultivate a social media presence, and learn how to market and advertise. You may also have to take on a number of temporary jobs to keep afloat, but use these to learn what your skills are. And consider how your acquired skills can come together to create a new job outcome. You have so many skills from before and during the PhD programme, so use them.
If there’s one thing to take from Karen’s talks, book, and blog, it’s this: don’t delay in thinking about your career. Think about it now, not in a panicked ‘oh my gosh what am I going to do in this terrible job market’ kind of way, but in a ‘look at all these skills I’m gaining during my PhD’ kind of way. Be aware of what you enjoy, and what you don’t, when it comes to academic work. Be aware of what your priorities are, and not other people’s; think about you and what you really want from a career, and then start to plan your options. A PhD is all about critical thinking, so don’t hesitate to critically evaluate your job situation, and consider alternatives. Think about your skills and your priorities, and then learn to translate those into the language required for the job market – whether that be academic, or the vast world of non-academic careers.
If you want help, you can get in touch with Karen and her team at email@example.com.The non-ac career has also become so common that ‘quit-lit’ is now a thing, and Karen listed numerous online resources, alongside The Professor Is In website, a few of which are below:
So What Are You Going to Do with That? Finding Careers Outside Academia by Susan Basalla and Maggie Debelius
ImaginePhD.com: a planning tool for anyone with a PhD, providing questions to help imagine new career routes and identify career values
Beyond the Professoriate: Conference at beyondprof.com with online recordings
Sharing another post in our new semi-regular series, “Missives from the Editing Trenches” written by long-time TPII editors. They are the real MVPs, working in the trenches to catch you in all your job document pitfalls — from the self-deprecating to the self-aggrandizing. They’ve seen it all and are happy to share their knowledge and give you concrete tips on how to make your documents shine.
Today’s post is by Dr. Petra Shenk.
Your diss is dead, baby, dead. But don’t weep. It went through a remarkable transformation into the book and/or journal articles (present, future, and past) that derive from it. And here is the other kicker, all the research that culminated in your diss and all that never made it into the tome, which nobody else will ever read, are also no longer your diss or your diss research. They too are simply publications (in review, in progress, etc.) and your previous and ongoing research.
So, for example, if you have finished your degree, STOP writing variations of:
“My dissertation, How the ponies reversed climate change, explores how the power of friendship among diverse individuals coheres into a group of influential ponies that fight for the betterment of all ponies and non-ponies…”
“My dissertation is under contract with UC Press…”
“UC Press has expressed interest in my dissertation…”
AND INSTEAD DO VARIATIONS ON THIS:
“My book manuscript, How the ponies reversed climate change, explores how the power of friendship among diverse individuals coheres into a group of influential ponies that fight for the betterment of all ponies and non-ponies…”
“My first book, How the ponies reversed climate change,”
“My manuscript is under contract with UC Press…”
“UC Press has expressed interest in the project, and I will submit a proposal in June 2021…”
If you are not in a book field, then write variations on:
“My current research examines a remarkable reversal of climate change. Using mixed-methods, including X and Y, I explore how the power of friendship among diverse individuals coheres into a group of influential ponies that fight for the betterment of all ponies and non-ponies…”
“I currently have two forthcoming journal articles, one published book chapter, and another article under review. My article, “TITLE,” appears in Journal and argues…”
I must say when I started The Professor Is In I didn’t expect to spend so much of my time blogging about a jumpsuit.
However, there is more to say. (And yes I’m aware today is Thursday but in my defense I just finished three marvelous but tiring 8 hour days of talks and 1-1 coaching on the U of Michigan campus).
First: just when you thought the Old Navy Breathe ON Jumpsuit (about which I have blogged repeatedly, and which by the way, has been restocked!) couldn’t get any better, they come out with a Breathe-ON cinched wrap in matching fabric (matching the dark and light grey that is). Throw this wrap over the jumpsuit, and you transform it from a Spring-Summer item to a Fall-Winter. You also have a supremely comfortable item for the crap-shoot that is flying: too hot? It’s breathable and loose and balls up into a tiny, non-wrinkling ball to shove into your bag. Too cold? Grab it and put it on, and it comes out of the bag as fresh as when it went in! Also cozy for sleeping in.
