This is Pete Boettke on the incoming class to my Ph.D. program at GMU:
“Our students are unusual for PhD students and many of them are more likely
to be weighing a PhD in another discipline rather than another economics
department when making their decision.”
In my case, that was true–during my first year I considered switching to Political Science in Rochester, of all places. And these are words of wisdom:
“For those entering the PhD program with the hope of pursuing an academic career, they need to start thinking about research papers right now. For students coming from an out of sync [that is, non-mainstream] department such as GMU the most important signal they can send is with published papers in refereed journals, and in particular published papers in mainstream journals. Failure to do so will result in a frustrating job search. I have been telling graduate students for a decade that the formula for success is:
PhD in hand + refereed publication(s) + strong teaching evaluations = tenure track job
The other factor in this equation is the ‘lunch tax’ that the individual represents. The more difficult the person is to take as a personality, the stronger publications they will have to have in order to signal that they are worth it.”
Did I land my first job with a publication in hand? No. And I don’t have my Ph.D. yet either, which tells you how lucky I was when CIDE bought my services–I guess I must have a big “lunch subsidy” somewhere :-). More seriously, notice the direction of causality: If you have all those observable ingredients, a good job is secured–if not, your job prospects are less certain and cling on other unobservable factors.
Bottomline: Make whatever you need so that your skills and potentials are observable.