On September 26, 2008, we launched Career Sense as a conversation, or as a forum among academics across Canada about professional issues unique to them. For University Affairs, Career Sense was an experiment of sorts. Online technologies have provided a valuable way for a community with shared interests to come together and share their thoughts. Career Sense was to be one such resource.
Indeed, over the past 19 months or so some good conversations have emerged through reader comments. For instance the open forum on reference letters and the discussion on making the best of a dismal job market each generated some interesting, and sometimes contentious comments. The post which was e-mailed out most often was my open letter to John Milloy, the Minister of Training Colleges, and Universities. And 407 people responded to polls about various topics in the posts.
However, more times than not, the blog didn’t get the degree of participation that would have created the conversation it was intended to generate. I discussed the general lack of reader response with a colleague of mine who writes for The Chronicle, where readers more actively comment on posts and articles. She mused the perhaps the difference was “an offshoot of all our [American] town meetings, talk radio and Internet news – people are very engaged.” Hmm – maybe it is a cultural thing – Canadians might be more insular than Americans in this regard. Maybe it was the content of the blog itself – although the topics covered were so broad, that it would be difficult to isolate the variables there.
The reason why I had been excited by the prospect of the blog is because so many of the graduate students and junior faculty I have advised over the years share a sense of isolation, and trepidation that the issues and challenges they face are because there is something wrong with them. I was hoping Career Sense would help to dispel this myth somewhat. I also hoped that the shared love all of us in academe have for learning and knowledge could be reinforced and validated.
Perhaps then, a blog isn’t the best venue in Canada for academics to share their perspectives, insights and concerns with each other. I know that the folks at University Affairs are looking at the whole career resource section to consider how it can best serve the needs of the increasing, and diverse population of Canadian academics. In the meantime, this will be the final post for Career Sense.
As for me, I have been working with academics on career-related issues for over a decade. For the past five years or so I have been writing on these issues for University Affairs in articles, through the Dr. Jobs column and Career Sense. This is a conversation I am personally committed to both as an academic and as a professional career advisor. So in some other format or venue, I’m sure our paths will cross again in the future. In the meantime, I’ll be working on my dissertation.
Thank you for your support and participation in Career Sense. I hope you found it informative and it gave you a better understanding of what you are facing as an academic in Canada. Until next time, be well.
‘Tis the season of lists and reviews, and Career Sense will uphold this media tradition with this, the final post of 2009. Career Sense is now a year old, and has acquired a regular cadre of roughly 1200-1500 readers/mth, 90 of whom have signed on for regular feeds through RSS.
There were a couple of highlights this year for me. One was speaking at the Career Corner at Congress, and providing one-on-one feedback to attendees wanting feedback on their CVs. While I can reach many more of you online than in person, the ‘hi-touch’ element is a great way to keep it personal.
I was also honoured to be one of 3 finalists in the ‘Best Blog’ category for the 2009 Online Publishing Awards. Given this is my first foray into blogging, the acknowledgment was both a surprise and a delight.
Perhaps the posting I felt most strongly about was my March 25th post: Hiring freezes raise issues for PhDs on the job market. In this post I called on PhD programs to be more forthcoming to perspective students on the realities of the academic job market.
At the end of that post, I inserted a poll asking whether or not you would have chosen to pursue a PhD if you thought there was a good chance you wouldn’t be able to land a tenure track position. Of the 149 respondents so far, 106 voted ‘no’ and 43 voted ‘yes’. Clearly there are people (like myself) who are pursuing their PhD for reasons beyond the job prospects. But there are undoubtedly many who simply didn’t know the job market was going to be this bad, or who had been assured hundreds of jobs would open to replace retiring faculty. Hopefully, this will change in 2010.
In all, 372 people have voted in 9 polls this past year – not a bad stat to end the year on. I’ve enjoyed reading your comments and talking to you a Congress. I wish you and yours a blissfully peaceful holiday season, and look forward to hearing from you in January when I return from holidays myself.
Be well and have a happy New Year!!
Well I’m back from comps (at last) and gearing up for another academic year. This year I’m going to try and learn more about social networking. I’m not exactly a neophyte to getting connected online. Obviously I blog, and I find Facebook is a great way to stay connected with friends and family. In the weeks leading up to Congress and Career Corner this year I even started a Career Sense site on Twitter.
I am particularly interested in the use of social networking as a way to find people and opportunities related to employment. There’s a nifty little Youtube video on social networking in plain English that does a pretty good job explaining the logic behind this hardly new dynamic. I’m curious about how useful social networking techniques would be for readers like you – some of whom are looking in a very specific job market (academe), and many more looking in just about any job market you can name.
A recent CNN article lauded the potential of social networking, while sagely cautioning, “It does open up a more 360 degree view”, meaning through sites like Facebook and MySpace, prospective employers know more about applicants than do many of their family members. Clearly the technology isn’t without its downside. In spite of this, it seems inevitable that social networking is here to stay, and the sooner we grasp what that means — both the sweet and the bitter — the sooner we understand how to best leverage its potential.
I invite you along on my investigation. If you find interesting links, or have a social networking experience that had an impact — for good or ill — on your attempts to move ahead in your career, please post a message on this blog and share what you learned or found. After all, that is the true benefit of networking – you don’t have to do it all alone.
I’m just back from my last conference this season. I was able to meet a lot of really interesting people at the various conferences I went to over the last few months. Some of the papers I heard and conversations I had have helped me to re-conceive my research in exciting ways, too.
