Sometimes it’s discouraging to read the academic sites, like the Chronicle of Higher Education - so many of the articles have a negative tone. Don’t go to grad school, they’ll tell you; the odds of getting a tenure-track position are overwhelmingly against you. In fact, the odds of even getting admitted into grad school are against you. Expenses: against you. Having the mental, emotional, and physical stamina to finish: against you.
If we heeded all of this advice, we’d never get out of bed in the morning.
Sure, some of this advice is well-meaning. But some of it sounds pretty disgruntled; the person who’s been on the job market for several years tells the rest of us we won’t get jobs. The person with the failed marriage tells us our relationships won’t work. The person who had a miserable grad school experience is certain that ours will be the same, riddled with poverty and loneliness and deep discouragement.
We don’t need anyone to tell us that it’s a tough road, and we don’t need false encouragement. But when we encounter such advice, I think it’s important to have our filters on, to consider the source. Advice from those who know us is always more valuable than advice from strangers, and our mentors have been down this road too. They know we’re in for a tough haul, but they also know our abilities.
Some people told me I’d never get a job, because I’m graduating at an “non-traditional” age. I’m here to tell you that I never felt my age mattered one iota during the job search, I had multiple offers, and ended up at a wonderful school, in a position that seems tailor-made for me. Maybe I beat “the odds,” or maybe the risks are overstated.
In the end, the odds don’t matter. If this is what we’re called to do, we’re going to pursue it. My advice would be: put your head down and work hard, focus on the goal, and ignore the odds. You know yourself better than anyone else.
I don’t believe in odds. I believe in you.