Graduate School is a Means to a Job

While perusing grad school and sociology blogs, I ran across this fantastic and practical post by Karen Kelsky on maximizing your time in graduate school. If you’re considering graduate school, there is excellent advice on how to select your program, and if you’re already in, there are guidelines for what you should be doing now to make yourself highly desirable and easily marketable to potential employers upon receipt of your Ph.D.

Because you really should read the post, I’m not going to go too much into detail on her advice but I will point out a few points that stood out from each section.

“Before Graduate School”

  • Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate your financial package! Take the offer letter amount as your starting point for negotiations not as a final and fixed offer.
  • Locate and apply for multiple sources of financial support. I highly recommend finding additional sources of support! Apply to everything. In that vein, if you are contemplating graduate school I suggest that you start saving up money NOW and start laying a foundation for your during-grad-school-hustle. This is when those ‘non-traditional’ job skills come in handy – DJing, catering, graphic design, party promoting, cutting/styling hair, etc.
  • “Do not take out new debt to attend graduate school. Because the tenure-track job market is so bleak, graduate school in the humanities and social sciences is, in most cases, not worth going into debt for.” This is interesting since I’ve had several professors suggest taking out a student loan because “it’s a testament to your belief in your future success as a sociologist.” Yeah, I never really got on board with that. Since it could also be a testament to your belief that you need to fulfill your basic bottom of the Maslow hierarchy needs, you know, in order to have success at being a living human being. Suffice it to say, I have not taken out a student loan though most of my cohort members have. I am holding onto The Hope that I will be awarded a grant or that I’ll marry rich. Stay tuned.

“Early in Graduate School”

  • Start building your CV immediately. Look for opportunities that will result in an additional line on your CV.
  • Never waste words. Write your seminar papers with the end goal of having them published.
  • Be aware of the trends in your field’s employment ads and incorporate them into your projects.

“In Your Final Years of Graduate School”

  • Apply annually to present at your national conference.
  • “Remember the best dissertation is a finished dissertation.”
  • “Be the sole instructor of at least one course but not more than three.”

For more of Karen Kelsky’s insight check out her blog The Professor Is In.

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