Tag: job market

Gearing up for the Academic Job Market: Don’t Dabble

There are many things worth dabbling in: Pokeman Go!, the arts, alternative medicine, old films, astrology, gourmet cuisine….the list could go on and on.  I really like when people, including graduate students, tell me they are dabbling in these things or other hobbies.  It’s probably going to help both their productivity and their overall happiness.

As much as I like “dabblers” in those types of things, here’s one that I’m really tired of graduate students saying they’re dabbling in:

The Academic Job Market

Every year, I get students that contact me saying that they are planning to “dip their feet in” or “dabble” in the tenure-track academic job market this year. And, every year, I’m left wondering why the heck they would even bother.  This blog post is a sort of plea to graduate students: DON’T DABBLE IN THE JOB MARKET.[1]

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PhD-in-Hand? Why?

Inside Higher Ed must be having a slow news week.[1] Today, they are reporting on the APSA 2014-2015 Graduate Placement Survey as if it’s brand new.  The report actually came out in early December.  Oh, well. When I read the report – and shared it with my grad students –in December, I was struck by something that the Inside Higher Ed editor highlighted today:

“More ABDs are starting full job searches, and fewer of those in the expanded pool are landing faculty positions, study finds.”

That finding is technically true.  About 32% of ABDs[2] were “not placed” in any job – tenure-track, non-tenure track, postdoc, nonacademic – in the 2014-2015 academic job cycle.  Of those with a PhD-in-Hand, only about 10% were not placed.

Upon reading the Inside Higher Ed story and some of the story’s comments[3], one could be left with the impression that all a student needs to do to get a job in political science is actually finish their PhD.  I mean, right?  Once it’s in hand, you are way more hirable!  I don’t think so.   I don’t think the correct conclusion is to advise students to finish their PhDs before going on the market.

Here’s what I think is happening:

  • The academic market is clogged. Lots of people are not placed or underplaced.
  • Universities are getting by with fewer tenure-track faculty.
  • ABDs are having trouble getting positions, of any type, but especially tenure-track positions in the current environment. While our advisors-advisors used to be able to get a position with just a phone call and a letter about how great a dissertation is, it now takes multiple top-tier publications to even make it to the long list.[4]
  • ABDs thus have to fight for a few VAP[5] or post-doc positions. The ones that get the positions then file their dissertations (receiving their PhD) and then go back on the market the next year with their PhD-in-Hand.  Hopefully, these individuals get (a) more things that make it through the peer-review process and/or (b) more teaching experience during this time period.
  • It’s the added stuff during this year – the added peer-reviewed publications and, for some positions, the added teaching – that makes those with a PhD-in-Hand way more likely to be hired than their ABD counterparts.

So, if my thoughts are correct, the PhD-in-Hand isn’t really making that much of a difference on the market.  It’s just the fact that the PhD-in-Hand is correlated with someone having more experience as a researcher/teacher. It isn’t that ABDs with experience as researchers/teachers are being ignored in favor of someone with a PhD-in-Hand that isn’t a proven researcher/teacher. And, letters of recommendation can definitely indicate that the dissertation is fully drafted but just not filed – I have seen it on multiple searches.

All of this brings me to an important point that I’ve repeatedly had to make to ABDs in my time as DGS:

In most circumstances, don’t file your PhD until you have to.

Of course, if you strike out on the market a couple of times and just need to have it to be done with the whole affair, then file.  But, if you plan on going back on the market in the next year and have no prospects for a job during that year, I don’t think you should file your PhD.  I don’t think it’s going to boost your job prospects in any real way. Instead, in many instances, it’s just going to make you an unaffiliated scholar, with limited access to any university library and with no chance of getting continued graduate assistant positions.  It also could make your student loan repayment countdown start.

I’m interested what others think.  I posed this question on Facebook[6] this morning and got a lot of interesting responses.  One of my colleagues remarked that it’s not “’degree-in-hand” that matters so much as “publications-on-the-CV.””  Another colleague, this one from a small liberal arts college, remarked that they “care more about pubs than done [dissertation] assuming good progress and likely completion by start of the job. Oh, and the person should have actual (demonstrably good) solo teaching experience.”

Of course, my colleagues mentioned that getting a PhD and leaving graduate school can help one’s scholarship, like would happen if you had a postdoc or a research position and interacted with new colleagues with new ideas.  Key in this, however, is the availability of the postdoc or research position.

