Most professors are not going to go out of their way to provide career counseling: you have to ask for it, and then you risk seeming more interested in the job than the “Life of the Mind.” There is usually a feeling that you are wasting the professor’s time with issues that can be answered by some combination of career services and peer mentoring. At elite schools, I suspect there remains a belief that graduates can get jobs on the basis of reputation rather than a professional approach to the market. That’s where the graduates of programs outside of the top ten can succeed with good career advising.

From the professor’s point of view, effective career advising takes time away from research, and–more important–it requires some honesty about academe that is risky to share with a student. If graduate students we’re forced to acknowledge what’s happening to the academic labor system–and the kind of risks they are taking with their livelihoods–they might leave the program. Most would be right to do so. They will never be competitive for a job that provides healthcare. That’s a conversation no advisor want to have: not while undergraduate courses need teaching assistants and graduate faculty members need people to take their seminars. “So, focus on how much you love your project on Emerson, Milton, and Death. Don’t worry. All of our graduates are employed, if they are talented and hard working.”

To: Professors; Re: Your Advisees – Advice – The Chronicle of Higher Education

Bill Pannapacker’s thoughtful response to an interesting and challenging post.