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I wish I had understood that networking is at least as important as your academic studies when it comes to getting a job after your PhD.

academic migrant

I wish I knew a) how important it is to develop a plan B, and b) how to develop a plan B. Only luck (and my irrational inability to accept other ways of life - and no, I don't think this is a good thing taking into consideration all the sacrifices undertaken by myself and my family) led to my current academic job.

Of course, due to immigration status, I'm not exactly sure I could have had a good plan B so to live in a country I'd be happy to live in.


I wish I knew that there is a difference between learning philosophy and doing research in philosophy, and doing a PhD is more about the latter than the former.

When I started my PhD studies, I was eager to "learn": I took a variety of courses, read all assigned materials carefully, and enjoyed learning what I did not know. I took more courses than I needed for my distribution requirements, and I did not write good term papers because I spent too much time on reading different things.

Most of my friends who succeeded in the PhD program had a research mindset from the beginning. They focused on their research interests and thought of each course they took as a research opportunity--they aimed for a publication for each term paper, so they read selectively (not meaning they read less) and only those that were relevant to their projects. They finished their distribution requirements as early as possible so that they could exclusively work on their research. They did not treat every course equally--they sometimes even spent 90% of their time on one course.

4th year phd student

I wish I had developed more confidence earlier in the program. I spent too much mental energy in my first two years comparing myself to others in the program and fretting about not feeling 'good enough'. The big shift was in my third year when I got much more active at conferences and started developing a network with others outside my program and in my research subfields. Along similar lines, I'd say to avoid getting involved in department politics as much as possible. And not to shy away from submitting to conferences that you might not think you have a good shot of getting accepted at. Even the process of developing a paper to submit is a worthwhile learning experience.

Deft Dabbler

G's comment applies to G's program and a number of others, I'll bet, but not to my PhD program, nor to my current department's PhD program. Where I got my PhD, senior faculty shone very brightly on students who seemed actively "into" philosophy beyond their specialties -- philosophy for its own sake, exploding across subfields. And they looked negatively on those who seemed too opportunistic or careerist in how they apportioned their intellectual energies. For example, you had to go to colloquia and ask questions, and be sure to do so now and then when the speaker wasn't in your area. And it paid off to be this way; you got better recs and ultimately better jobs.

At my current place this sort of outlook has some sway, but not nearly as much or as religiously as back there. Still, it counts against grads to be too singularly focused on their dissertation and its topic. Not justifying, just saying.

Filippo Contesi

So very (and sadly) true, Postdoc

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