Perhaps what is most daunting about writing a thesis is realizing that if you want to be an academic, this is a good introduction to the rest of your career. Writing proposals, grant applications, journal articles and books will be a significant part of your life from here on. Gaining the skills to be a productive and prolific writer is key to success as an academic. That means making writing part of everyday life.
Archive for category: Jobs
The Chronicle has an interesting piece: “Is Your Spouse Hurting Your Career?”:
in some “mixed marriages,” with no malice or sabotage intended, the nonacademic partner’s behavior or ideas can undermine or even cripple the scholar’s career — because of mutual ignorance and mistaken assumptions. And in those cases where the relationship is failing, the academic’s work can be but one collateral casualty of a wider war.
Today, while googling for “tenure rat race”, I found Jonathan I. Katz’s page: “Don’t Become a Scientist!“. I find his honesty devastating:
Are you thinking of becoming a scientist? Do you want to uncover the mysteries of nature, perform experiments or carry out calculations to learn how the world works? Forget it!
Science is fun and exciting. The thrill of discovery is unique. If you are smart, ambitious and hard working you should major in science as an undergraduate. But that is as far as you should take it. After graduation, you will have to deal with the real world. That means that you should not even consider going to graduate school in science. Do something else instead: medical school, law school, computers or engineering, or something else which appeals to you.
Why am I (a tenured professor of physics) trying to discourage you from following a career path which was successful for me? Because times have changed (I received my Ph.D. in 1973, and tenure in 1976). American science no longer offers a reasonable career path. If you go to graduate school in science it is in the expectation of spending your working life doing scientific research, using your ingenuity and curiosity to solve important and interesting problems. You will almost certainly be disappointed, probably when it is too late to choose another career.
I think he is right in many levels. But let’s concentrate just on the simplest, easiest to measure: money.
If we academics do the computations proposed in Figuring Out Exactly How Much Your Time Is Worth [The Simple Dollar], we may be in for a surprise.
Basically, you determine your true hourly wage by subtracting all of your work-related expenses from your salary, then calculating the hours you devote to work each year (including commute and other time-sinks) and dividing your remaining salary by your total hours.
Since we work silly hours, the actual pay is quite ridiculous. Of course, one has to factor in the liberty to think, flexible hours etc.
One other thing that hasn’t changed . . . There are still people who make the transition into a new job quickly and relatively painlessly, and other people with similar experience/credentials who go months or years without these same nibbles. I credit the difference to two things: 1) How the person felt about their expectations of success, and 2) How far they strayed from their computer.
Dave Jensen, Moderator at scienceCareers has this interesting post on how bombarding people with new communication channels (e-mails etc) won’t work better than face-to-face or any other traditional means. Networking seems to be fashionable, with books like Ferrazi’s Never eat alone getting really popular. Is it really the case that academics do no not pay much attention to email networking? Do you really need to get away of your computer to keep your contacts alive? I find this surprising considering how multi-authored papers have grown with the use/abuse of email. But of course, looking for a job may be a different thing. Is really a phone call better?
The November 2006 issue of PLoS Computational Biology has a short editorial with ten rules for evaluating postdoc opportunities. An interesting — albeit commonsensical — collection of hints, if you’re approaching the end of your PhD and looking for job opportunities after your defense.
Thanks Benoît for the pointer.