Some more pics:
Second: today the jumpsuit got put to the ultimate Karen travel test. First off, there are the facts about Karen that have to be mentioned, to wit, I am a person who:
gets a peanut butter and jelly donut with my coffee in Ann Arbor
bites into the donut and immediately releases a massive glob of jelly onto the table
fails to notice that half that jelly actually has fallen onto my lap and the chair
gets up to get a napkin to wipe the jelly off the table without realizing I am dragging my left leg through the jelly on the chair
notices a mass of now-smeared jelly on the chair when I get back
deduces that — ONCE AGAIN — I have managed to smear my food all over my outfit, in this case, all over the butt and legs of my Old Navy Jumpsuit.
has at hand only one small square dry Espresso Royale napkin.
Friends, I used that napkin, and discreetly at the table (because I didn’t want to walk through the coffee shop with jelly on my butt), wiped the jelly off the leg and behind of my jumpsuit.
That jelly just…. ROLLED OFF the fabric. You can see a few specks of white paper napkin, but absolutely no jelly.
So, while I didn’t plan to keep blogging about the jumpsuit, circumstances gave me no choice.
If you haven’t tried this jumpsuit yet, especially for travel, I once again I recommend it. (And for those who have not followed the lively FB dialogue from previous posts, it’s a cinch to roll down in a tiny aircraft lavatory, and the performance fabric is so springy it never loses its shape even after a 12 hour travel day.)
Bonus tip: The Walgreens in Ann Arbor is one of only 11 locations in the country to feature in-store BirchBox cosmetic sign up and stock. Ie, you can BUY BirchBox IN STORE, and not just one option, but several different options, as well as a special “Create Your Own Box” using samples that they have right there on hand.
Beyond that (and maybe related, I’m not sure) the Walgreens features a sizable selection of prestige and indie cosmetics, skin and hair care on regular sale–>
I found an Eyeko (remember–my favorite brand!) Brow Marker, a Love Of Color Glowsquad Quad highlighter combo and a Lipstick Queen RearView Mirror Lipcolor that were all, actually and without hyperbole, revelatory. The Eyeko Brow Marker fills in my brow gap (where I pull out hair due to life-long trichotillomania) with an effortless naturalness that I’ve never before encountered in any product. The LOC highlighter finally threads that needle between over-shiny and invisible on my skin while also not being too silver/cold or too champagne/pink or too glimmer/gold (Goldilocks, anyone?) but just a perfect delicate flush, and the Rear View Mirror lipcolor, which I bought ENTIRELY on a whim just for the bright fuscia color, turns out to ACTUALLY STAY ON THROUGH MEALS WHILE ALSO BEING HIGH-GLOSS AND HIGH-PIGMENT. I did not believe this was possible, and that’s after spending a fortune on the ill-fated Prestige/Luxury Berry-colored Lipcolor debacle (scroll back for posts).
Honestly I’m still reeling a bit from the whole thing. I went back to Walgreens before leaving, and got a neutral color (downside, there are only 8 colors in total) which is what I’m wearing below. Sorry for the weird selfie but I was self-conscious and rushing in the Airport Lufthansa Lounge.
Margaret M. Quinlan (Ph.D.) is an associate professor in the department of communication studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She explores how communication creates, resists and transforms knowledges about bodies. She critiques power structures in order to empower individuals who are marginalized inside and outside of healthcare systems. She has authored approximately 40 journal articles, 17 book chapters and co-produced documentaries in a regional Emmy award-winning series.
Bethany L. Johnson (MPhil, M.A.) is an instructor in history and an associate member to the graduate faculty and research affiliate faculty in the department of communication studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She studies how science, medicine, and health discourses are framed and reproduced by institutions and individuals from the 19th century to the present. She has published in interdisciplinary journals such as Health Communication, Women & Language, Departures in Critical Qualitative Research and Women’s Reproductive Health.
I [Maggie] sat in the pediatrician’s office with my two children texting my husband with updates on results for sore throats, high temperatures and ear infections. I made the mistake of checking my email to learn that Bethany and I received a MAJOR Revise and Resubmit (R&R) on our latest journal article under review. The supportive editor urged us to “let [them] know if [we] would like to revise…in the next three weeks because my term as an editor is about to end.”
I panicked and texted Bethany while I waited for the nurse to report the results of a urine culture. The following is a transcript of the ensuing text message exchange:
Maggie: We got a MAJOR R&R. CHECK YOUR EMAIL
Bethany: “I’m driving with DO NOT
DISTURB while driving turned on. I’ll see your message when I get where I am going”
Bethany: Wait, what?! I am in drop off
line will read when I get home
Maggie: Did I forget to say congrats?
Oh yeah, congrats. I have a pit in my stomach
Maggie: We HAVE NO CHOICE but to do the revisions. All I see is $$.
