Monday, May 27, 2013

90. Virtually no one cares about what you are doing.

In graduate school, you often feel alone because you often are alone, but also because no one cares about what you're doing. You spend vast amounts of time and effort writing things that no one wants to read (see Reason 89), and no one wants to hear you talk about them either. Your mother isn't interested in your research. Your friends aren't interested. Your fellow graduate students, consumed by their own work, are most definitely not interested. Even your adviser may not be interested in what you're doing (see Reason 45). The people with a seemingly insatiable interest in your progress through graduate school—the people who ask you all those awkward questions—do not care about the projects that devour your thought and energy.

Not surprisingly, graduate students commonly suffer from intense loneliness and isolation, a reality made painfully clear by the search-engine queries that direct readers to 100 Reasons. The ritualized atmosphere of an academic conference (see Reason 74) is one of the few environments in which people pretend, for a few minutes at least, to be mildly interested in each other's research. In the event that people are interested in your work, their interest is likely hostile; that is, your work is similar to theirs, so they view you as a competitor (see Reason 2). Apart from conferences, you can go through life as a graduate student without ever meeting anyone who shows a genuine interest in what you're doing, which, over time, can make you begin to question your own interest in the rhetoric of masculinity in medieval French poetry, in the idiosyncrasies of Portuguese urban planning, or in the application of game theory to the economic behavior of soybean farmers. This helps explain why so many people find dissertations so excruciatingly hard to finish (see Reason 60) and why graduate-school attrition rates are so high (see Reason 46). It's not easy to care about your work when no one else does.



238 comments:

  1. Most people I knew never cared about what I investigated. The main reasons were that they didn't understand it and any explanations offered quickly bored them.

    My Ph. D. supervisor didn't care because it wasn't something he was interested in. He wasn't interested because it wasn't being funded and, since it wasn't funded, it wouldn't be worth mentioning on his CV or announcing to his department. He wasn't interested in because he didn't understand it nor was he interested in learning about it.

    He was interested in what he was investigating because there was money in it. There were conferences he could attend and submit papers to. On top of that, there were a number of young female grad students in his lab who were working on it and I'm convinced that his dealings with one of them were less than arm's length.

    The department wasn't interested in it because, again, there was no money in it. It might have been if my research involved building a fancy high-profile facility which it could use to impress the university administration and attract alumni donations. It might have been interested if it was something that one could write articles about for the alumni magazine or the local newspapers. But, no, my work required only a computer and lots of paper and could be done on a desktop in an office, so nobody cared.

    I worked part-time on my Ph. D. while I held a full-time teaching position at another post-secondary institution. Most of my colleagues weren't interested in what I was investigating, but, then, they thought I was nuts anyway. I was too educated for their liking, my personal interests were considered too weird (e. g., reading a quality newspaper like the "New York Times" instead of the local T & A fishwrap), and my personal life was suspect because I didn't talk much about it. Continuing with my studies was regarded as just another one of my apparent eccentricities.

    Most people didn't care about my research because it wasn't seen as relevant. It wasn't going to make them rich, famous, or beautiful. It wasn't going to result in something that had lots of blinking lights, generate winning lottery numbers, or make the Joneses keep up with them. It wasn't going to appear in a 30-second sound bite on the evening news nor would it be the subject of a reality TV show hosted by some scantily-clad celebrity.

    But that wasn't why I did it. I undertook my research because I wanted to. I did it because I was the one who was interested in it and what I thought and did was all that mattered. What other people thought or whether they were interested was of little concern to me.

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    1. Also, many employers aren't particularly interested in what one is doing during grad studies.

      In some cases, merely having a graduate degree is enough to disqualify someone for a job. One is seen as being over-qualified or, as happened to me many years ago, one is told that the job would be too boring compared to what one did for one's research.

      In other cases, one's degree or research is of no consequence because the qualifications for a certain position are determined by a government-mandated quota.

      Never mind what getting a graduate degree teaches one about how to solve problems, manage one's time, and write documents, all of which are useful in the workplace. So much for transferrable skills.

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    2. Interview question: "Give me an example of how you have solved a problem."

      Wrong answer: "I found I had to conduct an experiment on biofuels fermentation that I didn't have equipment for, so I devised and put together a regulated feed tank to carry out my experiment. Not being mechanically inclined it was really challenging."
      ***
      Right answer: "While consulting at BlitzenShit, I streamlined accounting procedures via BPO and reduced BS operating overhead by 37%, while devising a social media marketing campaign and enabling employee freedom by slashing headcount. All in a day's work, really."

      Interview question: "Discuss your time management skills."
      Wrong answer: "I was able to research and write a 150-page thesis, two sections of which were separately published in field research journals, while working part-time and taking courses, over the course of ten months."
      ***
      Right answer: "In my last job, I worked a 130-hour workweek while earning my marketing communications degree from Online Credential Printer University and spending 30 hours a week advising crowdsourcing start-ups as part of my work networking. Oh, and I also try to spend 20 hours a week reading to the deaf. It's not enough, really."

      Interview question: "Show me an example of your writing skills."
      Wrong answer: "Anticipating this, I've brought in the introduction to a textbook that I co-authored while in graduate school (hands interviewer a copy of the introduction). This is a copy of the textbook (hands interviewer a bound Xeroxed volume) which we've already submitted to X University Press."
      Interviewer: "That's... interesting..." (clearly nonplussed - flips through the paper and pushes both aside).
      Wrong Answer (cont'd): "Also, I received the maximum score on the verbal section of the GRE."
      Interviewer: "I don't know what that is. Wait a minute, isn't that some kind of high school equivalency?"
      ***
      Right Answer: "Um, I didn't bring my portfolio with me, but here's an RFP that my boss and the engineering department worked up that I edited and ran Spellcheck on. I get along really well with all those guys. Spellcheck is awesome. Just a second, let me get this (types on thumbpad on small communications device)."
      Interviewer: (muttering to self while taking notes) "Team player... leverages technology... effective multitasker..."


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    3. Part II:
      Interviewer: "Well, there's nothing more to discuss. We'll be in touch."
      Wrong answer: "Thank you for your consideration (leaves)."
      Interviewer to other interviewers: "Did that guy seem a little full of himself to you?"
      Interviewer B: "Oh yeah, he kept harping on about graduate school. Did you notice he doesn't even have a cellphone? He probably doesn't even know what 'Angry Birds' is."
      Interviewer A: "Yeah, he listed his grad school e-mail on his contact info. Really unprofessional. I think his lack of maturity might be a problem. How old is this guy? 27?"
      Interviewer C: "Yeah, that and his lack of tech awareness."
      (Later on phone) Wrong answer: "Ah, I just had the interview... I don't know... I'm really worried because this is the last contact I had... I don't know how I'm going to pay my student loans if this doesn't pan out... I really don't want to move back in with my parents if I can avoid it... got to get back to lab... yeah, it's temporary..."
      ***
      Interviewer: "It's been a real pleasure."
      Right answer: "Sure."
      Interviewer: "How might we get in touch?"
      Right answer: "Just go to LinkedIn or go to my Facebook page, it's all there. Keep it real (swipes offered hand and exits)."
      Interviewer (to other interviewers): "What do you think?"
      Interviewer B: "Obviously he's professional, and he's young and dynamic."
      Interviewer C: "And tech-savvy: he knows all the current popular stuff. Did you see him take that tweet?"
      Interviewer A: "Yes. I think he'd be a good fit - good at time management, keeps busy, good team player, real world accomplishments."
      Interviewer B: "Definitely one of us."
      (Later on phone) Right answer: "Yeah, I totally snowed those losers... I'm da bomb, they think I'm 'the man'... yeah, it's a shitty job, but I can do 'em for six months and then do someone else... nah, I don't think they'll check, they're all old lazy-ass diptards... yeah, let's go there and we can do jello shots, then we can go back, fire up the bong and play GTA Ultimate."

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    4. Anonymous:

      What you described is quite close to what I dealt with while I was looking for work after I quit my teaching job over 10 years ago.

      Soon after I resigned, I had a meeting with a local software firm for a technical writing position. I brought along a copy of a paper I presented as a sample of my work.

      I wasted my time. Early the following week, I was told--by e-mail, by the way--that what the company was looking for was more in the line of someone who could write advertising copy. Apparently, the "focus of the job" had changed during the weekend or so after I had my meeting.

      The young lady I met with was rather presumptuous. She claimed she was also in the "engineering field", as she put it. When I looked at her card after the meeting, the abbreviation behind her name looked like it was for some sort of computer network certification. That can hardly compare with my qualifications: 4 degrees in 2 different engineering positions plus professional registration in 3 provinces as well as nearly 20 years of industrial and teaching experience.

      I made several attempts to meet with people inside that same company but everyone I contacted had a similarly snotty attitude.

      Over 2 years later, I had an interview with a company in another province. If what it said about itself was to be believed, it was doing cutting-edge work and had developed technologies that nobody else in North America had. After I arrived, it became quickly apparent that it was nothing of the sort, but that's another story.

      I got the sense that I was the token old coot that they had to interview so that they could claim that they had considered all eligible candidates. That was soon obvious to me.

      I was asked the usual tell-us-about-yourself questions. I needn't have bothered answering them. I mentioned that, at the time, I was studying for my amateur radio operator's certification. It provided them with a few minutes of mirth and merriment. Obviously, by being interested in what, to them, must have seen as ancient technology, I was out of touch with what was current. Then I mentioned that I liked to listen to the Saturday afternoon opera broadcasts on the radio, partly so show that there was more to me others than technical matters. Again, derisive laughter. I wasn't just out of touch with what was current, I wasn't even on the same planet as them.

      Fortunately, I didn't get the job. I don't think I would have lasted very long.

      A few months ago, I applied for a position that involved some numerical modelling. I was suspicious when I read the ad because, apparently, one of the qualifications was a liking for the TV show "Big Bang Theory". (I detest it. It's not only poor comedy, I find it insults people who are well-educated and intelligent by portraying them as immature, dim-witted, and socially inept.) I was given short shrift. I suspect it was because I had either too much education or I was too old.

      But don't you know? There's an overwhelming shortage of people with backgrounds in engineering or science, isn't there?

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    5. Anonymous: "
      Wrong Answer (cont'd): "Also, I received the maximum score on the verbal section of the GRE.""

      It's also the wrong answer because it is illegal (in the US) for employers to make employment decisions based on criteria which are not directly applicable to the job. See Griggs v. Duke Power (Supreme Court decision). Don't set up a potential employer with a potential legal issue from the get go.

