Grad Studenting in the Summer


What should philosophy graduate students be doing in the summertime?

photo by J. Weinberg

That’s a question a current philosophy graduate student asked for discussion of.

The answer will be, of course, “it depends”, and some advice will be program specific (so ask your professors) but perhaps we can say something more helpful than that.

One factor is how far along in one’s graduate program the students are. Have they begun the program yet? Are they still taking courses? Do they have any incompletes from last semester? Do they have comprehensive exams or the equivalent still to take? Are they at the proposal writing stage? Are they in the dissertation writing stage? Will they be going on the market in the fall? Suggestions for advice specific to each of these phases of graduate education are welcome.

Another factor is summer funding: Do you have any? Can you get any? Of particular help in this regard may be the sharing of information regarding summer funding and fellowships that graduate students are eligible to apply for.

Despite all of these variables, some general advice is still applicable. Here are a few pieces of it:

  • If you have more control over your schedule in the summer, it can be a good time to figure out a working schedule that you find effective. You have some time to try out a schedule for a couple of weeks, and if it’s not working, switch things up. Try out work schedules and patterns that you can adapt for use during the academic year, not just summer.
  • Develop some professional habits, like regular reading and writing. You should be regularly checking out the journals in areas you’re interested in (there are various ways now to automate being sent information about new issues and articles in specific journals or areas) and taking the time to read new articles. If need be, set yourself a goal of reading one or two articles per week that you don’t have to read for a class, an exam, or your dissertation. If you find writing difficult, set modest daily goals for each day you’re working, and meet them. (You needn’t be writing a dissertation or an article; it can be helpful just to write down your ideas.)
  • Take time to figure out a technological set-up that works for you. Most people don’t need anything fancy or non-mainstream. But it can be helpful to start using reference management software sooner rather than later. And it can also be a good idea to develop a good way of organizing your files and having a workable naming convention for them (so you don’t end up with file names like “apa paper new version final final version 3”).
  • It’s summer break, and you should make time for actual breaks from work. Schedule them and plan them, if need be, but take them. You need to have a life outside of work and time and energy to think and care about other things. You’re not just a philosopher. Philosophers are people, too. (Yes, your work will probably benefit from you taking breaks, but even if it doesn’t, you need to take care of yourself.)
  • Stay in touch with people: your fellow grad students, your old “pre grad school friends” who you might have been too busy to talk with much or hang out with during the school year, the people in your family you love. And take some time to meet new people, too.

Advice on any aspects of grad studenting during the summer are welcome, as are more specific questions from graduate students about it.

 

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Don Ferderick
3 months ago

If they want to do well on the job market, grad students should be working to get some top 5 publications — and so thinking of how to reframe some of their work so that it’s ambitious and polished enough to get taken seriously at a top 5. They should also remember Nous and PPR will open the doors probably in December so a good idea to have some substantial pieces ready to submit there by then.

Brian Weatherson
Brian Weatherson
Reply to  Don Ferderick
3 months ago

I’d like to see actual empirical evidence that “top 5” publishing is so important for hiring. At Michigan we’ve been routinely placing people into good jobs straight out of grad school with either no publications at all, or perhaps 1-2 papers in places that are very much not “top 5”.

Now what’s true in every one of these cases where a student got a good job is that the student had a writing sample that was “ambitious and polished”, and that in every case was (imho) as good as a lot of stuff the best journals publish. I think spending one’s summer working on making your best work even better does make a difference on the job market. But our experience for several years now is the quality of one’s best work is much more significant than where it is published, or even whether it is published. Maybe other people have evidence that points the other way.

It is a tricky question to investigate because what we really need are minimal pairs of candidates who are alike in every respect – including quality of their best work – but who have different publication records. That would tell us the actual significance of having work published. And minimal pairs like that are hard to find. But still it would be worth seeing what the actual job market shows, rather than just going off vibes.

Michaela
Michaela
Reply to  Brian Weatherson
3 months ago

Just to add to what Brian is saying with some anecdotal evidence from a very different type of department than Michigan: I’m in I believe year 5 of doing placement at Boston University and we also have been routinely placing people into tenure track jobs without elite publications. I think this is bad advice.

Matt
Matt
Reply to  Brian Weatherson
3 months ago

Okay, now can you say the same for students from “continental” programs?