Bethany: The fact that [Editor] wants it back so soon must mean that [Editor] is supportive, right?
Maggie: Well, Reviewer 2 basically said REJECT. And [child’s] last day of preschool is Thursday. When will we do this?!
We both text our sitters (we each have a toddler and a baby) to figure out what days work for them so we can pump out the revisions. At this time, we both still pumped breastmilk; we completed all this pumping simultaneously. After a phone meeting we make a plan: Maggie will create the revision chart while Bethany begins to rework the introduction.
Writing about the dangers of maternal death in the early postpartum period (the first six weeks) took on a new meaning as we worked to meet deadlines in the very period in question. We meant to advocate for others in our situation, but doing so meant we had to bring the book to publication as soon as possible, and that required us to work during those six weeks.
Our Press would have given us more time and everyone there was very supportive. However, the penalties for delays impact opportunities for advancement in our careers (e.g., research visibility, promotions, grant funding), even if these penalties aren’t obvious until later. For tenured professors, there is the option to “stop the clock,” but there is evidence that this is more beneficial for those without primary caretaking responsibilities.
Maggie is a tenured associate professor who went back to work with her second child at three months and Bethany is an instructor and had to take semesters off unpaid as she was due at the end of a semester twice. Although Maggie was able to take paid leave and did not teach, she remained on masters and doctoral student committees and skyped into defenses because if she took time off those committees it would have erased years of mentorship and emotional labor. This resulted in more than 50 hours of work the semesters she went unpaid and without health insurance.
We are also aware these stopping the clock, altering teaching schedules, and all the other ways we modified or rearranged our schedules reflect economic and other forms of structural privilege. We have colleagues who managed to juggle shifting deadlines by handing off childcare to partners. We realize we are fortunate to have supportive partners; however, they have work constrains as well. Bethany’s partner travels weekly and often at the last minute, so schedules time-off in advance. Maggie’s partner has a family manufacturing business with no vacation time, so taking on more childcare than planned equates to lost business.
We conducted a cost-benefit analysis of a R&R with Major Revisions to Press. Here it is:
20 hours each for childcare
a Total of 40 hours at 15 dollars/hour
Compensation for academic publishing:
$0 from publisher, journal, etc.
tenured party: $0; expected tenure and promotion
untenured party: $0; neither recognition nor job security.
Untenured party also has to absorb childcare cost ($300) against adjunct pay ($3500 per course before taxes) and can’t afford not to publish, in hopes of future job stability (also believes in the work).
Before our first children, Maggie and I discussed how hard it would be to balance the demands of an academic job where you have to complete teaching/mentoring, researching/publication, committees/service work—and that’s if you don’t work in a lab. Our jobs have some flexibility in that we can teach online or work from home, but this comes with expectations (from ourselves and others) that we are available around the clock. The result is often 60 hours a week of work, to complete with time leftover for our families and the ever-elusive “self-care.” In some cases, there are real consequences for taking leave (paid or unpaid) as it can lead to accusations of not “pulling your weight” in a department.
It is easy to forget that academic publishing still has deadlines when individuals are on paid and unpaid leave (and Family Medical Leave Act leave) as one cannot control when article feedback arrives. Even after we returned from maternity leave, publishing (research, writing, editing, conference travel) means we need to pay for additional childcare and when that cannot happen, we are still expected to meet deadlines (even with extensions, although we never ask for them), the work piles up) so we work around the clock to meet deadlines.
Struggling with less sleep and more to balance in our families didn’t improve our writing, even if it forced us to be more efficient with our time. Social media complicates this already precarious balance as it is both a boon and a burden, allowing us to commiserate and celebrate with other academic mothers and parents, but potentially enabling students and colleagues more access to our daily lives and thus, critique and surveillance of our “off hours.”
What’s worse—sharing our experiences here could feel like an indictment of someone else’s postpartum period. Someone who asked for extensions, missed deadlines and did the hard work of disappointing others to maintain some semblance of balance in this critical period. We want to celebrate those decisions. Our point is that the system is broken, and no matter which path you choose (round-the-clock or clocking out) someone will say, “you’re doing it wrong.”
Because of the financial commitment of preparing our research
for peer-reviewed submission, we remain dedicated to completing revisions to
the editor and reviewers’ satisfaction and seeing our articles go to press. We
both love our work; we are passionate about teaching, committed to our graduate
and undergraduate students, and we enjoy the challenge and discovery of
research and publication, but
we are tired. Our responses are concise to maintain our professionalism,
but what these messages omit are the economic, personal and relational costs of
maintaining our standards
in a system that “taxes” us, directly or indirectly, for reproducing.
you for the opportunity to revise our manuscript. Yes— we will complete revisions
by the deadline.