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    6. I don't believe US employers are terribly concerned with the legality of making employment decisions based on inapplicable criteria. There just isn't any real enforcement. As a consequence certain types of discrimination are extremely widespread, to the extent that these are regarded as permissible.

      Second, are you really making the argument that performance on a standardized exam that tests vocabulary and analytic comprehension has no relation to one's writing skills?

      My original point is that the candidate in question may have significant applicable skills, but that the prospective employer is incapable of interpreting or unwilling to consider the information with which he is presented.

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  2. No-one cares. This is because academics is a wholly self-serving enterprise. It's all about self-promotion and furthering your own goals and ambitions, whatever they may be. Even professors don't care, evident by the lacking interest most have towards teaching and supervising students. It's all about your own pet research project, and all else is secondary.

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    1. I wouldn't quite go so far as to say that the entire academic system is like you describe but, unfortunately, much of it is.

      My Ph. D. supervisor spent most of his career as an academic, having started as a government researcher. His attitude was that he didn't care what he investigated, so long as someone else paid for it.

      I took the opposite approach. Since I was interested in my research topic and since nobody else was funding it, I was the one who made the major decisions. Why not--it was my signature on the cheque.

      As for the attitude towards teaching and so forth, I've seen the system working from the inside. When I returned to university for the first time many years ago, I ended up as grad student representative at the department faculty meetings. It was quite an eye-opener.

      Much of a prof's time isn't spent on research or even teaching. There are all sorts of departmental duties one is often saddled with, many of which are trivial, frustrating, and time-consuming, such as updating course outlines and selecting textbooks. Often, there one has to deal with internal department politics which, sometimes, can become quite unsavory. Then there are policies dictated by the university administration that have to be followed and complied with, many of which defy logic and reason.

      Then there's the emphasis on money-harvesting. One is expected to raise one's own research funding from whatever sources are available, such as government or corporations. Often, that money doesn't necessarily go towards one's research project, depending upon the conditions by which it's made available. It might, for example, go into a departmental operating pool and it's that which allows the place to continue functioning.

      I agree that there are some profs who are interested only in self-promotion. I was a TA for one and he made sure he had as little to do with the lab sessions as possible. He jumped ship to another university a year or two after I finished my Ph. D., which nicely explained his indifference.

      It's easy to criticize a prof for not caring about their teaching, but, having been an instructor for many years, I can understand how easy that can come about. Who wants to deal with students who are ill-prepared or ill-mannered and ill-disciplined or try all sorts of ways to lie, cheat, and swindle their way through their education and do so day after day? Why should one be expected to be enthusiastic about teaching when one's authority is constantly undermined by administrators who don't want to do their jobs?

      Teaching nowadays is like playing a crap game with loaded dice. No matter how much effort one puts into maintaining educational standards, one can be over-ruled at any time by one's superiors because a student tells a fairy-tale sob story in order to weasel his or way through the system. When that happens, one quickly wonders what the point is.

      I'm glad I'm been out of that system now.

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    2. With regards to teaching, I agree with No Longer An Academic. Students are probably the least caring group of people within academia. They don't care how much time you spend creating lesson plans and doing other things to make sure they learn the material you're trying to teach. They'll still find ways to cheat, lie, and undermine your authority. And it seems as if students get worse and worse every semester. I can definitely see why professors put teaching on the backburner.

      I used to spend a ridiculous amount of time on teaching. I used to create fun lesson plans, give them extremely detailed feedback on their essays, schedule mandatory one-on-one sessions, etc., but I stopped. I guess I've gotten to the point where I don't care about teaching. I'm just sick of having uncaring, apathetic, disrespectful students.

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    3. Anonymous:

      Your comments could easily describe what I went through while I was teaching. I found it to be physically and mentally exhausting. After I quit, it took about 2 years before all the stress from that job finally dissipated.

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    4. @ Anonymous 05/28/13 :
      "Students are probably the least caring group of people within academia. They don't care how much time you spend creating lesson plans and doing other things to make sure they learn the material you're trying to teach. They'll still find ways to cheat, lie, and undermine your authority. And it seems as if students get worse and worse every semester."

      You may feel this way, but do you objectively believe this is the case? I guarantee there are some students that do not "cheat, lie, and undermine (one's) authority."

      However, their interests will be diminished by the extent to which cheating, lying and the undermining of authority are allowed to flourish, by the extent to which their investments in time and energy are disregarded by the people around them, and by the extent to which they are pissed on for not being involved to the instructor's satisfaction.

      It is hard to be exciting (or excited) all the time. That applies to everyone.

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    5. No, I don't believe that every single student lies and cheats, but I've had my fair share of students who do those things. I'm not just speaking as a professor, I'm speaking as a former student as well.

      I'm also a tough professor so I don't let students get away with this stuff. I won't hesitate to turn students in for plagiarism [seems as if I have two or three of those cases a semester nowadays] or call them out when they make up excuses for why they didn't do their homework. My teaching reviews always discuss how I'm such a hard grader and I take my class too seriously [grade inflation and the customer satisfaction model that higher education has taken makes it so that students think they are OBLIGATED to As and don't have to work hard for it]. In comparison to many of my colleagues who have essentially given up on teaching and let their students control their classroom, I guess I do take my teaching too seriously. But as I said before, I now see why professors put teaching on the back burner. I haven't given up on teaching to the extent that I let the students run my classroom, but I don't put in as much effort as I used to.

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    6. I also want to add that I blame administrators for why students act the way they do. At least at my university, the administration cares more about high retention rates, good grades, high graduation rates and [most importantly] money more than they care about students learning. And many students don't hesitate to take advantage of a broken system.

      When I was a student, I tutored in the Writing Center, and you would not believe the amount of plagiarism I saw...

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    7. Yes I would, I was a whistleblower.

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    8. Anonymous @ 2013-06-04 1150/1207:

      I went through that while I was an instructor at a tech school. When I first started nearly 24 years ago, there were a few people who figured they could bluff their way into eventually graduating. It varied from one class to another but I'd say 10% at most.

      During my last year, I taught a service course and I estimated that at least a third were trying to pull some sort of stunt. I brought this to the attention of their department head and he simply laughed it off. Then again, he didn't care because he had a year or two left before he retired.

      My last department head went so far as to blame me for any cheating that went on. After all, if I hadn't been so demanding and had set such high standards, the students wouldn't have been forced to resort to under-handed means in order to pass. What he refused to acknowledge was that I was teaching in accordance with what had been clearly stated in the course outlines, so I was doing that part of my job properly.

      At first, I worked hard at my teaching but, after a few years, I didn't care. Many of the students clearly didn't and those were always the ones who the department administrators listened to. The administrators didn't care, so long as there weren't any complaints, nobody dropped out, and as many people as possible graduated.

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  3. Only one person need care about your research: you. If you care about it, that's all that matters. No one really cared about what I was doing but I still did it because I loved what I was doing. It is rewarding that now a few more people care about what I'm doing, but even if no one ever did, I still would. You should not start a PHD program based on how many others are interested in what you are doing. If you're not doing for yourself, and yourself alone, don't do it.

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    1. Echoed here by a senior scholar of International Relations: "Follow your interests. Don’t be deterred from doing that. I mean, if you want to get into this line of business, it doesn’t pay well, and the job is not as free in the sense of giving you control over your time as it used to be, so the big remaining justification for it is that it enables you to do what you want to do. Basically, you have to find a way of turning what you’re interested in into something that will interest others and may be part of a larger conversation. But don’t be steered away from what you’re interested in, because otherwise the whole thing is a bit pointless. You have to love this in order to do it, so stick with whatever inspires you." http://www.e-ir.info/2013/03/27/interview-barry-buzan-2/

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    2. Indeed.

      My first grad supervisor didn't care about my progress but whether I was producing data that he could publish under his own name. My second one didn't care because he didn't understand what I was doing.

      My last one wouldn't have minded if I had quit. He would take several days to respond to my e-mail messages. One day, I sent him a memo and wrote that it came from the Maytag repairman. It took him 2 weeks to not only respond but to figure out what I meant by that.

      It was only my own stubborn determination that allowed me to finish my grad degrees because my supervisors weren't particularly interested if I did.

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    3. Anonymous @2013-05-27 1317:

      It's all fine and dandy to say that one should do something if one is interested in it, but if there's no profit in doing so, what's the point?

      It's nice to have a fancy-schmancy graduate degree in some obscure discipline, but one has to eat and pay one's bills after graduation.

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    4. Sometimes you think you like something more than you do. Sometimes what you like turns out to be something other than you thought it was. Sometimes you really love something, but working on it day after day kills your enthusiasm for it.

      For many (most?) people, grad school is a long, drawn-out way to learn you don't like something the way you thought you did.

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    5. "Only one person needs to care about your research: you."

      Unless you are pursuing a PhD as a retirement hobby, I'm sure the vast majority of prospective grads want to inspire change with their research. What good is learning if no one else can benefit from it? You're endlessly polishing a trophy that's only going to sit in a dark room.

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    6. But at least I earned my trophy and I'm the one who gets to polish it, if I so choose.

      If nobody else benefits from my research, I'm not going to worry about it. I did and that's what ultimately matters.

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    7. It's very difficult for a human being to think beyond his or her lifespan. Understandably, the idea that they will not gain a specific amount of recognition from others often equates to failure in their eyes. However, I can't count how many papers or books I have read from authors who have long since died, most likely never having gained recognition in their lifetime and quite probably had not had any readers before me in a number of years. The fact is, somewhere down the line, they mattered. It's a nice thought, and gets me through rough times when I am writing articles or editing chapters, but for some people it is not enough. When it's not enough, you have to fall back on your own desire to do what you do. When that doesn't exist, those people get angry and often blame a system that doesn't care about everything rather than understand it was them that didn't care enough in the first place. In the end, one has to be comfortable with learning for learning's sake. It doesn't mean no one gets to see the trophy, but it does mean that you may never get to meet a fraction of those that admire it.

      Academia is flawed. However, a topic as subjective as "no one will read your research" is inherently a weak argument.

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  4. I think the most insulting thing a person can say to someone presenting a paper on their research topic is "that was interesting."

    That really translates to mean "your talk was boring and I didn't pay enough attention to come up with a single question." It often provides a segway into the other person's own pet research topic (as "interesting" to the other person).

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    1. Now that I think of it, out of the half-dozen or so conferences I've been to and dozens of sessions within, I have heard only a handful of comments or questions that did not segue back to the questioner's research. Many of the questions are typically backhanded compliments designed to put down the presenter in some way, and build up the questioner.

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    2. Another way one can be insulting is what happened to me at a conference many years ago.

