It Turns Out We All Worry About Being Losers

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in General

I was tumbling down the rabbit hole of a Google search the other day, going from one link to the next, when I landed at Tara Hunt’s HorsePigCowblog. You might be familiar with Tara if you’re at all interested in social media, social marketing, social networks and other related social hoo-ha. Basically, Tara’s great. And she wrote, “If nobody shares they are struggling, nobody will know anybody else is struggling. That results in a bunch of people feeling isolated and scared and like big fat losers.”

So many of us keep our fears and struggles to ourselves believing that revealing them could somehow brand us with loser status and eventually imperil our careers or reputations. Are we being savvy or just creating unnecessary isolation? Are there issues you wish you could share with others?

It is both liberating and energizing to have professional confidants in whom we can share our worries, concerns, and aspirations, but it can be hard to establish these kinds of relationships. One must reveal a fair degree of vulnerability in order to engender trust in another, and that can feel risky. The consequences of failing to open up can be quite high, however.


A Canada Day link roundup

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in General

It’s Canada Day here north of the 49th parallel. I know that when I was a grad student, every day was a work day, including civic holidays. Now that I’m out of academia, plus self-employed, plus a mom, I carve out very deliberate boundaries with my time (this has sometimes been difficult for people who would rather I conducted business outside of my M-F, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 pm work schedule!).

Because today is a holiday,


An antidote to the “Ph.D. useless” sentiment

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Academic News

I’ve been blogging, on and off, about the process of leaving academia for three years now. At my old blog, I always found it both illuminating and sad when I would go through my site stats and discover that a lot of people discovered Leaving Academia by Googling “Ph.D. useless.” It’s self-evident why it’s sad, but it was also illuminating because there were literally hundreds of people typing this into their search engines.  The following composition, from the December 2010 issue of ‘The Economist’ eloquently covers the subject matter.

The disposable academic: Why doing a PhD is often a waste of time

ON THE evening before All Saints’ Day in 1517, Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the door of a church in Wittenberg. In those days a thesis was simply a position one wanted to argue. Luther, an Augustinian friar, asserted that Christians could not buy their way to heaven. Today a doctoral thesis is both an idea and an account of a period of original research. Writing one is the aim of the hundreds of thousands of students who embark on a doctorate of philosophy (PhD) every year.

In most countries a PhD is a basic requirement for a career in academia. It is an introduction to the world of independent research—a kind of intellectual masterpiece, created by an apprentice in close collaboration with a supervisor. The requirements to complete one vary enormously between countries, universities and even subjects. Some students will first have to spend two years working on a master’s degree or diploma. Some will receive a stipend; others will pay their own way. Some PhDs involve only research, some require classes and examinations and some require the student to teach undergraduates. A thesis can be dozens of pages in mathematics, or many hundreds in history. As a result, newly minted PhDs can be as young as their early 20s or world-weary forty-somethings.

One thing many PhD students have in common is dissatisfaction. Some describe their work as “slave labour”. Seven-day weeks, ten-hour days, low pay and uncertain prospects are widespread. You know you are a graduate student, goes one quip, when your office is better decorated than your home and you have a favourite flavour of instant noodle. “It isn’t graduate school itself that is discouraging,” says one student, who confesses to rather enjoying the hunt for free pizza. “What’s discouraging is realising the end point has been yanked out of reach.”

Whining PhD students are nothing new, but there seem to be genuine problems with the system that produces research doctorates (the practical “professional doctorates” in fields such as law, business and medicine have a more obvious value). There is an oversupply of PhDs. Although a doctorate is designed as training for a job in academia, the number of PhD positions is unrelated to the number of job openings. Meanwhile, business leaders complain about shortages of high-level skills, suggesting PhDs are not teaching the right things. The fiercest critics compare research doctorates to Ponzi or pyramid schemes.

Rich pickings

For most of history even a first degree at a university was the privilege of a rich few, and many academic staff did not hold doctorates. But as higher education expanded after the second world war, so did the expectation that lecturers would hold advanced degrees. American universities geared up first: by 1970 America was producing just under a third of the world’s university students and half of its science and technology PhDs (at that time it had only 6% of the global population). Since then America’s annual output of PhDs has doubled, to 64,000.

Other countries are catching up. Between 1998 and 2006 the number of doctorates handed out in all OECD countries grew by 40%, compared with 22% for America. PhD production sped up most dramatically in Mexico, Portugal, Italy and Slovakia. Even Japan, where the number of young people is shrinking, churned out about 46% more PhDs. Part of that growth reflects the expansion of university education outside America. Richard Freeman, a labour economist at Harvard University, says that by 2006 America was enrolling just 12% of the world’s students.

But universities have discovered that PhD students are cheap, highly motivated and disposable labour. With more PhD students they can do more research, and in some countries more teaching, with less money. A graduate assistant at Yale might earn $20,000 a year for nine months of teaching. The average pay of full professors in America was $109,000 in 2009—higher than the average for judges and magistrates.

Indeed, the production of PhDs has far outstripped demand for university lecturers. In a recent book, Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus, an academic and a journalist, report that America produced more than 100,000 doctoral degrees between 2005 and 2009. In the same period there were just 16,000 new professorships. Using PhD students to do much of the undergraduate teaching cuts the number of full-time jobs. Even in Canada, where the output of PhD graduates has grown relatively modestly, universities conferred 4,800 doctorate degrees in 2007 but hired just 2,616 new full-time professors. Only a few fast-developing countries, such as Brazil and China, now seem short of PhDs.

