Year 2 of the PhD: Setting Goals with a Career in Mind


As I reflect on my first year of completed Ph.D. studies, I am aware of several goals that I accomplished. For example, my first peer-reviewed article was accepted for publication! Additionally, I began work as a research assistant on a project examining the impact of a supervisory model on counseling students’ self-efficacy. This is really good news, and I am pleased with these accomplishments. However, I am also aware of goals that did not happen. For instance, two presentations I submitted to my national conference were rejected. Another peer-reviewed paper was turned down. This happens to everyone, and you can read my last post about strategies on how to deal with academic rejection.

Looking back makes me want to look forward to setting goals for Year 2 of the Ph.D.

When I think about this upcoming year (actually, it started this past week), I am reminded of the end goal. The whole point of this journey is to obtain an Assistant Professor position at road’s end. Hopefully, a tenure-track job on top of that. In order to do that, I must think about the here-and-now and how it helps me achieve this end goal. I’ve talked with several doctoral students (both within and outside of my institution) who are entering their final year of dissertation and have not done any publishing really to speak of, conducted little to no research, and have never applied to a grant. From what I’ve read, this is not a successful model to accomplish a full-time faculty position…given the academic market’s already competitive nature while contingent faculty jobs (i.e. adjuncts, visiting lecturers, etc.) continue to rise. In order to address these issues, one must plan their current academic journey with the end in mind.

So as I plan new goals for Year 2, I look to the expert, Karen Klesky. Karen is a former tenured professor and a regular contributor with the academic newspaper, Chronicle of Higher Education and its younger and smaller online “sister”, Chronicle Vitae. She also owns a consulting business and is author of her helpful blog, The Professor Is In. I was reading her Chronicle article from March 27, 2012, entitled: Graduate School is a Means to a Job. I have included the link to this article at the end of this blog.  Not only does it give good advice on the early and later years of graduate school, but it also prepares applicants for the process of entering school.   It helped me conceptualize certain steps I’m taking with a high dose of intentionality and purpose as I prepare myself for a faculty gig.

The following imperatives to setting goals are taken directly from her article. I will then attempt to apply each directive to my own goals as I prepare for Year 2. Maybe you can do the same. If you find that none of this applies to your stage of the Ph.D., then you would do well to read her entire article.  The key is, writing them down and making them measurable.

Goal #1 – In year one and every year thereafter, read the job ads in your field, and track the predominant and emerging emphases of the listed jobs.

I actually started reading job ads in the counseling educator field starting last fall. I now review and track almost all of the academic jobs posted both on the American Counseling Association’s (ACA) website and most of the jobs posted on the CESNET (Counselor Educators and Supervisors) listserv from Kent State University. This tracking helps me gain a sense of the overall job market while allowing me to categorize jobs based on the following criteria:

  • Tenure track vs. non-tenure track positions
  • Programs requiring accreditation from the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP)
  • Programs making CACREP preferred or optional
  • Programs that do not require CACREP applicants
  • Requirements of non-tenure track positions
  • Other faculty positions that possess an administrative component (i.e. Departmental Chair or Clinical Coordinator)

This tracking also helps me become more familiar with many institutions throughout the United States in places I wouldn’t think to explore.

Goal #2 – Have a beautifully organized and professional CV starting in your first year and in every subsequent year.

The curriculum vita (CV) is basically everything you’ve accomplished as a Ph.D. student. As you volunteer for that academic committee or present at your university research conference or become a guest lecturer for a class, write each service or activity as a line on your CV. Klesky recommends trying to add at least one line per month as a graduate student.  Also, have multiple faculty members in your program review your vita and make suggestions.

Goal #3 – Minimize your work as a TA.

This was very difficult for me to do during my first year. As a matter of fact, I facilitated more weekly supervision groups than teaching though that was also included. However, this second year I intend to do less teaching and more research while continuing to develop my identity as an academic writer. For this year, publishing takes precedence over teaching.  Klesky summarizes, “Teach well, but do not make teaching the core of your identity.”

Goal #4 – Strategize your writing projects in your courses, theses, and dissertation, to form the basis of potentially publishable papers.

A professor told me to do this during my first semester last year, and I followed through. My first course paper eventually became my first peer-reviewed publication. Now I don’t just write a paper for coursework requirement, but I attempt to tailor it for a peer-reviewed publication submission. Sometimes this means restructuring a paper, creating a clinical vignette, or adding a literature review portion or abstract. Usually this involves a conversation with the course professor about my intentions of modifying the assignment, and the professor’s response is always met with elation and encouragement.

Hopefully, I will accomplish these goals during my second year of study. And wherever you find yourself along this path, you will set specific and measurable goals as you enter your next period of scholarly work while focusing on the ultimate goal of a career.

Read Klesky’s original article here:

7 thoughts on “Year 2 of the PhD: Setting Goals with a Career in Mind

  1. It’s really fun to follow your blog. I am a 3rd year doctoral student in Counselor Education and Supervision. As I reflected on what you wrote, and put myself back into Year 2 of my studies, I remembered something very important that my mentor shared with me: “Life happens. Goals can be reworked.”

    Best wishes with achieving, and reworking, these goals!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great job, Keith. Keep up the good work. I know this next year is going to even better than the first. Maybe one day I will follow in your footsteps!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Keith, you’ve got some real jewels here – so common sense in hindsight but so often overlooked in foresight. Thank you for sharing these. I’ll be passing them along to my supervisees.


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