Thursday, March 26, 2015

Market Saturation

I saw this Tweet and it made me think about realism and naivety when students think about life beyond the doctorate:

For many students beginning a PhD, and this is especially true for the humanities, the end goal is a research position or lecturer. When we begin to think about the job hunt, we bemoan the paucity of academic positions, and I imagine that many of us are guilty of saying or thinking: 'Why can't older professors just retire already?'

This can cause issues. Firstly, we are putting the blame on established academics and the onus on them to be the drivers of new opportunities through their vacancy. Secondly, a newly minted PhD is likely not going to waltz straight into the dream lecturership or immediately become a professor, so it is naive to assume that retiring professors would benefit at all. And the trickle-down effect of academics being bumped up the line to replace that professor would barely register on the lower rungs of the academic job market.

More importantly, by blaming others for the saturation of the job market, we place the blame on others, on institutions, and on the system at large. We fail to look at ourselves and prepare for other outcomes and alternatives.

80% of humanities PhD's are in non-academic jobs, and retiring professors is not going to radically alter that figure. For those who want to stay in academia, by all means go for and do all the requisite criteria to maximise your chances:

  • Research
  • Teaching
  • Publications
  • Conferencing
  • Networking

However, don't be naive in assuming that ticking all the boxes equates to an academic job. It doesn't, because there are other PhD students who have equally ticked the same boxes. We need to prepare for alternative jobs which may fill the gap before that academic job comes along, or prepare for an alternative career as it may turn out that while you love your PhD, academia may not the right fit. Too few of these issues are raised early enough in PhD programs, and in fact, I believe that prospectus PhD students need to be aware of the realities before choosing to embark on this journey. 

The intention here is not to dampen anyone's dreams of an academic jobs! Rather, it is about being forewarned and forearmed, and prepared for that awkward period of time post-PhD. Be open to exploring different opportunities that come up and most importantly be flexible in your thinking! Don't be this guy:

*You can find the link to the article quoted in the tweet, here:

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