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« Publishing outside one's AOS/AOC and the market | Main | Visualizations of PhD program placement data »

09/22/2020

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junior faculty

I want to echo that the advisor's track record is really important. You may also want to speak to students in your department and get a sense of what their advising style is. In my opinion, it is better to get an advisor that you can work well together with rather than someone famous. Ultimately, you are judged on the quality of your work and you should choose the person who will most likely bring out the best in your work. Grad school is stressful in itself and you want your advisor to be an ally rather than a source of stress.

In term of the more specific questions about comparisons. This depends from advisor to advisor. Some do play favorites. Avoid those advisors! Especially if you are not in the favored camp. This will just add to your anxieties and sink your market prospects. Do your research, ask around, examine their placement records - if they only graduate "stars" and have other students who drop out / not finish, it would be a red flag.

No, the chair of your committee does not need to be the most "famous" person. If you want to be competitive on the market, it would be advantageous to have a famous philosopher in your AOS to write you a letter. But this person does not need to be your chair. They could just be a member of your committee or an external letter writer who knows your work. I know of people who went on the market with great success when their chair was a mid-career philosopher, with more senior/famous letter writers who were either just on their committee or an external letter writer. In the end, a glowing letter from a less "famous" philosopher would help you more than a less-than-glowing letter from someone "famous."

I think it is a mistake to choose an advisor just because they are the most famous person in the department or in your area. The job of the chair is to be your guide through your dissertation and the job market. Being a famous philosopher often does not correlate with those mentoring skills.

As a cautionary tale, I chose my advisor back in grad school because they were famous and they were a good fit for my subject area. I was told by older grad students that they can be difficult to work with, but I decided to stick with them, full of boundless optimism. It was a mistake. I was miserable. My advisor did not read my drafts before our meetings, did not give me constructive feedback, did not help me network (despite being at the same conference several times), etc. They became a source of stress rather than someone I can turn to when I felt unsure or lost. I would have been much better off with a less "famous" advisor, but one who took mentoring seriously.

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