 In our book, we discuss at length the problem with the label “mother,” even while we acknowledge the theoretical, legal and political weight of the title. As we say, “We most often use the term “mother” to reflect historical terminology, self-identification, and the direction of the medical gaze, yet we acknowledge that gender/sex is a continuum and motherhood is a state of flux. This word is both sufficient and wholly insufficient to describe the experiences of many today…we hope to examine how power and oppression impact individuals who wish to identify as a mother or identify themselves as mothers or parents across diverse social strati (see also Griffin & Chávez, 2012)” (p. 3).
Here is some information about our book: “You’re Doing it Wrong! investigates the storied history of expertise around mothering in the media, from the newspapers, magazines, doctors’ records and personal papers of the nineteenth century to today’s websites, Facebook groups, and Instagram feeds. Johnson and Quinlan find surprising parallels between today’s mothering experts and their Victorian counterparts, but they also explore how social media has placed unprecedented pressures on new mothers wrestling with familiar concerns and crises from pre-conception through early toddlerhood.”
This post and a companion post on the Non-Academic Job Market are summaries of two talks I gave at the University of Durham in the UK, generously compiled by Katie Harling-Lee, who attended. For anyone curious about my in-person talks, this is how I spend the one hour (followed by 30 minutes of Q and A). Thank you, Katie, for taking the time to provide these.
Katie Harling-Lee is a PhD student in the Department of English Studies at Durham University, UK, funded by The Wolfson Foundation. Her primary research is in musico-literary studies, exploring the thematic use of music in the contemporary novel with a particular focus on the use of Western classical music in conflict situations. In the early stages of her PhD studies, she is preparing herself for the academic career market, but also co-runs the blog Object [https://medium.com/objects], endeavors to find time for ‘fun reading’ alongside her research, and tweets on the academic and nonacademic world as @KatieOsha. Find her at her personal website: k.harlinglee.com, and also here: academia.edu and here: https://durham.academia.edu/KatieHarlingLee
In just an hour and a half, Dr Karen Kelsky presented a room full of budding PhD students with enough advice to warrant over 2,000 words worth of notes. This post is the boiled down version, highlighting the points that I wish all PhD students could be taught during their studies.
The most thought-altering point of Karen’s talk: turn your PhD into a job. Yes, academic study can be a passion, but it is also job preparation, packed full with training opportunities. This idea is often frowned upon in the ivory tower of academia, but like it not, universities are in crisis — and there is no time like the present for starting your job preparations, both for academic and nonacademic routes. This post focusses on Karen’s tips for hacking the academic job market, but you can see next week’s post for a summary of her tips on preparing for a non-academic career.
How to use grad school (PhD study) as a means to get a job
First and foremost, remember that the best dissertation is a finished dissertation. Write your dissertation with an eye to the publications that it will become, and strategize these publications, because dates of publication have an effect on the tenure track/REF requirements. PhD study is also the perfect time for getting as much useful experience as possible, and you will be able to take advantage of numerous opportunities which will aid your CV. Alongside publications, these include conference papers and organizing a panel for a national conference, teaching undergraduates, applying for grants, and organizing academic events. To keep on top of the vast amount of opportunities available to you, you should seriously consider making a 5-Year Plan – I’ve started building my own after hearing Karen’s talk. In brief, this plan will mark out the next five or so years of your life, noting important deadlines for things such as conference papers, grants, exams, PhD defense (viva), abstract proposals, and journal publications. Your commitment to planning and execution can overcome all other hurdles, so when you’ve finished reading this summary post on hacking the academic job market, read Karen’s posts on the 5-Year Plan here [http://theprofessorisin.com/2014/05/02/why-you-need-a-5-year-plan/] and here [http://theprofessorisin.com/2014/05/09/in-response-to-popular-demand-more-on-the-5-year-plan/].
The academic job market is brutal: there are jobs which may get from 200 to 1000 applications. When that happens, the overworked academics on the hiring committee have to work as fast as possible to shift through application after application, rejecting as many as possible. In Karen’s words: “If you don’t grab hold of them in the first minute or so, you’re toast”. To do this, you have to get out of your own head. An academic job application (and in fact every job application) is not about you or what you love. It’s about whether you will make the search committee’s life easier in concrete ways if they hire you by demonstrating that you are the best person to fill the role, so they need to be able to understand this in a minute’s reading. Below are summaries of tips on how to do this by building a successful record and CV and performing well in interviews.
