Chris Blattman

Funny if it weren’t true

Tag line for the Political Science Job Rumors blog: “Now with less job!”

I’ve been thinking through constructive, optimistic advice for PhDs on the market this year, both in political science and economics.

Personally I love the idea of pre-docs and post-docs, even in the best of markets. Mine was the best decision I ever made, letting me sow the seeds of my tenure packet by starting several field projects while publishing my dissertation papers and pulling some old papers off the back burner for a second look.

Of course, post-docs are ultra-competitive just for this reason. One idea: invent your own post doc.

You want pay, research time, and a chance to wait out the market until things improve (which they will). I’m working with a PhD who has a short-term consultancy with the World Bank. He gets paid for 150 days of work (mostly research-related) and spends the rest on his own research projects. It seems to me one could attempt the same with the UN, the Fed, the State Department, NGOs, etc. So long as it is reaserch related, and allows you to publish, you’ll remain competitive on the academic market.

Find an outside source of income, moreover, you can probably find a university department willing to give you a desk and an affiliation–thus keeping you even closer to the intellectual mainstream.

By the time you’re back on the market in one to two years, your packet will be that much more polished than the newer crop, possibly outweighing any market re-entry frictions.

Reader suggestions?

4 Responses

  1. Hi, as to worldbank short term consultancy, do you know approximately how much it is paid? Do you think it is difficult to get such a contract if you already have a PhD in economics and 2 good prublications (top30)?
    Thanks a lot in advance, best

  2. “Find an outside source of income” works for temporary job shortages, but it strikes me as a nonsensical way to run a knowledge economy. (And trust me, as a student turned freelance journalist, I’ve given this plenty of thought.) Argue amongst yourselves over whether the academic job crunch is temporary or permanent, but we’re wasting our comparative advantage at most of these pay-the-rent jobs, and society is worse for that. Better to specialize in something that’s actually in demand. Of course, I don’t want to be the one to change strategies!

  3. This is great advice. Another option is to go abroad in search of consultancies, etc. I know from experience that if you show up in Goma and are marginally competent, somebody will probably hire you to do something.

    Post-docs are always ideal, but boy, am I glad I didn’t go that route last year. The thought of being on the market now is beyond depressing.

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