A short course in supply and demand

In research the story is similar. PhD students and contract staff known as “postdocs”, described by one student as “the ugly underbelly of academia”, do much of the research these days. There is a glut of postdocs too. Dr Freeman concluded from pre-2000 data that if American faculty jobs in the life sciences were increasing at 5% a year, just 20% of students would land one. In Canada 80% of postdocs earn $38,600 or less per year before tax—the average salary of a construction worker. The rise of the postdoc has created another obstacle on the way to an academic post. In some areas five years as a postdoc is now a prerequisite for landing a secure full-time job.

These armies of low-paid PhD researchers and postdocs boost universities’, and therefore countries’, research capacity. Yet that is not always a good thing. Brilliant, well-trained minds can go to waste when fashions change. The post-Sputnik era drove the rapid growth in PhD physicists that came to an abrupt halt as the Vietnam war drained the science budget. Brian Schwartz, a professor of physics at the City University of New York, says that in the 1970s as many as 5,000 physicists had to find jobs in other areas.

In America the rise of PhD teachers’ unions reflects the breakdown of an implicit contract between universities and PhD students: crummy pay now for a good academic job later. Student teachers in public universities such as the University of Wisconsin-Madison formed unions as early as the 1960s, but the pace of unionisation has increased recently. Unions are now spreading to private universities; though Yale and Cornell, where university administrators and some faculty argue that PhD students who teach are not workers but apprentices, have resisted union drives. In 2002 New York University was the first private university to recognise a PhD teachers’ union, but stopped negotiating with it three years later.

In some countries, such as Britain and America, poor pay and job prospects are reflected in the number of foreign-born PhD students. Dr Freeman estimates that in 1966 only 23% of science and engineering PhDs in America were awarded to students born outside the country. By 2006 that proportion had increased to 48%. Foreign students tend to tolerate poorer working conditions, and the supply of cheap, brilliant, foreign labour also keeps wages down.

Proponents of the PhD argue that it is worthwhile even if it does not lead to permanent academic employment. Not every student embarks on a PhD wanting a university career and many move successfully into private-sector jobs in, for instance, industrial research. That is true; but drop-out rates suggest that many students become dispirited. In America only 57% of doctoral students will have a PhD ten years after their first date of enrolment. In the humanities, where most students pay for their own PhDs, the figure is 49%. Worse still, whereas in other subject areas students tend to jump ship in the early years, in the humanities they cling like limpets before eventually falling off. And these students started out as the academic cream of the nation. Research at one American university found that those who finish are no cleverer than those who do not. Poor supervision, bad job prospects or lack of money cause them to run out of steam.

Even graduates who find work outside universities may not fare all that well. PhD courses are so specialised that university careers offices struggle to assist graduates looking for jobs, and supervisors tend to have little interest in students who are leaving academia. One OECD study shows that five years after receiving their degrees, more than 60% of PhDs in Slovakia and more than 45% in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany and Spain were still on temporary contracts. Many were postdocs. About one-third of Austria’s PhD graduates take jobs unrelated to their degrees. In Germany 13% of all PhD graduates end up in lowly occupations. In the Netherlands the proportion is 21%.

A very slim premium

PhD graduates do at least earn more than those with a bachelor’s degree. A study in the Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management by Bernard Casey shows that British men with a bachelor’s degree earn 14% more than those who could have gone to university but chose not to. The earnings premium for a PhD is 26%. But the premium for a master’s degree, which can be accomplished in as little as one year, is almost as high, at 23%. In some subjects the premium for a PhD vanishes entirely. PhDs in maths and computing, social sciences and languages earn no more than those with master’s degrees. The premium for a PhD is actually smaller than for a master’s degree in engineering and technology, architecture and education. Only in medicine, other sciences, and business and financial studies is it high enough to be worthwhile. Over all subjects, a PhD commands only a 3% premium over a master’s degree.

Dr Schwartz, the New York physicist, says the skills learned in the course of a PhD can be readily acquired through much shorter courses. Thirty years ago, he says, Wall Street firms realised that some physicists could work out differential equations and recruited them to become “quants”, analysts and traders. Today several short courses offer the advanced maths useful for finance. “A PhD physicist with one course on differential equations is not competitive,” says Dr Schwartz.

Many students say they are pursuing their subject out of love, and that education is an end in itself. Some give little thought to where the qualification might lead. In one study of British PhD graduates, about a third admitted that they were doing their doctorate partly to go on being a student, or put off job hunting. Nearly half of engineering students admitted to this. Scientists can easily get stipends, and therefore drift into doing a PhD. But there are penalties, as well as benefits, to staying at university. Workers with “surplus schooling”—more education than a job requires—are likely to be less satisfied, less productive and more likely to say they are going to leave their jobs.

Academics tend to regard asking whether a PhD is worthwhile as analogous to wondering whether there is too much art or culture in the world. They believe that knowledge spills from universities into society, making it more productive and healthier. That may well be true; but doing a PhD may still be a bad choice for an individual.