The Application: Your Record
Ultimately, your record needs evidence of your success with peer review, because peer-reviewed output proves that you are a ‘pre-vetted’ candidate by other members of the research community. This means that you need to have:
Peer-reviewed publications in major refereed journals
A list of grants received, preferably national rather than campus
A history of high-prestige conference presentations or panel chairing
You will also need a well-known recommender (known as a referee in the UK), potentially someone from another university, and you will need to show that you can teach — but don’t use teaching awards as a cover for a lack of articles or conferences. And remember, records of your professional and personal life are now easily accessible via the internet, so you need to manage your image online and on social media. You will be googled, so google yourself on incognito mode to see what a stranger will see and remember to check your privacy settings on Facebook. Social media isn’t always a bad thing though, and you should consider curating a Twitter account. As Karen says, “Twitter is like the watercooler of academia”. It is an active, engaged space, providing great opportunities for making contacts and finding collaborators around the globe, so make sure to use it, and present yourself as an academic peer in your field. It is also a very good idea to have a website or academia.edu page, for example, which includes your research interests, publications, and conference papers, which you can then link to on your Twitter profile.
Bearing all this in mind, these are the qualities of a successful record which you should achieve when building your own:
Intense productivity — look forwards by mentioning your planned articles
Professionalization — be a faculty peer, not a student
Autonomy and self-respect — claim your authority in the field
Effective self-promotion/entrepreneurialism — make yourself known at conferences and online (use Twitter!)
Affable collegiality — show that you know how to talk about things other than your dissertation
The Application: Your CV
Yes, you need a full CV. But don’t let the fear of trying to fill your CV make you say yes to every opportunity. “Avoid the temptation of the cheap”, as Karen says. Critically evaluate how each and every opportunity will fare on your CV, because your time is valuable, and not every opportunity is the best opportunity. This includes considering the ranking of journals, academic presses, and conferences — the more established, the more prestige, the more CV power.
When writing your CV and cover letter, be concise, be confident, and above all, focus on facts not feelings. So many of us (myself included) fall into the trap of using emotional words like excited/eager/enthusiastic/thrilled/passionate to describe ourselves and our achievements, but this is, in Karen’s words, “bragging without substance”. For example:
‘I have always been fascinated… and that led me to… and then I realized… That inspired me…This important and under-studied area…. remarkable new impact…’
‘My work is the first to examine …. Using methods x and y. An examination of z in this manner has yielded the insight that, in contrast to previous studies,…’
Remember: focus on facts, not feelings. Academics are critical readers and, just like when you write an essay, they want argumentation and evidence, not an emotional narrative.
Like in all of the above, be concise, be organised, be well-rehearsed. When you’re being interviewed, “don’t be yourself”; don’t be insecure, defensive, paranoid, self-involved, or communicatively challenged, qualities we all share in some way. You need to act like a faculty peer, not a grad student, and you operate like a faculty peer by demonstrating your contribution to the discipline. So be ready to talk about what you’re working on now, and what you will be working on in the near future. Claim authority in your field and have a strong but brief statement of your academic contribution. Display a disciplined research programme, a calm confidence in your own contribution to research, a clear and specific trajectory of publications, an innovative approach, and above all, that you meet the needs of the hiring committee. To do this, you have to prepare, and preparing for likely interview questions is the first step. Karen gave these examples:
Tell us about your dissertation, and its contribution to the field
Tell us about your five-year publishing plan – what’s on the back burner?
How would you teach our intro/methods course?
Briefly describe two courses you would develop for us
How would you mentor grad students?
How do you deal with diversity in your work/teaching?
How do you see your work fitting into the work we do here at the department? (i.e. why do you want to work here?)
Do you have any questions for us?
This last question is a very serious part of the interview: do not say “No”. Calibrate your prepared questions in line with how the department sees itself. For example, if you are interviewing at a tiny teaching college in the US with no money for anything else, do not focus on asking about funded research leave. You must have questions, and they must be fitting to the institution – so use your well-honed research skills to find out what they focus on at that institution.
An academic career in the twenty-first century may seem daunting, and there’s no denying that it will require a huge amount of work and planning. But remember that this is your career. Academia fosters a dependency on the approval of others, which often leads to negative evaluations of yourself. Despite this, you can reclaim your autonomy, whether you stay in the academy or not. If you are considering leaving, read next week’s post for a summary of Karen’s tips on preparing for a non-academic career — because it is 100% okay to do something else.