      My Ph. D. supervisor had a number of students, most of whom were working in a field completely different from mine. I attended some of their presentations because I wanted to know a bit about what they were working on. I was presenting my paper the next day and I invited them to come. Most said they would.

      Guess who never bothered to show up?

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    3. Sick of Grad SchoolMay 28, 2013 at 7:49 PM

      Academics have seriously abused the word "interesting". Whenever someone tells me that my research or talk was interesting, I know that they a. don't care about it or b. dislike my research but don't have the guts to say it. Saying that something is interesting is a cop out.

      At one conference I presented at, I had a member of the audience ask me this: "So that was an interesting paper. Have you read (insert obscure book that only three people on this planet has read)? I'm writing an article on it." The person then proceeded to talk for ten minutes about their research while belittling me for not knowing some random obscure book he's writing about. The book also had absolutely nothing to do with my talk.

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  5. Thank you, blog author, for pointing out this fine reason. No matter how invested and interested you are in your own research, it is definitely difficult to finish writing a dissertation when you feel that no one understands or cares about what you are doing. The only thing that motivated me to finish my dissertation was a job offer contingent on having my PhD in hand. Now that I have a faculty position, I have realized that there are even fewer people who care about what I am doing. I hear about colleagues' research very rarely, and when I do, I honestly do not understand what they are talking about.

    I think that this post did a wonderful job of pointing out the contrast between "feigned interest" and "genuine interest." For example, colleagues may "pretend" to be "mildly interested," as this blog author pointed out, but they are only attempting to be polite and collegial. When a friend of mine (a non-academic, by the way) recently showed genuine interest in my dissertation topic, asking me thoughtful and sincere questions, I was floored. That is the first time anyone has shown genuine interest since I began graduate school almost ten years ago.

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    1. You described most of my Ph. D. committee members. During my defence, I could tell who actually read my thesis based on the questions they asked. Those who did asked about what I actually did and what the results were. Those who didn't could have found the answers if they'd read the manuscript. Dealing with them was like the Bob & Ray comedy sketch about the Komodo dragon.

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    2. One of my committee members didn't read mine and actually fell asleep after his questions were done!

      Another one did read it...but he admitted it was the weekend before and probably not a very thorough reading.

      My advisor actually read it.

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    3. "I have to admit that I didn't have time to read your thesis proposal... However, I do have a question. Why aren't you investigating *my interest* as an outcome variable?"

      True story. Even better true story: thesis chair was married to this person. Guess who added an outcome variable based on this "question?"

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  6. Also, you probably don't know how to talk about it in a way that anyone will find interesting. Can you summarize the important points of your work in four or five sentences, none of which contain mumbo-jumbo (cf Reason 35)? Can you explain in one or two sentences why it is interesting or pertinent at all to something anyone else has heard of? Can you be quiet for long enough to listen to someone's question, and then courteous enough to answer it succinctly? Pop science, history, psychology, economics, etc, are, well, popular, even among people who have never studied those subjects. If your project is not, your presentation is probably at least partly to blame.

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    1. Excellent point, Eileen.

      Speaking in "academese" is snobbery. For that matter, using legitimate technical language is snobbery if you know your audience isn't familiar with it. "Academese" is worse because it's so transparent. It garners no respect outside of the academy. It invites ridicule.

      You have to be pretty stupid (ironically enough) to think that academic snobbery impresses anyone, but that gets us back to reason #1.

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  7. As you get older, people become less concerned. I remember when I first went to grad school, people were interested and asked me questions about what I was doing. Then, as they moved on with their lives with kids etc..., they cared less and started to give that "you're still in school?" reaction.

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    1. Most people in my age group in my apartment complex have a "so what?" attitude when I mention I have a Ph. D. I guess they figure I'm weird enough, so having a lot of education is part of it.

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  8. "In the event that people are interested in your work, their interest is likely hostile"

    Exactly!!!! And whats often worse is how you catch yourself hating other peoples' research when its similar to yours.

    I'm going to a conference in 2 days and I'm gearing up for this.

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  9. It's true people don't care about what you are doing in grad school. They are more concerned with what you are not doing while a student - i.e. having a career, getting married, raising children, buying a house, etc.

    I look back now and remember dismissing those people who showed such concern, mostly people in my family. They weren't important at the time, not as much as living the "life of the mind" and chasing academic rainbows. Now, I get to play catchup for those lost years in grad school for the rest of my life.

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    1. There are opportunity costs for everything.

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    2. AWOL, that's very true. I lost a lot of friends and neglected family because I thought graduate school would be the shining badge of my life. Everything else was second place. Further in you begin to question if it's worth it. Methinks most academics feel the same way but they deflect it with an air of condescension.

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    3. I've encountered people like that while I was a grad student. For many of them, it was a case of sour grapes. They wished they had the opportunity to study for, say, a Ph. D. but couldn't because they had a house and family to take care of.

      I didn't feel sorry for them as I seriously doubt they were forced into their respective ways of life.

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    4. I have yet to meet a PhD dropout who does not, in one way or another, regret the decision to quit. And there's nothing you can say or do to change that view.

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    5. AWOL:

      It's understandable why someone would have such regrets. One has invested a great deal of time, energy, and money on something and, in the end, has little to show for it.

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    6. No Longer An Academic, heh even those who finish the PhD have little to show for it. That's what this whole blog is about.

      Delete
    7. Anonymous:

      At least when one finishes a Ph. D., one has something tangible to show for one's efforts, which is better than being classified as ABD.

      Delete
    8. As a counterexample to AWOL at 2:40pm:
      http://davidliss.com/?page_id=13

      Delete
  10. Jackson Von HammersteinbergMay 28, 2013 at 4:02 PM

    "...no one cares about what you're doing."

    What!? Are you seriously trying to tell me that no one cares about my pioneering research on hegemonic media representations of Kurdish immigrant women in northern rural British Columbia from 1985-2003, with a special emphasis upon suburban local print news media?

    I refuse to believe such outlandish nonsense.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Questioning the validity of certain areas of research is nothing new. Look up who American Senator William Proxmeyer was or the phrase "Golden Fleece Award".

      Delete
    2. Jackson Von HammersteinbergMay 28, 2013 at 5:33 PM

      Thanks! I'm also writing a paper on the inverse relationship between time spent in academia and the ability to pick up on sarcasm. I am hoping to win a Nobel Prize for this research.

      Delete
    3. What's funny is that might actually be a real dissertation.

      Delete
    4. Jackson, I find you statements appalling. The world has use for studies in 18th-Century Arctic Literature with a Lemon Twist. You're obviously too uncultured to grasp its importance.

      Delete
    5. Jackson Von HammersteinbergMay 28, 2013 at 9:48 PM

      What! Do you have any idea who I am? I am the runner up for Fourth Best Paper at the 2007 meeting of the Eastern Division of the Southwestern States Media Studies Association.

      Delete
    6. Jackson - that sounds like an INTERESTING topic. lol

      But isn't your time frame a bit broad? I suggest narrowing it down to five years. Thirteen years is a survey.

      You topic is also missing a colon.

      Delete
    7. Not just a colon, a semi-colon.

      Delete
    8. Jackson Von HammersteinbergMay 30, 2013 at 11:15 AM

      Good lord! You're right. And I also left out the requisite parentheses, without which no dissertation title is acceptable. Here is a revised version:

      Hegemonic media (re)presentations of Kurd(ish) (im)migrant (wo)men in north(ern) rural Brit(ish) Columbia: 1985-2003; With a special emphasis (up)on (sub)urban local print news media.

      Delete
    9. Much better, but you should still narrow the time frame so it's not a survey - God forbid your research is taught to undergrads!

      Delete
    10. And don't forget to interrogate the metanarrative.

      Delete
  11. Sick of Grad SchoolMay 28, 2013 at 8:22 PM

    To be honest, I've stopped talking about my research interests with people. If I'm asked about my interests, I give a brief one sentence summary and then change the subject. Typically, the other person just says "That's interesting" anyway, as if they don't give a crap about my research.

    To build off of the earlier conversation about conferences, I really wish there was a mandatory seminar that academics had to take about conference question etiquette. No, it is not okay to ask a presenter a question just so that you have an excuse to talk about your own research. And saying that something is "interesting" is not insightful or helpful.

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    Replies
    1. I don't talk much about my research, either.

      When I do mention it, I often get "hmmm... interesting....", though what it really means is: "I have no idea what you're talking about."

      I sometimes, however, get someone's fruit-loop ideas about what I should be working on in my field or what my research should be used for. Never mind that they don't have any background others than what they may have seen on, say, Discovery Channel, let alone actually understand what I actually did.

      So, nowadays, if someone asks, I give a vague answer that I was involved with computer modelling and leave it at that.

      Delete
  12. Academia is a charade. If you know this going in, it won't be soul-crushing and you might have a chance to make it to the top.

    The game doesn't get exposed very often, but take a look at this rare gem: an academic article about the uselessness of the academic article business.

    ***

    "Peer-review Practices of Psychological Journals: The Fate of Published Articles, Submitted Again" by Douglas P. Peters and Stephen J. Ceci.

    Behavioral and Brain Sciences 5:2 (June 1982)

    ABSTRACT

    A growing interest in and concern about the adequacy and fairness of modern peer-review practices in publication and funding are apparent across a wide range of scientific disciplines. Although questions about reliability, accountability, reviewer bias, and competence have been raised, there has been very little direct research on these variables.

    The present investigation was an attempt to study the peer-review process directly, in the natural setting of actual journal referee evaluations of submitted manuscripts. As test materials we selected 12 already published research articles by investigators from prestigious and highly productive American psychology departments, one article from each of 12 highly regarded and widely read American psychology journals with high rejection rates (80%) and nonblind refereeing practices.

    With fictitious names and institutions substituted for the original ones (e.g., Tri-Valley Center for Human Potential), the altered manuscripts were formally resubmitted to the journals that had originally refereed and published them 18 to 32 months earlier. Of the sample of 38 editors and reviewers, only three (8%) detected the resubmissions. This result allowed nine of the 12 articles to continue through the review process to receive an actual evaluation: eight of the nine were rejected. Sixteen of the 18 referees (89%) recommended against publication and the editors concurred. The grounds for rejection were in many cases described as “serious methodological flaws.” A number of possible interpretations of these data are reviewed and evaluated.

    http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=6577844

    ReplyDelete
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    1. This isn't anything new. I heard a radio documentary about something similar some 30 years ago. One of the things mentioned was that one's affiliation has a great influence on whether one's manuscript is accepted and published.

      If one was associated with a big-name institution, one's chances are better than someone who's at Podunk College.