The interests of academics and universities on the one hand and PhD students on the other are not well aligned. The more bright students stay at universities, the better it is for academics. Postgraduate students bring in grants and beef up their supervisors’ publication records. Academics pick bright undergraduate students and groom them as potential graduate students. It isn’t in their interests to turn the smart kids away, at least at the beginning. One female student spoke of being told of glowing opportunities at the outset, but after seven years of hard slog she was fobbed off with a joke about finding a rich husband.

Monica Harris, a professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky, is a rare exception. She believes that too many PhDs are being produced, and has stopped admitting them. But such unilateral academic birth control is rare. One Ivy-League president, asked recently about PhD oversupply, said that if the top universities cut back others will step in to offer them instead.

Noble pursuits

Many of the drawbacks of doing a PhD are well known. Your correspondent was aware of them over a decade ago while she slogged through a largely pointless PhD in theoretical ecology. As Europeans try to harmonise higher education, some institutions are pushing the more structured learning that comes with an American PhD.

The organisations that pay for research have realised that many PhDs find it tough to transfer their skills into the job market. Writing lab reports, giving academic presentations and conducting six-month literature reviews can be surprisingly unhelpful in a world where technical knowledge has to be assimilated quickly and presented simply to a wide audience. Some universities are now offering their PhD students training in soft skills such as communication and teamwork that may be useful in the labour market. In Britain a four-year NewRoutePhD claims to develop just such skills in graduates.

Measurements and incentives might be changed, too. Some university departments and academics regard numbers of PhD graduates as an indicator of success and compete to produce more. For the students, a measure of how quickly those students get a permanent job, and what they earn, would be more useful. Where penalties are levied on academics who allow PhDs to overrun, the number of students who complete rises abruptly, suggesting that students were previously allowed to fester.

Many of those who embark on a PhD are the smartest in their class and will have been the best at everything they have done. They will have amassed awards and prizes. As this year’s new crop of graduate students bounce into their research, few will be willing to accept that the system they are entering could be designed for the benefit of others, that even hard work and brilliance may well not be enough to succeed, and that they would be better off doing something else. They might use their research skills to look harder at the lot of the disposable academic. Someone should write a thesis about that.

from the print edition | Christmas Specials

Media Research Conference

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Academic Life

media research conference
by Marc_Smith under CC BY


Media Research Conference

A Media Research Conference can be beneficial for some of the following reasons.

  • Join your industry peers and learn from them
  • Understand how the media business is facing and understand the change in content consumption
  • Hear how these changes are affecting media and research agencies
  • Learn about new ways to engage modern audiences
  • Optimize content and commercial opportunities in a cross-platform world

Media Research Conference – FIVE Reasons

  1. At a Media Research Conference, learn from the advertisers how their needs are changing in the digital age and why media research is so important
  2. See how mobile consumption is growing in the US and what this means for the future
  3. Learn new methods and research approaches from the top media industry practitioners
  4. Involve yourself in our interactive panel discussion, drawn from advertising, media and research companies
  5. Actively discuss your current methods and learn other types of integration techniques.

Other reasons to attend a Media Research Conference

At Media Research Conference you will sometimes look at the role of research in measuring, commercializing and maximizing content across various media  platforms. At a Media Research Conference you will examine media research from many different angles to create a comprehensive picture of what research has achieved, what it is achieving now and how it must evolve to meet the demands of the digital future. Representatives of media owners, agencies and systems owners will tackle the issues currently affecting all aspects of media research, including TV, radio, press, internet and other media.


Your Leaving Academia Questions About Academic Job Interview

Written by Blogger. Posted in Uncategorized


Carol asks…

If a formal interview for an academic job includes a formal dinner, how should one dress for it?

If a lady dresses a suite for the interview, should she change some casual outfit for the dinner?


Blogger answers:

Definitely not. It is part of the interview. If they don’t take you directly to dinner from the interview, you could change, but not into something more casual. You could give up the suit and wear a businesslike dress with jacket, if you wanted to. Actually, I just noticed that you said there was a “formal” dinner. If you mean dinner with faculty or administrators, then what I said above would be appropriate, but if by “formal” dinner you mean there is a formal event, then if anything, you would need to dress up for it, not down. Why would anyone think of wearing a casual outfit to a formal dinner?


Ken asks…

Proper attire for interview -academic job

I want to know whether it is appropriate to wear blue jacket and grey trouser/pant for a job interview.I am comparing this with a suit in which color of a jacket and trouser is same.


Blogger answers:

1 “step better” than what you would wear if you worked there. You do not want to be under dressed or overdressed. If they were shorts and t-shirts, you wear long pants and a polo shirt. If they where dockers, you were dress pants, if they were dress pants, you were a suit, …

You do not want to look out of place since the interviewer is trying to figure out if you will fit in at the company or not.


Sandra asks…

Why is academic performance given lot of weight-age during a job interview?

If a person is street smart has, other qualities still good performance in academics is very important for the company . why?


Blogger answers:

1) A good academic record generally usually (but not always) indicates a level of dedication and comittement to work you have undertaken.
2) Someone with a proven academic record is usually more receptive to training.
3) They will probably have good key skills (written english, basic maths, IT, fact finding etc) if they have managed to get good grades.

