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What They Don’t Teach You in Graduate School

What They Don’t Teach You in Graduate School

Paul Gray and David E. Drew at Inside Higher Ed has a detailed article on tips for an academic career for Ph.D. students. The article has two parts – first, it describes tips on completing dissertation and finding a first job. Second, it talks about in detail on teaching and service, research, and grants. Here are some examples:


7. If you are a new Ph.D. or an active researcher on a campus visit, many, if not most of the senior people who interview you have less, not more research productivity in the last three years than you have. This is particularly true for older faculty members who were granted tenure in easier times. When you are interviewed by such people, be kind. Stress the importance of your research but don’t overwhelm them with the details. You don’t want them to perceive you as a threat to the comfortable position they now hold.

8. Find the best possible institution for your first job. You can only go down the pecking order, not up, if you don’t make it at your first place. If you are a success, you can go up one level at a time. Stanford doesn’t hire from WinsockiState.

9. Unless you are starving or homeless, don’t take a tenure-track faculty position without the Ph.D. in hand. We estimate the odds are 2 to 1 against your ever finishing your degree. Even if you do finish while on the job, your chances of being tenured have gone down because you have reduced the “seven-year“ clock. Furthermore, without a Ph.D. you will be offered a significantly lower salary and you may never make up the difference. If you must work, the only defense you have is to negotiate with the institution that the clock does not start until they legitimately call you “Doctor.”

10.Non-university research organizations offer the challenge of research without the need or the opportunity to teach. They include industry laboratories, major consulting firms, government laboratories, and nonprofit think tanks. Each has a distinctive culture. Many involve military work. In the not-for-profits and the consulting firms, you are only as good as the last contract you brought in. As a result, these organizations experience a high burnout rate among people 45 or older. If you want to go back to academia at some time in the future, you will have to create your own portable wealth by publishing. Many of these organizations encourage and require you to publish, at least to publish research monographs. Unfortunately, publishing is counter-culture in some of these organizations. In some industrial laboratories it is said that if you write F=ma or E=mc2, someone will stamp your report Company Confidential.

11. Avoid taking a job in a college that you attended, no matter how strong your loyalty as an alumnus. You will always be regarded as a graduate student by the older faculty and will be treated as such.

12. If your field is one in which there is an oversupply of people, one strategy is to seek a job as an assistant dean. This approach is quite tricky. Colleges are always looking for such necessary but non-glorious jobs as assistant dean for student affairs or assistant dean of administration or assistant dean for summer school. You, as an applicant, insist that you also have an appointment (even if not tenure track) in your field of specialty, say, history. You must also insist that you teach one course and that you have some time for research. Unless you do so, you will never have a crack at a tenure-track position. You must then be active in your department and be seen by the department as a member in good standing who gives them access to the Administration. Even then, you may never be fully accepted. However, you will gain experience that can be used later and you will have had the academic title (and the teaching and research experience) needed on your resume when you look for a job involving full-time teaching and research.

I recommend this article to anyone who is currently taking Ph.D. or interested to do one.

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What They Don’t Teach You in Graduate School
What They Don’t Teach You in Grad School — Part II

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Leon Ho

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Last Updated on July 13, 2020

How to Plan Your Life Goals and Actually Achieve Them

How to Plan Your Life Goals and Actually Achieve Them

Where do you want to be 5 years from now, 10 years from now, or even this time next year? These places are your goal destinations and although you might know that you don’t want to be standing still in the same place as you are now, it’s not always easy to identify what your real goals are.

Many people think that setting a goal destination is having a dream that is there in the far distant future but will never be attained. This proves to be a self-fulfilling prophesy because of two things:

Firstly, that the goal isn’t specifically defined enough in the first place; and secondly, it remains a remote dream waiting for action which is never taken.

Defining your goal destination is something that you need to take some time to think carefully about. The following steps on how to plan your life goals should get you started on a journey to your destination.

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1. Make a List of Your Goal Destinations

Goal destinations are the things that are important to you. Another word for them would be ambitions, but ambitions sound like something which outside of your grasp, whereas goal destinations are certainly achievable if you are willing to put in the effort working towards them.

So what do you really want to do with your life? What are the main things that you would like to accomplish with your life? What is it that you would really regret not doing if you suddenly found you had a limited amount of time left on the earth?

Each of these things is a goal. Define each goal destination in one sentence.

If any of these goals is a stepping stone to another one of the goals, take it off this list as it isn’t a goal destination.

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2. Think About the Time Frame to Have the Goal Accomplished

This is where the 5 year, 10 year, next year plan comes into it.

Learn the differences between a short term goal and a long term goal. Some goals will have a “shelf life” because of age, health, finance, etc, whereas others will be up to you as to when you would like to achieve them by.

3. Write Down Your Goals Clearly

Write each goal destination at the top of a new piece of paper.

For each goal, write down what is it that you need and don’t have now that will allow you achieve that goal. This could be some kind of education, career change, finance, a new skill, etc. Any “stepping stone” goals you removed will fit into this exercise. If any of these smaller “goals” have sub-goals, go through the same process with these so that you have precise action points to work with.

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4. Write Down What You Need to Do for Each Goal

Under each item listed, write down the things that you will need to do in order to complete each of the steps required to complete the goal. 

These items will become a check-list. They are a tangible way of checking how you are progressing towards reaching your goal destinations. A record of your success!

5. Write Down Your Timeframe With Specific and Realistic Dates

Using the time frames you created, on each goal destination sheet write down the year in which you will complete the goal by.

For any goal which has no fixed completion date, think about when you would like to have accomplished it by and use that as your destination date.

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Work within the time frames for each goal destination, make a note of realistic dates by which you will complete each of the small steps.

6. Schedule Your To-Dos

Now take an overview of all your goal destinations and make a schedule of what you need to do this week, this month, this year – in order to progress along the road towards your goal destinations.

Write these action points on a schedule, you have definite dates on which to do things.

7. Review Your Progress

At the end of the year, review what you have done this year, mark things off the check-lists for each goal destination and write up the schedule with the action points you need for the next year.

Although it may take you several years to, for example, get the promotion you desire because you first need to get the MBA which means getting a job with more money to allow you to finance a part-time degree course, you will ultimately be successful in achieving your goal destination because you have planned out not only what you want, but how to get it, and have been pro-active towards achieving it.

More Tips for Achieving Goals

Featured photo credit: Debby Hudson via unsplash.com

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