Monday, June 2, 2008

Opinions were like kittens.

I've had a fair amount of trouble describing what it's like to try to get ready for the job market while writing the dissertation. It's not really like a race since I'm not competing with anyone to get done. It's not really like a marathon. Don't get me wrong, it definitely takes perseverance. But at least in a marathon you know where you're going and what you're supposed to do next.

Maybe it's like juggling a lot balls in the air only one's really big and heavy (read: Diss). Focus on that one too much and everything else falls by the wayside. But that one's a lot harder to get back up if you let it fall too far.

Eh. I guess I need to keep working on it.

-- Second Suitor


Anonymous said...

Sometimes, there's no good or perfect analogy (it it were perfect, then it's not an analogy; it'd be an identical situation).

Writing a diss. and being on a job market feels like...writing a diss. and being on the job market. And that's all I have to say about that.

Anonymous said...'s not that bad...relax a little?

Anonymous said...

You need to try really, really hard to relax at all costs, man.

Anonymous said...

Relax? Bullshit. Get to fucking work, sonny boy. If your shit ain't polished come October, you'll be bitchin and moaning on this blog same time next year. You can sleep when you're dead and you can relax when you get tenure, until then, fucking snap to, muthafucka!

Anonymous said...

Talented, disciplined ABDs can relax. The rest of us need to rely on luck and hard work...

Anonymous said...

Hi everybody. I have a question that's very difficult to ask as it must remain super-duper anonymous, for obvious reasons. Has anybody out there ever heard of an ABD student switching directors within the same department? If you have heard of this, do you know the outcome? Can it ever "work"? Before you all start recommending the obvious solutions (be more more flexible...grin and bear it...) let me be very clear that in the case I have in mind, none of these options will work. We're talking end of the rope, last-ditch scenario here (with the one particular faculty member in question--not with others in the same department). Not to be presumptuous, but if it seems interesting then feel free, moderators, to make a thread for this question. Maybe I'll say more if I feel comfortable with the anonymity issue.

Anonymous said...

Having just finished my dissertation and accepted a job after a grueling job search with marathon campus visits, etc., I can say it was one of the more stressful experiences of my life... Juggling balls with one of them giant and heavy (that being the dissertation) isn't a half-bad description, from my perspective! I'm in another discipline but found stumbled across this blog while writing my dissertation. I've been a lurker and fan ever since as it nails and gives words to the bizarre pecularities of ABD life... Hang in there, four months ago I was ready to rock in a ball in a corner someplace muttering "no job, giant student loans" as my mantra. Now having landed the tenure track gig, I have a sneaking suspicion that a whole other landscape of pecularities is unfolding before me...

Anonymous said...

Wow, where is all the hate coming from?

Anyway, as for analogies, I at least have one that I use to explain to non-Academics what a dissertation is like in the humanities. I tell them that a dissertation is not a research project. Instead, it is like I have to come up with 1 - 5 genuinely patent-able ideas that I could take to market and sell. I can't simply re-package someone else's idea and then patent it or patent something worthless; it has to be the real deal. Most people seem to understand, too, that such a process takes a lot of research, thought, and false starts. Now, if only I had an analogy that also explained what it is like to be on the market at the same time, eh?

Anonymous said...

I may be able to help Anon 7:17, you have your 4-5 ideas and no one has any $ to buy them.

tenured philosophy girl said...

Anon 11:54:

It is actually not at all uncommon to switch directors. No one would find this eyebrow raising. It sounds like the trick, for you, will be to find a story about why you want to switch that is intellectual rather than personal. This has to be a story you can tell to your department and your future and present director, and also a story you can tell interviewers if anyone asks.

You can even get away with just talking about learning styles, etc. What you should avoid at all costs is billing the switch to anyone involved as "I just have to escape this horrible freak", or whatever. However much your current director is torturing you, it doesn't help anything and doesn't make a good impression to bring that into the conversation about switching. You should just keep it as simple as possible - you feel you'll get more done and that your project will be better if you switch.

Of course the devil is in the details, which you understandably have not disclosed.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:54,

This happened once to a friend of mine when we were back in grad school (5-6 years ago). Originally, Prof X was his director and Prof Y was a member of his committee. But as he was working on the prospectus, it because clear (certainly to him, and I think to all involved) that working with Prof X wasn't going to work out. So he switched and had Prof Y direct the dissertation (changing the topic somewhat, and with Prof X not even on the committee). Even though Prof X is a higher profile scholar than Prof Y, my friend did just great and landed a good TT job on the market his first time out.

Anonymous said...

to anonymous 11:54
I did it.
I switched topics so that it made sense to switch advisors. (and I finished the new dissertation, defended, got a job, got tenure and lurk on this blog because I'm contemplating going back out on the market when the book based on the dissertation is published)

Your program should have a general graduate advisor. Go talk to him or her. Lay out the problem in confidence and listen to their advice.
If the general graduate advisor is new to your department, talk in confidence to a senior faculty member who you trust to help you negotiate the potentially tricky political currents of your decision. It will not be the first time that someone has switched advisors in your program... and it won't be the last.

And if the reason you are switching advisors is because of something potentially actionable (like sexual harassment) please keep records of whom you talk with and what their response. If your advisor was abusive towards you, you might not have been his or her first or only or last victim.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

11:54 - -

sorry to hear about your situation. that's a very difficult bind. i do know of a case like that that seems to have worked out pretty well. the reason it worked out ok, as far as i can tell, has a lot to do with the personality of the original director. this person isn't a vindictive type and was probably relieved as much as anything else to be off the hook. my suggestion would be to discuss the situation with your director of grad studies or department chair and see if s/he can help you finesse it. good luck.