BUT they do not show some of the soft skills which can be as or more important i.e. Interpersonal skills, self-confidence, time management, common sense ect. If your academic profile is not spectacular these are the kind of things you should focus on.


Sandy asks…

Job interview for receptionist tomorrow – should I take my academic certificates with me?

I have been told nothing by the interviewers!


Blogger answers:

Yes.If you go empty handed,the interviewer is likely to think that you are either not well prepared or uninterested.You should have a current resume,original & photocopy certificates with you.Though most interviewers will have received an email copy of your resume beforehand & printed it from Human Resources.Do not wait for the interviewer to ask for these.Offer them.Be prepared for anything.Carry your documents in a professional file or briefcase.Good luck!


Lisa asks…

For a tutoring job interview, I must give a five minute lesson on how to do something NON-academic! What?

I need ideas. It can’t be cooking, gambling, dance steps, drinking games. They are looking for fun, enthusiasm, involving the audience, using props, etc. This will be used to evaluate teaching style. I just don’t want to do what five other people in the group interview will be doing!


Blogger answers:

How to tie shoelaces… *lol*

seriously, it doesn’t matter what your topic is, all they want to see is how you could show them your knowledge and skills about dividing lessons into tasks that your students could follow–i.e. Teaching skills.

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A Thursday morning link roundup

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in General

A few interesting articles I’ve found floating around on the interwebs this morning:

  • There’s this piece at Slate about Matthew Crawford, the Ph.D. who became a motorcycle mechanic and wrote a book about it (Shop Class as Soul Craft).
  • In the U.S., the Council of Graduate Schools is initiating a new study of

Universities, gender and cheap labor

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in General

Last Wednesday, there was a piece in the Chronicle with some pretty shocking (and yet not surprising) numbers about how much contingent labour is used in the American university system. Now, I am too cheap to buy a web subscription to the Chronicle, so I chose not to pay to read the full article.


What Not To Say In Your Job Interview

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Career Planning

Job Interview
by tedmurphy under CC BY


Job Interview – What You Should NEVER Do

What you should say during a job interview depends on the position you’re trying to get along with your preferences, skills as well as experience. However, some answers are better than others.

No good will come from talking bad about your past companies. You stand the chance of appearing as an employee that could be considered a “management issue”.   Requesting special treatment in the interview can make you appear as someone who will have constant requests once you are comfortably employed.  Also avoid personal problems, by complaining or whining you show that you could allow home issues to effect your duties in the work place.  Make sure to avoid statements that could  be perceived as argumentative.  Your goal should be to prove you will be liked within the company and fit into it identity.  Expletives and derogatory remarks should be avoided, but don’t be dishonest.  The truth will come out at some point, and misleading information will come back to haunt you.

Informing an interviewer tasks you are above can also be an alarm. Be sure you apply for positions which are right for you, and realize that people continually must complete tasks which are less than enjoyable. Take time to learn about the organization before you decide to interview.  You should know why you are attracted to the specific company, as well as how you fit in and how it helps to further your own personal goals.  Allow the potential company to initiate salary conversations. It can be a red flag if the interviewee is the one to initiate the topic of money.  Asking about holidays, sick days or vacation is often a potential turnoff since you will seem more interested in time off as opposed to working hard on job by itself.  The hardworking, devoted employee is more dedicated to completing the tasks and being productive.

The topic of strengths and weakness can be a dicey topic.  When discussing strengths you should give three or four examples of your good qualities, and relate them to how they will help you be an asset in this role for their company.  Weakness can be harder to answer.  Many will answer that they are a ‘workaholic’ or that they can be hyper focused on doing a good job.  This can sound dishonest or not believable.  The better idea is to be truthful by admitting a  minor personal shortcoming, and explaining the steps you are taking or have taken to overcome this attribute.

