When seeking advice on academic careers, do you ask the right people? — R Voice

When seeking advice on academic careers, do you ask the right people?

Kakoli Majumder
Kakoli Majumder Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 329 admin

This article made me really sit up and think: are we getting objective advice on academic careers? This is the first time I heard of "survivorship bias" and it was an eye opener for me.

What has your experience with advice on academic careers been like? Have you considered asking people who have left academia for advice as well?



  • Shruti Turner
    Shruti Turner Member Posts: 465 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Ooh, great thread @Kakoli Majumder ! It's something I've been thinking about a lot recently. I have been struggling with knowing what the right path is for me, and in that trying to understand what is about what I want and what is about expectation or the pressure I feel from the outside.

    I agree, I think it is really important to talk to people who stayed and left to get a rounded view, also important to talk to people who left but without a specifically bad experience. The difficulty I have is finding the people to ask. In academia I think it is easier to find people to talk to about their career, but finding people who have left I am finding more difficult. Luckily, my brother-in-law's brother (does that make him my brother-in-law still?!) has recently moved out of academia after his PhD and so he has been good to talk to. I would always prefer to talk to a few people in each group to get a variety of opinions but perhaps that is asking too much?

    I think it is interesting to read about survivorship bias, there are some people I feel like it oozes from - it's very clear they've had a smooth ride or something and it's not representative of reality or they have no appreciation of the difficulties. What I haven't considered so much is the people who do understand and appreciate it, but are still the people who made it through the minefield of academia. There is one person I talk to who from my perspective has had the "ideal" journey: good master's degree with year abroad, PhD with industry and then jumped from post-doc to fellowship to fellowship. Having an honest conversation with them was eye-opening, we talked about the realities and the element of luck/circumstance but also the difficulties and sticking points (generally and of their career). I wonder how the survivorship bias plays into that..I think that's something I need to think about. Clearly, all the struggles are still not measuring up to the positives of the role for them so there must be some bias there? But I think, it is much more difficult to spot..