Thoughtful, practical career advice from Sharon Marcus, Columbia

Scenes From the Life of a Graduate Adviser”: This recent Chronicle Vitae piece by Sharon Marcus, Professor of English and Dean of Humanities at Columbia University, should be required reading for graduate students—and for their professors and advisers. I especially like her first three takeaways:

Lesson No. 1: Encourage all of your doctoral students to think about careers outside the professoriate.

Lesson No. 2: Encourage them to aim as high in other career paths as they have aimed in their academic one.

Lesson No. 3: Career paths outside academia are as demanding, exciting, and rewarding as academic ones.

The first point is particularly important if we truly want to work toward cultural change in graduate education. I generally dislike recommendations to create different tracks for graduate students who wish to pursue different types of careers, as such distinctions inevitably lead to a hierarchy of prestige. They also risk overemphasizing the vocational aspects of graduate study, rather than the deep content knowledge and the highly transferable generalized skills that are a part of every doctoral program. If graduate advisers encourage all students to stay open to different types of career paths, it becomes far easier for students to see that many different outcomes are possible, desirable, and rewarding.

Marcus also emphasizes the importance of pointing students to the career services. More and more universities have offices specifically geared toward graduate students, with highly trained professionals who can help them think creatively and expansively (as well as pragmatically) about the opportunities that might await them after their studies. GC students, make sure to check out the Office of Career Planning and Professional Development—and do so early in your studies, not just when the job market looms.

I highly recommend reading and sharing the full article.


The Futures Initiative
The Graduate Center, CUNY
365 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10016-4309