  • Please…I beg of you…don’t come to an interview if you haven’t bathed or brushed your teeth! If anyone thinks I’m kidding, I’m not. While this may seem absolutely obvious to almost everyone, I assure you, there are some folks who may not realize this matters. And if you are one of them…it absolutely does! You don’t have to come dressed like a fashion plate – in fact probably a good idea not to unless it’s some snazzy high-fashion job – and even then, less may be more. Tasteful, well-groomed, bathed…I think this pretty much says it.
  • Don’t interrupt the interviewer! Even if you think you get where they’re going and have the most brilliant answer ever to their interview question, this is one of the most annoying things you can do. Give them a chance to finish. And at least do your best to maintain eye contact and show you are listening intently – and are very interested in and respectful of the person speaking.
  • Don’t take off on your own and answer a question that wasn’t asked. Following up on the previous “don’t”, you may think you know where they’re going, but they may throw you a curve ball. Or, in your nervousness or desire to make all your practiced points, you may in fact miss the point. I’ve seen people going off on tangents that may be interesting enough, but it  showed me they weren’t really listening. Listen carefully and be right there in the moment – and not racing ahead to your answer or thinking of next questions. It’s probably the best thing you can do for yourself in an interview. (Other than bathing.) Of course, if there is a related key strength you want to tell them about, there may be a way to fit that into your answer, as long as you don’t go on and on. But first…answer the question.
  • Don’t wear perfume or cologne. I hope I don’t need to explain this, but if I do…first, some people find perfumes or colognes offensive – worse yet, some people may be allergic.  They don’t belong in an interview…except maybe (once again tastefully done) if you are interviewing at the company that makes the product, I guess. Once again, bathing / showering will pretty much do the trick here.
  • Don’t go heavy on the make-up. (To be gender neutral, this goes for men or women.) The closer to natural you look, the more the real you can shine through.  To be candid, I have to admit now I haven’t used make-up for years, but if you do use it, artfully applied it can be a real asset. But too much and too bold…well, some employers will see it as a sign that you are more about looks and surface things than business. This general “don’t” can be adapted to how you dress, of course.
  • No gum, no candy – nothing in your mouth except teeth (hopefully) and other nature-given stuff.  You’re there to speak and listen – without anything else going on in there. Once again, you want to show you are about the business and not your own comfort or habits. I recently read that maybe you should even think twice about bringing your own coffee. (I’m not sure about that one – unless your choice of coffee sends the wrong message.   If anyone read that article, I’d love the link.) Of course, if you’re offered coffee, tea or water, by all means feel free to accept. I myself do bring a bottle of water with me and I believe it has never hurt, but I’m open to hearing otherwise if someone wants to chime in here.  Oh…and while you probably shouldn’t bring much of anything in with you (other than anything the employer requested), one thing you SHOULD remember to bring is a few copies of your resume, just in case. (I read some people even bring their relatives with them…ewww. Again I would love the link.)
  • Don’t listen to your iPod, play video games, make cell phone calls, etc. while waiting to be interviewed. Take care of all that before you come in the door of the building.  Or, if you really need to make IMPORTANT calls while you wait, ask if you may use a private area to do so. Just like with dating, impressions form quickly. Watching someone dial a bunch of friends or play video games while waiting, leaves the impression the person will be doing that during their workday too. Since you are there to present yourself as a capable, serious candidate, start your presentation from the moment you walk in.  Impressions you leave can last well beyond the day of the interview. And you never know whom you run into on the elevator or even as you enter the building.  After the interview, maintain your best interview attitude until you are away from the building.

If you think banking upon your professionally prepared CV and academic qualifications can help you bag your dream job, think again. While am impressive CV has fetched you an interview call, but it is how you perform in the interview that will decide your fate.

While it is important to prepare well for the job interview by doing research about the company, its profile, your expected role, one must know what not to say in a job interview.

  1. How much will I be paid: Never ask a company about your salary in the first round of interview as it does not make a good impression on employers. If money is discussed, it is up to the interviewer from the company to broach that subject. If they ask you how much money you want, have a range of pay packages to give them and not a specific amount. But it is better to research how much the job you want really pays in your town or state and then come up with a range of a yearly salary to request.
  2. What does your company make (or do)? A job candidate must research the company for which they want to work before going into a job interview with them. If you appear blank when asked about the company’s profile, your prospective employer will not have a good impression of you. Search about the company on the Internet and read as much as you can about it and take notes.
  3. Don’t use slangs or phrases in your job interview: Avoid using words like jerk, and, cool, wanna. Interview is not a casual conversation with friends in a lounge. It is a formal conversation which requires good English and communication skills. Using slang in the interview would make you look non-serious and unprofessional.
  4. Never bad-mouthing your employer or boss: If you say things like my previous boss was a jerk or there was lot of office politics, you may be perceived as immature, unable to handle work pressure or be discreet. Saying derogatory things about him/her will reflect on you.
  5. Don’t talk too much: When asked about yourself, don’t tell your life story as it will lead your employers to perceive you as immature. You should just stick to your academic qualifications, previous work experience and any other added skills or achievements. Do not go into details or tell your personal problems.
  6. In five years, I see myself on a boat in Hawaii. When a company is asking “Where do you see yourself in five years, they want to judge your long time goals. If you give answers like vacationing in Hawaii or cruising around the globe, it will have your employers questioning your sincerity. When interviewers ask you about long-term goals, they want an answer that relates to the company or commitment towards it.
  7. Sorry, I don’t know how to do that: Rather than admitting that you don’t have a specific skill or knowledge about a particular software, stress that you’re a fast learner and are excited about the possibility of acquiring new skills. Most companies would rather hire an enthusiastic, smart person who needs to be trained than someone who already has the required skills but isn’t as eager to learn.
  8. I have no weakness: When prospective employers ask you about your weakness, they expect you to be honest or at least have some kind of answer. If you say you don’t have any, the interviewer will believe that you are lying or that you are not thinking or being biased. You can say that you don’t like to waste time on small talk.
  9. Avoid saying unnecessary lies and stop exaggerating: Don’t lie! You’ll be found out, and you’ll regret it. Lies like I was offered a job with so and so company with 3 times this amount or I have done the highest number of sales in my current company, such things can always be found out. Hence, you must never exaggerate.
  10. What benefits does your company offer: This is a definite no, no as no one likes to hire selfish people. They want to know why they should hire you. Stress the contributions you can make. Tell them about how your efforts helped previous employers. Don’t start asking about raises, bonuses, and promotions right away. They hate it when you ask them “What can you do for me?”

