I really never thought it would be possible for someone to earn a Ph.D., which is the highest degree one can earn in any field, and not be able to get a job. I have, however, been able to see a recent example of this. What this tells me is people who are in Ph.D. programs are going to have to make strong efforts to obtain positions before they actually graduate. You cannot sit back and wait until you have graduated before you try to get a position. My early thoughts on this issue have me to think that a person like this really did not do good work while he or she was in graduate school. I often hear graduate students talking about what they have done, but the things they are saying are really not substantive achievements that employers will value. Some graduate students have tried to hate on me and criticize me, but what they have to recognize is my numerous authentic accomplishments have enabled me to gain previous and current positions—while I am still in graduate school.
Some people in Ph.D. programs try to act like they are so superior to all other students and try to use the fact that they are a Ph.D. student or Ph.D. candidate as the simple justification for why they are so accomplished. What they are failing to realize is they cannot simply rely on their Ph.D. student status or Ph.D. candidate status to secure them a job. You actually have to have authentic accomplishments while you are in graduate school before employers will really value what you have been able to accomplish. Just obtaining a Ph.D. is not enough. In down economy like the one we are experiencing, just having your Ph.D. is not going to be enough—employers are going to need to see that there is real value attached to the person who has this degree.
I contend that a person who does not obtain a job after obtaining his or her Ph.D. has to be someone who really did not deserve the degree in the first place or who has not done all that he or she can before he or she graduated to make himself or herself an attractive candidate. Don’t be sitting back while you are currently in a Ph.D. program thinking that you are simply the best thing since sliced bread and not doing the work that is necessary to obtain a job after you graduate. You should also be strongly encouraging the faculty members in your department, especially your dissertation director and dissertation committee members, to do all that they can to help you to secure a position. Do not allow them to simply give you empty rhetoric about what they are doing for you. Encourage them to give you genuine and meaningful opportunities while you are in your Ph.D. program that will empower you to be attractive to employers before and after you graduate.
Right now, I have to place the dominant blame on those who are graduating with a Ph.D. and are not able to get a job. At the end of the day, you can come up with all of the excuses you want to, but the dominant blame for your situation you have to place on yourself. I guess being called “Doctor” is not as satisfying as you thought it would be after all, huh?
Finally, don’t try to make what you are currently doing while you have no job seem to be more than it is. You have to remember your harsh social reality—you have a Ph.D. and no job.
Antonio Maurice Daniels
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Although I think that it’s okay to study abroad without a clear purpose while you are an undergraduate student, it is certainly inexcusable to study abroad while you are a graduate student without a clearly defined purpose. I don’t understand why people are so random these days. As an undergraduate student, studying abroad without a clearly defined purpose can potentially have great benefits for you. As a graduate student, you should not be wasting time studying abroad if it does not have anything to do with your degree program and with what you plan to do when you graduate. It is my guess that many of these graduate students who are randomly studying abroad now are doing so because they think that this looks or sounds good. Unfortunately, I have to tell you that there is nothing that looks or sounds good about you wasting a whole bunch of time on something that has nothing to do with your degree program, or that is not going to help you to obtain a career in your field.
With the amount of time that some of these graduate students who are randomly studying abroad are consuming, they could be devoting this time to starting another degree program. There’s nothing wrong with admitting that you don’t think that you are going to be successful in your current degree program—just admit it! Go ahead and finish the degree program you are in, so that you will have the degree under your belt, and then start a new graduate program—it can be a master’s degree program or doctoral degree program. If you are a graduate student who is studying abroad randomly, don’t try to fool smart people about why you are randomly studying abroad—we see right through the lies! Duh! Many of the graduate students that I know who are randomly studying abroad are using their study abroad experiences as vehicles to escape failure and to compensate for so much of what they lack.
People worry too much about what others think about them. As I have long advocated and have written consistently and persistently about, just be yourself! So many people are always talking about how REAL they are, but these are some of the main people doing things that they don’t want to do just to please others. Being random is not cute—no matter how you try to dress it up.
If you don’t have anything better to do with your time, participate in some of the selfless acts that I do: mentor disadvantaged young people, volunteer with organizations that focus on improving the lives of disadvantaged people, raise money for unfortunate children and adults, volunteer for community service programs at a local church, and etc. These aforementioned selfless acts will prove more beneficial than random study abroad trips.
I could see if you are a graduate student and you get a chance to study abroad through the Fulbright Program—no one will turn this offer down. If you get to be a Fulbright Scholar, then you don’t have to worry about whether or not the opportunity fits your degree program—it’s so prestigious to be a Fulbright Scholar. However, for you graduate students who just randomly decided to go study abroad without a purpose, how dumb!
Antonio Maurice Daniels
University of Wisconsin-Madison