Dr. Karen F**ks Up

A constant tension in my work at The Professor Is In is the awkward balance between the free content that I provide on the blog, and the fee-based services I charge money for.  From the start there has been a chorus of detractors who decry the fact that I run a business and make a living from helping job-seekers, the idea being, I think, that I am exploiting their desperation, or taking advantage of an already disadvantaged population.

I know this, and I basically get the position, but I don’t agree with it.  It is OK to pay a consultant to help you master a skill or overcome a challenge, or pay an editor to improve your writing.  In addition to the volumes of free information I gladly provide–which countless readers write to tell me they have used to overhaul their materials, rock the interview, and negotiate offers without paying me a cent — I also offer the Job Seeker Support Fund to allow those who are desperate circumstances to still work with me at extremely reduced rates.  All of my rates are carefully considered to reflect the value of my services in light of the limited financial circumstances of my clientele.  I work hard never to turn anyone away for inability to pay.

Nevertheless, the tension remains, and I try always to be sensitive to it.

Well, yesterday I kind of f**cked up.  It happened in a comment I made to Todd K. Platts’ essay on his failure to find a tenure track job.

A little background.  I’ve never talked about this publicly, but whenever I come across a story in a major venue like the Chronicle or IHE by a job seeker about their struggles on the job market, I contact the writer privately to offer a bit of free help. I do this because I appreciate the courage it takes to come forward with one’s job market disappointments, and I want to extend a hand to help. I call it my “taking one for the team” assistance.  I offer to edit one or two job documents for free with no strings attached.

I’ve always done that privately, but in Todd K. Platt’s case, I decided to do it publicly.  This happened because when I googled his name to find his email address to get in touch, and clicked through to his academia.edu site, I landed on his Teaching Statement for job market applications.  “Oh, look at that,” I thought, and proceeded to read it.  It had some serious problems.  That inspired me to look at his CV, which had much larger problems.  So, instead of quietly proceeding with my email, I decided it would be a good idea to provide this feedback on the comment thread, and offer my help there, publicly, so that readers in general might benefit. In hindsight, especially to this heartfelt and very personal essay:  really, Karen?

I included my name and business name so that he would know who I was and why he might want to follow up with me. I thought my wording made it clear that I was offering the help for free.

Well, not so much.  It looks like I am, in fact, leaping on the desperation of a job seeker to extract profit.  In fact, a couple people castigated me for using someone’s pain and suffering to “shill my wares.”

Looking at the wording, I see why, and wish I’d taken more care.

I know why I didn’t.  It was exasperation. I find it tremendously frustrating that so many unsuccessful job seekers look at their record, and look at their unsuccessful outcome, and complain about the unfairness of it all—-without taking a moment to look at their body of writing that mediates the two:  the application documents themselves.

In my webinar on Grant-Writing yesterday, I told participants “you have your research profile, and you have the grant outcome you’re seeking, but what too many people overlook is the intermediate step, which is the painstaking work you must do to use your writing to articulate the research profile into language that motivates the funder to award you the money.  Too many people think that this writing can be tossed off in a day or two, because the research ‘speaks for itself.’  It doesn’t.”

A grant application or a set of job documents requires hours and hours of painstaking, exhausting, excruciating work.  In the current economy there is no space for slipshod, sloppy, poorly-conceived or executed writing in these documents.  Somehow, though, applicants forget that (and in addition are rarely told or assisted in it by advisors) and believe that all the years of work in their Ph.D. programs will simply automatically translate into the outcomes they desire, with no sustained critical effort on their part to do the translation of it in language the funder/search committee will respect and respond to.

That interim place of translation is what The Professor Is In occupies. It’s the space I love, and the space I’m obsessed with.  I have been since I was still a Ph.D. student leading my very first “job market workshop” for my crew of peers in my graduate program at the University of Hawai’i, after I scored my tenure track job offer.  I’ve been obsessed with this work for 18 years!