In Media Res Conference

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Academic Life

In Media Res Conference

“In Media Res” is a series of programs and events, including an academic symposium. Attending an In Media Res Conference is a crucial part of academic life. Attending conferences is how one forges connections with other scholars, meets new people when they show up in the audience for one’s presentations, puts off doing “tangible” work like writing and grading in a legitimate manner (you are, after all, “working” — even if the labor involves the maintenance of social ties that are often mediated by food and alcohol), and establishes a professional reputation as a willing interlocutor and/or nice person to hang out with. While an In Media Res Conference is no party, it is a great place to learn more about your peers. [These last two can be critical at the moment of a job search, since getting an academic job is also a matter of joining a community of discourse — and one usually does not want to hire assholes with whom one will then have to out up on a daily basis for years to come.]

In Media Res Conference – An Example

An In Media Res Conference example is when I went to the Midwest Political Science Association conference, which was an incursion into a foreign country for me. MPSA is quantoid heaven, with the overwhelming majority of the panels consisting of papers in which someone presents the results of their having run complex statistical tests on a variety of data-sets. Keep in mind that not all In Media Res Conference events are setup the same. In other words, not the kind of work that I do at all, and not the kind of work that I find particularly interesting or insightful. I was on a panel called “questioning the validity of the natural science model” in which a number of us showed up to critique the whole enterprise that many of the rest of the conference participants were engaged in; they responded by largely not showing up, and we had a small roomful of choir-members to which to preach (together with one gentleman who seemed overly concerned with the employ-ability of students trained in political philosophy and the philosophy of social science — someone with the wrong view of what a college education is all about, I fear). But it was probably important to show the flag, as it were, regardless of its immediate practical effects.

What this In Media Res Conference cost me:

  • airfare, Southwest Airlines, BWI-Chicago and back again: $191.70
  • hotel, one evening at Hotel Allegro (featuring free in-room wireless ‘Net access!), courtesy priceline.com (thanks, Ido): $80
  • train fare to/from Chicago Midway Airport: $3.50
  • breakfast @ hotel: $15.42
  • beers after panel: $16
  • dinner with Elven Archer #37, which I paid for because he’s still a grad student and I at least draw a salary: $53.62
  • hot dog and fries in airport: $7.56
  • parking at BWI, because I was late getting to the airport on Saturday morning and had to park in the Hourly lot: $60 (!)Total financial cost: $427.80
    (I should be able to get most of this covered, although it will use up the rest of my university resources for the year)Other costs include taking time to write a paper during much of the month of April, and thus putting myself in a large grading hole that I now desperately need to claw my way out of. Plus the mental anguish of trying to get some inchoate thoughts about methodology down on paper, a process which has only increased my awareness of how poorly trained people in our field are for dealing with basic philosophical issues. And the lack of sleep associated with the writing process.  Going to an In Media Res Conference is a lot of work and can be very tiring.

    Benefits of the In Media Res Conference:

  • dinner with Elven Archer #37
  • good discussion with panelists and two members of audience after panel over beer
  • forcing myself to get some inchoate thoughts about methodology down on paper, and maybe making them less inchoate
  • enhanced realization that I am really not an “interpretivist” or entirely on board with “science studies” as a research practice (more on that in a future entry, I think)Was it worth it? Beats me.Typing this with my computer at an angle while crammed into a Southwest Airlines seat is not fun, so I’ll stop there for now.

Your Leaving Academia Questions About Non Academic Careers For Phd

Written by Blogger. Posted in Uncategorized


Charles asks…

How much “in common” do you need to have for a relationship to work?

Here’s my situation. I’m not complaining, I’m just trying to take it seriously and thinking a lot about it.
I have been dating a great guy for several months now. We have so much to talk about. We share interests like reading, science and theatre, our tastes are similar in music, books and movies, our lifestyles are very much compatible, even our sleeping habits 🙂 But then there are some things where we differ. For example, I’m Catholic, he’s a self-professed “spiritual agnostic”. I come from a “perfect” traditional family, where everyone is very educated and smart, his parents, who are both pretty much working class, got divorced before he can even remember that. He’s the first in his family to go as far as PhD, I’m probably going to be the only one in my family without one (though I’m also smart, I just choose a nonacademic career). We both are rather shy and very sensitive to the relationship, so whenever we talk about things we disagree on, we sort of walk in circles, without expressing strong personal opinions. But then, sometimes we have heated impersonal debates like whether or not abortions should be forbidden by law etc.
So my question is, is it possible to overcome religious and similar differences in a relationship? I want to believe it is, but my personal experience tells me relationships fail even for very stupid reasons. Is there any way to know what can become a big problem and somehow prevent it? Some special ways of talking about those things or dealing with them on a small scale, before they become an elephant in the room? Please try to talk not only about respect and compromise, but also about more specific situations and examples. Thank you.


Blogger answers:

Well…I don’t have any situations or examples, but here me out, opposites attract and so do people with the same interests. Theres is no specific requirement of commonalities you need to have a relationship, all you need is:
A faithful love
A devoted soul
A romantic evening
And to keep her/his heart full


Sharon asks…

Over time, I have grown serious reservations about my PhD supervisor; is my career going to suffer?

