Just graduated from Uni, and when I was burnt out from writing papers in my final term, I played Assassins Creed 2 and listened to Manager Tools and Career Tools in the background. In doing so, I got very excited about the kind of things talked about there, and it solidified this desire I have to do more than just follow the opportunities presented to me, but to actually position myself to make something of myself.

I'm going into academia and am currently filling in Grad school apps. I'm a philosophy undergrad, looking to pursue my philosophy PhD so I can be a professor one day (and no, I don't have any illusions about how difficult this is going to be - believe me, I've exhausted that topic on my own).

I'm hoping to learn some extra stuff from following the discussions on here and maybe pursue some of my own lines of enquiry. I'm unsure about academia, only because I do not like how little control over my fate I will have, even taking the MT advice on board.

It seems to me like there's the business world, and there's all this shifting between jobs, taking on roles, pursuing different careers in different industries, being given various responsibilities and having to rise to the challenges presented. In academia I don't think I'll have anything quite so exciting or challenging... I mean... I will have hard work, and have my own challenges, but they won't be quite so weird and wonderful as the ones that business people seem to get up to. Mostly it's going to be writing papers, teaching classes, sitting on committees and negotiating the internal politics. I don't feel like I'm going to have quite the room to really grow, to experience the real world and to strike out on some interesting new path.

So, yeah. At the moment, academia is the best of all possible paths, because I cannot figure out how else to combine my passion for dry, academic study, with this... lust for something more business-like, something that feels like it's really going somewhere. I know it might sound weird, coming from someone who plans to go into some cushy desk job, reading books and writing about stuff from his noggin but... I really do have an envy for what I hear hear guys like Horstman talk about, their own experiences and the kind of people they talk about meeting and working with. And yet at the same time, I know I don't want to work in finance, or manufacturing, or any kind of tech company. Intellectual study is what I want to do... but with the kind of accountability, responsibility and actual business acumen that comes with living in the business world... not all this sleepy, set-in-stone, follow-your-way-along-a-proscribed-path that academia seems to be.

I'm a weird one, I know. Hi, my name's Rory. :)

refbruce's picture

Welcome, and I hope you find what you see here worthwhile. IMO, much of what MT talks about applies to academia. Assuming you make it into a professor role, managing grad students is like most any other type of management -- the trinity applies (in spades). Networking is key -- who knows what you know (and have done) is at least as critical to getting and keeping an academic job.

Some differences, in my opinion.

1) You must keep and have a full CV (in the US sense of that word), which lists all of your publications, your formal presentations, successful grant proposals, and professional service roles. That's along the lines of the Career Management Document. That CV is what you'll turn in for an academic opening and for tenure review. But also keep the CMD in terms of accomplishments and keep a couple of real (one page) resumes on hand. Those are useful in getting consulting gigs and in case you ever decide to exit academia.

Within this, you must understand what forms of publication are most recognized by your particular discipline/community. Formal conference proceedings are critical in the computer science departments and ignored in chemistry, as one example.

2) A professional web presence is essential in academia, but not in most aspects of the business world. That includes a professional (as opposed to personal) web site and a good LinkedIn entry. I am a Co-I on two grants where my collaborators used my web site as one of the factors in inviting me to the proposal development. At the higher levels, we often use web sites to decide who to include in panels, as invited speakers, and on advisory boards. That doesn't replace networking, but is an important adjunct. Posting that CV on your web site is often expected. Yes, this does increase your risks around spam email and spear phishing, but it's a cost of doing business.

3) An academic presentation is different from a business presentation, but not nearly as much as most people seem to think. This is really an area where the one-eyed person is king in the land of the blind. Many academic presentations at conferences are truly awful. Keep the number of slides down. Use descriptive titles that tell the story. Rehearse (in front of a video camera). I'll go six or seven slides for a 20 minute presentation, which is more than MT recommends, but way less than the 15-30 I often see. Make sure your talk fits comfortably into the allotted time. We despise (and generally don't invite) the prima donas that insist that their work is so important that they can speak for 30 minutes in a 20 minute slot.

tlhausmann's picture
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trust me when I say MT applies in higher ed too. I taught for five years after grad school and since managed IT operations in higher ed for nearly 20 years.

Managing others, delivering decision briefings, O3s, effective communications, effective writing/email, time management, are all part of the guidance you will receive in the MT/CT podcasts. All apply equally well in academia.

I will reinforce what Bruce writes--professionalism stands out in higher ed.

mfculbert's picture

I work for a post-secondary institution but in a production capacity. Too many academia people believe that their work is divorced from the "real-world." This is leading to some real problems with our education and with our students. Please read Drucker's Effective Executive immediately. If you choose to make effectiveness your mantra, you will soon be in the top 5% of the professors I know.

When I taught high school students, I emulated the work place environment I had worked in for 20 years. It made "classroom management" easy for me and far more meaningful to the students. When is the last time you heard of a student being fired from a class?

RDHodgson's picture


Regarding CVs, Resumes, etc: I intend to start a website, once I have my accounts in order, and to run it much like I've seen other academics, with an easy to find CV, or the CV right there on the front page. I think that's a good idea about keeping a ready-to-hand resume as well, and to keep a fuller CMD, even though academic CVs tend to be pretty expansive anyway.

Regarding presentation, yeah... I can't tell you how many very boring lectures and presentations I have sat on, in classes and at various events run at different departments. Particularly in Philosophy... the discipline just does not demand it. There's just nothing helpful about having a slideshow on mereology - it's just distracting and sleep-inducing. I've been thinking about a lot of different ways to do presentations, based on what I've seen (good and bad) and I'm really excited about having a go.

What you say about being a prima dona... I think that's something I've really taken away from listening to the podcasts, that being important and influential is precisely about not thinking about yourself in such inflated terms. It's about willing to apologise, to be the bigger man, to humble yourself a little bit, offering support and generally not letting your ego get in the way.

TLHausmann and MFCulbert,

I don't mean to make it sound like I don't want to view academia like I would business. Indeed, my whole point is that I want to treat it more professionally, more business-like than it presently appears to me (which I know is just nails-on-a-chalkboard to a lot of my future collleagues, who hate the idea of the precious ivory tower being talked about in such a way :). 

I never thought about the classroom itself being like a work-place environment. I was just thinking about I communicate with colleagues and manage all that higher end stuff. I don't mean to make it sound like I think the educational side is unimportant - far from it, that's one of the big draws to me. It's just I was seeing it like... well... just school stuff. It's interesting though.... I need to think more about this aspect of things, and how to introduce proper business skills to it.


Thanks for the warm reception and feedback you guys!