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Archive for Monday, December 18, 2006

Thinking through career choices

December 18, 2006

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Q: I had been thinking about getting a Ph.D. in philosophy, but then I talked to a friend who has me second-guessing myself. I want a job that's going to enable me to have a family, like I want to. I never realized all the implications. So now I'm thinking about law school, but I'm not interested in the typical law firm. Geez, maybe it's not just a matter of "passion." - Paul

A: Kate: I recently read that philosophy graduates should not expect to get college-level teaching jobs. If you think getting into grad school is hard, try getting a job teaching college philosophy - there are about 100 applicants for every opening.

Dale: Everyone should have a friend like yours, Paul, to help you think through these decisions. Imagine getting a doctorate and then realizing you don't want what the job market has to offer.

Kate: And isn't it ironic that it can start with "passion"? I always disliked the Joseph Campbell quote, "Follow your bliss," implying that money will follow. It's not true at all. You make money when you do what the market wants, and you're happy at work so long as the job has elements that are very satisfying.

Dale: Now you've gone too far, taking a shot at Joseph Campbell. For anyone who doesn't know his work, Campbell was a college professor who did a PBS series, "The Power of Myth." At one point, he went to the University of Paris to study Sanskrit - imagine explaining that choice to a career counselor. Which brings us back to the logic of following your bliss: If you, Paul, had scoffed at your friend and retorted, "I think philosophy, therefore I am philosophy," then I'd be with you. I would have advised you to meet people in the profession and figure out how to join them. And that's just what I'm advising you to do with law school - find people to emulate, and there's your career path opening up before you.

Kate: And now you've gone too far - implying that if it worked for Joseph Campbell, it can work for anyone with the passion. I've had too many people with liberal arts Ph.D.s sitting in my office - some crying - telling me that they can't get a job in academia or make good money somewhere else. Paul, maybe your path will not even involve law. Talk to a career coach. There are many careers to consider where you get to do good, while earning the money that allows you to support a family. My own career is one of them.

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