The Reviews Are In!

I want to take today’s post to share a few of the Amazon reviews of my book, The Professor Is In: The Essential Guide to Turning Your Ph.D. Into a Job, which has been the #1 bestseller in its category of Academic Development Counseling since it came out!

The reviews are almost uniformly great.  Sharing them might look a bit like bragging, but hey,  if I can’t brag on my own blog, where can I?  And, the ones I’m sharing here are worth reading–they’re funny, well-written, and make some interesting points about the academy along the way.  I do include one of the less-positive ones at the end, because it too is illuminating.

I hope that if you’re a job seeker, you buy a copy of the book for yourself! And if you’re a professor, that you buy the book for your students, and assign it in your grad and professionalization seminars! (please do let me know if you do).

From 10/8/15:  “Reading college advice guides is a lot like looking at those pictures where they overlap the faces of the 25 hottest stars to show you what beauty is. You can pick out an ear here, an eyelash there, but you realize they’re almost all exactly the same. The Professor Is in: The Essential Guide to Turning Your PH.D. Into a Job is the Quasimodo of this allegory. Karen Kelsky‘s guide to transitioning from grad student to tenure-track faculty doesn’t overlap with books of its ilk, and it looks pretty damn ugly to anyone considering grad school.

If it sounds as though I’m downing Kelsky, rest assured: I’m not. I can’t fault The Professor Is In for any of the ugliness it brings, because it’s a necessity. The outlook for grad students isn’t Hollywood overlap-pretty, and Kelsky isn’t airbrushing its rough edges. Instead, she eviscerates the flaws in the academic system that allow PhDs to languish in adjunct hell for years, and maps out the most hopeful course for those with their eyes on the tenure prize.

Not only has Kelsky identified and appealed to a gap in advice materials available to grad students, but she’s also closed it. Barring great changes for terminal degree holders in the jobs market, The Professor Is In has monopolized and exhausted the conversation. Kelsky leaves few, if any, stones unturned, and she spreads out her information in such a way as to leave no need for other voices. It’s a shrewd and compassionate decision on her part, to offer graduates a single book to answer all their questions. For Kelsky’s readers, there’ll be no combing nearly-identical texts for minor differences in chapters and footnotes, and no competition for the foreseeable future.

It’s worth noting that I almost never purchase copies of books I’ve read digitally, but I ordered a copy of The Professor Is In before I’d even finished it. Kelsky’s words didn’t dissuade me from pursuing a graduate degree, but they have proven vital to that journey. The Professor Is In is the item you grab when it gets dangerous to go alone, and I wasted no time recommending it to friends in the process of applying to graduate programs. If you’re considering a second degree, or know someone who is, put this book in their hands. They’ll thank you later.”

From 9/9/15: “I will say that I was very, very hesitant in purchasing this book as there is always so much information online and it does feel wrong to buy a book to tell me how to get a job. However, Dr. Kelsky is the very necessary slap across the face when you are desiring a job in academia. I am currently a postdoc in a psychology department and on the job market again. I am not an ardent follower of Dr. Kelsky’s blog, but I absolutely adore this book. It is indispensable to graduate student, postdocs, and faculty. I recommend every graduate student purchases a copy and read it when they start graduate school so they can start making the correct decisions right away that are needed for a successful graduate career. For more senior graduate students and postdocs, her advice is very useful in crafting your documents, deciding how you want to market yourself, and preparing for interviews. For faculty members, I would recommend reading this book so you can be a better advisor for your students. I go to every graduate student I work with and tell them about this book. I wish it had been published years ago when I was first starting graduate school! It is worth every penny and every academic-wannabe should see it as a reasonably-price investment in their future!”

From 9/2/15: “I discovered Karen’s blog in my darkest time in grad school when I felt like a failure and could not figure out how to turn all the time I spent in school into a paycheck that I could live on. Reading the blog helped me stop wallowing in self-pity, realize that I wanted a non-academic job, get my PhD, and then get that job. I have now bought and read the book and would recommend it to every PhD student and undergraduate contemplating a PhD. The book is well-written, absolutely non-judgmental, and contains career and life advice that almost no one, and definitely not my tenured and neglectful PhD advisor, would share with me.”