Michaela
Michaela
Reply to  Matt
3 months ago

I’m not sure what this comment means but if you look at continental and pluralistic programs with good job placement, you will see that it is extremely uncommon for their placed students to have published in “top five” journals. (As should be expected since there is significantly less continental/continental adjacent work in those journals than many others.)

Preston Stovall
Preston Stovall
Reply to  Brian Weatherson
3 months ago

It’s only one anecdote, and the plural “anecdote” is of course not “data”, but despite a c.v. that would have been good enough for tenure at many places a generation ago, I’ve had only two first-round interviews for TT jobs in my entire time on the market, and after reaching out this year I’ve been told a couple of times that lacking a “top-five” publication is part of the problem.

The fact that three of those five journals (Journal of Philosophy, Mind, and Phil Review) went from being a home of pragmatist-inflected pluralism in the first half of the twentieth century to the increasingly niche debates of analytic philosophy (see the work by people like Greg Frost-Arnold, Kevin J. Harrelson, Joel Katzav, and Adam Tuboly), while the other two are run by the same general editor and for the last decade only accept papers for part of the year, suggests that this standard is rather unreliable. I hope you’re right and that the experiences of the students at Michigan are more representative of the situation.

Polaris Koi
Reply to  Preston Stovall
3 months ago

Reflecting on your experience, and that of many other talented colleagues with a range of publications in well-respected venues (though not necessarily the supposed top 5), bragging about how “we place our students in jobs without publications” seems a bit tone deaf to me, even if well-intentioned. Given that any of these jobs will have had candidates with demonstrated ability to publish in quality journals, I can’t help but read it as taking pride in contributing to a culture where pedigree (or, more favourably, the placement director’s productivity) outperforms the candidate’s achievements.

Meme
Meme
Reply to  Polaris Koi
3 months ago

Yes, as someone on the market now, my immediate (perhaps very irrational and frustration-borne) reaction to that comment was: why the fuck did I try hard to publish during my time in a lower-ranked program if people without publications from higher-ranked programs will just get the jobs anyway?!

Michaela
Michaela
Reply to  Meme
3 months ago

I teach in a barely ranked department and we have placed many students in tenure track jobs without publications, and with publications in lower ranked journals or only specialty journals. think you’re reading Brian wrong, he’s trying to be helpful to you! Part of why I commented was to help support the idea that you don’t need top five publications to get a job no matter what kind of program you are coming out of. Of course that is cold comfort to people struggling on the job market. But I would think it would be helpful to know this information, from two different kinds of departments, for actual strategy reasons. I would just add that the job market is not a meritocracy, is very noisy, and these are just bits of data. There are lots of other sources of data. And I do think it’s true that if you’re at a non prestigious program and you only care about getting a fancy R1 type job, you probably should publish in a good journal—but that doesn’t mean one of the top five generalist ones. But most jobs aren’t like that and you don’t need to do that to be competitive for most jobs—the sad and hard part is that there are no sufficient conditions you can just check off to get a job. That makes any reporting of data about who is getting jobs run the risk of smarting, but I think it’s probably worth it to just know the information?

Meme
Meme
Reply to  Michaela
3 months ago

That is all very helpful information, thank you! I thought your initial comment was also helpful—partly because it provided evidence from a program more like my own. I just wanted to clarify that my comment was mostly venting/emotional agreement with Polaris upon reading Brian’s (still helpful and well-intentioned) comment, not an objection to yours!

Preston Stovall
Preston Stovall
Reply to  Polaris Koi
3 months ago

I hear you, but I can imagine it’s difficult for the older cohort to appreciate what’s going on in the market right now. The middle of the twentieth century saw a huge expansion in higher education in North America, and PhD granting departments of philosophy likewise expanded in the second half of that century. Together with the all-to-frequent closing of philosophy departments over the last decade or so, that’s led to far more PhD holders than there are positions for them to fill.

Things are just so unlike the situation when most of today’s senior figures were students that I don’t really begrudge them not understanding. A professor I know landed his first TT job because while the school he applied to didn’t hire him, they sent his dossier to another school in the state who then made him an offer. Crazy to think that’s what things were like not so long ago (well, “long” as measured by the span of the history of philosophy).

Polaris Koi
Reply to  Preston Stovall
3 months ago

Sure, the job market is very different, and a by-and-large similar generational difference pertains to Europe as well even if the logic of the European job market is quite different from the US system. But I think any cohort who reads their Daily Nous is well aware of the current economy of the discipline.

