Advice for Graduate Students


One of the goals graduate students have is landing a job upon completion of the degree. Dr. Lennard Davis, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, discussed his advice for new graduate students in his article, "What I Tell my Graduate Students." Here are a few highlights:

1. Talk about job placement as soon as you walk in the door and meet with your advisor.

2. Find out the minimum requirements for landing a specific job in your area of study. How many published articles and book reviews should you have? Are attending and presenting at professional conferences helpful to have on the curriculum vitae?

3. Learn about the timeline for academic publication. It can take a year or more to be published after an article is submitted, so you need to start as soon as possible if you want to have one to three articles published.

4. Book reviews, which don’t count as much as journal articles, are pretty easy to write and are published faster. Look at the journals in your field, turn to the back pages where the journal will often list "books received," and ask to review a relevant book.

5. Select your dissertation committee with the job search in mind. Pick professors who are skilled in your area of study and who also have national and international reputations. Reference letters from those professors will count a great deal.

6. Attend professional conferences and network while you are there. By attending sessions at the conference, you can learn the latest scholarly information about your subject well before the publication of those ideas. Attending a conference can also be a way of looking into the future to see what will be happening in your field.

7. Another important reason to attend professional conferences is that editors are often there looking for new books to publish and they don’t shoo people away from their stalls. Getting to know those editors, and even pitching a book idea to them, is an important part of career development.

8. Book exhibits at professional conferences will let you browse through the newest texts and even unpublished page proofs before the information becomes known to other scholars.

9. If your advisor or department faculty will be at the conference, see if they can introduce you to editors that might be interested in your work.

10. Choosing your field and thesis or dissertation topic involves strategy. Look at a copy of the current job list in your field. If you applied for a job this year with the topic you selected, how many jobs would you be eligible for?

11. In terms of getting an article published, take any paper for which you received an A and expand it to article length. Ask your advisor to suggest academic journals with editors they know and send your article to them with a mention of your advisor’s name.

12. When you are working on your job search, ask your advisor to review your letter of application, CV, writing sample, statement of teaching philosophy, and other materials you plan to send to the search committee. Work on the letter of application and make sure to highlight and "sell" yourself and your special qualifications.


Lennard, D.J. (2011). What I Tell My Students. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved July 1, 2011, from