Some dismiss this attention to the writing as an anal, OCD preoccupation with meaningless detail.  It isn’t.  The space of translation between the record and the outcome is a space of tremendous creativity and meaning — it is a kind of self-making — and it deserves a deep care and attention.  And so I find myself frustrated when writer after writer complains of unfair outcomes without giving any attention to the quality of their translation work in their application materials.

Of course it goes without saying that the job market in the broadest sense is terribly, patently unfair, in that a whole generation of Ph.D.s has been trained for jobs that no longer exist, and misled about that fact.  But that doesn’t mean that every single outcome is uniformly unfair, or mysterious, or inexplicable, or that every single application outcome is nothing more than a “crap shoot,” in the common idiom of post-academic critique. In fact, there is a correlation between the quality of job documents and the outcome. It is not a perfect correlation, and it is not a correlation that overcomes the basic fact of evaporating tenure track jobs and the wholesale adjunctification of the academy. But it is a correlation nonetheless.

And so, exasperated, I tossed off a comment without my usual care.  And it was a mistake. I do look kind of like a dick (as one commenter put it), and I really regret it.  I followed up with an explanation, but I suppose the damage is done.  I hope this post explains a little bit of how I ended up there, looking exactly like what I work so hard not to.

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Dr. Karen F**ks Up — 43 Comments

  1. I’m not so sure this post really admits to f*&^ing up beyond your not being clear the service was being offered for free. It does not really address the criticisms that your business model basically talks out of both sides of your mouth. I find myself confused, at times, about what your message is. Which is why, I suppose, I continue to read your blog and follow you on Facebook even though I regret that I once paid for your services. You are often reminding your readers how hopeless the job market is. You posts things about how the system is broken, admin ranks are bloated and overpaid, adjunct jobs are abundant and underpaid ect… But you also give the message that if we just write better statements, better CVs, and have better publishing records, more innovation in the classroom, etc… we will beat the odds and find tenure track work. Either the problem is systematic and the academy is not a meritocracy or it is our fault for not being well-prepared, articulate, or whatever, and it is a meritocracy. You seem to want to have it both ways and I think this is why people say you prey on the desperation of job seekers.

    • I really don’t get this criticism. The academy is broken and numbers of available jobs are shrinking steadily, but there are still jobs advertised each year, and they continue to be the Plan A for most Ph.D.s. To be competitive for those, one must construct a compelling record and communicate that through compelling job documents. Very few graduate programs teach the techniques of composing job documents, and that is the service I offer,both for free in my posts and in my paid work. My clients usually do substantially better on the market than they did before working with me, although better definitely doesn’t always equal a tt job, in the current environment. But what I find most gratifying is the number of clients who write to say versions of: “I didn’t get a job but even so I found the work profoundly satisfying and meaningful, because it forced me to confront my insecurities, and get clarity about my real research contributions and personal motivations.” And they do that a lot.

      • If I might jump in here, I’ve used your services and did see a marked improvement in my performance, but I also eventually ditched the Teaching Statement Karen Helped Craft for the earlier one based on feedback I’d gotten from mentor figures who taught in a SLAC environment. And so it was a CV + Cover Letter written with Karen help together with some Other People Help on the teaching statement that (finally!) got me a tenure-track job.

        That said, I think that the reason a lot of people dislike the Pannapacker/Kelskey Axis is that you both have a twin message that 1) the job market is broken and unfair and 2) given that broken-ness, let’s make the best of a bad situation. The problem with that approach is that your business model is sort of predicated on people going it in alone who will then lose out to those who’ve got your consultation (or a competent mentor)–but if you were to succeed and everyone were to follow your advice, then the job market would be back to being an environment of Harvard/Yale/Princeton grads get the plum jobs, State flagship grads get what few remain, and everyone else is stuck in adjunct hell until such time as they opt for a post-ac career. It’s sort of like offering interview coaching in the corporate world in 2009. Sure, it’ll help people, but the real problem is that the economy suddenly shed several million jobs.

