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Book Review | The Professor Is In by Karen Kelsky

Book Review | The Professor Is In by Karen Kelsky


The Professor Is In by Karen Kelsky - Review by Lia Paola Zambetti.

Let’s start with the cons: this book is not heavy on the content side. The main ideas could be summarized in five pages, tops. This said, is it still worth reading? I’d argue yes, especially if a) you are looking for a job in the US and b) you happen to be a humanities or, at any rate, a non-hard-science scholar. 

While there may be not much in terms of deep, complex ideas, the book still covers a huge range of academic situations (promotion processes, teaching) in great detail and, crucially, advises on precise approaches in each situation, down to the expressions to use and the ones that should be avoided. It is also a very clear and comprehensive description of how the US academic system works (or worked at the moment of publication, now 10 years ago, although you wouldn’t suppose things have now changed drastically). There is also something to be said for repetition: while the main ideas are basically the same throughout the book, they are tailored to each situation with plenty of real-life examples that are immediately relatable to all academics (how to write a cover letter or a job application; what parts of your background to emphasize; be careful not to self-sabotage your application). There is also value in the fact that a strong emphasis is given to the correct mindset for a successful career: seeing how common the impostor syndrome is in academia,  seeing concrete, practical advice on the best “tone” and mindset for each step of an academic job application, as well as a careful analysis of the most common pitfalls (which are so common that are not even registered as pitfalls by many). 

At times, whilst the writing style of the book may result in it being a bit too simplistic and didactic to some, I’d think that this is actually an asset: it provides a clear, well- thought-out and developed set of “how-to” instructions covering a wide range of scenarios. It also feels extremely grounded in reality and provides literally dozens of examples, making it very easy to adapt to whatever situation the reader is facing and feeling like a refreshing change from the standard “academic-oriented” publication, which tends to be a lot more general and high-level. Overall mark? I give it Four out of five stars- seems appropriate, although it is definitely recommended if you are a humanities early career researcher looking for a (more) permanent position in academia. 


You can find out more information about the Professor Is In and the author Karen Kelsky at her website

About Lia Paola Zambetti PhD.

Lia is an ex-researcher with a background in Immunology/Haematology. In her day job, at the University of Sydney, she helps other scientists to reach their full potential via training, strategic advice and ad-hoc fellowship programs. In her free time, Lia works as a freelance science journalist.

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