Post Academic

Accepting the Unholy Alliance Between Marketing and Academia

Posted in The Education Industry by Caroline Roberts on April 28, 2010
Tags: , , , ,

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionIn a post called “Lies I Was Told in Grad School,” the blog Some Notes Toward an Investigation lists the following at #2:

Don’t market yourself to fit academic fads.

If this is a lie, then the truth is that you should market yourself to fit academic fads.

To anyone who has been through academia, the concept of marketing one’s self and establishing a brand sounds gross. Marketing is the science of selling more stuff to more people, and academia exists to protect useful knowledge from market whimsy, right? The free market brought us Pet Rocks, Bumpits, vampire fiction, and Fall Out Boy, so why should academics or aspiring academics trust the free market for anything? Then again, a little marketing savvy might help you become a professor. Let’s consider the pros and cons of mixing marketing and academia:

Pros: Marketers find a need, and they fill it as quickly and easily as possible. Any good marketer can sum up what a product can do for you. And that’s exactly what you need to do as an academic. You don’t have to sell yourself as the Pet Rock of Professors, but you will not get a job if you do not specialize in a subject that a university needs. For that reason, you need to research the academic market just as much as you need to research your subject of choice.

Cons: Fads don’t last. Consider the Pet Rock. Choosing a hot field of study is smart, but it takes a long time to earn a degree in the humanities. A grad student runs the risk of graduating right when an academic fad starts to cool off, which means all the slots are filled. Aspiring professors with student loans can’t exactly sit around until the next fad begins. On the bright side, this problem could be solved if grad programs admitted fewer students and offered more funding so students could finish their degrees faster.

Conclusion: Fads may be short, but the number of academic jobs is dwindling so much that the pros might outweigh the cons. Furthermore, approaching your career with a little marketing in mind might help you build a side skill that you can use if you don’t wind up in academia.

Lies I Was Told in Grad School [Some Notes Toward an Investigation]

Image of a pet rock by CarolSpears, under a Creative Commons license.

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