Monday, July 27, 2009

Blog XIX (19): Career Plans and Publishing Strategies

Some of the more successful people in life are those that sit down and create goals and a plan. There is something to be said for plotting your academic career. Now, a lot of that goes back to what I wrote about in Blog II—you can have any type of career you want. Do you want to teach undergraduates? Do you want to train a generation of Ph.D. students? Do you want to write a biography? A textbook? Do you want to testify to Congress on your expertise? Do you want to be a regular source for journalists? Do you want to be a popular historian writing for the general public? Do you want to be an influential intellectual who offers new historical interpretations that dominate the historiography of your sub-field for generations? In any of these cases, writing and publishing is going to be necessary. It might be an end or a means, but you will have to do some of it.

As a result, you should have a some kind of career plan. The details of that plan will be up to you. Your publishing strategy should serve to advance that career plan, though. There will probably be a good deal of overlap between these two documents. For example, let us say that that in your career plan you state you want to hold an endowed chair at an Ivy League school and write a New York Times best seller. Great. That is your career plan and probably about half of your publishing strategy.

With the strategy you will need to flesh out the details. It will be part end (getting to that best-seller) and means (how you get to the Ivy League). You need to explain how you will reach these objectives. Goals are good, but not all that helpful if you do not have ideas on how to get to where you want to go. You want to avoid being so rigid that you are not able to respond to new opportunities when they open up. On the other hand, you want to want to be avoid being so vague that your guidance is useless.

A publishing strategy will vary from individual to individual, but one part should focus on big, long-term projects (books) and the other should be on smaller, short-term projects (articles and other types of essays).

The blog entries that follow in the weeks ahead will first focus first on articles and then on books.

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