For some nonacademic/non-research reasons, I no longer enjoy interacting with him. I am going to graduate soon. I think I am not in a position to use him as my referee for job or anything. I feel sorry for myself, I just know all of his double-standards and self-interested policies, and it will be betrayal to myself if I change my mind. As I am going to graduate soon and work in a very specialized applied science area (where only a few companies offer a job), it will be very hard to land a job without his contribution. But I just have a strong feeling that it will be a betrayal to myself, to all of my beliefs and principles, if I give in. Being consistent with my values and without his considerations, do I have a decent chance for my first job?


Blogger answers:

It is a giant red flag if you don’t have a LOR from your PhD advisor. Employers will think there is something wrong with you instead of him. Since your issues are not professional, you have to seperate your personal feelings from your professional interests. Limit your interactions with him and keep such interactions strictly professional.

Getting a reference from him will not be hypocritical on your part. If your work is good and he did an adequate job as your supervisor, then there is nothing wrong with getting an LOR from him. Plus, if he is as selfish as you say, he will work hard to get you the best job possible because it will make him look good.

I completely understand where you’re comming from. My advisor is a horrible person but a brilliant mathematician. Accordingly, I completely minimized my interactions with him – only meeting when we needed to work some things out for my dissertation. I honestly feared that he would try to sabotage my job search but in the end, he helped me get the best post doc I could have hoped for.


Laura asks…

How to make the most of my gap year (I am a psychology undergrad who wants a PhD in clinical/cognitive psych)?

I appologize in advance for this really long post.

I am currently in my fifth year of a BA/MA program in general psychology. I have finished all of my requirements except for my masters thesis. I will defending my thesis in the spring semester. My ultimate career goal is to become a professor.

However, I want to take a year off between my undergrad and my PhD because I feel like I need it. I want to retake the GREs again and have time to really take my time with the grad application process but that is not going to happen right now because I am scrambling to get my thesis done by the spring. Also, I have no publications right now, but we are working on things for publication and my CV may reflect that if I wait for a year. From a purely nonacademic perspective, I feel like I also need the year because I have had some rough spots during the past five years (I have bipolar disorder and I dealt with a few episodes) and I need a break from classes and would like to do something else for a change. I would prefer to do something that will enhance my CV.

So far, these are the options I know I have:
1. Gussy up to my department find a TA or adjunct position for that year.
2. Try for a post-bac research training program
3. Stay in the labs I am in now and get publications
4. Look for a paid research position

Is there anything else I can/should do or should consider doing? Do you have any suggestions? What is the most useful/productive way to spend that year? If you took a gap year, did you find it helpful? What did you do that helped the most?

Or, should I just bite the bullet and apply? I think that some aspects of my application might actually be competitive.

My GRE scores may get me kicked out of some piles (I have a 1240: 570 verbal and 670 quant). I haven’t taken the subject test yet, but I got a 700 on my Kaplan diagnostic and I am taking the test in October. But, my GPAs work for me: I have a 3.941 general GPA and a 4.00 in my major. I do not come from a school with a particularly good reputation but I have lots of reasearch experience, an REU, and a few conference presentations under my belt. I also have six months of good clinical experience.

Ugh… I have to take the new GREs


Blogger answers:

From my own experience, I would suggest using the time to broaden your research experience. At the same time you’ll be able to get some publications out and those two things together will make a huge difference to your chances come application time. Is there a chance of getting a paid research position in your current labs? As they already know your abilities, they would be more likely to give you the opportunity to learn a new skill which is complementary to your research. Looking for a job in an unrelated lab is more likely to require you to use your existing skills than picking up new ones.
It sounds like you’ll have a good CV with your research experience and conferences, but allowing time to get a publication or two out and maybe another in the pipeline would (in my opinion) be more important than which school you’re coming from.
From a non-academic perspective too, PhD is going to be full-on! You need a little time to breathe and get yourself back together after the stress of your previous studies. And to get excited for the next stage!
Good luck!


Lizzie asks…

MS/PhD in electrical engineering (Signal Processing / DSP Theory Vs Electrical Power / Energy)?

i graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in 2008…i did my senior year undergraduate concentration in signal processing…but i ended up finding a job in the electric power field upon graduation (i work for a nuclear energy firm where it’s about the power distribution system)…

i LOVE math (even on engineer standards…i solve hard math problems for fun and my other engineer friends think i’m weird for doing so)…so i’m applying to grad schools and i’m trying to figure out which concentration to go into…

as i see it…Signal Processing is very math heavy and academic oriented…stuff that i’m more oriented towards…but i also feel like the jobs are somewhat lacking in this field…especially during the crappy economy

Electric Power…my entire job experience from college onwards has been in this field…while i think there are more jobs in this field (with all the nuke plants that are being built)…i think that its more of a practical / non academic type of field…and does not require much math or theory…also i feel like it’s somewhat cookie-cutter…

what are your suggestions??…i want a career that’s up my alley but at the same time i want job security…


Blogger answers:

Here are my thoughts, based on a 35-year career as an EE in hardware design.

1. I’ve worked in a wide variety of EE hardware-disciplines during my career.

In the 1960’s I designed audio amplifiers, originally vacuum-tube based.

During the 1970’s I designed: logic IC’s, optical satellite attitude sensors, electronic music synthesizers (guitar), HV self-destruct hardware for guided missiles, position-servos for geophysical measurements, phase-locked loops, precision low-noise amplifiers.

