Guest Post by Kweku Ananse: How To Become an Employable PhD Graduate

Last week, Kwaku Ananse wrote a guest post about problematic supervisors. A main problem,he concluded is  misguided advice suggesting you focus only on your dissertation:

In our times, employers want graduates with experience, widely interpreted either as teaching, research experience as evident in a publication, or both.

This reality brings me to the issue of taking initiative outside the normal routines of the graduate program.

1.One is to visit the personal websites of other graduate students in other universities who are in the same discipline as you are.Know what these students are doing in terms of the conferences they attend, the types of publications they have (and the journals they have published in etc). Being on top of these things should alert you to what your competitors are up to.

2. Another thing outside the graduate comfort zone is to test your ideas by sending cold emails to perhaps established leading scholars in the field to give you feedback regarding your use of their analytical ideas (Here, I have to say I am hesitant with important but emerging scholars). You are not always guaranteed a response but you might be surprised how some of these scholars are interested to help young intellectuals with feedback and suggestions of recent literature. These people can be your pool of what Kajsa refers to as “informal supervisors” (see her post ‘Informal Supervisors: Surviving Ph.D‘) who can be both local (in other departments in your school as well as in your program) and as well as international.

3. One important thing to note in a graduate school is not to see yourself as incapable of publishing in leading journals in your field.

  • Read such journals and note what the leading debates are.
  • Examine such debates side by side your current research.
  • When you see a contribution that perhaps a facet of your research can make to such debates, ‘be bold’ (as they say in GH-politics) and write an article and send it out.

Several things can happen with such an approach: the paper might be rejected (and good reviewers will give you details as why the paper was rejected); paper accepted (but with some revision,either substantial or minor). Whatever the case, the plus side of taking such an initiative is that you have begun a process that is going to be part of your academic life.

This guest post is written by fellow graduate student Kwaku Ananse, one of my readers.