What I find myself thinking of here is, rather, the very notion of ‘placement’ as an attribute of programs not candidates. I don’t have well worked out views on that, but what I’m wondering about is that the very notion of placement — whether from a prestigious program or not — is ultimately rather problematic. But when we think in terms of institutional placement, we’re ultimately shifting focus from the individual applicants’ work to the work of the institution (or at least that of the placement officer).

If we take the ‘signal’ in the job market to be the demonstrated capacity of the applicant to perform well in the job, then any shift of focus to programs over candidates is a wilful shift away from the signal, instead looking at which institution manages to generate the loudest noise. After all, the hiring department only gets the one individual, not their placement director or other members or resources found in their program.

We want our students and colleagues to do well, and we want our discipline to do well; the latter, I reckon, would benefit from a good stir of the pot where ideas would in fact travel amongst people of different backgrounds, and the best way to make ideas travel is when the people with the ideas relocate to new intellectual contexts. This also hearkens back to Ryan’s comment on breaking a sweat to make ends meet. (While I have no quick fixes, to that end, by the way, lots of American candidates would be very competitive for certain European fellowships, such as the Marie Sklodowska-Curie fellowship.)

It’s easy for me to say, though, since I’m writing this from Finland. The role of a ‘placement officer’ is foreign to us. However, the very notion of placement is one that also exists here, even if it finds no formal outlet. I used to think this was a flaw in our system and that we should take a hint from our American colleagues and do more to help candidates from our departments on the job market, but I’m starting to change my mind about that.

Matt
Matt
Reply to  Polaris Koi
3 months ago

I suspect are you reading too much into the label “placement officer.” In the US context this varies by department, but it’s usually just a faculty member in the department who (as part of their service) is responsible for keeping track of who from their students is on the market, checking in with them, sometimes looking over their CVs or writing samples or cover letters, or even perhaps their rec letters (which the PhD candidate won’t see). They might also lead a meeting or two which helps orient new candidates to applying for jobs, or even exploring alternative career paths. They might organize mock interviews within the dept. But that’s usually about it. They do not, from what I understand, call or email their friends at other depts with job openings to try to talk up their own candidates (though that surely happens a lot informally among faculty who are letter writers and if their student gets an interview, etc.). Placement officers are often very hands-off, doing very little selling of their candidates; but they are usually available to seek out advice from. (It could be that way back in the 1960s and 70s, during a period of plentiful jobs and very few applicants, such a placement person (particularly say at Harvard or Yale or whatever) actually used their network to line up jobs, or at least interviews, for their students… but in recent decades I think that hardly happens at all, even when the person in such a role is fairly famous within the field.)

Polaris Koi
Reply to  Matt
3 months ago

Thanks for this, Matt. I’ve spent enough time in the States to know what the description is; I simply mentioned, as a side remark, that nothing that meets that description takes place here. I just mentioned the cultural difference for context.

I suspect the effort (and what you describe is hours of work) does make a difference. But even if the effort made no difference, people believe it does, hence the whole idea that “we place people in jobs” rather than “people who did their PhD here, now work somewhere else”.

I mentioned that the very idea of placement does exist here, at least to an extent. Hence, the very idea of placement is not contingent on anyone serving as placement officer or on mock interviews or any other form of help for candidates. While helping people from your dept get hired reflects the very idea of placement (as in, “we place people in jobs”), the idea of placement can also attach to some other aspects of the department. In cases where “we place people in jobs” has nothing to do with the department actually helping people (such as with mock interviews), but instead has to do with some other aspect of a department, then the same argument nonetheless holds: whatever the aspect of the department seems to warrant “we place…”, it is not an aspect of the candidate. Given that the hiring dept only hires the candidate not the entire dept, my worry is that the very idea of departments placing people in other departments is a major distraction from candidates and the work they are being hired to do. That’s why I think it only adds noise.

One who had to publish
One who had to publish
Reply to  Brian Weatherson
3 months ago

A problem with Brian’s advice is this: only those who land such jobs without top publications (or any publications) will think it makes any sense. Whereas those who have to compete on the job market for multiple years are given the advice to try to publish in top journals, so that they stand out more next time… and for many of them, it later helps them land a job. If one knew in advance which batch one would be in, one would know whether to follow his advice. But no one can know this in advance; one usually can’t even predict it with much accuracy.