During the 1980’s and 1990’s I designed complex analog and digital electronics for ultrasound medical imaging systems. I worked with 100 PhD scientists & engineers in a very exciting, challenging environment — this was the most exciting, challenging intellectual environment available to EE hardware designers during these 2 decades. Also ultrasound system design & team leadership.

Had I continued my EE career into the 2000’s, I would have switched to robotics design.

2. I have always sought out the most intellectually challenging work environments. These are the most fun.

3. In conclusion: Be prepared to master a wide variety of disciplines. Be prepared to return, each decade, for a year or more of graduate-level education in new and exciting fields. Job security demands the ability to adapt quickly to unfamiliar intellectual disciplines.

To paraphrase Andy Grove at Intel: Only the brilliant and highly-adaptable engineer will survive.


Ruth asks…

Alternative Psychology Careers?

I’m looking for career advice in terms of possible career options within Child Psychology or Academia.

Here’s the short version:
I want to teach
I like doing the hands on parts of research
I dislike the theoretical/writing parts of research
Is there any job in Psychology for me?

Here’s the long version:
I’m in Canada. I have a Bachelor Degree with Honours in Psychology. I’m going to complete my Master’s Degree in Psychology in 2 weeks. Then, I will begin my PhD program.

As an undergraduate, I enjoyed psychometric testing and originally planned to go into Child Clinical. But I did not want to focus on autism or childhood schizophrenia, I was more interested in ‘typically counselling’ topics (children of divorce, anxiety, depression, bullying) and therefore I decided Clinical was not for me. I also decided a counselling program was not for me because it’s not academic/theoretical enough.

I enjoyed designing research ideas and critiquing research. I also enjoyed statistics. So I went to graduate school in Developmental Research. My area of focus is shyness and social anxiety in children and I work with non-clinical samples. I’ve been working as a teaching assistant and a research assistant.

I greatly enjoy teaching and lecturing and I would love to teach at the univeristy level some day. I’ve also learned that I love the “hands on” component of research. I love working with participants and administering psychometric tests. I also love really applied research on non-clinical populations.

However, I have learned that I am not passionate about the writing or theoretical aspects of research. Although I enjoy designing research and critiquing other studies and keeping up with important findings, I greatly dislike the thesis writing process and APA style. I also greatly dislike needing to know absolutely every study every conducted on a topic before commencing research on that topic.

I also am concerned about research grants. I find applying for research grants to be largely hit and miss. Some professors always win grants and other never do. I feel I would be better suited for a job with more stability – like a private research company, or a government research centre – in which I didn’t need to apply for grants.

Finally, I am worried because my advisor does not do any “hands on” work. His job is primarily the “theoretical” aspect of the research, reviewing journals, writing grant applications, writing journal articles. He hasn’t even taught for the last two years because last year one of his research grants excused him from teaching and this year he is on Sabbatical. I’m concerned that if I become a professor, I will not be able to do any “hands on” work which I like and instead my career will be primarily “theoretical” work which I dislike. I do not want a career that is entirely reading and writing.

So, because of all this, I’ve become concerned that a career in Academia as a Psychology Professor may not be for me. I don’t want to just be a lecturer – because the salary is not good ($20,000). But I want to teach, and I want to be able to do some research – but I don’t want my career to be dominated by research grant applications and journal reviews.

Are the any alternative career options that might be appropriate?
Are there certain colleges which are less research focused?
Has anyone heard of any academic positions (besides lecturer) that are less reserach focused?


Blogger answers:

First off, congratulations on your achievements! Be proud of what you succeeded at accomplishing -as it truly is remarkable and worthy of acknowledging for your own “sense-of-self.”

Next, in two weeks when you receive your Masters, run as fast and as far as possible from your present work in that particular school!! If you even hesitate, you’ll get sucked into doing exactly what you are very clear that you don not want to do.

Now, the good news -the world needs people like you!! And because of your academic success -and delightful articulation of your thoughts and feelings- you will not have any difficulty in settling in to do what you prefer … In fact, the only way that will not occur is if you “edit yourself” out of the opportunities.

As you know (mentioned in your post), the world does not revolve around theoretical academicians, and there are wonderful opportunities for individuals with your competencies within business, government, and yes, educational institutions (not like the one you presently are linked with).

In my view, the nexus of your situation is that you do not want to fall into the trap of the “traditional” academic dance (i.e., read and analyze a convoy of other theorists … Write a paper that is 80% sourced material, 10% your thoughts, and 10% a blend of the two … Struggle to first find relevant grants and then beat the h*** out of yourself to actually write the grant … And then get restrained by the severely constricted parameters of the grant … And, of course, all the while, be sure your name shows up in a few journals here and there). As I said, run fast and far!!

All-in-all, you must reframe your lens to ignore the foreground of traditional education -as well as anyone and anyplace that puts a premium on that perspective. As such, for your PhD -or maybe- PsyD, seriously screen those schools that come across as traditional … You’ll be bored-to-tears, frustrated and angry and, most likely, become another statistic within the ranks of the ABDs … And educational institutions sit around scratching their heads -and other parts of their anatomy- wondering why sooooooooo many doctoral students do not complete the program!!

Part II to follow ….

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