        And then there’s Pannapacker, who’s advice to be a shameless trend-chaser ignores the fact that if you’re doing work because you’re trend-chasing then your motivation is going to be rather low. Most people enter humanities academia because there’s a specific problem they want to answer, not because they want to Be A Professor. So Pannapacker’s advice to be better at chasing trends is great for those who are in it to Be A Professor, but the problem is that Be A Professor types are usually going to burn out because that alone is rarely enough to sustain you through grad school. It’s also a problem because Underfunded Regional State U is going to just laugh at you when you talk about your bold new DH project: sure, if you become a Certified Pannapacker Trend Chaser you can do the grant writing to get the external funding–but who’s going to maintain the database, provide support staff, etc. once the grant runs out? So if you become a Certified Pannapacker Trend Chaser, you’re certified only for a top-flight research university. (All of this also ignores the fact that trend-chasing is something that can be tough and is dependent on search committees being up on the latest trends in a field.)

        And I think that those are two reasons why even thought you both say useful and necessary things, the Kelskey/Pannapacker Axis can get on people’s nerves.

        • I don’t think Bill Pannapacker is a Trend Chaser or advocates Trend Chasing for others. I think he has bravely pointed out what used to me the unmentionable truths of the academy (now sort of half-mentionable)—that it’s broken, that grad programs fail grad students and lie about it, that grad students need to protect themselves. He’s been an inspiration to me and my blog/business.

    • I have found myself similarly confused at times, reading this blog that I greatly enjoy, because it is such a tricky thing to for someone to say, on the one hand, “The system is broken” and then on the other, “but I can help you be the special one who navigates the broken system and beats it.”

      Part of this confusion about some of the positions taken on this blog, for me, stem from my own frustration as a graduate student discovering how horribly unfair academia is and always was, as opposed to the shining vision of it I once had. I want to cling to my ideals and to write everything that doesn’t meet them off as being part of an irrevocably broken system that no one in their right mind should want to participate in.

      The problem is that these two mutually exclusive issues that you present – EITHER the problem is systemic OR it is our fault – are not actually mutually exclusive. It’s this kind of seemingly mutually exclusive information that we navigate with ourselves every day. Or, at least, I certainly do. I have to believe that it’s a broken system because I can’t really let myself count on getting a good job with PhD in hand, yet I have to believe that there are certain factors I have control over – the dossier, the quality of my own work, the active participation in my field. Unfortunately, as with everything in life, always, even in a great economy and an academic climate that supports innovative work in the humanities, there are only certain things we can control. That seems to be the space that this blog navigates, from my understanding. Intense frustration and intense hope are not mutually exclusive.

      • This is a really insightful comment, Indirect. I do believe it’s a stubborn, unacknowledged idealism that causes the hostility (where it arises) toward my work among some graduate students. Grad students really need to believe that the academy is XXX, because only XXX is worthy of the sacrifices they are making. When my writing discloses that it is not-XXX, then that information must be disavowed, denied, rejected. I don’t take it personally. I know that all graduate students will eventually move on to confront the truth of the market and the academy, and will learn for themselves in due time.

  2. You only had a few negative comments, which is par for the course for anything posted on the net. I would not flagellate yourself over this.

    Academia is both a meritocracy and nepotistic plutocracy. I don’t think the other Dr. K. is being hypocritical, rather being brutally honest.

    If you don’t agree with her style, don’t hire her. At least you know upfront what you’re going to get from her-unlike grad school.

    Karen Nakamura

  3. Ok, I have to say this….
    It is absurd, and frankly very un-PhD (I don’t care if the word doesn’t exist) to blame you because some people only have two “thoughts” when adjudicating blame: it’s either ‘all’ ourselves or the Structure …just stop mixing structuralism and Derrida, or whoever, with Foucault.
    I think you are intervening in the present while making efforts to think about it. You lend your voice, your data and reach out to others, even when they do not think like you. On any currency system all the things you do free are very valuable!
    Your critics wish to classify your services as “common sense”/ “less than” (as someone twitted you just after the free webinar. I follow you) Thus, for them, it is appalling to make a business out of it. Professors take these things for granted, and will not use their paid-time to teach “such things.” Your critics, realizing how crucial these things actaully are, somehow hope you’ll mentor/mother those who need help. They want you to keep weaving the treads, which keep together the nuclear family of Knowledge, and to do so because your place is just to “care”….and in silence!
    I’ll move the F somewhere else….