Sam Duncan
Reply to  Brian Weatherson
3 months ago

I’m really glad to see pushback on this bad, but common, advice. One thing I’d add is that it’s not even clear that using summer to get more publications of any sort is always the best thing grad students can do for their career prospects. Community colleges don’t care too much about publications but they do care *a lot* about experience teaching at a community college. I think that this is also true of a lot of teaching focused four years, though to a lesser degree. That is they do care a bit more about publications, but they also want some proof that you can teach their students, who are often not the sorts of students grad students teach at the kinds of schools that tend to have philosophy PhD programs. So using the summer to try to get some relevant teaching experience might also be a good idea. Plus, unlike publishing in a journal you’ll actually get paid for it.

Preston Stovall
Preston Stovall
Reply to  Brian Weatherson
3 months ago

I wonder how much publications are playing a role either way. Out of curiosity, I looked over Michigan’s placement page. If I’m doing the math right, yinz have placed 100% of your female graduates and 36% of your male graduates in TT positions in the last five years (2020 – 2024). That’s comparable to the numbers I’m familiar with from my PhD granting institution while I was there, and where I was able to drill down and look at other demographic factors the data was even more striking. It also tracks the information we’ve been given about placement in TT positions more generally. According to the essay and dataset discussed here:

https://dailynous.com/2022/10/04/gender-in-philosophy-hiring/

the odds of getting a permanent position are increased more by being a woman than by graduating from a high-prestige program (see section 5.2 of the article). And in the last decade, we’ve seen some data showing that, for the datasets in question, women tend to get hired with fewer publications than men.

https://www.newappsblog.com/2014/12/gender-and-publications.html#more

See related discussion here:

http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2016/05/recent-phd-placement-data-women-more-likely-than-men-to-secure-permanent-positions-within-two-years-.html#comment-6a00d8341c2e6353ef01b8d1dd896f970c

https://dailynous.com/2014/12/23/this-year-in-philosophical-intellectual-history/

https://dailynous.com/2016/04/15/philosophy-placement-data-and-analysis-an-update/

There seems to have been more discussion about this sort of thing five to ten years ago, which is a shame as I haven’t seen anything to suggest the situation has changed. Hopefully people are generally more familiar with this sort of thing than we were 10 years ago.

Chris
Chris
Reply to  Don Ferderick
3 months ago

I agree with Brian W. This is bad advice, unless you mean something like “a top 5 journal in your specialty”. As Brian also says, what matters is having a high quality writing sample. As Marcus A can tell you from his empirical work, having any kind of publications – even in the “lesser known” journals also seems correlated with getting a job.
Better advice: in the early years of graduate school, think of polishing a seminar paper to send to a specialty conference or the APA.

Thomas Michael Osborne
Thomas Michael Osborne
3 months ago

With respect to non-academic work, I think it depends on whether you need money and the kind of job. Many jobs can help introduce you to people and different opportunities, and some can provide a needed change of pace. The academic world can be very stifling and insular. I knew a highly accomplished history professor at Duke who would sign up for manual work during the summer, but he would not let the employment agencies know that he was a professor. He did not need the money and was known for the extent of his publishing. I took a semester off and worked as a deckie/first mate on a large yacht, and found out that it was not an ideal profession for me. In the summers I took people to their boats on a launch at a yacht club, and it was good for being outside and on the water, which is important to me. Moreover, I knew many people and someone even wanted to hire me for a lucrative position because of my contacts. On the other hand, many summer jobs don’t have much to offer. If you haven’t spent much time around boats, there are national park positions, assistant deputy game warden positions, etc., that might open up some options and provide a good change of pace. There can also be some seasonal or temporary law enforcement or first responder positions. I remember Alasdair MacIntyre saying that people who do some other work in the summers have a great advantage, although his low opinion of the academic profession might factor into that statement.

Ryan
3 months ago

One of the tells in grad school is who spends their (unfunded) summers researching and who spends it busting ass in unrelated work in order to stitch together a living.

Call me a party pooper, but if you’re old enough to go to grad school you’re old enough to work for your own living. If you get funding, that’s great. If not, get a job. Busting ass will help you come back in September and put into perspective grad students’ complaints that they are somehow a persecuted people.

