careerism? you betcha!

Whenever I write about jobs and graduate school on this blog, I usually get one or two people who accuse me of “careerism.” For example, when I wrote about how to be productive a few weeks ago, the following comment was posted by jon:

What Fabio was talking about is probably careerism. Most successful scholars, may I say, unfortunately do follow that trajectory. But there are a few great ones that don’t. Only real geniuses are productive. Average good scholars are remembered for only one or two pieces of masterful works. This is most obvious in hard science such as mathematics and physics, and I don’t know why it wouldn’t apply to social science.

The previous comment, by Santosh Sali, elaborates:

Reading the post – gives me few impressions,
1) Being productive is about making “work-around” for serious, solo, committed work.
2) Academia is all about “Publishing” . And “teaching” doesn’t matter or it is “mundane” n trivial aspect.
3) So then where is original “contribution” of researcher? How will system assess/evaluate it?
4)Also using doctoral scholars, post-docs to work with is “collaboration” or “something else”.
5) also I have genuine doubt, these suggestions – will bring “breadth” in your work, what about “depth” – isn’t that people enter academia for this? (Or probably I am in utopian world).

A few responses. If by “careerism,” you mean “you wish to rewarded and promoted for doing good teaching and research,” then yes, I am absolutely a careerist. If you mean by careerism means “avoiding doing good work and focusing only on raises and promotions,” then, no, I do not mean that and nothing I wrote supports that.

Rather, my recommendations are about working smart. For example, let’s take Santosh’ #2 point – “academia is all about publishing.” Actually, I never said that. As any faculty member will tell you, academia is about many things. In a liberal arts college, you will do lots and lots of teaching. Even in a research university, professors will spend a lot of time prepping lectures, meetings with students, and grading papers. I know I do! Academia is also about administration and service.

The tricky thing is how to balance all these demands. My suggestion from the post boils down to a few ideas: work in groups; recognize diminishing returns; recognize work that can be minimized or avoided. At no point did I saw that you should do poorly in the class room. Rather, you should try to recognize that there may be a way to be an excellent teacher without creating more work for yourself. Same with research. Sure, *some* types of research *might* require a lot of solo work. But normally, most work improves with collaborators. So if you want to improve at your job, give these ideas a chance.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist/From Black Power/Party in the Street 


Written by fabiorojas

January 10, 2017 at 12:20 am

5 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Sir, Thanks for responding to my comments.
    “Balancing all these demands” is interesting that’s what we behavioral students call “job crafting”.

    My concern is that “publishing” is much more valued in doctoral students and scholars journey compared to teaching. In fact “teaching” doesn’t feature at all in most of graduate students courses. Ideally teaching should be extension of what scholars “learn”. If you get, you give, similarly, if you “learn”, now you teach.

    Typically graduate student’s journey almost kills spirit of “teaching”.


    Santosh Sali

    January 12, 2017 at 4:32 am

  2. Santosh: First, I agree that students don’t get enough training or mentorship in teaching. And I also agree that it is too easy to fall into the belief that teaching is not important. If you type “teaching” into the search engine, you will see that we do discuss teaching a fair amount in this forum.

    Second, even though I think teaching is crucial, even central, to academia, I think graduate students should still realize that research output (however defined) is the main factor that determines your career prospects. And it is what distinguishes us from high school teachers. We are trained experts and we push the boundary forward in our field. I also like to point out that the best teaching intensive positions tend to go to people who have strong research records, as indicated by PhDs from leading programs and decent publication records.

    So yes, teaching is important. But make no mistake. Research is the anchor of the professorial job and we should learn how to do both well and efficiently.



    January 12, 2017 at 2:15 pm

  3. Fabio,

    Thanks a lot for your response. I guess what I am against is collaboration out of convenience instead of necessity. It is not uncommon in our field where you see “paper brokers” out there, who publish a lot of junk for grants and cites, but when you read a bit more carefully how they conduct their research, they can’t survive a glimpse of some details. My point is quality overrides quantity. But we focus so much on quantity and it really misleads the whole community.



    January 12, 2017 at 4:02 pm

  4. Thanks Fabio, yes that realization is settling that “research” is paramount to academia


    Santosh Sali

    January 13, 2017 at 8:45 am

  5. I think there’s a real misconception out there that teaching and research are necessarily in conflict with each other. The best soc classes I took as an undergrad were usually ones where the professors brought in examples of their own research to illustrate sociological concepts we were discussing in class. One professor occasionally tested his research ideas in our class. Sometimes they would be surveys or class activities. And again, he’d bring it back into the lesson. He was able to develop his research while exposing students to new ideas in the field and showing us how social scientists actually do research.
    And this was at an R1 school. It doesn’t always have to be teaching vs. research. They really can complement each other.



    January 14, 2017 at 8:24 pm

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: