I’ve already posted about how I find many graduate students too passive in their education.  In that article I gave a pile of advice on how to manage your own graduate school process. 

Today I want to talk more about strategies.  I met with my adviser this afternoon.  My job situation change is forcing me to accelerate the pace on my program, but that of course has some consequences.  Here is what I learned today about those consequences:

  • Publish or Perish means, in part, that you should pick your dissertation topic carefully.  Mining that for articles is what will get you your first few publications straight out of school and is critical for having enough publications out there when the tenure review process comes along. 
  • If there is a good reason for you to graduate quickly it can happen.  But it has to be a good reason in the faculty’s mind.  Examples are a waiting post-doc opportunity.
  • Post-docs change everything, even in a social science.  That dissertation topic issue melts away if you have an opportunity to get paid to research for a while after you finish.  Thus the reason that it can move quickly.
  • More publications, specifically first-author publications, EQUALS more and better job offers.  Almost nothing else really matters.

So what does this mean for me?  My focus for spring is four-fold:

    1. Get a 6-figure grant so that there will be a post-doc
    2. Do my comps
    3. Get my dissertation proposal approved
    4. Work on a first-author paper on something

In that order.  Why?  I basically was told that the proposal idea I have isn’t strong enough if I don’t have a post-doc, as it probably can’t be milked for all that many articles.  That kinda sucks, but I understand. 

This is what I mean about strategy.  I am coming to believe that someone who wants an academic career needs to be considering how everything they do will impact every step, all the way through tenure, from day one.  How will their classes help them get write more marketable papers to help get more publications to get tenure? 

I wish someone had told me that 3 years ago.