You’ll also eat a lot of humble pie and realize the majority of the world thinks your fancy philosophy degree is at best a novelty, at worst an unearned privilege, and you’ll meet people with high school degrees who are sharper than you and that is immensely refreshing.

It’s all good. Bust ass. If a ‘hiring committee’ is nonplussed that you don’t mind sweating for a dollar, laugh.

Last edited 3 months ago by Ryan
A Philosopher Named Slickback
A Philosopher Named Slickback
Reply to  Ryan
3 months ago

I feel this. I am lucky enough to have all my grad summers funded (with no teaching or other academic responsibilities), but if I did not have this very generous help, I would be grinding to survive. For all those new grad students visiting right now, find out how your summer stipends work. Do you have to teach? Do you have to apply for it? If you are independently wealthy (I have come to find out most of you are in this field), then this won’t be a worry, I guess haha.

Ryan
Reply to  A Philosopher Named Slickback
3 months ago

But there would be little reason to despair otherwise: getting out in the summer and busting ass helps keep you grounded in gratitude.

historygrrrl
historygrrrl
Reply to  Ryan
3 months ago

Yeah…about half the students in my graduate program (myself included) just got jobs doing whatever during the summer. Kind of like summertime in university and high school, at least for people from my area and background.

One benefit, I guess, is that you get to make some friends from outside the graduate program and university. Moving to a new area (as many of us do for graduate school) can be difficult. If there is drama in the graduate cohort, or even if you just feel like you don’t fit in with the academics, it can be good to have other friends outside of school.

I probably would have been a better student without summer work, but at the same time, I enjoyed spending time with my work friends. Since work often sucked, it was also good to have something to complain about other than school.

Meme
Meme
Reply to  Ryan
3 months ago

Non-academic labor is also one of the best ways to become more empathetic to others who might be very different from you (contrary to the claim, in another thread on this blog, that a liberal arts education does this best).

Ryan
Reply to  Meme
3 months ago

I was an upper middle class white kid. This in no small part explains my decision to study philosophy.

But I also started working when I was 14 and by the time I got to grad school I was acutely aware of what ‘bad jobs’ were. I was also acutely aware that people far more talented than I are far less lucky.

I’d like to think this helped me see other grad students and professors who, without exaggeration, had never held a job ‘outside of school’ with big, clear eyes.

For example, the ‘What should I do for the four-month summer?’ question has always struck me as ludicrous. What? You have a choice to forego four months of income in your mid-to-late twenties? You didn’t start looking for summer work in February? Paying bills and rent is something more like a suggestion for you?

And yet you’re also complaining that graduate students are victims of social injustice.

Help me here.

Meme
Meme
Reply to  Ryan
3 months ago

Agreed 100%. I’ve also noticed–and this is purely anecdotal–that the wealthier graduate students tend to complain more about their stipends. I realize my ire should be directed at the admins rather than fellow grad students, etc. etc., but I can never stop myself from thinking: you’re getting paid to do philosophy, which ostensibly you love so much that you’re devoting your life to it, so just stop trying to also live such an expensive lifestyle… (again, yes, I know others are struggling and not trying to live such a lifestyle, they are exempted from this comment, etc. etc.).

Ryan
Reply to  Meme
3 months ago

Precisely.

I remember one time I joined some folks at a bar for a birthday celebration. At this time I was renting a room in a shared house a ways out from campus and typically didn’t go out much because I had to catch the last bus home, which was around midnight. (I never took an Uber once bc the bus was $2.25…).

Anyways, we had a good time but when bills came there were fellow grad students who were signing off on $70-100 tabs.

I had one beer and bought the birthday boy one and still walked out thinking $20+ all in was pricey.

There’s a good cohort of students who, though they don’t say it, are heavily subsidized by either their parents or (as the case was in my program) their well-to-do partners (yes, I’m looking at you who never paid rent the entire time you were in grad school).

Thomas Michael Osborne
Thomas Michael Osborne
Reply to  Ryan
3 months ago

In case anyone is still reading this, I have been thinking about my own kids, current students, and different people that I have known. There is something valuable about being responsible to someone else, having to do work that you don’t want to do, having to keep agreements, and figuring out menial tasks on your own. I still draw on what I learned working in a hardware store, grocery store, delivering papers, doing odd jobs, etc. Part of publishing is just working when you don’t want to, and being open to criticism. Summer jobs can help with that. You can also relate more to people that you meet at stores and in shops. Some academics treat workers as if they are not real people. It is also important I think to be competent at different kinds of mechanical and household repairs. Professors don’t get paid very much, and I think there is something to be said for knowing how things work, and not being surrounded by mystery when you look at water and electricity coming from the walls of a house, or have problems with your car or boat.

