Friday, January 18, 2008

Do not go for the most prestigious job

Now that soon to be PhDs are flying across the continents to impress audiences and will in a few weeks ponder which offers to accept, let me give some little pieces of advice:


  • Do not go for the most prestigious job. Your advisor may really want you to take this top school job to have one more medal on his chest, but think about yourself. What quality of life do you really want? The higher ranked the department, the more stressed you will be, and the least likely you are to get tenured.

  • Think not just where you want to work, but also where you want to live.

  • Listen to your spouse. The divorce rate is too high among assistant professors, or many end up moving anyway as they finally listen to their spouse.

  • Industry jobs are more lucrative, but they are also more stressful, and much more constraining in terms of topics and hours.
  • Consider it: you may like teaching.

In summary, think more about the life you want to live, and less about the work you want to work.

3 comments:

Vilfredo said...

There is truth, shocking as it may be, to your advice. In retrospect, life s hell in the top departments (and those that believe they are top departments) but it is rewarding to be around great, although very egocentric people. If I had to redo it, I would rather have taken a visiting position in a top department during a leave of absence, rather than endure the pressure of a "real" appointment.

Paimor said...

This overlooks the time dimension of the decision. Even if you go through a painful process during the tenure track, you always have the option of resettling later in a less prestigious Department and remaining there until you die.
This path has several advantadges over going directly to the less prestigious department, as you learn a lot, gain reputation, go on the inside track of the publishing process, etc.
So it's like 7 years of intensity, and then 30+ of the more relaxed life that you propose.;

Anonymous said...

@Paimor: You miss the path dependancy. Suppose your spouse gets fed up with not seeing you because you are always working at your prestigious appointment. Sure, you can then go to a lower-ranked department if you miss tenure. However, you will then be without your spouse and also probably bitter from a nasty divorce.

The probability of a divorce is not independent of where you go. So 7 years of intensity followed by years of unhappiness outside of work?