      Don't think it was any better in industry back then. It was much the same there. Many of the shenanigans portrayed on "Mad Men" are familiar to me as I saw that first-hand about 10 years after the current series of episodes of the show take place.

      It hasn't improved over time.

      Delete
    2. That was a devilish study.

      The prestige bias is regrettable. But something is seriously wrong when eight of nine journals reject THEIR OWN published articles without noticing that they already published them.

      Delete
    3. NLAA, look at the date that article was published. It was June 1982. That paper has over 600 citations, it's been floating around for 31 years. But, as far as I can see, it hasn't changed anything.

      Delete
  13. I just wanted to say that I appreciate this blog so much. I am mulling over whether or not to continue working on my Master of Arts degree in Gender Studies, and it has proved to be one of the most agonizing decisions of my life. I love the topic of my project: intersections of racial justice and LGBTQ justice. The problem is the environment of academia...I dislike being alone all the time. I dislike the fact that no one cares about the work that I am doing. In fact, so much of me believes that my passion for this work would work better elsewhere...I'm tired of the elitism, the pretension, the inaccessibility of academic work to people outside of graduate programs, the smugness, the condescension.

    Right now, my only reasons for staying are wanting to finish the degree and wondering if finishing the degree will help me get a job outside of academia. Both of these, I believe, are not great reasons for staying.

    Anyhow, I just wanted to say "Thank You" for this blog. It's time people knew how unhealthy graduate school can be.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Since you're already in the middle of your Master's program, I would only quit it if you have a good, stable job available. At this point, it's all about being able to payoff your debt in this bad economy. A good job is much more valuable than a degree these days.

      You mention you want your degree to get you a job outside of academia. For that to happen you need to start looking for jobs that specifically require your degree. The age of "transferable skills" is coming to an end. Employers want you to already know the job and they don't want to train you. Start looking for a job now and don't engross yourself in your studies as if they are your only hope for employment. We have an excess of proud, unemployed graduates in this economy.

      Delete
    2. On the other hand, quitting grad school with no degree doesn't look good on one's CV. It indicates that one might not have what it takes to finish a major project, including solving any problems that might arise.

      One could start a business, but doing what? I thought about starting a private practice after I quit my teaching job, but, after looking into the matter, I realized that it might be more headache than it would have been worth for me. Aside from the legal issues that one has to comply with, there's a lot of competition from larger and better-established firms. On top of that, smaller jobs that those companies couldn't be bothered with could be farmed out to some outfit overseas for next to nothing.

      Private research perhaps? Try getting funding. I tried and failed because I was neither an academic nor was I a private firm. I tried selling my idea to a number of companies and was either ignored or given short shrift. Either they weren't interested in my ideas or they thought I was a loony.

      There's no easy answer to this.

      Delete
    3. No Longer An Academic, today's job market prizes work experience over graduate degrees. This is why I said your efforts need to be focused on finding a job, instead of solely on your studies. It's becoming less and less important whether you have or have not completed a graduate program.

      Many Master's degree holders say that adding their Master's to their resume have disqualified them for numerous positions. They are "overqualified" and now can't even get their foot in the door. Unless the job you are applying to specifically requires your degree, you may have done more harm than good by going into graduate school. Anon 2:15, start looking for a job now!

      Delete
    4. Being over-qualified by simply having a master's degree is nothing new. I faced that when I was out of work 30 years ago.

      Delete
    5. @Anon 2:15 Good luck with your decision. If the program is costing you money, then I'd get out. If you're funded, don't feel like you have to stay in the program just because you have funding.

      When you're using expressions like "intersections of justice," then you have to ask yourself if you've been in school too long.

      Delete
    6. If it was a PhD I would say quit. But MAs are 2 to 3 years, and you're already well into it, so maybe you've only got 1 year or so left. My advice would be to expedite your research, take the degree, and run. The only good thesis or dissertation is a DONE thesis or dissertation. Finish it. Start now.

      The good thing about MAs vs. PhDs is that they're quicker, and while you're not as immersed in academic life, you get enough of a taste of it to see if it's for you.

      That said, if you've got MORE than 18 months left, I would strongly consider quitting at this point if you're feeling this way.

      Delete
    7. I'd look into university adminstration. A gender studies grad degree could play well in a student affairs/advising capacity, especially working with diversity offices, underrepresented student groups, greek life, etc.

      Decry the rise of the administrative class in higher education institutions if you must, but it is certainly a less solitary profession than that of academic. Good luck.

      Delete
  14. I'm always surprised when academics can admit that no one cares about their work. While most can begrudgingly admit any of their work isn't making a difference, as soon as you logically begin to question the practically of their field they suddenly change into a positive tune.

    It's unfortunate that prospective grads have to get advice from those already engrained in academia. Can you give them the honest truth even if that lowers the credibility of your field? No. So the new grads are told lies about how their lint beetle studies will help them in life, only to find out that it really doesn't. Then, to save face, they have to tell the same lies to the next prospective grads. What a wonderful cycle of misery and denial!

    ReplyDelete
  15. I like this blog because I think the criticism helps everyone in academia, even those who would be better off staying. But to the commenters - do you think this is different in other walks of life? Do you think people are really interested in what Walmart managers do, on or off their jobs?

    Life is hard on everyone. Wall Street execs, startups, activists/lobbyists, doctors, lawyers - nobody gets a free ride these days. So while you should keep your eyes and mind open while you go through academia (especially if you havent gone to grad school yet) - have no illusions, you will have to work hard everywhere. It comes down to what best motivates you to work as hard s you need.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't help but think you're trying to downplay how pointless the grad school experience really is. Yes, every job is hard, but Grad school puts you in a unique position. If you cannot get a well-paying position within academia, you're put in a very bad situation.

      All degrees are not created equal and employers outside of academia may not value your degree. They may even disqualify you for having the Masters/PhD. You face this while your nondischargeable student loans are adding up.

      Grad school may be the biggest gamble in your life. You may be motivated to continue your schooling, but it may be putting you further behind in the rat race of life if/when you decide on a career outside of academia.

      Delete
    2. Academe is unpaid work that has a very low return on investment at the end of the day. Even at Walmart you at least get a wage and trhough experience can work your way up to a supervisory role.

      The closest comparison you can make to academe is missonary work. Both are driven by doctrine and both are meaningless without it.

      Delete
    3. Those are all valid opinions to have but you can't generalize that to everyone. The main problem of academia is false advertising IMO. There's a certain type of people for whom academia is good - but its not a large part of the population. That's why I said this blog is good - it helps people get a real picture of academia, which is needed whether they end up going or not going.

      Also most everything in this life is driven by doctrine. The internal culture of a lot of jobs can be bordering on cult-like, it's definitely not just academia.

      Delete
    4. Anon 11:59, you can deflect as much as you want but graduate school is less viable than it has ever been. The combination of student loans rising faster than inflation and American wages stagnating for the past 30 years does not bode well for prospective graduates.

      Of course, instead of giving accurate depictions graduate school prospects, academics prefer to sweep it under the rug. EVEN on a blog about why you shouldn't go to grad school. Why? Because we certainly don't want prospective grads choosing a different path that doesn't include higher learning. It lowers the credibility of the business...er... educational system.

      Delete
    5. If I had stayed in industry rather than returning to university for grad studies, I would have become incurably bored. Much of what I did hardly made use of what I learned for my B. Sc.

      My first employer didn't care what my discipline was as it expected me to discard my undergrad education and start again from scratch. For example, I suffered for 2 days in a company-run course which was a re-hash of what I learned in 4 earlier courses.

      At most of my other employers, I would typically spend a few months learning about what I was working on. After that, it was the same boring thing over and over again.

      I could have gone into management like many of my undergrad classmates wanted to do, but that would have been worse as I wanted to work on technical things.

      Grad studies provided the best option for me.

      Delete
    6. So where is the grass greener then? You really think this is only academia? Go read for example how some lawyers, doctors and bankers live. For many it's the same nuts lifestyle as academia, complete with indoctrination, no hobbies or social life outside of your career etc.

      Like I said academia isn't for everyone and was never designed to be. 95% of the damage is from people being led to believe that academia is the land of milk and honey whereas it has always been sort of a monastery for people who have an almost unhealthy interest in studying obscure subjects.

      And I'm not at all against this blog. Like I said, I think this is probably the most useful blog for any current or aspiring academic to read.

      Delete
    7. Anonymous @ 2013-05-30 1234:

      One reason one seldom hears about the negative aspects of grad school is tradition.

      When I started on my first master's degree in the late 1970s, few people, if any, talked about what really went on. If one did, and was caught doing so, it was often the kiss of death to one's career. One could become blacklisted for being a grass or one's supervisor might not provide a recommendation.

      It wasn't until about 20 years ago that people began talking about what really happens in academe, thanks in part to the Internet. Then I started reading articles about how miserable being a post-doc can often be.

      But, I doubt the general public really cares.

      Delete
    8. Anon 12:55, where is the grass greener? How about just starting almost any job after your BA? Chances are, prospective graduates already have loan interest piling up, and waiting to start paying it off is a gamble you could pay for the rest of your life. Going into grad school compounds the risk if your degree isn't what employers consider useful.

      I can tell you're very invested in academia. That's good for you, but please don't try to influence prospective grads into joining this mad house. I'd venture to say the majority of students enter graduate school to become more employable and to become financially secure. Nowadays our fresh MA and PhD holders are unemployed and knee-deep in debt that will haunt them for the rest of their lives. Hey, but at least they learned stuff while they were there. :)

      Delete
    9. @1:16

      Hey, no need to worry about my sanity. I think we agree that grad school isn't a good option for most people. I'm not planning to convince anyone into going to grad school, why would I support this blog if I was trying to do that?

      Delete
  16. The above comment is @12:34

    ReplyDelete
  17. All it takes is a casual leafing through any "serious" research journal to realize that this is the case. Even people interested in your subject probably don't care about what you're doing, unless you're a superstar or interested in the exact same tiny section of the field as they are.

    Further, if you truly are interested medieval French masculinity, there's nothing stopping you from pursuing research on the subject on your own in your spare time. To paraphrase a common refrain I hear from friends in academia, you don't need a Ph.D to publish about things nobody cares about in obscure journals. You could work a "normal" job and do that kind of stuff in your spare time. Of course, you may actually find yourself with a social life, money to spend, and things to do, so you may choose not to bother in the end.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Perhaps the best example of someone working on his research while holding a full-time job is Albert Einstein. While employed by the Swiss patent office, he laid the groundwork for the theory of relativity.

