One of the things that Tasha and I enjoy most about our work at Launching Legends is connecting with clients on a personal level. Supporting someone right at the brink of a major transition, or at the edge of “I-just-can’t-take-it-anymore,” always reminds us of why we founded this company. Every now and again an especially powerful question or idea arises in our work that is just too good not to share with our online community. Here’s a question I encountered at a conference earlier this year. I’ve included nuggets in the answer that all readers should find helpful—even if you are not in higher ed.
Question: Is publishing in graduate school a waste of time if I’m not planning on pursuing a traditional academic career?
Answer: With more and more Ph.D. students exploring career paths beyond the traditional tenure track, whether eagerly or under compulsion, there is an urgent need to have new conversations about how we spend our time in graduate school. While some faculty are resistant to even discussing shifts in professional development for doctoral students, I meet all too many recent and soon-to-be graduates that are ready to ditch the academy altogether out of fear. I understand well the need to be practical about the connection between career choice and quality of life, however, as a coach, I know that fear is hardly ever a good enough reason to not go after what you really want. So if you are one of those people that would happily pursue a career as an academic if you somehow knew that you were guaranteed to find a job, then take a step back to evaluate your choices. What will you be giving up if you allow intimidation to divert you away from an otherwise beneficial path? Think about a scary and challenging experience from your past. How did you work through your fear and press forward? What would it look like if you were to apply those same strengths and tools to your current situation?
If you are clear that purpose is leading you to consider positions beyond the professoriate, then take the time to establish clear professional goals and plan your time accordingly. As a graduate student you have access to career resources that may not be on your radar because they are typically marketed to undergraduates. Tap into these resources to identify the career path that fits your strengths, passions, and values. Next, outline the experiences and projects that will put you in the best position to secure employment in your chosen field. In the end you may find that publishing, collaboratively or as a solo author, during your graduate school career is a wise choice because it hones your communication skills and sets you apart from other job candidates. I have yet to meet an employer who does not value someone that can effectively communicate ideas and information in writing. Of course, prioritizing your research agenda at the expense of other beneficial experiences is not wise if you know that your publications will not be enough to gain you entry into the professional path you have chosen. In any case, avoid making decisions about how you spend your time based on fear, or blanket assumptions about what is or isn’t valued in certain industries.