Reading college advice guides is a lot like looking at those pictures where they overlap the faces of the 25 hottest stars to show you what beauty is. You can pick out an ear here, an eyelash there, but you realize they’re almost all exactly the same. The Professor Is in: The Essential Guide to Turning Your PH.D. Into a Job is the Quasimodo of this allegory. Karen Kelsky‘s guide to transitioning from grad student to tenure-track faculty doesn’t overlap with books of its ilk, and it looks pretty damn ugly to anyone considering grad school.
If it sounds as though I’m downing Kelsky, rest assured: I’m not. I can’t fault The Professor Is In for any of the ugliness it brings, because it’s a necessity. The outlook for grad students isn’t Hollywood overlap-pretty, and Kelsky isn’t airbrushing its rough edges. Instead, she eviscerates the flaws in the academic system that allow PhDs to languish in adjunct hell for years, and maps out the most hopeful course for those with their eyes on the tenure prize.
Not only has Kelsky identified and appealed to a gap in advice materials available to grad students, but she’s also closed it. Barring great changes for terminal degree holders in the jobs market, The Professor Is In has monopolized and exhausted the conversation. Kelsky leaves few, if any, stones unturned, and she spreads out her information in such a way as to leave no need for other voices. It’s a shrewd and compassionate decision on her part, to offer graduates a single book to answer all their questions. For Kelsky’s readers, there’ll be no combing nearly-identical texts for minor differences in chapters and footnotes, and no competition for the foreseeable future.
It’s worth noting that I almost never purchase copies of books I’ve read digitally, but I ordered a copy of The Professor Is In before I’d even finished it. Kelsky’s words didn’t dissuade me from pursuing a graduate degree, but they have proven vital to that journey. The Professor Is In is the item you grab when it gets dangerous to go alone, and I wasted no time recommending it to friends in the process of applying to graduate programs. If you’re considering a second degree, or know someone who is, put this book in their hands. They’ll thank you later.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for this review.
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