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Thread: Good (but not top) graduate education - how to be competitive for jobs?

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    Good (but not top) graduate education - how to be competitive for jobs?

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    I'm currently applying to a couple of PhD programs, however, due to personal circumstances I'm not able to apply to top schools (eg. Stanford, Yale, MIT, Harvard, Chicago). I know that most of the top departments are populated with graduates of these programs so I was wondering what people would recommend doing to be positioned for the job market following the PhD. I'm interested in academia (though not necessarily at a top school realistically) or central banking if that doesn't work out.

    I'd really like to make sure I'm aware of how to make myself an attractive candidate from the beginning so that I don't waste precious time. For some context, I've been told that I would have been competitive for the top schools I listed, had I been able to relocate (I had a high GPA at a prestigious undergrad, a perfect GRE, a pending publication, multiple research awards and work experience at investment banks and research houses). However, it's just not on the table - as such, I need to be more conscious of the path I take.

    I'm considering two programs - one isn't that great overall (maybe top 50 globally?) but the speciality I'm applying to is extremely strong (top 10 globally). My second choice program is much better overall (about top 15 globally according to some sources), but not nearly as strong in my specialty.

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    Re: Good (but not top) graduate education - how to be competitive for jobs?

    It's straightforward...

    1. Be a good colleague. Ensure that your classmates (and eventually advisors) think of you as someone who is reliable, available, present, and helpful. Don't be one dimensional: develop new interests outside of the PhD program and be able and willing to talk about something other than economics. Remember, jobs are located in workplaces. Everyone wants theirs to suck less and one way to do that is to hire people you actually want to talk to every day.
    2. During your PhD, produce a dissertation that is both publishable and shows you are capable of producing independent research. While it can work out in rare cases, I suggest you do not go on the market with work that is co-authored with or derivative of your advisors.
    3. If you aren't aiming at the top research schools after graduation, develop a portfolio of experience as a teacher. Take classes in the graduate education program or the faculty development department to show you think seriously about your pedagogy.

    Those are in the order of importance (outside of the very elite portion of the job market where research moves up to number 1).

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    Re: Good (but not top) graduate education - how to be competitive for jobs?

    Quote Originally Posted by tm_member View Post
    It's straightforward...
    2. During your PhD, produce a dissertation that is both publishable and shows you are capable of producing independent research. While it can work out in rare cases, I suggest you do not go on the market with work that is co-authored with or derivative of your advisors.
    Thanks - that's a good suggestion that I haven't heard explicitly before. I was wondering if you had advice on developing something that isn't strictly derivative from your supervisor's work, given the short length of the PhD and the data infrastructure considerations? My proposed supervisors at my top choice are keen to get me to develop my own line of work, but I'm aware that the PhD is only 3-4 years (all research), and that getting access to data depends on what they've already got. I'm hoping that there are reading groups for my speciality at the university - if not, I'm planning on creating one if/when I'm admitted. In addition, how do you navigate the co-authorship politics with an advisor?

    I would love to pursue a research career, but I'm trying to be realistic. Part of me would like to spend some time at a top US school again, but if I had the opportunity to research and teach at a strong institution in Asia or Australia, I would probably prefer that from a personal perspective. I've held some industry positions so don't feel too worried about being able to jump back into that if academia doesn't work out. I'll look into teaching opportunities if/when I'm admitted: some people very close to me are teachers, so I'll try to get some insight into professional development offered.

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    Re: Good (but not top) graduate education - how to be competitive for jobs?

    I'm going to disagree a bit with tm_member (boy, that doesn't happen very often). Basically, I would move (2) to the top and (1) to the bottom. Look at the placement of the programs you are considering. You should probably find that the upper end of the class regularly place into the type of career you describe. That basically means that the quality of your research will be the first most important thing. Also, the second most important thing. Maybe (3) and (1) come after that. (Quite frankly, proficiency in these three categories is pretty highly correlated anyhow.)

