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Harcourt Career advice for young economists Paul Frijters – UQ + ANU.

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Presentation on theme: "Harcourt Career advice for young economists Paul Frijters – UQ + ANU."— Presentation transcript:

1 Harcourt Career advice for young economists Paul Frijters – UQ + ANU

2 Content.... z1. Basic choices of what to research and how. z2. Academia versus civil service versus business. z3. Post-doc versus lecturer, top university versus lesser one. z4. Networking, writing, co-author relations.

3 Basic research choices z1. Add to the literature yStart from the data you have and come up with a question that might interest others. yStart with a model and find a tweak. yGo to conferences and workshop and start to second-guess what interests others and what they want to hear. ySuck up to the big guys in the literature, don’t bother too much with the lower downs. yWorry about who you cite (in-crowd or not). yHone a specific skill to have something to offer others.

4 … z2. Compete with the literature yStart from the questions you are interested in. Look for the data and techniques that that question dictates. yDon’t read what others have done till almost at the end: work out what you think is most likely true and have an internal conversation in which you update that belief as you get more info. yBe tough on yourself: its easy to fall in love with your own thoughts. Never give in to that temptation. ySeparate the job of finding the truth from the job of selling your findings (good things do NOT sell themselves): xDon’t bother networking till afterwards. xSince you are now gunning for the future, pay more attention to who is smart than to who already made it. xHone specific skills to have something others can recognise and value to get you in the door. xRecognise that selling your thoughts is a job in itself.

5 When which strategy? zStrategy two is normally reserved for people at the top but you can simply choose it for yourself as well at any point in your life. zMany people tell themselves they will do 2 after being successful with 1. Usually means they end up defending the status quo when they get round to 2 (for they then have a position to lose connected to 1). zUnless you start at the top you will probably have to do a bit of 1 to pay the bills before you can expect to be successful with 2. zFor the vast majority, 2 is high-risk and has low expected monetary return. Gives high ego-rents though: its fun being a rebel whereas to follow is a bit dull.

6 Advice zDouble-track: yHave some line of research or other life-activity you really value to maintain your self-esteem. yMake sure you do enough of 1 to pay the mortgage in the meantime. yFor some this means they really care about becoming a champion model-airplane builder, others research turtles, others work on their theory of everything.

7 Academia\civil service\business zAcademia: yFor those who cant take orders. yRewards specialisation and clique-formation. zCivil service: yRewards general knowledge and clique-formation. yIts a hierarchy. Lots of bullying and internal politics. zBusiness: yRewards skill and clique-formation.

8 The cliques zAcademia: yCliques are global and get built up during and after PhD, not before. Hence they are fairly open-entry. Entry still possible later on, but they do have an all-or-nothing element to them (with us or against us). zCivil service: yCliques partially reflect prior groups (ethnicity, school) but mainly get formed in the budget wars. Long tenure is required to break into them. Politics is almost entirely ‘with us or against us’. zBusiness: yCliques are mainly local, often based on secondary school. Entry late in life is hard.

9 Transitions zIf one is out of academia for a few years mid- career, there is almost no coming back. zTransitions with the civil service only make sense if you get in at the top or as a quick ‘secondment’ to learn. zTransition to business would normally depend on local networks built up. Out of business one only transitions to the bottom unless one can buy oneself in.

10 Post-doc / Lecturer / where? zPost-doc is high risk, but in economics can be better than tenured if it is at a good group and research intensive. It is effectively a bet on one’s future. zGood or bad uni? yThe top can return from bad unis and should mainly worry about research opportunities and particular co-workers. yThere is a strong lock-in effect in terms of culture, co- workers, mortgages, local family investments, etc. Hence for most, there is no escape from a bad place.

11 How to read a school? z1. Adademic weight: Repec rankings are pretty good at showing what the places to be are at the moment, though rankings are of course gamed. z2. Political power: how is their relation with the hierarchy? Who controls hiring/firing/ promotions/ curriculum/travel/grants? It matters. Media power helps to secure political power. z3. A single-discipline school is much better than a joint discipline one: multiple paradigms mean bitter feuds. z4. Money flows: student-based money is the most secure; government contract work is uncertain and the output is not valued much in academia so there is the danger of lock-in; competitive grants can also run out.

12 Networking and co-author relations zCo-authors, the three roles: yThe tech guy. yThe writer. yThe networker. zGood writers are rarer and more valuable than good technical people or the networkers (the networker needs to have something else to sell. The other two are selling something substantial). zWhen you do not possess all three skills, make you peace with the fact that you really need the other two. A standard mistake is to only value one. zMeans of exchange: yThe other two can be on the same paper and grant proposals. yThe exchange can be implicit in the structure of a place (for instance, if a director is the one who sells government reports to the media/gov’ment). Think experimental labs. yThe exchange can be organised within a discipline (the thinkers, the writers, the sellers).

13 How to co-author zThe batch-work model: yPerson A does all he can on it, then person B, then person C, then person A again. Each does their thing with communication limited mainly to the hand-over moments. zThe ‘we do it all together’ model: yPerson A works on it, pestering person B and C at each point for input, judgements, data, writing, etc. Person B and C then do the same. yVery tiring, hard to keep up and usually only works if the co-authors know each other very well and enjoy all the to-and-throwing.

14 Networking zConferences, workshops, seminars, virtual societies, etc. yThey produce cliques, gossip, social norms, joint opinions, co- authorships, marriages, and rivalries. yEssentially networks are about establishing ‘you scratch my back, I scratch yours’ relations with individuals and with whole groups that help in all situations where peer-reputation matters. yThey are vital for careers, papers, and grants. A common mistake is not to invest in them and believe that good things sell themselves. They do not. yRealise that peer review = gift exchange. Departments and disciplines are tribes. Those who do well in them enjoy the personal and emotional aspect of the interaction.

15 Potential items for discussion.... zOptimal level of technical difficulty: the role of magic in discourse. zWho is a good adviser\mentor and how to get him/her? zHow to get media attention and optimally interact with journalists. Blogging? zThe art of writing grants proposals.


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