      After I got my Ph. D., I thought I would do the same. I had a full-time teaching job and I planned on working on my research on my own time. However, there were some people at the institution who thought that by doing so, I was engaging in time theft. They figured that time spent on my research was time stolen from my students, even though I would have been doing it after hours.

      Delete
    2. How many "normal" people do that? There were some "independent scholars" in my field that would sometimes show up at conferences and they were always a little.... quirky. Kind of like trekkies in a way.

      Delete
    3. It certainly does require some personal commitment and discipline and not everyone can do it. I remember how tough it was for me to work on my last 2 degrees part-time while I was teaching.

      It helped that I didn't have a wife and children to worry about.

      Delete
  18. It's true that you should study for yourself, and no one else. Whether you are pursuing a passion or something that you believe will lead you to a well-paying career, you should study for your own interests.

    That said, the fact that almost no one cares about what you do--unless, as someone else said, he or she has a specialty that's the same as, or related to, yours--exacerbates the alienation and isolation some people feel in graduate school. That leads to a host of other problems.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are advantages to this, though.

      By working on an obscure subject, I don't have to worry about too much competition, if any. Nearly anything I do will be new and I won't have to be concerned about being scooped.

      Mind you, there isn't a lot of funding available but, since all I need for what I'm working on is a computer and lots of paper, that isn't a major concern.

      Delete
  19. Of all the issues "not" to go to grad school, I would rank them this way, from least important to most important.

    4) annoying & unpleasant people and/or culture

    Most workplaces will have people, policies, practices, etc... that rub you the wrong way at one time or another. I don't see this as a very legitimate reason unless you are somehow unaware of what academic people are like.

    3) Difficulty of finding a job -

    It's hard out there for a pimp. Seriously, life's tough, deal with it. If you want a job quick - there are three fields right now that are no-brainers. Engineering, various aspects of software development & IT, and health care, particularly nursing. Be careful how you specialize in those, because some areas within those fields are more in demand than others. But generally speaking, that's where the jobs are. But it's not like they fall into your lap even in those fields; you still have to work hard at it.

    Academia has NEVER been a high yield sector when it comes to entry level job openings. Never. Every professor, young or old, that I have ever known had to move across the country for their job. There can only be a limited number of professors of any given subject in any given area. There are other professions that are just as bad, think journalism or law.

    2) Debt. This is a very serious issue when compounded with limited job availability. Generally speaking you should not think about grad school unless funded. However, if the program funds you? Well, I've had friends that wasted multiple years of their life in less educational and much more destructive ways. If you're going to waste years, you can do worse than grad school.

    1) The personal factor. This to me is the most important. There's the loneliness factor - most academic research is solitary work, and you're too old for the undergrad hangouts. There's the delay of family. Some people don't care much about family and kids, and for those people it's fine. But, if you are a professor, you will be pushing 35 or 40 before you have the stability to settle into a home and populate it with spouse and kids.

    Then the two-body problem just blows, BIG time. Epic. The overwhelming odds are that whatever relationship you forge during your grad school years will be violently and tragically ripped apart by the demands of your respective careers. Unless you are a star or have (administrative) connections, you will not be able to negotiate a spousal hire.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. "annoying & unpleasant people"

      I agree with you on this. I've worked for a variety of employers over the years and there were idiots, irritants, and scoundrels at each of those places. Just what sort of idiot, irritant, or scoundrel I had to deal with depended on where I was.

      "Difficulty in finding a job"

      First of all, I'll state that, despite what one hears in the media, there is no shortage of engineers. That fish story's been circulating for about 20 years and it's simply not true. What there is a shortage of, though, are engineers willing to work for next to nothing or have extremely specialized qualifications.

      One might argue that there are lots of jobs being advertised but the reality is that many of those were posted by companies wanting to lure people from their competitors. By doing so, they take advantage of the experience and knowledge those potential employees gained at someone else's expense.

      Many of those jobs that are advertised don't really exist. Those postings might be part of a proposal to see if there are people available should the project for which they'd be hired would actually be approved and funded. Often, those jobs are posted to comply with government or company regulations. The preferred candidate might already have been chosen but the law dictates that all "eligible" applicants be considered.

      Much of what one hears is largely a sham.

      That being said, academic jobs aren't so plentiful, either. I thought that certain colleges and universities might be interested in what I had to offer. I had both industrial and teaching experience. Did that help? Nope. Usually it was because I wasn't investigating what was popular (i. e., lavishly funded), but I'm sure there were other reasons as well.

      Having taught at a post-secondary institution, I can't say that an academic job is all that terrific.

      "Debt"

      Actually, I don't that's as much as a problem as is a lack of a proper income.

      Full-time grad students usually earn a meager wage, just barely enough to pay their living expenses and tuition. That income comes from sources such as TAships and they can sometimes be scarce. As well, profs have been known to exploit their students to do things that aren't directly related to their research. I knew one student who was required to do things like analyze data for other projects that her supervisor was involved with and those projects had little to do with her thesis topic. I guess it was a case of "do it or you'll lose your funding".

      Often, the income that those grad students receive just barely covers their tuition. I remember when my alma mater decided to adopt a certain management software program. Unfortunately, it didn't work properly and people weren't going to get paid until a month or two after term started. Some grad students were threatened with expulsion because their TAships weren't available and they couldn't pay their tuition. Rumour had it that whoever was responsible for inflicting that software on the university was given the boot shortly afterward.

      After graduation, whatever employment they do get, if any, probably won't pay enough for them to start paying off whatever loans they might have had. That's particularly true now because employers are interested in paying as little as possible.

      Delete
    2. "The personal factor"

      I didn't find that to be much of a problem. I prefer working alone and, often, when I had difficulties, it was easier for me to fix things myself than to try and explain it to someone else who might know was I was referring to.

      When I was younger, I thought one day I'd have a wife and children. Now that I'm a lot older, maybe I'm better off remaining single and childless. It's hard enough for couples to stay married nowadays but doing so as a student would be particularly difficult. After teaching other people's offspring, I had misgivings about becoming a father.

      I remember watching a series of programs on PBS's "Nova" which were broadcast over several years. It followed a group of medical students from when they started to some time after they graduated. Several of them were either married or engaged when the series began. By the time it ended, a few of them were divorced--one had remarried and another one who got married part way through the series split from that wife .

      I also remember one grad student I knew who had 2 children when he started and 4 when he graduated.

      Personally, I think the most negative aspect about grad school was politics. Supervisors can exercise an enormous control over their students which can also include whether those students can get jobs. The wrong word from a supervisor could ruin someone's career prospects. Often, that can be purely for personal reasons and have nothing to do with one's work.

      Unfortunately, administrators can do a lot of damage to a person's prospects, even after they start working and have permanent status or tenure.

      Delete
    3. My former partner and I had to choose between career and relationship. It was either one of us give up academic work and follow the other's career, or both take the jobs we were offered, none of which were close to each other. Guess which happened. It's been more than a year and I still haven't fully recovered from the experience.

      Delete
    4. Engineering and IT are being flooded with H1B visa holders from India. You won't get a job. So it is a 'no brainer' only in the way that if someone chooses those fields, they'll really have 'no brains'

      Delete
    5. We have a similar problem here in Canada. The issue of temporary foreign workers has been in the news lately.

      Yet, there still are academic jobs available, though there are a lot of restrictions. Someone I knew from my grad student days got her TT job because she was Chinese and a woman. She got it because of a policy that could be summed up as "white men need not apply".

      When I was younger, people thought I was crazy for not going on vacation or buying a house. Instead, I saved and invested my money over the years and spent it carefully, watching every penny. I'm now living comfortably from the results of my financial approach, partly because I can't find a job.

      Delete
    6. LOL, so what field IS good to major in? Since I have always heard that engineering is a good one.

      Delete
    7. Take a look at this:

      http://heather.cs.ucdavis.edu/h1b.html

      I've also seen video presentations from firms that advise employers on how to get around employment laws in order to hire foreign workers.

      Here in Canada, there have been allegations that not only does the federal government encourage the hiring of temporary foreign workers, it supports a program which trains them in their home countries. Specifically, workers were for a certain trade, even though there are many qualified Canadian tradesmen ready and willing to work if only someone wanted to hire them.

      There is no shortage of engineers and there never has been.

      Delete
    8. No Longer An Academic is right about the misuse of visa programs to displace professional workers. I think he's linking to some of Dr. Norm Matloff's research and writing on the H-1B visa. Dr. Matloff began his lobbying against H-1B in the 1990s and has been one of the program's most prominent critics.

      Also see - various Computerworld articles, Dice News articles, articles written by Patrick Thibodeaux, and zazona.com (started by ex-Intel engineer Rob Sanchez who was displaced by an H-1B in the 1990s). An Internet search for "H-1B" will bring most of these up. In the mid-2000s the Portland (Maine) Press Herald did a week's series on H-1B finagling: this was after it was discovered that shell offices were being set up in places like Bangor to hire H-1Bs, who would then be rerouted to firms elsewhere that had already hit their visa quotas.

      H-1B gets the lion's share of attention but other visas get misused too. One can find similar scandals involving L-1 (short-term business training) B-1 (business visitor) visas, and others.

      In the mid-2000s I'd see from the USCIS website that the H-1B visa program routinely overshot the annual intake targets by about 30... thousand. The US government stopped publishing their numbers publicly around 2006. I recall trying to roughly estimate the number of "skilled labor" foreign workers in the US at the time, arriving at over a million - over 200,000/year for three years in the early 2000s (thanks BILL) - generally 65,000/year limit + the 20,000 higher ed. exemption + 30,000 over limit every year after that (from USCIS headcount) - all for six, no, SEVEN years (thanks GEORGE)... that's 1,060,000 from H-1B alone at any given time, slated to drop to about 805,000. This assumes actual enforcement of visa limits. Having worked within sight of the US-Mexico border, I assure you that our government does not have the will to enforce immigration law let alone visa limits, and that the numbers are higher than the annual quotas and time limits would suggest, owing to visa overstays.

      When I was in engineering, attending most of my classes was like being an involuntary exchange student in India. In several courses I was the only citizen in the room. Research labs were almost entirely divided along racial/national lines - there was the Indian lab, the Chinese lab, and the Mexican nationals lab. Out of perhaps 100-odd graduate students, roughly four might have been American citizens in that particular department.