I now have a stack of business cards and a flurry of notes written in the margins of several programs and handouts. These are my breadcrumbs back to ideas I don’t want to loose. The problem for me in the past has been that life seems to sweep me away as soon as I return. Over a period of weeks, then months, I begin to forget why Dr. So and So’s book was so interesting, or why I wanted to follow up on some concept.
This year’s conferences were especially fruitful, so I am determined not to let history repeat itself. This weekend I have blocked off half a day to cull through the flotsam and jetsam of my post-conference debris and winnow out the treasures worth pursuing from those artifacts that don’t seem all that compelling in retrospect.
I am also going to make a list of scholars that I want to contact and why. Then, and this is the important bit and why I’ve blocked out such a substantial block of time, I’m actually going to send the e-mails! Sounds silly, I know, but it is amazing how often we think about doing something like this, but somehow never quite get around to it. I have five people I heard or met at this year’s conferences that I really want to learn more about and maybe stay in contact with, so this will be my window of opportunity to do just that – no excuses.
I will also be making a shortlist of books or articles that I heard about, and write a little note to myself describing what I thought could be significant there, along with the call numbers for my library to make it easier to find them. Again, this will make sure those glimmers of ideas don’t get snuffed out in the back draft of chaos that is my day-to-day life.
Conferencing really is one of the most enjoyable aspects of academe, in my opinion. Yes it can be exhausting, and it’s a bit of a crap shoot in terms of the quality of papers. But overall, it’s one of the few opportunities we have to immerse ourselves in the esoterica of our disciplines and enjoy the feeling of being part of a community that shares our intense interest in areas most people simply don’t want to understand.
Hopefully, my achingly virtuous follow-up strategies will yield results that will justify the investment of time away from my research and the strain on my bank account that conferencing demands. At the very least it will be a noble procrastination strategy that will leave my desk much less cluttered as I settle back into my resaerch, and that too is a good thing!
Writing a blog is a new adventure for me. I’ve enjoyed writing for University Affairs for a couple of years now. For the past ten years or so, I’ve been lucky enough to advise graduate students on academic and alternative careers. But the way I see it, a blog is potentially the best of both worlds. With Career Sense, I can continue to write about issues related to launching both academic and alternative careers, but as a blog, it’s not just a one-way flow – it’s more like the dialogue I had when advising grad students. I really hope that you will join in this conversation by asking questions, sharing your experiences, and posting comments about things you care about.
Because a blog is a public forum, it’s a great venue for something that is near and dear to me – creating community. Grad school can be pretty lonely at times, and looking for your first job after graduation can be even worse. This blog is a wonderful opportunity to create something that will benefit all of us – an informed, supportive national network of grad students and PhDs who are working together with shared interests and concerns.
I’ll be posting every Monday about issues, ideas or resources that I think are useful for people transitioning out of grad school or into a faculty position. If there’s something you’ve been looking for, or wondering about, post your question. If you read someone’s question and you have a relevant idea or comment to make, please post that too. I see myself as more of a facilitator than a director of this conversation, and am happy to let your priorities shape how the blog develops.
So, welcome to Career Sense – we look forward to hearing from you!
Career Sense question of the week: What career related issues or information is most important to you right now?
What is Career Sense?
Career Sense is a new way for PhDs and grad students to get access to career information and support. What’s new about it? Well, as a blog, the flow of information here can be more like a conversation than a lecture, which is to say, not only will I be giving my perspectives on the topics raised, but all of you are encouraged to join in and add your two cents worth as well.
Who am I?
I have spent 10 years as a career advisor at a major Canadian university and have a passion for the unique issues facing graduate students not only because I believe they are one of this country’s greatest resources, but because I have a first person understanding of what it’s like to be in the academic trenches having spent many years as a grad student (Masters and PhD) myself. As a career development professional, I have a particular commitment for helping intelligent people (if you made it to grad school that means you!) appreciate the huge range of possibilities open to them and support them in realizing whatever goals they set for themselves. I also have a firm belief in the power of community to help us reach our goals – a theme that will no doubt be prevalent in this blog.
Why do PhDs and grad students need a career blog?
In academe, there is no shortage of experts, which is a good thing – most of the time. However, when it comes to making major transitions in your life and career – whether that is inside academe or in a totally unrelated field – the only expert on what is right for you is YOU. Within the culture of academe, where serious work is done for the most part in monastic-like isolation, it can be difficult to manage this transition – especially in an information vacuum.
While dissertation supervisors and university career counselors are important support people you can (and should) turn to for advice, there’s nothing like a community of empathetic peers, many who are facing or have faced the types of issues you may be struggling with now, with whom to bounce ideas off of and commiserate. As well, the collective wisdom of all of us will creates a database of concrete, practical suggestions and ideas larger than any of us would be able to access on our own.
Ok – I’m sold – what do I need to do?
Here’s how Career Sense works. Each Monday I’ll be putting up a new post. Sometimes I’ll be responding to questions you may have sent my way, other times I’ll be sharing a resource link, or maybe just a thought I’ve had that is relevant to the focus of Career Sense – the career development of Canada’s PhDs and grad students. The quality of Career Sense and its usefulness and to will up to all of us to create together.
So what’s on your mind? It’s no accident this blog is being launched at the height of the academic recruitment season – what does this mean for you? Post your questions, and feel free to respond to the posts of other people if you have something to say. We’ll see how things go, and depending on the volume of responses, we can figure out how to make Career Sense a useful component of your career plans. Whether you give your real name and affiliation or choose to remain anonymous, keep in mind this is a public forum and people have different and sometimes strong feelings about how their futures will (or should) play out – I respect these differences and ask you to do the same. Let the conversation begin …