I’m the first to admit that when it comes to grad school programs, I’ve got it pretty good. I’ve got nice advisors who are also known and respected in their field, I get to live in cities other people visit on holidays, and my field site is a tropical paradise. (This is it. Really.)
I’m at a conference this week, and so far, the question I’ve heard most about my work is “So how do I land a gig like that?”
First, a bit about what this gig is: it’s a joint PhD. In short, it’s splitting your time between two different institutions, leading to a single degree issued by both institutions. It’s a variant of the French concept of a co-tutelle. My two advisors cooked up my project, and the universities already had a formal agreement in place and encourage collaborations of this sort. It is possible to come up with your own project and forge the agreements yourself, but it takes a lot more time and effort.
Now, how to get it. I wish I had something in-depth to offer here, but the trick seems to be “be exactly what is needed”. At least, that’s what worked for me. I’ve developed an odd combination of skills over my career. A little fieldwork here, a little advanced mathematics there. Heck, even the knot-tying I picked up in Girl Scouts has been useful.
In the end, though, it came down to the luck of having an opportunity come up. My part is this: I studied things that interested me (even when they got hard), I choose projects (and jobs) that gave me the chance to learn something, and I keep my eyes peeled for opportunities.
That’s how you land a gig like this.