I mentioned last week that in the last year it has suddenly come to my attention that my hair has, at some point, transitioned from its previous shiny glory to well on the path to shapeless old woman frizzy poof.
Because my hair is so short, and I don’t color it, and it’s such a perfectly equal salt-and-pepper mix, I think I didn’t notice this fact as quickly as I otherwise might have.
But once I noticed it, I was horrified.
This is what my hair used to look like.
This is what I realized it’s been looking like lately.
Even when I was working hard to look cute it STILL looked all dry and frizzy….
Once you see something like this, my friends, you can’t unsee it! I leapt into action.
First, I found a Living Proof Timeless Anti-Aging Shampoo and Conditioner trial set (unfortunately discontinued) on sale at TJ Maxx in NYC. I bought it, used it, and right away, I could see a difference in texture.
Then, after some initial reading and one very long afternoon browsing the previously never-visited hair section at Ulta testing loads and loads of products for their texture and smell, I got a Kenra Platinum Blow-Dry Spray trial size, and an Alterna Caviar Anti-Aging Trial Set (I ADORE the former and dislike the latter). I also found a $5.99 Rusk Thermal Protector Serum at TJ Maxx that has become a great love. I started seeing results right away. My hair was instantly smoother.
I’ve been hedging my bets, as I do, buying things cheap and small until I find my way among this forest of new products.
FYI: Just like with cosmetics and skin care (and honestly I think even more so), hair care products really do perform differently on everyone. Ratings and reviews will get you started, but in the end you have to depend on trial and error. I don’t know why Rusk works for me and Alterna doesn’t… Oh and BTW the standout product line for me in all this is Living Proof. I’m heartbroken that they discontinued the Timeless Anti-Aging line, at least for shampoo and conditioner, but I think I’m going to be happy with their newer Frizz line.
Sadly, I also immediately realized that my new true love, Surfer Girl Dry Texturizing Spray, was undoing all the shine I was adding in…. And that texturing sprays, which I adore, MATTIFY and DRY! Ughhhh…..
I need a texturizing spray for my spiky haircut!
Luckily my hairdresser came through with a Davines salon product (“This Is A Dry Texture Spray” is actually the name) so I could get some spike without losing sheen:
Convinced about the impact the right products can make, I finally sprang for full-priced Olaplex #3 Hair Perfecter and #6 Bonding Oil, which seem to be cult items (people on Sephora kept raving about them in discussions of flatirons), and did a treatment:
Good lord, did THAT make a difference! (but see those stubborn pokey flyaways!)
Then I went to NYC and scored that totally ridiculous deeply discounted Peter Thomas Roth 24K Gold Hair Mask and Bonnet System (entails a giant black bonnet on ur head that’s attached to your blowdryer on low for a 30 min heat treatment, lol) at Ricky’s going out of business sale (mentioned last week), and tried that (while doing the Glamglow mask, natch!)
I was definitely seeing a dramatic change at this point. Not just in smoothness and shine, but also the color and feel of my hair. The color was brighter: my dark hair was returning to a rich brown, and my grays were starting to sparkle! Even more so, my hair felt soft and pliable. I could run my fingers through it without a single tangle. It started taking the flatiron instantly on a single pass, and best of all, holding its shape all day without frizz, even in humidity! Even my cowlicks (I have 7 of them!) were a little less stubborn!
Randomly I found a DryBar Sparkling Soda Shine Mist trial size somewhere, which added an amazing final shine without weighty oils or dampness. (FYI: I notice most shine sprays are so oily/wet that they instantly undo any styling you just accomplished… very annoying!)
And last night, I went back to the Olaplex #3 and did an overnight treatment as I saw mentioned on Sephora comment threads.
Check it out! Pleased I am!
Look at the shine! Even my cowlick side is smooth!
I realize there are three things that will keep my hair from ever glowing the way it did in decades past: 1) I don’t color it, and only salon color really brings frizzy graying hair back to a truly youthful sheen; 2) its salt and pepper combo means I will always have two textures competing up there; 3) my spiky short style and texturizing products means I will never have a totally smooth surface to work with.
But working within those parameters, I’m so glad to see my softness and shine returning!
