The Professor Is In | Karen Kelsky

Summary of: The Professor Is In: The Essential Guide To Turning Your Ph.D. Into a Job
By: Karen Kelsky


Embarking on an academic career is often a dream for many Ph.D. students, but landing that dream job and turning your Ph.D. into a stable career can be challenging. In ‘The Professor Is In: The Essential Guide To Turning Your Ph.D. Into a Job,’ author Karen Kelsky explores the pitfalls and common misconceptions of academia, highlighting the harsh realities behind the increasing tuition fees, shrinking budgets, and the competitive job market. This summary will introduce you to the key themes of the book, equipping you with ways to avoid common mistakes, and offering helpful tips on job applications, interviews, and networking in academia and beyond.

The High Cost of Higher Education

Public universities across America have boosted their tuition fees due to a decrease in public funding, burdening students with tremendous amounts of debt. Public colleges raised their annual inflation-adjusted tuition by 27 percent from 2008 to 2014, with some states such as Arizona and California increasing by over 70 percent. Consequently, student loans have also risen. In 2014, the average graduate debt soared to a staggering $57,600. This is mainly because states spend less on higher education compared to previous years. Additionally, universities have cut back on teacher hiring while increasing the number of administrative personnel, leading to inadequate working conditions for new teachers who are paid as little as $1,800 per month. This has made it especially tough for grad students who have accrued considerable debt. Hence, many struggling graduates face an uphill task of finding employment. The situation is undoubtedly daunting, and it is imperative to work towards a solution.

Landing an Academic Job: The Brutal Truth

Graduates often underestimate the cut-throat competition and challenging realities of the academic job market. They mistakenly believe that a well-known advisor, passion for research, and innovative ideas are enough to secure a desirable position. However, with as many as 1,000 applicants for a single opening, graduates must focus on publishing in peer-reviewed journals, attending major conferences, and developing a strong CV. Advisors can also do more to prepare their students for this competitive environment. Graduates must avoid downplaying their ambitions and instead aim high to increase their chances of becoming successful in academics.

Mistakes to Avoid in Academia Job Search

The summary highlights three mistakes that graduate students make during job interviews, and proposes a solution to avoid such blunders. By articulating one’s academic identity, a graduate student can identify their research field, research program, and the pedagogical commitments they aim to achieve. The summary recommends that graduate students avoid discussing only their dissertation during interviews, take the initiative, and behave confidently as colleagues rather than as students. In addition to academic identity, the summary recommends creating the right documents for the job search. The summary concludes that by learning from others’ mistakes and avoiding these blunders, graduate students stand a greater chance of succeeding in the job search.

How to Write a Winning Cover Letter

A good cover letter is just as important as a great CV when applying for a job. To craft a winning cover letter, there are four structuring rules to follow. Firstly, include the letterhead from your current academic institution to give it a professional look. Secondly, stick to two pages, 11- or 12-point type, with Times New Roman or Garamond as your typeface, and around one-inch margins in width. Thirdly, keep your dissertation-related paragraph brief and add a second research project to show your interest in expanding your work.

Furthermore, avoid emotive language in your cover letter and instead list facts, such as detailed descriptions of your teaching experience and methods. Finally, tailor your letter to the job opening by carefully reading the description, identifying potential collaborators in the department, and detailing how you can collaborate with them. Follow these rules to write a concise and compelling cover letter that will put you ahead of the pack.

Crafting Your Competitive CV

A competitive curriculum vitae (CV) is essential for landing that dream job, and it’s not just about quality content but also quantity. Regularly update your CV with valuable contributions, such as attending national conferences or winning grants. Your CV should reflect the principle of peer review, emphasizing any activities reviewed by academic peers. Highlight important points, prioritizing education and conference activity sections. Don’t forget to use appropriate abbreviations and focus on creating a strong teaching statement.

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