As one colleague summed it up, in this environment, “publication is king.”  That should be the most important thing you focus on, not on whether or not you file graduation paperwork this spring.

All else equal, I contend that a published ABD is going to beat out a non-published PhD at most colleges or universities in this country.  I wish APSA’s report had provided more information on publications and the likelihood of placement.

[1] What? No Mizzou stories today?  You could really do a special issue on us this year!

[2] Mom, that stands for “All But Dissertation.” It’s the last stage in the process to a PhD; it’s after classes, after comps, and typically after a whole committee of professors have approved your dissertation outline or prospectus. But, wait, seriously, Mom – why are you reading this blog?  Don’t you have something better to do in retirement? Aren’t there squirrels in the attic?

[3] This is something I need to learn not to do.  Reading comments about the Mizzou disaster this year has really made me question the sanity of my neighbors.  I had to step away.  And, join the adult coloring book craze.

[4] Mom, the “long list” is the list of about 10-15 possible candidates that a search committee wants to look it.  They’ll invite only 3-4 from this list for on-campus interviews.  That’s the “short list.”

[5] Visiting Assistant Professor.  Or adjunct.  Basically academic hell. There are a lot of people to blame for this.

[6] Friend me!  You’ll see cute animal pictures.  At least 30 a day.

Gearing Up for the Academic Job Market: Getting THE CALL

Mid-October is a beautiful time of year – leaves are changing, the air is getting crisp, and there are a variety of outdoor activities to partake in.  All of the wonderfulness of October is meaningless, however, to a special group of individuals: those on the academic job market that are worried about employment in the next academic year.  For this group, mid-October is typically the beginning of the horrible downward spiral of (a) hitting refresh on your inbox[1], (b) double checking that your phone is on and charged, (c) trying to have the willpower to avoid checking job rumor websites, (d) reassuring yourself that Manuscript Central still says your manuscript is “under review” instead of “awaiting decision.”[2] In other words, October is a time of worry.

For many, however, October is also a magical time when the unthinkable happens:  you get THE CALL.[3]  THE CALL can be defined as the awkward 5-10 minute conversation scheduling an in-person interview with a potential academic employer. THE CALL can sometimes come out of the blue, from a school that you sent a packet of information to months before.  THE CALL can also be somewhat anticipated, coming after an email inquiry for more information, a Skype interview, or a rumor you hear from your advisor.  Most definitely, though, THE CALL is reason to celebrate.  And, it’s reason to get to work.  Here is a smattering of advice on what to do during and after THE CALL.

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Gearing Up for the Academic Job Market: Getting Your Packet Together

It’s the last weekend in August, which means at least 1 of 2 things are happening:

  1. APSA drinking
  2. ABDs hurriedly working on their job market materials.

Since (a) is still a week away, I thought I’d take a second to offer some unsolicited advice on (b): job market materials. By job market materials, I’m referring to the CV, cover letter, writing sample, teaching portfolio, research statement, transcripts, and letters of recommendation that will make up the totality of what any academic hiring committee will know about you and your work.  It’s basically your academic life, condensed into something that can be sent easily in the mail or (increasily) uploaded to an HR website or sent over email.  It’s worth taking a lot of time to prepare these materials and to think about these materials as strategically important signals in the job seeking process.

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Gearing Yourself Up For the Academic Job Market: Before You Go on the Market

In our last installment, I indicated that this edition of Gearing Yourself Up would include a discussion of how to put together your job market packet.  I think I jumped-the-gun a bit, however.  Before putting together your packet, before trying to log on to APSA and navigate eJobs, before telling your family/friends that you are looking for jobs in academia[1], you need to do one crucial thing:

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Going on the Job Market? Pick up Fifty Shades of Grey or a Ukulele!

Traveling home today from a great conference with some awesome Ducks and non-Ducks. The conference, hosted by Debbi Avant (U of Denver) and Oliver Westerwinter (EUI) at the University of Denver, was on the topic of networks, governance, and security.  I learned a lot and will hopefully write a nice, normal research -related post sometime soon.

At the conference, one of the dinner conversations that kept popping up was the academic job market.  In general, the consensus – across age and rank divides – was that the job market is a very difficult, dehumanizing experience for the candidate.

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