      I found that where the students are imported, the ethics are too. Cheating was called 'competition' and 'inevitable.' Plagiarism was a 'cultural practice' and a 'perceptual construct' that required sensitivity. "What does it matter to you?" some professors asked when I pointed out just how demoralizing it was to work in such an environment. Two professors spoke out (one against plagiarism on course papers, the other on cheating in an exam). In both cases the (numerous) grades were allowed to stand (!!!) and in both cases the professors eventually wound up teaching somewhere else. I have other horror stories - but don't take MY word for it, ask Tom Matrka about his engineering department at Ohio University (or look up "Ohio University"+plagiarism+scandal online).

      As for a shortage of engineers, one of my lecture classes had over 100 graduate students each semester. I routinely run into engineers who were involuntarily "retired" in their 40s or early 50s. We have such a large surplus of engineers that employers can readily discriminate on the basis of age or whatever else they choose.

      I don't recommend engineering grad school or most engineering careers - the politics are far more vicious than one would imagine (more so than in the academic humanities and social sciences), and both career and school contexts are too susceptible to being gamed by outside interests.

      Delete
    9. To me, the debt factor is number one. Debt complicates the personal factor, and it's hard to buy a house, start a family, and live comfortably when you have high student loan payments to make.

      Delete
    10. Anon 11:56, the debt factor is a major factor for most graduates, even if they don't think about until it's too late. Tuition is rising exponentially. I doubt most graduates will have a good "personal factor" once they are working a decent job yet taking home a McDonald's salary after student loan payments.

      Delete
    11. Anonymous @ 2013-06-04 1156:

      Some of that debt is needlessly self-inflicted.

      While I was teaching, often the ones who whined the most about how expensive the place was had the fanciest calculators, wore designer clothes, and absolutely had to have a cell phone. Of course, who was often in line at the on-campus designer coffee outlet?

      On top of that, students were more willing to use the on-campus ATM and pay a $5 charge in order to withdraw $20 than to walk to any of one of several banks that had branches located off the premises a few minutes walk away.

      Delete
    12. ...An ATM fee and a fancy calculator compares nowhere near a $20,000 student loan that you will most likely be paying on before your first decent job.

      Delete
    13. Anonymous @ 2013-06-04 1848:

      While those expenses you mention are small compared with a large loan, when one is broke without a job, any way by which one can cut costs helps.

      I've been in that situation more times than I care to remember.

      Delete
    14. Yeah, my student loans affect what kind of mortgage I can get.

      Now that I have a decent job I plunk down $1K a month on them - but still I'm looking at 2.5-3 years paying them off completely.

      Delete
    15. Annonymous @ 7:50 PM:

      Time to stamp out those dark skin Asian ni66er who bring nothing but cheating culture in to the already corrupted ethics in the USA.

      Either way, engineering is the most rewading and well paid. Just ready to learn how to form your own alliance and blackmail the higher up if necessary. Remember: the enemy of your enemy is your friend.

      Otherwise, you can always find jobs that requires security clearance. H1Bs can't get those.

      Delete
  20. Advice I once read from an economics prof went something like this: Would you rather write mortgages all day for $75k or spend 5 years in grad school and then talk to uninterested undergrads 15 hours a week for $50k?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Considering the reputation the mortgage business has because of some dodgy practices, perhaps teaching undergrads might be more honourable.

      Delete
    2. Believe it or not, not all of the undergrads may be uninterested.

      Delete
    3. It's more like talking to uninterested undergrads for 15 hours a week, grading for 20 hours a week, working on your next publication for 10 hours a week, dealing with committee/ department nonsense for 2-20 hours per week (depending on the week), meeting with students for 2-20 hours per week (depending on the week), preparing for class 10 hours per week (at least) and spending whatever time you have left sending out applications for a new job next year, because the one you've got is temporary.

      Oh, and to get to have all this fun takes more like 10 years of grad school, not 5... and you're lucky to make 40k.

      Delete
  21. what really drove home this and reason 89 is reading PhD dissertations. At least in history, they are often so filled with spelling and grammatical errors it is almost comical to read them, considering how long the authors spent in school obtaining the highest academic qualification possible. But why would they care or put in effort, having realized that no one outside their committee will read the text and no one cares enough about their subject to actually read 300-500 pages of dense academic prose?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Part of the reason might be the attitude of the supervisors.

      I remember one of the members of my committee saying how he handled a draft from another student. He handed it back to the person, apparently unread, and told him that he, the supervisor, wasn't that student's editor and that he should hire a professional writer.

      I gathered that the prof couldn't have been bothered to read a manuscript that was less than perfect, which I didn't find surprising. When I was having some difficulties with my research and asked him for advice, he said a lot of nice things but he didn't do anything.

      But, to be fair, the student in question may have expected the prof to make corrections that should have been made while the thesis was being written. Word processing software is quite sophisticated and often includes features such as grammar checkers.

      Still, I had the feeling that the prof was being lazy when he did that. When I started grad studies, I had little experience in writing, let alone editing, something like a thesis. Where was I supposed to learn how to do it properly if my supervisor didn't give me the benefit of his experience?

      Delete
  22. Someone is trying to sell an economics journal article to the highest bidder. The purchaser agrees to pay the full bid price if the article is accepted by one of the highest prestige econ journals and less if it's accepted by a less prestigious journal:

    http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2013/05/markets-in-everything-42.html

    This cynical bit of business reminds me of all the times I've thought that the academics with the best careers are the ones with the least personal attachment to their research. They just use it to get ahead and move on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's pretty dirty.

      Now that students can go online and buy an original paper for their English class (not to mention a Master's thesis or dissertation), it was only a matter of time before the faculty started paying someone else to do their work for them, too.

      Delete
    2. From the infamous "Shadow Scholar" article in the CHE:

      "You've never heard of me, but there's a good chance that you've read some of my work. I'm a hired gun, a doctor of everything, an academic mercenary. My customers are your students. I promise you that. Somebody in your classroom uses a service that you can't detect, that you can't defend against, that you may not even know exists.

      I work at an online company that generates tens of thousands of dollars a month by creating original essays based on specific instructions provided by cheating students. I've worked there full time since 2004. On any day of the academic year, I am working on upward of 20 assignments.

      In the midst of this great recession, business is booming. At busy times, during midterms and finals, my company's staff of roughly 50 writers is not large enough to satisfy the demands of students who will pay for our work and claim it as their own."

      http://chronicle.com/article/The-Shadow-Scholar/125329/

      Delete
  23. Here are some perspectives on the academic job situation:

    http://collegemisery.blogspot.ca/2013/06/lotteries-meritocracies-tables-etc.html

    http://www.insidehighered.com//blogs/college-ready-writing/one-500

    ReplyDelete
  24. I love reading this blog and all the comments. It is, however, a tragedy knowing so many funny, smart, creative people have been sucked up into academia (successful or not)! Can we turn back the clock and have you all start businesses, have wild adventures, raise foster kids, run restaurants, farm, ranch, roast coffee, brew beer, fix plumbing, start salons, teach ESL, design networks, etc., and be funny and creative at the same time?
    I ditched academia and various jobs in the "real world" to teach high school despite everyone telling me I'm too smart or it's not enough money. Hogwash! I earn plenty and it's far more intellectually demanding than earning a big paycheck! Every year we have a fresh crop of brilliant kids and every year I hope when they go off to college they aren't pushed/brainwashed into believing academia is the only way to show you're smart!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Can we turn back the clock and have you all start businesses, have wild adventures, raise foster kids, run restaurants, farm, ranch, roast coffee, brew beer, fix plumbing, start salons, teach ESL, design networks, etc., and be funny and creative at the same time?"

      Sure, but last I checked I wasn't shitting money and can't afford to do any of these things.

      Delete
    2. Anon 8:07, that's a great point. It's amazing how many other, more-rewarding careers academics could have taken. I agree that many great people are brainwashed into thinking academia is the path to excellence and self-worth. Some develop into zealots and hold academia to such high-esteem you would think it was a religion and not only one career of many.

      It used to be when you were smart, everyone thought you should go to college. As time goes on we see the smart ones also leave college when the gettin's good.

      Delete
    3. Don't think that it's much better outside of the academic realm.

      I worked in the so-called "high tech" industry. Some of the things I had to deal with made academics seem sane and disciplined by comparison. One might not necessarily made much money working at a post-secondary institution, but the environment is much more stable and the work a lot steadier.

      The companies I worked for were always close to having their doors padlocked because of financial difficulties. At most of them, the workers were paid poorly (unless one happened to be real chummy with the bosses) while the administration lined their pockets and made sure everyone else knew about it.

      I also found out that in order to survive in that business, it helps if one is a crap artist. I've known know-nothings win themselves nice promotions and corresponding pay raises simply by portraying themselves as geniuses without actually being one.

      The best use to make of one's graduate education, especially if one is in a discipline like engineering, is to become self-employed as a consultant or private practitioner. Yes, one will have to hustle for business, but it's a lot saner and probably more rewarding than working for someone else.

      Delete
    4. "Don't think that it's much better outside of the academic realm."

      And this is what Anon 8:07 is talking about. This is just a thinly-veiled excuse not to look outside of academia. There are too many different careers to make such a statement.

      Delete
    5. Anonymous @ 2013-06-04 1811:

      I know what I'm talking about. I've worked in a number of industries over the years. The longest I was employed was 20 months and much of the time at that company was spent in looking over my shoulder because I didn't know if I was going to be fired.

      There are creeps, bums, and idiots no matter where one goes. Take it from me: working outside of academe is pretty much a crapshoot. I often went to work in the morning not knowing if I had a job when I went home.

      Delete
    6. "Working outside of academe is pretty much a crapshoot."

      Considering that you're regularly posting on a blog about not going to grad school, I would think otherwise. None of us got here by typing in "the joys of academia!" I'll take my chances elsewhere.

      Delete
    7. Anonymous @ 2013-06-04 1902:

      That's your choice. Just don't expect too much and don't expect that it'll necessarily be better than academe. Over the years, I've learned that no matter where I went or what I did, I usually exchanged one set of miseries for another.

      Delete
    8. Sorry, No Longer An Academic, it sounds like you've chosen misery (just based on your posts - I'm Anon 8:07 btw). I rarely say that, because many situations are so bad anyone would be miserable. But over the course of a many-year career with many jobs, if they're all miserable, it's you. And it's probably also your advanced degrees keeping you from doing something more liberating - which is my point exactly.
      Good luck...this comes from someone who has dodged bullets in war zones...I really hope the best for everyone, cause I know misery and it ain't pretty.

      Delete
  25. Another post by 'No longer an academic'. Many salient points made throughout your presence on this blog, but sheesh, can we keep it on topic?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree. No Longer an Academic, this is not your personal blog. Please cut down on the posts.

      Delete
    2. I'll grant you your wish. Our revels now are ended.

