PhD students and the job market
A question crossed my mind this morning: what is the best time for PhD students to graduate? This question might seem trivial: when the economy is not in crisis, duh. But I don’t mean good vs bad years to be on the job market. I mean fall vs spring. Yes, really. According to my non-scientific observations, it is much easier for PhD students who want to work in industry to get noticed at the job fair if they can legitimately say they will be available within weeks. Companies often have positions open now, and they obviously want to fill them as fast as possible.
Because the best-known job fair happens at the fall annual meeting, it makes sense that industry-minded PhD students would graduate in December/January. (I never, ever recommend taking a job before the defense has happened and the dissertation has been handed in. On the other hand, it seems that some students (not mine) sometimes refuse to understand their adviser’s message that they won’t graduate that semester and apply for jobs behind the adviser’s back.)
The lead times involved in academia, however, make it appropriate for students to make contact with potential employers at the job fair in the fall but interview in winter or spring and receive a job offer (hopefully) somewhere during the spring semester for a start date in late summer. For academia-minded PhD students, a May graduation seems ideal.
Finally, I wonder about student presence at the Analytics conference in the spring: according to the webpage of the 2012 conference, we should expect an “Analytics Connect Job Fair” where students on the job market can “meet with employers from a wide variety of industries and sectors seeking new talent for their organizations”, and there will even be an INFORMS Professional Colloquium providing “intensive career guidance for practice-oriented master’s and doctoral students.” But the Analytics conference is much more expensive than its fall counterpart: at $375 per student, student registration is far from being a bargain. (I won’t even mention faculty registration for non-presenters.) The best deal for a student is to be nominated by one’s department, in which case the department is expected to pay the fee, which covers both colloquium and conference registration. A limited amount of funding has also be made available thanks to the generous support of sponsoring companies. But students’ supervisors might be less aware of the detailed content of the spring annual meeting and thus might not encourage their students to attend, especially if the student does not make an oral presentation, since the conference might provide less exposure to the adviser/student’s work.
Has anyone attended or taken part in the organization of the Practitioner Colloquium? How does it differ from the Future Practitioner Colloquium at the fall annual meeting? How many students do both colloquia and both job fairs attract? And more generally, how can we help our industry-minded graduates connect with the best possible employers? A good placement record of our doctoral students is in the interest of all.