    • Sezirat, i am always mystified that otherwise-sophisticated critical scholars want an all-or-nothing “Ultimate Truth” about the academy—that it’s either a perfect meritocracy or a worthless abomination. It’s a flawed system in extreme crisis. Everybody is trying to navigate it as best they can. If there are steps you can take to improve your chances in it, take them!

  4. Everyone does make mistakes, and it is only human to do so. However, I didn’t view Karen’s comments as a mistake, but rather as positive intentions toward wanting to lend a hand to the individual who seems incredibly frustrated by the job market and being unemployed. I finished my PhD in December 2013, and am also currently unemployed due to an unexpected change in plans. Regardless, I would have been happy to have had someone like Karen reach out to me to provide constructive criticism on my job documents and how *I* as a scholar can improve my chances of success in academia. I think what may have been seen as cold was her bluntness and honesty, which is actually what we all need as academics (and as people in general). We do not need to be sugar coating anything, especially since this is done pervasively in academia. Yes, it sucks to be unemployed, especially when you envision something completely different post-PhD, but empathy isn’t going to help you, and the sorries aren’t going to cut it. You have to get real, acknowledge what isn’t working, and work on improving that. I really appreciate Karen’s blog, webinars, and Facebook posts (and her updates/addendums) because they have helped me get a better idea of academia, what those inside are looking for in a candidate, and how as a scholar can better prepare and present yourself. I look forward to many more posts.

  5. There is no other voice I have heard in a decade of being in academia that rings as true and honest as yours. I have used both your free (blog) and fee-based (webinar) services, and in both formats you provided more guidance than any professor whose job it was to advise me (a job for which professors are compensated, it bears mentioning). You do not have an integrity problem.

    • I could not have said it better! I have also used the information on the blog and the fee-based based Boot Camp, and with that support, secured a position at a wonderful university. I appreciated your honesty and guidance. Thank you Karen.

  6. Didn’t you have a blog post awhile back about how trying to land a tenure track job is a bit like trying to make it to the Olympics? I think that analogy really works well. It is a long, hard slog that requires some innate talent, extreme discipline, adequate resources to support oneself financially and otherwise, and GREAT COACHING! Nobody looks at a gold medalist and thinks “boy, her coach really took advantage of her.” You are offering a service that helps people perform at the top of their game, if they feel it is worth the investment. If not, nobody is forcing them to engage you. And you give away SOOOO much valuable information for free. Is that part of the pitch? Of course it is — but what’s wrong with that? Ironic that people who complain about not being able to find gainful employment seem so willing to criticize someone who has developed an excellent service model. That is now employing several other people!

    Keep doing what you do and being who you are, Karen.

  7. Dr. Karen continues to do what countless advisors do not do; prepare PhDs for the job market. However bleak the job market may be and however unfair and opaque the job search process is (and, yes, it is), there ARE still TT, post doc, and VAP jobs and someone will get one. Why not you? If you’ve paid Dr. Karen, consider it part of the tuition you paid in grad school for advice you probably never received. And better you in the TT job via Dr. Karen’s guidance than allowing a university to exploit another adjunct.

  8. Like the first commenter, I regret hiring you for your “editing” services. It was after that experience that I began to see your business as a bit of a scam, and scamming the relatively powerless and desperate would be exploitative.

    That said, the free materials that you provide really are excellent—many times a light in a dark place—and I do believe your intentions are generous and that you don’t intend to exploit or scam. In fact, I read you as a passionate and generous, if short-tempered, person.