      Delete
    3. Meh, I like NLAA's posts a lot better than some of the assholes that have posted on here at various times. He's respectful. We're academics: verbose, overly analytical, and it's all for naught.

      Aha, a nice segue back to "virtually no one cares what you are doing."

      Delete
    4. How about you stop using this as your personal blog, too? Thanks!

      Delete
    5. Ouch, peer pressure.

      Delete
    6. I like the posts by NLAA and Aaron. At least they keep the comment section going.

      Delete
    7. Since they mostly keep it going by agreeing with each other, I'm going to assume you're either NLAA or Aaron.

      Delete
    8. Nope, not me! I don't post under anonymous.

      Delete
    9. Anonymous 6:10 here. Nope, I'm not either of them, just a bored post-academic who likes to waste time by reading the comments on this blog.

      Delete
  26. Although no comment section can beat the one for

    "51. You are surrounded by undergraduates."

    That one is HILARIOUS! The discussion evolved into what one commenter called "the f*ckability of undergrads." Ha! I read that reason maybe a week ago and after reading the comments I laughed for what must have been 10 minutes straight.

    ReplyDelete
  27. "...the academics with the best careers are the ones with the least personal attachment to their research."

    Does this ring true to anyone else?

    The people who jump on the latest bandwagon whenever there's a new subject/method/theory in vogue do seem to get hired if their timing is right. Are they opportunists cashing in?

    Also, there's a breed of faculty who chomp at the bit to get into administration. You don't hear much about their research once they're controlling budgets.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Let's be fair, some academics get hired into administration that don't really want to be there - partly because the administrative work takes their time away.

      Delete
    2. There are both kinds of administrators. I wonder who tends to make the better sort of dean, the reluctant academics or the eager wannabe administrators?

      There are also the folks who get tired of the research grind and look forward to putting it behind them when they get tenure. For them, an administration job is a nice change to something different with a better salary. With regard to the subject of this post, there's also the realization over the course of your career that what you do as a scholar really doesn't mean all that much, so you might as well earn more money.

      Whether being a dean feels like a nightmare or a vacation probably depends on your personality.

      Delete
    3. Administration makes more money. It's at least a 20% immediate jump at at my school, and steps that go much higher. I'd take it.

      Delete
    4. To answer the first question there is no "vogue" in the real sense - at least in the discipline of history. Those study topics and theoretical frameworks considered to be "current" have been around for a decade or longer.

      Many older profs will feel threatened by new trends in research, plus they may be too past their best before date to change ways. This was my experience sitting on a couple hiring committees - the candidates doing really new and innovative work are seen as too alien and risky, too much of an unknown to hire.

      The people that I went to school with who got hired also studied what I considered to be variations on old themes and topics - which appealed to hiring committees for simply being being familiar and standing the test of time.

      For grad students starting out, the best strategy for getting hired is to specialize in a topic that sounds new and exciting but really is much of the same as what current faculty study. The challenge is finding that balance.

      Delete
  28. There is a professor in my program who asks every student when they defend their dissertation, "Who cares?" They have to give at least one reason that someone would care about the outcome of their research. It's amazing how many students don't have an answer.


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is the best thing I've ever heard.

      Delete
    2. I wish the professor would take it one step further and ask why the students themselves care about the outcome. If you can't even think of a reason your research is relevant, you're not even interested in your own work. AKA dying on the inside.

      Delete
    3. That would be a very tough question to answer in most humanities fields.

      Delete
    4. That question would be much less cruel (and much more constructive) if it were asked at the beginning of the student's run through grad school instead of at the end. Once a committee has let you pursue a line of research all the way to a dissertation defense, then it's just playing games to ask a question like that.

      Delete
    5. I like that question. It's good preparation to justify one's job or discipline.

      Delete
    6. Amen, Anon 1:02! They should put it right in the grad-school application forms--or at the very least, as part of submitting your dissertation topic for approval.

      Delete
  29. what field is this in? what were the topics of candidates who couldn't answer the question?

    ReplyDelete
  30. This makes me really depressed. Although I am high school graduate now, I am seriously looking into the future, and pondering on whether my current choices are the best ones. From an early age, my dream was to become a scientist. Then I learnt about graduate school, phd and all that jazz. I was delighted and thought that this would be my career path. Now,haveing read so many depressing articles, posts, and comments (actually it is tremendously hard to find someone who would enjoy their time in grad school and wouldn't regret the decision) about reasons why you shouldn't go to grad school, how horrible decision it is or that jobs after phd is only a dream. Now I even wonder whether it was a good decision to choose chemistry . . . Sad.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't think of a single career choice you could come up with that wouldn't meet with some negative reaction. Some careers are very tough to get into. It's better to know in advance what you're getting into. If being a scientist was easy, everyone would be doing it. Adult life is tough. It's good that you know this now.

      I really wanted to be a philosophy professor when I was 18. It was the career for me. I didn't end up being a philosophy professor, but I refined my interests over time and I'm doing something now that's creative, challenging, intellectual, and rewarding: all the things I wanted from a job as a philosophy professor. It was because I wanted to be a professor that I went to college, where I learned all kinds of interesting things, then went to grad school, where I learned even more interesting things, then started working at a job where I learned a completely different set of interesting things. The moral philosophy I read for classes informs what I do now, in the form of business ethics.

      In short: you will refine your dream over time. If you're passionate about your life and your future, whatever you end up doing WILL be the right thing for you, because you are invested in yourself. Many people choose careers out of a sense of duty or fear. It sounds as though you are motivated by passion. This will serve you well in life.

      Delete
    2. Aleksandra, being a chemist is a good career move. You may choose the research route and earn a Ph.D., or you can always cut your losses and move on to the private sector. Alas, there is no private sector for philosophy or literature professors. So don't despair about your choice.

      Delete
    3. "I can't think of a single career choice you could come up with that wouldn't meet with some negative reaction."

      That's because you've been suckered into academia for too long.

      Aleksandra, if you want to be a scientist you should take the necessary steps. Make sure to intern while in college for a much better chance of landing a position.

      The depressing posts you've read about are from people who put too much faith in advanced degrees. Contrary to popular belief, going to grad school does not make you a better person than your peers. Graduates eventually realize this and the depression sets in. You spend vast amounts of time, money, and effort that could go towards starting a family or starting a career. If you want to be a scientist, do it because your really want to. Not for the pride that comes with the title of "scientist."

      Delete
    4. Aleksandra,

      I second those who say that there are advantages and disadvantages to any career path. There will always be greener grass and what might have been no matter what you choose.

      I wanted to be a history professor when I was 19, now I'm 30 and am one. I didn't think it would be at a community college and I thought I'd have a little less debt, but here I am.

      Plus, chemistry is something that offers some plan B's.

      The negative comment I would agree with is the family issue. When you're 20ish, family life seems so distant, but when you're 30ish, you start to wonder if you should have just hit the workforce at age 25 and married your then-partner. You have to decide that for yourself.

      Delete
    5. "There will always be greener grass and what might have been no matter what you choose."

      Does anyone else find it ridiculous that people are participating in a blog about not going to grad school but still try to find frivolous reasons to justify going?

      Some of us have been following this blog since the beginning and agreeing with almost every reason, but we still get defensive when someone says they don't want to go to grad school.

      Unless someone creates an equally popular blog with 100 reasons to go to grad school, I wouldn't advise going. I especially wouldn't take advice from those motivated enough to follow this depressing blog and then having the gall to defend grad school.

      Delete
    6. It's easy to get caught up in the depression of sites like this. The author and a lot of others seem pretty morose about life in general. It's a depressing world out there but we have to take risks.

      The chances of becoming an employed chemist without grad school are pretty much zero. With it, much better. So people have to choose for themselves whether or not to take their chances.

      Delete
    7. Thank you for your words of wisdom, Aaron...I mean, Anon. Your argument would be much more valid if this blog was not filled with objective reasons against grad school.

      This "take a chance" disney special you're preaching is becoming less and less likely to have a happy ending. Aleksandra and others like her need to be fully aware that graduate school is unlikely to pay off and the prospects are continuously diminishing each day.

      Delete
    8. Um, how is what I said a "disney special?" In Disney everyone lives happily ever after. I alluded to family life being a big problem in academia.

      Delete
    9. Throughout this blog you and your alter ego have dismissed posters for being "morose" and such. It's just an attempt to distract from the numerous valid reasons for not going to grad school.

      Delete
    10. I didn't know I had two identities! Wow, like Clark Kent/Superman. Ha. No.

      Just being devil's advocate here. Hopefully no one makes an important decision based on a bitter blog.

      There are many legitimate reasons not to go, but there are some reasons to go.

      Delete
    11. Liars on the internet? Impossible! Who would ever concoct a fake persona to agree with their outrageous statements? No one, that's who!

      Delete
    12. Yes, what I said was simply outrageous. Believe what you want. You can have the last word if it'll make you feel better.

      Delete
    13. One only needs to go to the second conversation in Reason 87 started by *cough* "Anon" to see how outrageous your statements are. Throughout this blog you've decided to start a one man crusade against anyone who dares to challenge grad school's importance, to the point of arguing with nearly everyone about everything.

      Please stop trying to give advice to our naive grad students. They have enough of their professors feeding them BS already. They don't need anyone else trying to deflect and downplay the very high risks of grad school.

      Oh, and stop anonymously agreeing with yourself, too. Thank you for the last word, I appreciate it!

      Delete
  31. There are engineering jobs that H1B will never able to get... those requiring security clearance.

    But someone should grow some spine and combine the force of the "Ban H1B" movement along with the anti-immigrant movement in order to save America from the mental disorder known as liberalism.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "There are engineering jobs that H1B will never able to get... those requiring security clearance."

      I'm not sure this is true. There is a category called H-1B2 which apparently is strictly for "specialty occupations related to Department of Defense Cooperative Research and Development Projects or Co-production projects," and I have heard it claimed that the Department of Energy is requesting security clearances for H-1B workers in specialty occupations.

      The second paragraph is ridiculous on its face. The consideration to retain, reduce or do away with a program specified as a "non-immigrant visa program" where enforcement has proven flawed (caps exceeded every year for over a decade, overstays routine and not enforced, high rates of application fraud, demonstrable discrimination in hiring contrary to program restrictions) is not 'anti-immigrant.'

      Delete
    2. Those programs are very rare. Most jobs that require security clearance are usually military contractors, or the three letter agencies that require US citizenship.

      Delete
  32. Also there are more than just faculty positions in academia. I.T. is getting big in academia too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think those would qualify as "alt-academic" positions, which is a related, but different topic altogether.