From 8/6/15: “If you are a graduate student, considering graduate school, a faculty member, academic support, academic administration, or human; you need to read this book. The American academy is broken. I say this as one of the lucky few with a tenure track job. A system of graduate education was created in a time with circumstances that no longer exist. As Karen Kelsky explains in the opening chapters, the path to secure employment via a doctoral degree is a rocky one with a very uncertain outcome. For those that choose to pursue it, this book (and Kelsky’s blog and social media profiles) provides a frank, honest, and accurate description of what it takes to get something out of the doctoral experience.

– The scope of this book could have been problematic. Yet somehow Kelsky pulled it off: covering what it takes to get a tenure track job, the job market process, and throws in some additional material on grants and leaving the academy….
– Occasionally Kelsky’s experience as an anthropologist does not resonate with my experience in a different field. Almost always Kelsky acknowledges when there are disciplinary or paradigmatic differences and suggests that the reader knows her field.

This book may frighten some people. But it is absolutely essential that anyone that is a part of this process understands how this works. I read the book as a veteran of Kelsky’s blog and consulting. I suspect that reading the entire book would be challenging and/or overwhelming for a young graduate student. I would suggest that an early graduate student read Part I, II, III, and IV carefully and skim the rest for familiarity. A graduate student that successfully passes exams should re-read Parts I-IV and then read V-VII carefully. Parts VIII-X are more topic-specific, but are excellent resources for any scholar.

I believe that faculty should read this entire book with a goal of being better advisors and better academic community members. We all need to take responsibility for the system that currently exists and Kelsky’s book (and other work) may be a good starting point for trying to resolve some of the problems – either as individuals or systematically.

I sincerely hope that Kelsky can carve out time from her consulting work to write a similar book about life on the tenure track and getting tenure. Her blog posts on this topic are fantastic and I suspect that it would be a good “second project” 😉 for her. We all desperately need this sort of frankness and guidance.”

And one that was less positive:  “I bought this book hoping for some good advice on how to succeed post-PhD. Unfortunately, most of this advice is coming too late for me. If you’re still in your grad program (particularly in the early stages), I think you’ll find this book is helpful. If you’re already out and working the adjunct circuit, as I am, I’m not sure it’s particularly helpful. Mostly, it just made me feel like a failure.”

(I have to say, I don’t really agree that the book isn’t helpful for those who are beyond the Ph.D., and who are adjuncting.  All the same principles apply in terms of creating a competitive record, crafting your application documents, and interviewing.  Chapter 10 includes notes on how to talk about an adjuncting record.  But a couple reviewers made similar points, so I guess I should have addressed the post-Ph.D. job search a bit more directly.  I will do that in my next book, The Professor Is You: Your Life With a Ph.D.)

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About Karen Kelsky

I am a former tenured professor at two institutions--University of Oregon and University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. I have trained numerous Ph.D. students, now gainfully employed in academia, and handled a number of successful tenure cases as Department Head. I've created this business, The Professor Is In, to guide graduate students and junior faculty through grad school, the job search, and tenure. I am the advisor they should already have, but probably don't.


The Reviews Are In! — 3 Comments

  1. This book is great: I have recommended it to my students and postdocs, and I strongly suggest it to any potential grad student applicants before they consider applying to my lab. One thing I’d request when you do a new edition is to provide more advice tailored for folks in the sciences. The book is generally very clear in highlighting areas where the info is domain-specific, but it could use more bulking up for science. For example, the choice and acquisition of a postdoctoral position is quite important for most of those intending a faculty path in the sciences (perhaps as much as arranging a book contract in humanities?) but only gets a few paragraphs.

    • thanks! I would like to better represent the sciences, but one of my principles is to write what I know (and first, to do no harm!), so I’ve always been hesitant to wade deeply into the world of science career advice. I like to think that the book tells science phds what kinds of questions they need to clarify with their own advisors re publishing, first jobs, and so on.

  2. I asked my university library to buy it — they were supposed to notify me when it came in. For some reason, they didn’t, so when I went to see if it had arrived I found it is already checked out by another user — the highest praise, right?


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