    This is a dichotomy we can see building in responses to this: either you’re evil or you’re an angelic shepherd of the abandoned and hopeless. But of course neither is true. Some of your detractors might, as you suggest, simply need someone to blame, but the same could be said for some of your supporters, who might really need someone to believe in. It would be wrong to latch on to that as a way to sleep better at night. Do good intentions suffice? Dear white liberals, they do not, and so we cannot point to Karen’s pure heart as proof that she causes no harm. Just because someone is really nice and often very helpful doesn’t mean they’re not implicated in systemic injustice.

    The previous commenter’s Olympics analogy is useful. Yes, no one might look at a gold medalist and accuse the coach of exploiting the winner. But what if you were to learn that this coach trolls from town to town, offering to train anyone with a dream to have a shot at the Olympics, come one come all at $100, $200, $300 a head? It doesn’t sound so nice, does it?

    But all we see is when you post your client success stories—the gold, silver, bronze medal winners. Much like the programs you often skewer, you aren’t particularly transparent about the #s you “admit” and your corresponding “placement rates.” Karen, you could and should do better to not unwittingly contribute to the pain and suffering of others.

    • This strikes me more as the “public flogging” someone accused Dr. Karen of on IHE, and seems unkind (especially posted anonymously) given that she wrote an apology in good faith. Why were you unhappy with her editing services? Did you talk to her about your dissatisfaction?

      I’ve also experienced some ambivalence in browsing through this website, mostly because the promised land offered was just beyond my financial capacities. The for-hire services seem to privilege the already-privileged in academia, while those of us who are trying not to encroach on our parents’ savings are left to fend for ourselves. I have no graduate education debt, but even a $100 beyond my meager monthly budget is cause for anxiety.

      That said, I’ve benefited a lot from the free advice given on this blog, especially related to campus visits and interviews. I had some CV/cover letter/teaching statement help through my university’s career services, but much of the gaps were filled in by the free content on this site. It was my first year on the job market as an ABD candidate, and I landed a TT job. Dr. Karen, you can count me as one of those you have helped.

      And I think any kind of specialized service, where someone is providing their knowledge, skills, time, and resources, should be compensated. If we think that we – PhD holders – deserve to be paid properly for the teaching and knowledge we offer to students (and let’s be honest, the quality of that teaching can vary widely), how can we deny that in this case?

      I also speak as a non-white, and in fact non-American, liberal.

    • As I’ve explained elsewhere (I think it’s in my FAQs), I have no way to publish placement rates because I have no idea what the outcome of my clients’ searches are unless they get in touch to tell me. Many do, and whenever I get a notice with permission to share (and not all give permission for the FB posting) I share it. However, many don’t. For example, after this last IHE comment dust-up, I had a handful of former clients from previous years get in touvch for the first time to tell me that they did in fact get tt jobs. Prior to this, I didn’t know. It’s unfortunate that it might appear as if I’m intentionally vague about my placement rates — and this is why I address it explicitly on the FAQs — but unlike grad programs who have ongoing relationships with a relatively small number of graduate students, because I am hired for a one-off service, I have no reliable means to generate actual placement rates.

      • It seems like this is an easily fixable thing, just like it has been with graduate departments. Why aren’t you following up with your clients? Are you really so overwhelmed that you couldn’t email out a follow-up survey once or twice a year to get feedback on the services you provide and your outcomes? I say this as someone that has considered hiring you but, given my current economic situation, have decided against it since you can’t (don’t would be more accurate really) provide any information about what happens to your clients after hiring you, other than anecdotes. And even those anecdotes are impossible to contextualize since you don’t give any indication of how many people are using your services. With that information, I might actually shell out the money and cut back on something else, like groceries. But without knowing whether it will really make a difference, I’ll just keep some food around while I still can. You really should consider doing some follow-up and providing that information on your website. It’s what most businesses do to demonstrate their success and value to prospective clients.

        • So far, word-of-mouth referrals of satisfied clients as well as my testimonials on the blog have provided all the business I want–more indeed than I can sometimes handle.

  9. I read the exchange on IHE as it unfolded. If the original piece was what those in the poetry game call confessional. What then is to be expected if the commentary follows that lead (like a zombie for those who read the original). Would the world really be a better place if the original were never written?

