Managing your career

The Chronicle:

Julie: As wrong as it may feel, it’s important to think strategically about your post-Ph.D. plans early on in your graduate-student career. It’s helpful to have a plan. Be realistic about your possibilities and review them at least a couple times a year. You may find it helpful to check in with a career adviser or someone in campus counseling to help you assess what you should be doing, careerwise, at different stages of your graduate studies. We stress that because we’ve seen people drift off after finishing their degree and, because of the vicissitudes of the job market and other contributing factors (a student’s shaky mental health, isolation while writing the dissertation, lack of a support system, for example), enter what seems like a parallel universe of subsistence living and hopelessness.

Jenny: What does it mean to have a plan? It means setting some concrete professional goals for yourself alongside those you need to achieve as part of your degree program. Sometimes the two sets of goals will coincide: For example, it’s essential for everyone to learn how to give a strong academic presentation at a conference, and presentation skills are crucial to many nonacademic jobs, too. It’s essential to learn the software of your field, whether it’s for demographic analysis, literary analysis, or biomedical processes. And in almost any nonacademic job you take, learning new software is a requirement. Having a plan also means devising a strategy for dealing with the volatility of the academic job market. Decide in advance how many times you’re willing to go on the tenure-track market, or what regions of the country you’ll limit your search to. That can give you a stronger sense of control over your own destiny.

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