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on October 19, 2005
I just learned about this book from Michael Berube's blog. Berube--the brilliant iconoclast who fought so hard for graduate students in the wake of the Yale scandal--writes the foreword for the book, which he calls the 'most reliable book about academe and its inhabitants' he has ever read. I would have to agree with him. Semenza (UConnecticut) takes the approach that previous graduate survival guides miss the point by focusing on 'survival' instead of professional development, which all PhDs need in order to get a job. The book features highly detailed chapters on such things as publishing, attending conferences, and going on the market. The best chapter is on 'The Seminar Paper'. Here Semenza outlines the entire research process from conception to printing (if only I had this 3 years ago!). Written for PhDs or PhDs-to-be, the book doesn't pull any punches, I should tell you. At times, the directness and bluntness is intimidating, but when it comes to this profession, the truth sometimes hurts. Semenza's book is probably the best 'class' you'll ever take in grad school.
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on October 28, 2005
I'm only 2/3rds of the way through this book, but Wow. Basically Semenza lets everyone else "in" on what faculty members know about academia. This book is filled with every thing you need to know about every aspect of professing in the humanities: from organizing filing cabinets to publication and graduate student unionization. A few warnings: first, as a history PhD student, I feel that Semenza focuses a bit too much on English and literature examples (though this is expected since his field is in English Lit); second, the book isn't for undergrads still thinking about where to go to grad school so you won't find answers here on that subject. Otherwise, this is the perfect book for humanities students who want to profess on the college level.
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on December 13, 2005
Reading this book gives one the sense that Semenza might have violated some unofficial rule of academic writing here, in that his honesty--or at least his willingness to share his thoughts on everything from grading undergraduate papers to interviewing job candidates--seems to know no bounds. Some of the wisecracks about nameless colleagues, and a few of them about named colleagues, are downright hilarious. As a former PhD student and current assistant prof., I can say that I wish I had read this 5 years ago and that I will encourage all of my own advisees read it immediately.
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VINE VOICEon March 21, 2006
This book was recommended to me by a well respected professor at my university. Because I am a fairly new graduate student who plans on getting a PhD in literature and teaching as a university professor, I figured it could only be helpful to give this book a serious perusal.
It is perhaps one of the smartest things I have done in informing myself about what lies ahead. There is a plethora of information offered to those who are automatically expected to know how to go about pursuing a tenure-track position in the humanities, but ultimately, do not.
This book covers everything from CVs to what, exactly, is expected from you in the way of teaching, research, and service. There is an extensive amount of material covering the importance of conferences etc. as well as a realistic lay out of what you can expect to be doing over the next decade of your life. The book can be intimidating, and downright scary, but serious scholars must understand that reality should always be preferable to a generous "sugar coating."
Perhaps what is most refreshing about this book is that it is laid out very simply...no bombastic and/or pedantic language! Nothing annoys me more than a scholar who tries to unload his entire lexicon in one page of information.
This book has proved to be invaluable to me and has given me a number of tools to help me further my career more quickly and efficiently.
Perhaps Semenza's best advice is this: "Do not pursue a PhD unless you are absolutely OBSESSED with your field"---with all that a person is expected to endure in his/her graduate program, this statement couldn't be more true.
So, if you have any questions concerning the proper path to take in beginning your career in academics/humanities, buy this book! It is worth every penny!
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on May 30, 2006
I am a tenured professor of English (coicidentally, my specialty is Semenza's -- early modern drama -- I should say, however, I don't know him). For several years now I have been running workshops on the job market, serving as my department's "placement director. This is easily the best book on the topic out there, an essential work for any graduate student in the humanities. When I read it I immediately disposed of stacks of photocopies (sample letters, etc.) and stopped preparing a rather lame powerpoint presentation. Now, I simply recommend (read:insist) students take a look at this book.
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on August 31, 2011
This guy will not sugar coat anything. He tells you like it is, if you are going to go to graduate school for the humanities or social sciences you better read this book to know what you are getting into. Having now read this book I know that I do not want to get a PhD at all. I now know that my real ambitions would have me more akin to going into law school or maybe a Master's degree. If you are considering graduate school, wondering if a M.A or PhD is the right choice for you, or just want to get familiar with the bureaucracy of academics and hierarchy of the modern college institution this is the book for you.

It is not an easy read and expect to need the dictionary for some complex and often rarely used wording (especially if English happens to be your second or third language). It is worth the effort to understand what is being said and take the time to read this book. It could save you from many years of unsatisfying and demanding work. It may also help you decide what kind of graduate study is right for you.

A great book to compliment this book with would be "Getting what you came for the smart student's guide to earning a master's or PhD". I would recommend you buy both of these books so that you can get a bit more information to make your decision making process a more informative one. After having read these books I now have a much better understanding of where I would like to go in my education.
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on October 28, 2005
In addition to the contents mentioned by other readers, the book also contains appendices with things like complete book prospecti, cv's, job market cover letters, etc. I found this to be the most useful part of the book (along with the job market chapter.

This guy is one of my advisor's friends, and he recommended the book as the most "honest" one on the market. At times, the honesty is intimidating, but there's no questioning the value of the book.
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on October 27, 2013
The appendix is very very useful to anyone thinking about or currently in a doctorate program. It contains excellent examples of CVs, proposals, syllabi, etc. However the tone of the rest of the text is very pessimistic and at times discouraging. Semenza seems to have forgotten the passion involved in academia and focuses more on how you will have no free time or life outside of your studies. This book is a great reality check for those who do not know what doctoral programs are all about, but if you get the picture, then just skip to the appendix.
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on January 8, 2008
I've read "Getting What You Came For" and other highly recommended books out there about graduate school and academics, but this one is certainly the most up-to-date, detailed, and clearly focused on those who want a tenure-track job. Although this book is written for the humanities and I'm in a social science Ph.D. program I found it very helpful and it was easy to 'translate' to my field. If you know you want an academic career I highly recommend this engaging and well thought out book.
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on January 13, 2014
The book offers thorough and practical advice for nearly every area of graduate study: from excelling in the graduate seminar, to dealing with faculty, to writing the thesis. This book has it all. It is required reading for anyone interested in graduate school in the humanities.
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