    Secondly, there are two pre-eminent teams represented on social media- the Self-Promoters and the Mean-Spirited Snipers. You may have been acting as an SP but so was Todd and so am I. Some of the comments you inspired were MSS disguised as sympathetic, head-patters.

  10. I don’t see any contradiction. There are any number of professions – therapists, heart surgeons, prosthetic limb manufacturers, etc. – that involve making money by helping people in bad situations. That’s not exploitation, folks. I share the same bad situation as most readers of this blog. I’ve never paid for Karen’s editing and consulting (although I’ve considered it, and would do so if money were not so tight). But I have benefitted enormously from the free advice on her blog. My first two years on the job market, I went on with no advice or guidance and did awfully. This past year I discovered this blog, used it to overhaul my sloppy and amateurish dossier, got 7 interviews and two heart-breaking runner-up rejections (this is what passes for hope in such situations). If I’m back to square one next year, the demonstrable fact that the improvements I’ve made after reading this blog really helped might just give me the strength to go through this one more time next year. Long winded and dramatic way of saying: thanks, Karen, for the free advice that I never received anywhere else.

    • thanks, IRZ. I’m glad to hear I could help. And of course I have to say now that given you’ve gotten so heartbreakingly close, I’d strongly recommend you consider saving up to do a live skype Interview Intervention next fall. Those things are incredible for pinpointing and fixing your unconscious self-sabotaging habits of speech or self-presentation. If you qualify for the Job Seeker Support Fund, or don’t quite qualify but are in wretchedly bad financial circumstances, let me know. I try to make things affordable to all.

  11. Karen’s post reminds me how great this website used to be. I love how smart, brave, and honest it is. It’s a shame that this site and the Chronicle are now cluttered with people trying to contort their “I failed” narratives into “I quit” ones. I’ve only used Karen’s free website materials but go ahead and count me as one of her “clients” who has earned a job or count me three times for the three job offers I received. Or count me as four for the grant I won. Or five or six times for some job negotiation perks I got. Or seven for the…I could go on and on…

    • I’m really glad you have had so much success; thanks for writing to tell me. But I don’t understand the “contort I failed to I quit” thing. What is that?

  12. My perspective on paid services (which is not an unbiased one considering I have and do collected fees for my consultation):

    Free services are vital to the success of a business, as well as the candidate pool in need of that service. It established credibility, informs the market, and provides a much needed support line to the author’s audience, regardless of their means. As a Millennial, I expect to be able to find quality information on just about anything for free, over the internet, at any time. I would not pay for this information, and neither should you.

    That said, blogs, articles, and other free resources are necessarily generic. Because they must apply to the needs of many people, they cannot possible apply to the exact needs or situation of any one person. It takes tremendous personal insight to take these generic nuggets of wisdom and translate them perfectly to the very specific details and requirements of an individual’s career. Some are able to do this translation themselves, some are forced to do it themselves due to means or circumstances, and some are both willing and able to pay for this personalized insight.

    If you choose to pay, you are not paying for the information but for the translation of this information to your very unique needs, circumstances and goals.

  13. I really appreciate that you wrote this. I saw your initial comment and winced for the author of the piece and I’m very impressed you apologized in this way. It was very gracious of you.

  14. I agree with others who have said that this is very gracious and confirms my good opinion of you. I think you’re very clear that your message is a) the market is f***ked and b) that being the case, there are things you can control about your own self-presentation within it.

  15. I thought Karen’s comments in the IHE column were a little harsh and a little self-promoting given that the writer had really made himself publicly vulnerable, but I think this has to do with KK’s own dual identity: one part pragmatic small business owner, one part zealous evangelist. The thing is, it’s that combination — pragmatist and evangelist — that makes her so unusually committed to saying out loud things that are absolutely not said enough (even quietly) elsewhere.

    I’ve seen terrible cover letters come in for academic jobs that were clearly not vetted by anyone, alongside fantastic letters that made me re-examine my own professional trajectory. I’ve given grad students advice about how to re-structure professional CVs that buried accomplishments and expected extremely patient readers to ferret them out. I’ve been astonished by faculty colleagues who make absolutely no effort to indicate the obvious to students about the relative quality of various documents they produce vs. the quality of similar documents produced by competitors for the same jobs, grants, and publication slots they hope to land.

