11 Job Search Tips I Wish I’d Known as a New Doctoral Student | Issue 199
1. Editor's Note: The Real Truth about Successful Doctoral
2. Words from the Wise: Finding Your Career
3. Feature Article: 11 Job Search Tips I Wish I'd Known as a
New Doctoral Student
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Real Truth About Successful Doctoral Job Searches
Feeling jittery about your career chances after you finish your doctorate? If you hope for something better than permanent adjunct status or a barista job at Starbucks, the secret is to take steps now, while you are still a student. We've got some great tips for you in this issue.
Academic positions—the gold standard for employment for Ph.D.'s—are losing their luster, and the lure of alternate employment is on the rise . The truth is that most PhDs have not and will not become tenure-track professors. Based on National Science Foundation 2011 data, only 19.4 percent of you will land an academic job—not much different from the 23.2 percent a decade earlier, observes Jordan Weissman in The Atlantic. So where will the other 80.6 percent of doctorates end up?
Sadly, most graduate students remain woefully clueless about how to search outside academia for satisfying careers in business, government, or organizations, including "alt-ac" sectors.
Many will head outside academia, but beyond the recommendation to "network more," ABDs get scant advice as students about best practices for finding non-academic jobs. Many commit basic mistakes that hold them back, notes Isaiah Hankel, Ph.D. To get hired, he urges you to network outside of Ph.D.-only events and emphasize your skills--not your "Doctor" title. Proactively follow up with contacts and ask probing questions in interviews, he advises, instead of taking a passive role.
More career tips from someone who has been there. Regardless of your specific career goal, you can benefit from starting to implement the simple strategies offered below in our feature article. Author James Van Wyck should know—he is not only a doctoral candidate but also a senior higher education administration fellow at Fordham University with rich connections. We thank him for generously sharing his hard-won advice.
As Wayne Gretzky put it, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." What are you waiting for?
Gayle Scroggs, PhD, PCC
Editor, ABD Survival Guide
WORDS FROM THE WISE: Finding Your Career
"Find out what you like doing best and get someone to pay you for doing it." - Katherine Whitehorn
"When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us." - Alexander Graham Bell
"Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life." - Confucius
"Fall seven times, stand up eight." - Japanese proverb
"I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it." - Thomas Jefferson
FEATURE ARTICLE: 11 Job Search Tips I Wish I'd Known as a New Doctoral Student
By James M. Van Wyck
Reprinted with author permission from Inside Higher Ed
Three years ago I proudly waved my flip phone around and told anyone who cared (and many who didn't) that I hadn't a clue about social media, nor did I care to know about it, thank you very much. I liked reading my books, writing my papers and teaching my students.
Now, as a Ph.D. candidate currently working to help professionalize graduate students, I have a Twitter account, several suits and an iPhone. I've also undergone an attitudinal shift: I think differently about what a graduate student should know and do. Looking back on the flip phone version of myself, I'm struck by the disconnect between who I am now and who I was only a few years ago.
What follows are some simple tips I'd have given myself if I could have tapped myself on the shoulder at graduate orientation.
1. Twitter matters, and you shouldn't wait till you are a fifth-year Ph.D. to realize this. You'll find a network of academic and non-academics ready and waiting for you. So sign up and spend 10 minutes each morning and 10 minutes each evening learning the ropes and building a following.
2. Networking matters. Academics often don't like this word, but as @elswafford likes to say, "Networking -- it's just talking." Learn what an informational interview is and conduct at least two a semester. Learn to talk about your work in a positive, upbeat manner. Share your enthusiasm for your own work and that of others. Network with professors at colleges without graduate programs, or at institutions that have special collections and libraries with holdings in your subject matter, but no graduate students to claim the attention of archivists, librarians and other administrators. In other words, be strategic about your networking and set yourself up for success stories early in your graduate career. These smaller victories will set up larger successes down the road.
3. Peers matter. Network with your peers first. They typically make much better partners for much of the necessary work you'll do as a graduate student. Identify successful graduate students one to two years ahead of you and mimic their academic and social practices. Plus, as your peers progress, they'll become more and more valuable as contacts and resources. Forge lasting partnerships by caring about the work others are doing and helping them when you can.
4. Skills matter. If you're a Ph.D. candidate in the humanities, like I am, you'll have noticed that not everyone is securing academic employment. (Sarcasm alert.) In fact, most Ph.D.'s don't end up with tenure-track positions. To prepare for compatible careers, you'll need to diversify your skills: if you need to take on part-time work while in graduate school, look for jobs that add skills to your portfolio rather than jobs that reinforce skills you already have.
