Breaking In: How to Get Hired in Academic Research, and What Graduate Students Can Do Right Now by Dr. Eve Brank, JD, PhD
If you made it to our Student Committee panel at last year's AP-LS conference, you were lucky enough to hear Dr. Eve Brank, JD, PhD speak about ways to get hired in psychology and law. Dr. Brank is currently an associate professor of psychology in the Law-Psychology program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), and has served on faculty search committees as UNL as well as the University of Florida. She is also a good friend to the Student Committee, and the Treasurer for AP-LS. This blog entry is one of three authored by Dr. Brank, so be on the lookout for more great posts from her in the future!
In academia we perch daily on our three-legged stools of research, teaching, and service. Those three words are the categories in my google calendar—color-coded like they were different children’s activities. Some days, the whole day is yellow (my color for service), while others have a lovely rainbow of yellow, purple (research), and orange (teaching). The goal, of course, is to spend as much time and have as much impact as possible on purple—I mean, research. You see, although we sing, “Research, Teaching, and Service,” we face pressure to make the research leg of our stool to be much larger than the other two. And, not just any research. No, what is important are grants and peer-reviewed publications, and that is also what we want our job candidates to have.
What can a graduate student do to get grants and peer-reviewed publications? Like the
audience who attended the live session, I commend you for reading this and taking proactive steps now. If you are early in your graduate school career, then that is even better and I give you more commendation. By starting your research story early, you can make everything count. As an example, if you are taking a social psychology class that has a paper requirement, don’t pick some random topic for your paper. Instead, pick a topic that fits with your research or complements your research. In my lab we take this one step further and meet as a group to discuss all the students’ paper assignments for the semester. If we have a manuscript or grant proposal that needs a literature review and that topic fits one of the classes a student is in, then perfect! Two birds—one literature review draft. Also, be sure your conference presentations are turning into publications. Sometimes it takes a couple of presentations to make up a manuscript, but the goal should always be to have publications and not just presentations. Think of presentations as a means to an end. Presentations give you the opportunity for feedback (and sometimes collaborations) from colleagues outside your university, force you to make progress on a project, and provide you a reason to visit places like San Diego in March. Although I might be jealous of all the cool places a person has visited and presented their research, a long list of only presentations and no publications on a CV will not impress me.
What about teaching? Well, despite the universal sigh of relief at semester’s end when the
student parking lot is empty, we do prioritize teaching at large research universities. And, most of us actually like teaching and we want our new colleagues to like it and be good at it too. So, yes, you need some teaching experience, but don’t let it eclipse your research. The best advice I received about teaching was that my teaching record won’t help me, but it could hurt me. You need the teaching experience and you need to do it well – that’s the expectation. So, get some experience and it’s even better if that experience is in core classes that departments usually need people to teach.
Finally, how much service should you do? The truth is that service won’t get you a job. Faculty search committees do not say, “She doesn’t have any publications or teaching experience, but she planned the department picnic and served on the graduate student senate! Give this woman a job!” The best kind of service to do is the kind that advances your research or builds collaborator networks. There will be plenty of time when you have tenure to do service that fulfills your soul and allows you to give back to your profession-- trust me, I’m the one who got roped into – I mean volunteered to write this blog post aren’t I?
About the Editor:
The American Psychology-Law Society (Division 41 of the American Psychology Association) Student Committee is composed of elected student leaders representing the interests of our student members.