    You should also be careful about only applying at two programs. If you are a good candidate at the top schools you should be an easy admit at the level you're describing, but there is a lot of noise in the system.

    (All this is based on U.S. schools. You use the word "globally," and the advice may apply less well outside of the U.S.)

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    Re: Good (but not top) graduate education - how to be competitive for jobs?

    Quote Originally Posted by startz View Post

    You should also be careful about only applying at two programs. If you are a good candidate at the top schools you should be an easy admit at the level you're describing, but there is a lot of noise in the system.
    I'm geographically constrained, hence the two schools. I agree with you though - otherwise I'd be casting a much wider net. Admission is mostly GPA based where I'm applying, which makes it a little less variable.

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    Re: Good (but not top) graduate education - how to be competitive for jobs?

    This pathway is not for everyone.......But it was brutally effective for me

    1) Do everything in your power to surround yourself with people that are better connected to other people, information, or resources.

    2) Figure out what these people need and gain expertise or access to it.

    3) Offer your services to these people and become their colleague.

    4) Connect these people together.

    5) Spend time interacting with people that you dislike.

    6) Figure out what it is you dislike about these people and make sure you never do the same thing

    7) Also figure out how to handle these people. You'll meet a lot of them.

    8) Spend as little time as possible on everything else related to academics. This includes things such as grading, research assistant work, going to class, teaching, etc etc.

    9) Spend that gained time on your health, appearance, and relationships with people that matter to you.

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    Re: Good (but not top) graduate education - how to be competitive for jobs?

    Quote Originally Posted by startz View Post
    I'm going to disagree a bit with tm_member (boy, that doesn't happen very often). Basically, I would move (2) to the top and (1) to the bottom. Look at the placement of the programs you are considering. You should probably find that the upper end of the class regularly place into the type of career you describe. That basically means that the quality of your research will be the first most important thing. Also, the second most important thing. Maybe (3) and (1) come after that. (Quite frankly, proficiency in these three categories is pretty highly correlated anyhow.)

    You should also be careful about only applying at two programs. If you are a good candidate at the top schools you should be an easy admit at the level you're describing, but there is a lot of noise in the system.

    (All this is based on U.S. schools. You use the word "globally," and the advice may apply less well outside of the U.S.)
    (2) should be at the top if you are coming from and planning on going to an elite school. Other than that, you've got to be a good colleague above all else. The correlation isn't really that strong, IMHO.

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    Re: Good (but not top) graduate education - how to be competitive for jobs?

    Quote Originally Posted by tm_member View Post
    (2) should be at the top if you are coming from and planning on going to an elite school. Other than that, you've got to be a good colleague above all else. The correlation isn't really that strong, IMHO.
    Fair point. But I would categorize "elite" for this purpose as top 50 or more.

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    Re: Good (but not top) graduate education - how to be competitive for jobs?

    Minor point - Just because you could have gone to a top 5 and are "only" at a top 15 (or wherever you end up), do not feel like you are smarter than other people. Nothing about what you have written here makes me think that you would be pretentious, but I could see that being a temptation. Hard work is a necessary condition to do well.

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    Re: Good (but not top) graduate education - how to be competitive for jobs?

    Quote Originally Posted by YaSvoboden View Post
    Minor point - Just because you could have gone to a top 5 and are "only" at a top 15 (or wherever you end up), do not feel like you are smarter than other people. Nothing about what you have written here makes me think that you would be pretentious, but I could see that being a temptation. Hard work is a necessary condition to do well.
    Thanks, this is a good point. I would really hope I'm not inclined to think that way and will make a conscious effort not to do so... at both schools I have close friends who I deeply respect academically. At my top choice, my Dad got his MBA just after I was born, and my younger sister is an undergrad in the business school. I'm crossing my fingers that I get in and continue the tradition - it would be a great perk to be able to run into her and take her to coffee on campus!

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