Over at PhDinHistory, Sterling recently put up a post about the trials and tribulations of getting an assistant professor gig. It’s a great post with lots of wonderful graphs and charts; I suggest you read it. Sterling concludes with some advice for grad students, including this tip:
The majority of newly-minted history PhDs need to have back-up plans for the first half decade or so after graduation. Nearly half of the assistant professors who were hired between 1999 and 2003 had earned their PhD in history five to nine years previous.
He’s right, of course, and I’ve heard this advice before. Unfortunately, I’m not exactly sure what my back-up plan should be. The funny thing–funny-depressing, not funny-haha–is that grad school doesn’t really give you the chance to come up with a back-up plan. If you stick to the 4-6 year PhD plan, there’s no time to pick up another skill or gain some experience in a different job/field–you’ve got to spend your every waking hour reading, writing, and teaching. At least that’s how it works for me.
Fortunately, I’m blessed to have a wonderful, generous, patient, and extremely talented spouse whose income should be able to support us if necessary. But I’m not sure what my comrades in grad school will do should they not find a job when they get done. Or, for that matter, what I’ll do while my spouse is supporting my lazy-ass. I suppose I could get a job in computers; I used to do IT support. They still use DOS, righ?