    I do think Karen sees this as a business opportunity (it is a business opportunity). But I think she also feels genuinely, mission-from-God motivated to get the gospel of get-it-together to the uncatechized. These are really clear motivations, not the sort of sneaky fuzzy ones that animate a lot of gauzy academic disattention to what it means, ethically and practically, to recruit and train graduate students. It makes her easy to attack, especially since she’s sort of nailed her pirate-missionary agenda to her masthead, but I prefer her forthrightness to the glutinous jello so often encountered elsewhere.

    (sorry for referring you to the third person on your own blog, Karen, but I was addressing this more to other commenters than to you)

  16. I think your public apology was admirable, but I don’t see this as a major error on your part.

    On a slightly different track: I would love to see a post about non-tenure track, but permanent jobs. I struck out this year for tt jobs, but I’m currently a finalist for a clinical track assistant professor job, a one-year teaching fellowship and I’ve been offered a permanent teaching lectureship at a good regional public university. Both the clinical track and the lectureship are permanent positions with benefits and a promotion trajectory, but not tenure. Basically, there is no research component to either job.

    Are these types of jobs becoming more prevalent? How do people fare in them compared to tt jobs? I’d love a post from someone in the trenches here.

    Thanks for what you do.

  17. Pingback: Zombies on the market | Memoirs of a SLACer

  18. I have been reading this blog, the comments, Karen’s post about “f****ing up,” the original post and the follow-ups.

    I just have to take the time out of my day to say that I am about to defend my dissertation in two weeks, and my advisor has been traveling for the last semester. I have been shuffled around from advisor to advisor, none of whom had the time to work with me.

    My point is this: I would kill to have someone like Karen’s attention– anyone’s attention, for that matter!–who would offer some advice and tell me what to work on. Let’s not forget that you don’t do a damn PhD so that people can tell you how nice and smart you are. Who gives a shit if you get your feelings hurt!!! This is our future! We work YEARS to get to this point, for what? So people don’t hurt our feelings about our papers?

    Here’s a worse scenario- Karen says nothing, and he gets no feedback, no tips on what the hell to do. What’s more important, our feelings getting hurt by someone we don’t even know? Or getting feedback so you can frieken’ get out of the no-job situation we’re in!?!?

    Okay. I needed to say that.

  19. Wow, I’m new to this site, but was drawn to the blog post about F*&king up. After reading this, I have a few thoughts, biased no doubt as a mid-career PhD student who’s been around the rodeo a few times in the brutish world of business 🙂

    1. For the negative comments painting Dr. Karen’s advice as conflicting statements in black and white terms “Academia is broken” vs. “But if you use my services, you’ll be successful” — get a grip, gentle scholars. I think the “Other Dr. Karen” said it very well. Both things are true, and it’s never all or nothing. In my limited experience, academia is indeed both a meritocracy and a nepotistic plutocracy. So is business. Good ideas do win (sometimes) but there are rings to be kissed as well (sometimes).

    2. If Dr. Karen goofed (which I’m reluctant to pass judgment on as I wasn’t at the scene of the crime)… perhaps the comments she made should have been done in private. Criticism, no matter how valuable, is going to sting and provoke responses from both the receiver and observing bystanders who get hooked by it. In business, this why we say “praise in public, criticize in private.”

    3. Services like “The Doctor is In” should absolutely be a livelihood! You get what you pay for. To compare this as just a set of common sense advice that everyone knows is false equivocation, and flawed reasoning. If this was true, then you wouldn’t need an editor for your writing, a doctor to tell you to exercise, or a therapist to help you work things out, right? Common sense is anything but! We can see for others what we often can’t see for ourselves – because it’s a matter for perspective. If Dr. Karen is good at what she does, then she should be compensated for it. Period.

    ‘Nuff said.

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