The candy stores of academia

Over lunch I had one of those really excellent discussions you can enjoy with grad students at the University of Michigan. Among a thousand interesting topics we talked about the question of career options for grad students after graduation. Of course, we started debating the usual sad story: being academically brought up at a research university your supervisors will hardly ever discuss alternatives to a career in academia because, well, they obviously did not pursue alternative career paths and hence have little to share on the topic. Of course, most faculty will argue that they are in the education business (not the certification business) so they need to focus on educating you about (their) research topics. At this point it’s not difficult to start a rant for a day or two…

Thankfully, the grad student gave it an interesting twist by mentioning the experience of a friend higher up in the academic food chain at a university in a city far far away. Said friend did, in fact, try hard to do just what we both complained about and invested a large amount of time in pointing out the risks of an academic career. Unfortunately, it turned out that the students could not be bothered to consider alternatives, would be annoyed and generally opposed to information on the subject.

This is, unfortunately, not really surprising. Universities are, in essence, the candy stores of academia. The students are like small children in awe of people who seemingly live in the candy store. What child would believe them when they say that you shouldn’t eat candy all day long?

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