As You Begin to Write the Dissertation

Consider submitting a paper for presentation at the SCS Annual Meeting, a regional conference like CAMWS or CAPN, or a graduate student conference during the first year of writing. Stay on top of deadlines: normally February to March for SCS panels, May for SCS individual abstracts, and throughout the year for other conferences. Plan to submit  an abstract  to the SCS for presentation at the Annual Meeting the year you go on the market; this means submitting an abstract  up to 12 months  before you apply for jobs.

Now is the time for you to reflect on the question of what you will do after graduate school, and to craft a plan that includes both going on the academic job market and seeking a non-academic job.  Find out what support your graduate school offers in this area and make use of it.  Get to know the resources for humanities PhDs available online; contact PhDs in your department who have gone on to various jobs; talk to friends and family.

Think now (and discuss with your partner or family, if applicable) about whether you are willing or able to pursue the life of an adjunct or visiting assistant professor, since statistically speaking, these are the academic jobs you are most likely to secure in your first round of applications, and possibly the second and third and fourth rounds as well. If there are constraints on your ability to move, learn the scope of the academic jobs available to you in your chosen region(s).  With some investigative work, you will be able to find out whether the relevant adjunct and VAP posts provide a reasonable wage.    

Identify one or two jobs outside the academy that attract you, that suit your sense of who you are and who you want to be.  As Anna Fels points out in her 2004 study of women, achievement, and ambition, Necessary Dreams, it is crucially important to develop the habit of imagining what you might do, what you want to achieve, and how you will succeed, whether you define success as balancing work and family, changing the world for the better, making a living, or something else. Her work (and the experience of many PhDs pursuing non-academic careers) suggests that if you set aside time now to develop the habit of imagining a fulfilling career outside the academy, you’re more likely to find a good, satisfying job after you leave graduate school.  If you are offered an academic position, the time you spent thinking about non-academic careers will help you better relate to your undergraduate students; and you will serve as a more knowledgeable, savvy, and supportive mentor to your graduate students.

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