Here’s the thing, though: it takes a LOT of product! First, Timeless Shampoo and Conditioner. Then, a smoothing/conditioning leave-in cream (I’m trying out a Living Proof No-Frizz sample I got just now). Then Olaplex Oil, and Kenra Blow-Dry Spray. Then the Rusk Thermal Protector Serum and a high-end straightener. Then a non-mattifying texturizer, and finishing with TIGI BedHead Masterpiece Shine hairspray and a final spritz with the Drybar Shine Mist.
I’m going to assume (hope) that with repeated deep treatments some of these temporary fixes can go by the wayside, but right now I am just piling it on and my hair is slurping it all up! The amazing thing is, so far, nothing has been too much. Not a single thing has weighed down my hair or made it greasy or flat or heavy… which for me indicates JUST how dried out my hair has actually gotten, and how thirsty it is for oils and moisturizers, etc.
UPDATE: I decided to leave the Olaplex #6 Bonding Oil in overnight last night. Wow–another upgrade!
So that’s my old hair update! If you are someone with gray hair who has found products that work, share them on the FB thread! I’ll gladly try them out! I particularly want to hear about Kerastase–give me the 411! (And I’ll do another drawing.)
Karen Kaplan reached out to share thoughts on the academic job market. We had a great conversation and I learned a lot about STEM career paths which I am already bringing to clients and audiences. Then, she kindly allowed me to persuade her to do this interview for TPII. Read and enjoy.
Tell us about yourself–what is your current position and what do you do there?
I’m senior Careers editor at Nature. As such, I produce the weekly three-page print (-to-online) issue of Careers, which includes a feature story and another article or two, depending on available space in the print edition.
The feature might be about managing fieldwork with your infant or child, how to write a first-class paper, how to launch a startup business, how to balance a hobby with your research programme (and still publish and not get thrown out of your lab). The secondary articles might be a news story, a Q&A with a scientist or a how-to column by a scientist who has navigated whatever quandary or obstacle s/he’s writing about.
I also produce up to three additional online-first (or -only) articles weekly, usually a newser or column, sometimes a Q&A. I commission and edit all of this, write headlines, subheads and photo captions for each article (separate for print and online), and write social-media blurbs (for Twitter and other platforms) for each.
Careers’ mission is to provide advice, counsel and support mainly to early-career scientists (in a PhD program, a postdoc or a non-permanent or otherwise unstable position). So everything in the section (nature.com/careers) is extremely service-based.
How did you come to this position?
I came to Nature in 2008 as associate Careers editor in our Washington, D.C., office, and ascended to then-sole editor of the section in 2014 (I have a team lead and two colleagues now, although none of our work overlaps).
I’ve been a journalist since 1987, launching my career at a daily newspaper in Connecticut, where I covered municipal and tribal government, business and big pharma. I also spent several years there as an editor, honing my editing, layout/design and headline- and caption-writing skills.
From there I moved to editing business publications in Maryland and South Carolina, and later to a national physics magazine, where I was an editor and covered the US physics community.
In your capacity as Careers editor, what is the biggest piece of advice you would give to someone considering doing a STEM Ph.D.?
Don’t expect to land a tenure-track position in academia – they’re unicorns.
During your PhD program, hone and refine your skills in teamwork and collaboration; project and budget management; discussing your research with non-scientists; and writing in a non-academic style. And do at least one internship outside academia, preferably in the last year of your program. You’ll be a far more attractive candidate to non-academic employers if you have some of the specific skills they seek.
What advice would you give to someone completing a STEM Ph.D. in terms of career choices and options?
Understand, as mentioned above, that academic tenure-track positions are are not a realistic option. So plan the time in your PhD program accordingly:
Look for a lab with a PI who understands that the career landscape has shifted dramatically from 20 years ago and will support your need to seek external career training and experience (meaning less time in the lab).
Consult with the careers advisers at your institution. (And read Nature Careers. ?) Find out what your potential career options are outside academia for your discipline/specialty and match those with what you really like to do. Governments in most nations – federal / state / municipal (depending on the nation) – do have research positions, as do non-profits and industry. You may wind up pursuing a different (non-research) track altogether. But you need to learn what’s out there for you.
Get external training and experience through internships, even for three to six months.
Form a network within your discipline’s scientific society and other related organisations, such as a campus-based or regional PhD group. Or form a group yourself. These peer groups are invaluable for exchanges of info and for support.
Reach out to scientists in your discipline who work for non-academic organizations that pique your interest. Ask to meet for coffee or lunch if they’re local. Talk by phone or whatever digital platform is mutually available if they’re not.