David Wallace
Reply to  Ryan
3 months ago

I want to push back a bit on the framing of this. Of course, if your department doesn’t pay summer stipends and you need the money, you should work summers. (Rent doesn’t pay itself.) But it isn’t costless. You’re losing nearly a third of your working year, and the bit you’re losing is open time with few distractions that provides a very valuable complement to structured, hectic grad-school semesters.

Kimberly Dill
Kimberly Dill
3 months ago

I worked with the USDA Forest Service as an Education Coordinator during a few of my PhD summers, which was an incredibly enriching experience. This experience also practically informed the current work that I do in environmental philosophy and ethics. I also sold local products at a Farmer’s Market and worked at a local crystal shop, where I learned quite a bit about various minerals and modern myth (haha). When I had time and resources, I traveled. Throughout all of these, I philosophized–through e.g., reading up on the historic and contemporary literature–and wrote. There’s likely no one-size-fits-all answer to the above question, as not all programs provide students with enough funding to get through the summers unemployed; and not all of us are fully funded by other (say, parental) sources.

Preston Stovall
Preston Stovall
3 months ago

If you have the opportunity, look at work outside of the academy. I was lucky enough to land a data analysis job with the Executive Office of the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh my first summer as a PhD student. My plan was to keep that door open, in case philosophy didn’t work out, by periodically pursing opportunities of this sort. 

But by my second year, I published two essays, had an invitation for a third, and was invited to a conference, so after some soul-searching I decided to double-down on philosophy, on the gamble that I’d be meaningfully increasing my odds if I kept up that kind of productivity. So by the time I graduated, I’d published four essays, presented at conferences in Europe and North America, and held a fellowship with the American Council of Learned Societies; in the next two years, I published four more essays, and I’ve kept that up since then, with at least a couple of results that I’m very proud of. But as I noted upthread, last year was my first time getting a first-round interview for a TT job — two, actually, but neither went beyond that. Without having kept up on the IR and public policy front, however, I wasn’t getting interviewed for those jobs either. 

Looking back, I had a woefully ill-informed view of my odds on the market, and the kinds of things that are reliable predictors for who gets jobs, and where. As a result, I wasn’t aware that the opportunity cost of not continuing to work summer internships, relative to the IR job market, was much greater than the opportunity cost of not graduating with four publications relative to the philosophy job market. Similarly, given the state of the job market, most of those who are in a position to spend some time doing non-academic work during some of their summers will likely benefit from having done so.

summer schools
summer schools
3 months ago

I think summer schools are underrated. I have spent a few of my best summers (ranging from 2 weeks to 7 weeks per summer) in summer schools related to my research interests, and even though they were all 10+ years ago, many of the connections I built there still last.
All of the summer schools I participated in were externally funded by various scholarships/foundations, which definitely helped. But if one can get funding somehow, I would very strongly recommend doing some.

MPA
MPA
3 months ago

“What should philosophy graduate students be doing in the summertime?”

I advise grad students regularly to polish, polish, polish the papers they received high marks on (and positive comments) in seminars throughout the year. This could mean different things. It could mean following through with those comments and revising their paper. Or it could mean asking the faculty member who gave the feedback if they’d meet up here or there to discuss the paper. Or it could mean trying to negotiate a directed study for the following fall by doing research over the summer (and again meeting with faculty). It could mean publishing a paper in a strong journal.

I don’t think many students take me seriously (not just those in the program where I work but also others who have asked me for advice), and my experience in grad school was that most of my peers didn’t do very much research during summer “breaks”. Many peers would have tales of travels to this place or that, often funded by their parents. I didn’t have that ability and worked in various ways during the summer to earn extra funds, but I tried as much as possible to spend at least some time several days a week polishing a paper I had in the works. This paid off for me because four of those seminar papers (some in areas not related to my AOS) ended up being published before my tenure case was up.

Maybe I got lucky, I don’t know (I think do luck had a role, especially since the faculty I reached out to never turned down meeting with me, reading additional drafts, and brainstorming news ideas or revisions). Nevertheless, I do know that it took a lot of initiative and hard work and there weren’t many breaks.

