Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Advice for PhD students: preparing for a career in academia

Although I still have another year before I even start to apply for professor positions,
Jessica Word, Assistant Professor at University of Nevada Las Vegas provided me with three pieces of advice on how to best prepare for the academic job market.

1. Get published--now!!
She expressed the most important thing a PhD student can do is get published! Students should either write their own papers or find a professor to publish with. For example, I took an independent study course where one of my professors worked all semester to help me get my paper ready for publication. I also worked with a group of professors on a research project where we produced a paper for publication. For a list of nonprofit academic journals click here.

Jessica recommended a great summer program to build up your research skills -- Interuniversity consortium on social and political research (ICPSR) at the University of Michigan. Claremont Graduate University also offers research and evaluation professional development workshops.

2. Review papers for a conference (like the Academy of Management or ARNOVA)
Jessica says, reviewing papers for a conference helps PhD students to learn how the review process works and about exciting new research before it gets published. Some of my fellow doctoral students have already volunteered to review papers for the Academy of Management annual conference and really enjoyed being a part of that process.

3. Do some service work
The reason why I put "some" is because Jessica says, often time women end up doing too much service work and don't have enough time to focus on the other important things like getting published. She says it is good for someone to serve on one or two committees while they are pursuing their PhD. Some of my fellow doctoral students have served on new professor search committees and I currently serve on the Institute for Nonprofit Research and Education's Advisory board as the doctoral student representative.

I would also add to Jessica's helpful advice -- build up your vita (resume)!! Present at as many academic conferences as you can. Jessica and I present at (at least) two academic conferences per year--Academy of Management and Association for Research on Nonprofits and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA). However there are also specialized academic conferences like the International Leadership Association, American Society for Public Administration, and Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.

I met Jessica when she organized the Public and Nonprofit Doctoral Student Consortium at the Academy of Management conference. I highly recommend that nonprofit focused doctoral students attend this consortium. The organizers bring in seasoned professors to advise students about students' research in progress. Students also learn from Journal editors about how to submit to prestigious academic journals. R. Karl Rethemeyer from University of Albany at State University New York also spoke at the doctoral student consortium. He wrote the very helpful academic job hunting manual for PhD students.

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