Ask them about their job — what they do, how they got it, how they like it; about their employer and workplace – do they have autonomy, are they part of a team, if they have appropriate work-life balance, are they amply compensated and other benefits, is there room for advancement. (This is called an informational interview – you’re not asking them for a job.)
What do you wish STEM Ph.Ds understood better than they do?
With a little tweaking of appropriate skills, they’re a slam-dunk for for many positions and careers that have a STEM base. Don’t pine for an academic post when the world is your oyster.
Talk to me about postdocs: the good, the bad, the ugly.
Unless you have guaranteed information that you will land a tenure-track academic post, think twice about doing a postdoc if you’re in STEM. Industrial employers, for one, often don’t look kindly upon candidates who have done postdocs (unless the postdoc was at that same company) because it tends to signal to them (validly or not) that the candidate wasn’t serious about working in industry and had really wanted an academic position.
It’s not quite so heinous if you’re aiming for a government research position (for example, with one of the US federal agencies), or perhaps a non-profit, but those aren’t necessarily easy to land either because there simply aren’t huge numbers of them.
There is also, of course, the reality of being a postdoc. The compensation is dismal for science postdocs (I can’t speak to those in humanitarian disciplines). Science postdocs might get a lead authorship on a paper or three, but they are so often the “hired hands” of the lab, doing most of the work while the PI is writing grants and seeing to other obligations.
People routinely do two and even three postdocs in hopes of eventually landing that academic post, and by the time they’re done with the third postdoc, they’re in their 40s and (in the US) have accrued no retirement funds, no Social Security quarters, no employer-matched contributions. They may not have health insurance either because they usually are not a direct employee of the university. And they’re probably working up to or in excess of 80 hours a week.
Then, if they decide to switch gears and look for a non-academic position, they have no experience except in academia, so they are less qualified to compete against scientists who have bolstered their CV with plenty of stints outside the university.
What surprises you in the work you currently do?
Though it’s beginning to change, most principal investigators and university administrators still do not actively steer PhD students (and postdocs) away from aiming for an academic research career. The employment landscape has shifted dramatically from the time most PIs and administrators were PhD students and postdocs, but many still expect today’s doctoral students and postdocs to pursue an academic research post.
It could be argued that it isn’t their job to give career advice to their supervisees, but the fact remains that in many cases, the PI is a primary adviser by default. I’m hoping that stakeholders in academia worldwide can start to encourage junior researchers to explore other career options beyond this path, and institutionalize their ability to do so by building in time away from the lab for internships, traineeships and other such experiences.
Thursday night is a great time for #MakeupMonday, amirite?
I promised a post this week and dammit, I’m going to give it to you.
When Kel and I were in NYC for an American Jewish Studies gig, I happened to notice that only a block away from our Airbnb, Ricky’s NYC was having a going out of business sale. I was sorry to see it go — NYC drag institution that it was — but oh my….. 65% off of everything, no exceptions!
And the amazing thing? I love everything! Check out my post-Glamglow skin:
My hair loved the PTR mask. [BTW, my hair is my current project. I’ve always had great, thick, shiny, healthy hair. To my absolute horror it has recently started to turn the corner into “elderly shapeless frizzy poof.” Even my flat iron won’t smooth it! So it’s been all hands on deck. I’ve changed all my products to anti-frizz and anti-aging products and gotten serious about the kind of deep moisturizing treatments I’ve never needed before. I also upgraded my flat iron. Lots to say; expect a post soon!]
After just one PTR treatment it’s noticeably smoother and shinier!
And I’ve fallen in love with the Mary Lou-manizer highlighter!
Also note my cute white terry bathrobe! I’m finally a person who wears a robe for my beauty routine! I always had this longing to be that person but this weird giant double-layer, ankle-length brown hotel robe I had with sleeves 3 inches too long for me never quite allowed for it. I was always overheated with goo all over the sleeves. When I saw this knee-length, 3/4 sleeve lightweight terry beauty at TJ Maxx ($24.99), I grabbed it, and I absolutely love it! It makes me feel like I’m living my best beauty life, LOL.
It’s the little things, ya know?
We have a winner for last week’s FB drawing, a grad student in RhetComp! Also, I’m finally mailing out the box of rejected berry lipcolors from my Marc Jacobs Headliner lipcolor matching #science experiment last Spring, to the person who responded first to my offer to mail them off.
Comment this week on FB with thoughts about Ricky’s, aging hair, Glamglow, or anything else beauty-related, and if we get enough comments, I’ll do another raffle. I’ve collected another huge haul of samples over the summer!