Jimmy Alfonso Licon
3 months ago

Write for a few hours every morning with the goal to publish. The job market is hard enough with several solid publications. Teach a core course like introduction or critical thinking — it pays, and most schools will likely need you to teach such classes, at least sometimes. Work on advancing in your program. Aside from the usual program stuff, join a reading group or some such. It will help with the writing and dissertating, if nothing else.

David Wallace
3 months ago

(1) Read some books. The termtime schedule in grad school is very oriented around close-reading articles and individual book chapters, but it is also beneficial to find time to read book-length developments of ideas. You get a good overview of where a given philosopher is coming from, books are often better written, and they tend to take less for granted, which sometimes is useful to get a sense of the foundations. It’s okay to skim a bit too.

(2) Lie on a beach or similar for at least a bit of the summer. (This can be combined with (1), unless you’re reading on a backlit screen.)

(Yes, this is all advice for people fortunate enough not to need paid work over the summer.)

Steven DeLay
Steven DeLay
3 months ago

Read as widely as possible. Read outside one’s “area of specialization.” And read outside of philosophy, especially great literature, as well. Read, read, read.

Grad student
Grad student
Reply to  Steven DeLay
3 months ago

I’d say read and engage (annotate, discuss with others, write small papers, etc.). If you just read, especially if you just read things once, you will forget most of it unless you have an unusually good memory.

Steven DeLay
Steven DeLay
Reply to  Grad student
3 months ago

Yes, when reading philosophy, at least, it’s generally a good idea to underline key passages, jot down notes in the margins, and so on. One never knows when one might need to dig out some passage from that old book from years ago!

Craig Agule
3 months ago

I worked SAT prep for a number of my summers in grad school. It did nothing for my CV (and it is not even on there), but:

a) I earned more each summer than I did during the academic year;

b) The work often took up only about 1/2 or 2/3 of the summer, leaving the rest for readin’, writin’, and relaxin’; and, most important;

c) That was BY FAR the best pedagogical prep I received during my grad school years. I got several hundred hours of time in the class room each summer, and because it was all day, every day, there was basically no time to prep, and the prep materials were thin anyway. So I had to learn how to handle being swamped by teaching, unable to get myself comfortable by over or even adequate prepping. And the teaching was very useful for what I do now, because it was almost all close reading, analysis, and discussion, often of things like essays from the Economist. I sometimes taught texts I never saw before handing them out to students to read in class. I hope never to have to do that in a philosophy class, but there are a handful of skills and exercises that I picked up then which have really helped me since then.

If you’re interested in the SAT prep world, I am happy to tell you more about my experiences (and if you’re in Southern California, which is rich in SAT, I’m also happy to tell you about the particular places I worked); just drop me an email.

StillAGrad
StillAGrad
3 months ago

Assuming that feedback from current but soon to be former grad students is acceptable:

I was lucky enough to receive funding for most (but not all) of my summers in grad school. For the summer I did not receive funding, I worked outside of the academy. For the summers when I did receive funding, I used the time to read widely and write loosely—by which I mean that I wrote quite a bit for fun in a fairly creative way without being particularly careful, developing full lit reviews, or citing tons of sources and situating my thoughts within the literature(s). It turns out that this “loose” writing was the most fun and rewarding part of graduate school, and it provided raw materials for papers that I developed more rigorously with the help of my advisers during the academic year. Two of these have been published with more being cleaned up for publication now, although this was far from my original goal. (Insofar as I had a goal originally, it was just: “I’d like to jot down some thoughts about XYZ to run by my committee one of these days.”) So, with appropriate caveats and hedging, I’d recommend doing some fun and creative “loose writing” to see where it takes you.

xxx
xxx
3 months ago

The comments so far for the most part reflect a lack of understanding of the situation most grads will find themselves in. At least a few summers, for most philosophy grad students, should be devoted to planning for a career outside of academia. There are a lot of internships that pay well and also help students learn to apply research skills outside of academia (e.g., think tanks, consulting, media, even finance). Most universities have career services centers and on-campus recruiting. Some of these cycles start as early as the fall term, so students should be aware of this. Because of the nature of the job market in philosophy, more senior members of the profession need to be encouraging students to explore options for fulfilling non-academic careers.