Asstro said...

I think my earlier comment got lost. Here it is again.

Anon 6:24:

Yes, I've heard of it, witnessed it, and seen good outcomes. Here's a little secret: your graduate advisors aren't as powerful as they sometimes like to believe themselves to be. They're just people. Fuck 'em. Sure, feelings get hurt, but you (or your friend) absolutely must make decisions that facilitate the advancement of your (or your friend's) career. Let's pretend it's you, just to make things easier.

If you're not getting along with your advisor, it's probably mutual, so bail and move to someone else. If you're being exploited by your advisor, your advisor has probably exploited others in the past. Switching advisors may piss your advisor off, but you'll send a strong signal and it won't matter anyway, since your advisor won't be your advisor anymore. If your advisor is the best in the field, but a total dickhead, it's probably a good idea to make the transition smoothly without pissing him off; but it's unlikely that your advisor will have time or interest in attacking you harshly or bad mouthing you on the job market. Even if your advisor is particularly vindictive, it usually comes off as unprofessional on their part, and not on yours, if they say something ugly about you.

The one word of caution, I suppose, is that if your current advisor is the stand-out figure in your field, moving to a less qualified advisor may raise some flags with hiring committees. This depends, of course, on how much those hiring committees know about your AOS, and about the personality (or getalongability) of your advisor.

I'd get out of the situation as soon as possible and find a dissertation committee that will be supportive in all phases of the process.

tenured philosophy girl said...

addendum to my previous advice:

Personally, I tell *all* my students up front that diss committees are provisional and that they should feel free to adjust them to meet their needs as they go along, and that I won't be offended if they do that. Perhaps not everyone takes the time to say that but hopefully most feel it.

I disagree with anon 9:49 that you should have a long detailed confidential talk with the grad adviser, or at least I think this should be a last resort. Keep it clean and simple and positive - you really feel you'd benefit from switching and working with Prof. Y - period.

However I also agree that if there's sexual or other harassment on the table, that's a different story - that requires documentation and sometimes it morally requires confrontation.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I switched advisers, from someone who was sick of my project and making my life miserable to someone who was happy with my project. I didn't have to switch topics, but I did have to delay graduation for a year, mostly to make the impression that I was making significant changes to the version that adviser A thought was poor. (I did make many changes in that year, but they weren't fundamental changes; the thing just got better.) My new committee overlapped with the old, though Adviser A was not on it. Adviser B is better known that Adviser A, which helped, but not in the area of my dissertation, which did not seem to matter.

I came out with good letters, and I got a very good job.

The moral: the adviser who is making you miserable may be relieved to see you go, rather than betrayed by the defection. Your life may make a turn for the better. And it may be the case that none of that has anything to do with the quality of your work.

Anonymous said...

If the advisor you want to switch to cannot give you reliable advice on this matter, should you really be switching to him/her? S/he should advise right?

Make sure the old advisor isn't on your old committee or knows what jobs you are putting in for, just in case.

KateNorlock said...

A friend of mine did it and is a happy tenured professor now, though I think said friend went through extreme stress in the short run. It is possible, but keep everything formal and friendly, polite and upbeat, while keeping copies of every email and piece of paper involved. It is definitely doable, take heart!

Anonymous said...

hey this is anon 11.54, the original asker about "switching adivsors." i'm emotive right now because it's a difficult time for me (see my previous post). but i have to say that in a weird way, this blog has saved my life. or at least my sanity.

i really do have to do this, and i really don't know how to do it. but hearing that others have gotten through it and done well makes me feel so much better. i have no idea what people did before blogs.

much love!
anon 11:54

Anonymous said...

They worked.

philo said...

Warning: attempted thread-hijack!

I'm defending my dissertation pretty soon, and I was wondering if any of you out there with some (preferably successful) experience with this might offer some advice. Specifically, what do you recommend the soon-to-be defender do between submitting the diss to the committee and the actual defense?

Many thanks!

Oh, and good luck anon 11:54!

Anonymous said...

Hi anon 11:54,

Add another person to your list of those who know people who switched directors mid-way with no repercussions. Keep in mind that the department wants you to do well, if not for your own sake, then for the sake of the department; the profs have at least their best interest(s) in mind, which requires, in part, helping grad students be successful in ways that they can. I know at least two people who have switched advisors mid-stream, and it didn't seem to be a big deal (even though it was to the grad students). So chin up! And good luck--keep us posted.

Jr TT said...


Start a new paper or two. Something tangential to your dissertation, perhaps, but not part of it. Keep your brain working, but get some distance from the dissertation.

Anonymous said...


First off, relax. If your adviser has decided it's time for you to defend, that's 99% as good as saying you've defended. Only in the darkest corners of the rumor mill do you hear of candidates failing the defense.

I would suggest you ask your adviser exactly how the defense will go. Do you summarize your work? If so, for how long? As for challenges to your work, they are likely to be either (a) softballs from your committee members, (b) hardballs from committee members that you've gotten before from them, or (c) wild pitches from the general audience, which hasn't read your work. The important point is that you're extremely unlikely to hear, at this point, any devastating criticism of your work that you haven't heard before. So just be prepared to offer your best response to familiar targeted objections and to defend your project against general worries much further up the dialectical tree (much as you would prepare for a job interview).

But the basic thing to do is relax. If you're scheduled, you've as much as defended. Your time might be better spent making sure you're in good with the grad school dissertation secretary - that you've adhered to their often Byzantine formatting requirements.