5. Planning matters. Find an online calendar you can live with (I prefer Google Calendar) and make full use of it. When you see fellowship announcements or grant applications that you aren't yet qualified for, put down a reminder 10 months in the future. When the reminder pops up, you'll have two months to slowly produce a successful application or submission. Plan to acquire the necessary qualifications in the interim by identifying specific action steps and adding those plans to your calendar as well.
6. Collaboration matters, and it takes practice, so start early. Find a fellow graduate student (either within or without your own department) and cultivate a working relationship that has clear goals and outcomes (e.g., produce a pedagogical article, co-host an event, start a reading group, start a nonprofit).
7. Undergraduates matter, and not only because they'll review you at the end of the semester. They can give you valuable advice. For example, I often ask my classes for suggestions on subjects like technology, web development and what the next big thing in pop culture will be. I've found that even younger graduate students don't have their ears to the ground like undergraduates do. So ask questions of your students, especially about technology.
8. Administrators matter. At every step of your program, you should learn as much as you can about the people who work at your institution, from departmental administrators to the provost. Learn their names, find out what they do and always behave professionally online and offline when discussing your department, school and institution.
9. Institutions matter. While you'll need to manage your time wisely, don't ignore what is happening at your institution. Make sure you don't miss out on opportunities to network with visiting scholars because an event targets undergraduates. Also, use your contacts from every stage of your academic career, especially if you attended different types of institutions (public, private, religiously affiliated, etc.).
10. Engagement matters. Become adept at reaching out to volunteer agencies within and without your university. Find a service learning project on your campus and commit time and energy to a project that is outside the sphere of your dissertation's focus. Stretch your comfort zone in the classroom and beyond.
11. Options matter. You need to know that your best career path might not be a tenure-track job. You might learn to loathe the academy, or you might fall victim to its cruel calculus. Don't buy the myth that nonacademic careers are any less worthy than academic careers. You need, need, need to have multiple plans. Identify a few careers that align with your skill sets and cultivate opportunities and contacts that would help secure these jobs. Having multiple options will help you stave off fear and depression, two conditions that can stifle graduate students.
In some ways, I miss the flip phone days. And to be honest, I really only upgraded to an iPhone when my son came along: when it came to capturing cuteness, my old Nokia didn't cut it. The point isn't that you need to upgrade your gadgets, but that you need to approach graduate education as professional training. In fact, it's better to regard yourself as a professional rather than a student. The sooner you begin acting like one, the better. That's my two cents: please let me know in comments what you would tell yourself if you could travel back to your graduate student orientation session.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
James M. Van Wyck is a senior teaching fellow in the honors program at Fordham University, Lincoln Center. He is also the inaugural GSAS senior higher education administration fellow at Fordham University, Rose Hill. He is a Ph.D. student writing a dissertation on 19th-century evangelical fiction.
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GAYLE SCROGGS, Ph.D., P.C.C., Editor, ABDSG.: An accomplished coach, workshop leader, keynote speaker, and educator, Gayle earned her doctorate in social psychology from the University of New Hampshire. Her deep expertise in positive psychology allows her to help clients build their personal strengths, positive habits, and confidence to overcome procrastination, self-doubts and other blocks in order to reach vital academic and personal goals. In addition to editing the ABD Survival Guide, she contributed two chapters to the positive psychology anthology, Women's Paths to Happiness. Contact her at for coaching, presentations, and workshops on thriving in graduate school and beyond, and find free resources at . She also speaks fluent Spanish and delights in new exotic Scrabble words as she savors life in the Chesapeake Bay area, California, and Argentina.
BEN DEAN, Publisher, ABDSG: Ben holds a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. He began writing the ABDSG in 1997. Over the years, the ABDSG has published hundreds of articles and provided thousands of hours of pro bono coaching and teleworkshops to ABDs all over the world. Ben is also the founder of MentorCoach (), a virtual university focused on training accomplished professionals to become part-time or full-time coaches. You may wish to subscribe to the Coaching Toward Happiness eNewsletter! It's on applying the science of Positive Psychology to your work and life (131,000 readers). Ben lives in suburban Maryland with his wife, Janice, their two children, and Dusty, their Norwegian dwarf bunny.
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