      Delete
  33. "I wanted to be a history professor when I was 19, now I'm 30 and am one. I didn't think it would be at a community college..."

    That line made me chuckle. Are teachers at community colleges calling themselves "professors" now?

    I shouldn't be surprised. One of my favorite themes on this blog is terminology inflation. It wasn't that long ago when junior colleges were junior colleges, cafeterias were cafeterias, dorms were dorms, and gyms were gyms.

    Now, apparently, we've got "professors" teaching at "community colleges." Every other paper-pusher is a "dean" or "vice president." Students eat in "dining commons," sleep in "resident communities," and sweat in "athletic centers."

    Last winter, I was on the campus of a university with which I used to be familiar, but it has changed significantly in recent years. When I asked someone for directions to the library, the response I got was: "Do you mean the knowledge center?"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In my (thankfully) private sector job, I receive multiple email messages per day from customers in the academic and private sectors.

      The signature blocks at the end of the messages are quite telling.

      Private sector individuals have short and to-the-point signatures. "Dr Joe Johnson, Purchasing Director, ACME Widget Company".

      Academic signature blocks, on the other hand, are often as long as their dissertations. "Dr. Joe Johnson, Ph.D., John D. and Catherine T. McArthur Endowed Chair of Nanoemotional Emergent Technologies, Chief Editor of the Journal of Irreproducible Results, Director of the Center of Green Energy Psychology, Full Professor of Science Education in the Third World, etc."

      I've always assumed that the more titles you have, the less confident you are in your position.


      Delete
    2. Sounds like an 18th-century monarch's signature. "Emperor of so-and-so, King of so-and-so, Duke of so-and-so and such-and-such, Count of..."

      Delete
    3. Sick of Grad SchoolJuly 2, 2013 at 8:11 AM

      I agree with you about the ridiculousness of language in academia. Our cafeteria here is also called a "dining common" and the food court is called a "dining district". Those are horrendous, glorified terms.

      However, anyone who teaches at the higher education level should be considered a professor. It doesn't matter what their ranking is. The reason why grad students who teach their own courses are called "Teaching Assistants" (like they are in my program) instead of Professors is to keep them from unionizing and fighting for better treatment. It also justifies the dismal pay we're given. Yet, grad students often do far more work than Tenured Professors.

      Delete
    4. Instructor or teacher is acceptable to me, although professor is the actual title the school gives. Since I used to teach at an elementary school (much harder than college imo) I certainly consider what I do now different than a "teacher" though. I really don't care and laugh at your condescension and ego. A job is a job is a job.

      Delete
    5. There are not that many "junior colleges" anymore. I don't really know why that term became taboo, but it is. I know at least in my state, any 2-year institution that receives state funds has to have "community college" in its name. That was mandated by state law in the 1970s.

      Delete
    6. Inflation are everywhere, it keeps up with the times. Monetary inflation, credential inflation, grade inflation etc....

      Delete
    7. I too find this post baffling. In American English, "professor" is the bland generic term for college teacher. It is as ordinary and dull a word as library or cafeteria or dorm or gym. Maybe in your day that only applied to four-year colleges, but it has been true at two-year colleges also for a long time.

      Delete
  34. In British style universities, most faculty are titled Lecturer or a variant thereof (addressed as Doctor or Mister) and only a minority eventually get the title Professor.

    I don't know if this helps keep egos in check but it couldn't hurt.

    ReplyDelete
  35. There are still jobs in STEM while avoiding the swarm of H1Bs.... combine a graduate STEM degree with a MBA degree.... private sector job security always exist at the C-level positions.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Academic titles keep inflating while everything they describe gets dumbed down.

    Here in Europe, there is something called the Bologna Process that is standardizing higher education across the continent. One result has been that to get a European bachelor's degree now takes only three years instead of four.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The entire education system in Europe is better.

      Delete
  37. Sounds to me like your graduate school didn't get you enough pats on the back or little participation ribbons. I don't think there is anything wrong with airing out grievances or pointing out the negative aspects of graduate school and academia, because this is how change happens. However, you sound like a whiny brat. I know plenty of people in grad school who didn't stand up for themselves and just let things happen to them. You have to be an active participant and forge your own path the best that you can. You may have to stroke egos, you may have to go above your advisor's head, but the entire system isn't wholly terrible. Then when you get out you will have more freedom. You just have to pay your dues like any other field.

    Re: no one cares about your work but you...I also feel this is a blanket statement that is unjust. I have been to plenty of conferences where good work (yes, from grad students) is highlighted and touted. And it is important work. I am in the field of neuroscience, so you can't tell me that research on the brain isn't important. Again, I know your blog is supposed to be humorous but some of the comments are just ridiculous. "Fancy schmancy degrees". Sigh. Get over yourself.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No Longer An Academic's back?

      Delete
    2. Wha what? Nope. It's a new Anon.

      Delete
    3. Maybe No Longer An Academic's back as an Anonymous.

      Delete
    4. No. NLAC was in engineering, not neuroscience. Also clearly not his writing style - he would have written more and it would have segued to a lengthy narrative of his own experience.

      For the record, none of the anonymous posters are me either.

      There are better ways to delegitimatize the poster or refute one's arguments than these ridiculous accusations.

      Delete
    5. Denial is the first stage of grief. We all go through it. We didn't sign up for grad school thinking that it was going to lead us into an abysmal mess.

      I can understand the attitude of new (and newish) grad students who read this blog for the first time and react dismissively. Something compelled them to read it in the first place, though, so you can bet that the seeds of doubt are already sprouting in their minds.

      I look at grad school as a series of painful realizations that dawn on you only gradually.

      Delete
    6. No, but I'm pretty sure that your research isn't important.

      Delete
  38. I must be in the best graduate school in existence, because I find that most of these posts do not apply wholly to me. Sure, my life is not perfect, but whose is? Before I went back for my PhD, I worked in the real world, and it SUCKED. I knew what I was getting into when I decided to pursue a PhD, and I think that is important. I think it's important to have realistic expectations. Yes, if you want to get married and have babies at 22, getting a PhD is probably not for you (at least not at the time), but the blanket statement that "adulthood waits" is really too general. Under whose standards? I also don't find that conferences in my field are awful. I find them rewarding and challenging, and I am a doctoral student. Some people LOVE being TAs and not everyone hates grading, nor do you always have to do both in every program. Sure I've had my issues, and i'm sure this blog's ideas apply to plenty of schools/programs, but i think that this whole 'fear graduate school' idea that is perpetuated is not true in all cases. It might prevent very bright, capable people from doing something they love!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "i think that this whole 'fear graduate school' idea that is perpetuated is not true in all cases."

      Of course nothing is true in all cases, but when you have to grasp at exceptions to validate the choice to go to grad school it should raise a few flags.

      When we get rid of the smoke and mirrors, students mainly go into grad school to be better off financially. And now grad school is putting students behind their uneducated peers in that category.

      It baffles my mind how the naysayers on this site pretend students entered grad school as a hobby. Grad school should not be viewed as a fun activity club. After spending vast amounts of time, effort, and money pursuing your degree, you better have something really great to show for it. Something that others will want to pay you for.

      Delete
  39. i have to disagree. none of my colleagues mentioned more money as a reason to pursue an academic research degree. maybe that depends on the field, though. if one really does research, it should be pretty evident that more degrees do not equal more money. i made more in my 9-5 clinical professional job than i will as a faculty member starting out (in the same field), and i'm perfectly happy with that because now i'm doing what i enjoy. money was no source of motivation for me to pursue this degree. i did it because it's what i enjoy.

    ReplyDelete
  40. I don't think it's the exception. I am not the only happy graduate student I know. When I posted this blog on my social media network ;-) many of my grad school colleagues commented on how ridiculously untrue these reasons were. As did some professors. Again, maybe it has to do with the difference of fields. I am in field similar to neuroscience and have to agree with the anon above me, so maybe it has more to do with the field. But then again, what do I know? I'm just a happy PhD student. I must be an exception.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, your anecdotal evidence refutes the whole blog...

      Feel free to link us to another popular site that encourages grad school with tons of practical reasons. Until then, I'm more convinced with what I hear in this blog and the numerous news articles about graduate unemployment and graduate debt.

      Delete
    2. Neuroscience does not fall into the category of "humanities and social sciences." We've already established that the hard sciences have better prospects at the end of their Yellow Brick Road because they aren't limited to academic positions with comparatively low pay and a 20% chance of employment. That's been the basic message of this blog all along: Think twice before you spend ten overworked, underpaid, unappreciated years of your life preparing for a career that you'll probably never have.

      Delete
    3. "I am in field similar to neuroscience and have to agree with the anon above me"

      LOL maybe that anon, who types EXTREMELY similar to you by the way, is part of your social network.

      Delete
    4. Well, if your professors say that, then it must be true, right?

      Sheesh...of course grad school can be fun. But you are pretty clueless if you think that this is the main point of the blog. Check back in a few years - it'll all make sense by then.

      Delete
  41. While some of the contents of this blog and the many comments can sometimes be disheartening (which is the point, obviously) I find that I actually like to read these as a means of bolstering my passion for pursuing my masters. I was accepted into an excellent MBA program and intend to finish with a degree, regardless of what anyone else thinks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No one thinks you won't be able to complete your MBA. Maybe you haven't been paying close enough attention, but this blog is not an indictment against any and all forms of grad school. This blog is aimed at people seriously considering pursuing a Ph.D in the Humanities, or maybe the Social Sciences, with the goal of becoming a college or university professor. The goal of this blog is to let them know why that's a bad idea.

      So, by all means, get your MBA. This blog doesn't really apply to you.

      Delete
    2. An MBA isn't a read grad degree. I speak as someone who has one.

      Delete
  42. Why are you guys trying to lump the social sciences in with the humanities? The social sciences job market is overall much healthier than the humanities job market. Also, social science education confers a whole host of transferable skills (e.g. statistical analysis, report writing), so it's easier to pursue a non-academic career path.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Transferable skills. noun. pl. Buzzword used by college career center representatives to encourage false confidence in an expensive degree.

      Career center. noun. sing. Office established within a college or university for the purpose of convincing tuition-paying parents that they are not wasting their money. Secondarily used to alleviate panic among graduating seniors.

      Delete
    2. Anon 3:49 you hit the nail on the head.

      I get sick of hearing how all degrees have "transferable skills." Why would an employer hire an Art Grad for an accounting position over a Finance major? This isn't your father's job market where you could graduate in anything and still get a good-paying job.

      And the career center never helped me at my university. There were too many students vying for too little job openings.

      Delete