Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Review: The Professor Is In: The Essential Guide to Turning Your Ph.D. into a Job by Karen Keslky

It says a lot about academia and the academic job market in particular that this book, and the author Karen Kelsky's eponymous website, are profitable enterprises.  Essentially, Kelsky's book and website offer, for a price, help with the academic job market.  This type of information and advice should be provided free of charge by one's academic advisors.  The well-documented problem is that this simply is not the case for the vast majority of graduate students.  The academic job market (at least in the humanities) is appallingly difficult these days, and every little bit of help counts.  Unfortunately, while graduate programs are happy to let students in, they largely fail to help their students get jobs.  There is a great article on the Chronicle of Higher Education's Vitae site about Kelsky and the the relationship between her success and the poor treatment of graduate students.  You can read it here.  Even if you are lucky enough to have an advisor willing to help, there is a good likelihood that that advisor lacks the perspective and information necessary to help.  The academic job market, like many other job markets, took a major dive along with the economy a few years ago and it has not really improved, even though it was already quite bad.  Most professors (and thus advisors) entered an entirely different job market.

And this is why this book could be published by a Big Five publisher.  Kelsky's book, like her website (and presumably her personalized services, which I have never used), provide a tough love approach to job market and publishing advice.  There are other books about getting academic jobs, but I have found that Kelsky's book and website provide advice that is more relevant and thus helpful than other books of this type that I've read.  That being said, I don't usually like Kelsky's tone.  I understand that she's going for the tough love/straight talk approach, and while I appreciate that to a certain extent, it gets old after a while.  This is especially problematic, since, as the Chronicle article hints at, her writing borders on using the abusive tone that is part of what makes her own book and website necessary (i.e. the abusive and neglectful culture of the academic "mentoring" system).  Her advice is often sound, but frankly, as with all of the advice young academics obsessively hoard from any number of sources, there is really no way of knowing if any of it actually works, or is necessary.  If you don't get a job, you can blame her advice.  If you do get a job, you can say it's due to her.  But in the end, it's all about making yourself feel like you have more control over a largely mysterious and random process.  All of that being said, I think Kelsky's book is probably the best source for advice on the academic job market for those desperately in need of support.  

(I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.)

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