24 October 2011

The Academic Sidetrack

Being a PhD student who hopes to someday get a university teaching job, I find myself being pulled in two directions at once. 

Of course, my main concern is to actually finish my PhD dissertation.  This is, of course, important, because these days, with so many freshly minted PhDs out on the job market, prospective employers have an easy time eliminating much of a large applicant pool by saying, "Let's look at the people with PhDs first."  So, in general, just finishing will have the potential to bump up your attractiveness as a candidate for a job.

There is, however, the saying in academia, "Publish or Perish."  Meaning that one must publish to make one's self attractive both in the job market, and on the Tenure Track.  Getting something published (in a refereed publication, of course) is a very time consuming task.

So I'm always somewhat torn as to whether I should be writing the dissertation, or trying to submit proposals to get stuff published, or to present stuff at conferences. 

Right now, I'm even more torn.  After just finishing and submitting a proposal to publish some of my work, I'm now turning to the always fun process of applying for post-doctoral fellowships and teaching jobs.  Those other PhD people out there know just what this is like, and with the prospect of double-digit applications due within the next 6 weeks, it's somewhat intimidating and taxing of my organizational skills.

This is what I call "The Academic Sidetrack."  The non-dissertational work that I'm doing over the next few weeks is very necessary, and (potentially) ultimately beneficial to my career, but unfortunately distracting me from what should be my number one priority. 

So, I take a deep breath, examine the (hypothetical) mountain of deadlines and teaching statements and cover letters and personal philosophies of study and ......

.... and away I go.

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