In his book “Good work if you can get it: How to succeed in academia”, Jason Brennan advises aspiring academics against dating other PhD students while on graduate school. Of course, I know that everyone is free to love anyone. I’m not in a situation where I am deciding whether to date a particular PhD student or not. But there are things that I could do to increase the possibility of it happening (eg online dating, asking friends if they know someone who might be a good fit, etc).

Having read about the two-body problem that many academics face, I wonder what dating strategy (eg waiting until having a permanent position to date, dating someone with a job outside of academia, etc) I should have if I want to maximise my chances of landing a permanent academic job while having a SO (which I don’t currently have).

Note: I’m a first year PhD student at a top-3 university in the world for my field. My funding is the most prestigious scholarship available in my university for PhD students. So I have reasons to believe that my chances of landing an academic job are significantly higher than for an average PhD student. Might spousal-hires be a possibility longterm? Or dating another superstar PhD student to increase the odds of both getting a postdocs/jobs at the same universities.

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    You can still have a 'two-body problem' with a partner who isn't an academic. For example, they may need to be in a particular city for their career or family reasons, or perhaps they need to be in a major city while you get a job offer in a rural campus university. It's hard enough to find a partner you're compatible with, I wouldn't add their career plans as a criteria.
    – atom44
    Jul 16 '21 at 9:52
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    Dating another academic might even make things easier, as they also tend to be open to moving around, and many universities have dual career programs. Or, spouses (academics or not) may want to move elsewhere for their own, personal reasons. This really depends a too much on the individuals involved. If each prioritizes the career over the relationship (like you seem to do: "maximize chances (...) while (...)") it will be tough anyway.
    – cheersmate
    Jul 16 '21 at 10:25
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    One more comment about the last paragraph: While it may be correct that being a PhD student at a top university increases your chances on the job market, it doesn't render you a superstar - the only thing that does is a superstar track record. Jul 16 '21 at 11:30
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    "I’m a [...] PhD student at a top-3 university", "another superstar PhD student", "I wonder what dating strategy": I don't intend to be rude, but you seem to have a rather narrow view on how professional success works; and - even more importantly - you are even extrapolating this view to your private life... Jul 16 '21 at 12:59
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    @anonymous Unfortunately, your chances of landing an academic job are incredibly low anyway.
    – Bryan Krause
    Jul 16 '21 at 15:17

If that book gives this kind of advice, it seems a really good book. To prevent people from enjoying life and becoming unempathic academics, at best ready to get and facilitate burn-outs through their careers, treating their professional lives as a bubble completely split from their human being existence.

Even the suggestion about not getting involved romantically with someone in your department/research topic, you can find so many couples that split as many couple that navigated their career through that. Sure, you should not be dependent on the relevant other for your career&co., but that is a general advice. You can be working in the same department and being totally independent, as well as working in different sectors (i.e. politics and finance) and having strong, unhealthy, professional bonds.

However, the good news is that if you follow exactly the contrary of that advice, you may discover that having a partner involved in the academy makes much easier to move as a couple, because of the intrinsic instability in the academic career, unless you land a permanent job at a decent institution, where the daul-career programs are a great solution to the two-body problems.

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    Unsurprisingly, the author advocates for the free-market of organs, youtube.com/watch?v=yvKmmODb7XA just focusing on one side of efficient allocation of resources.
    – EarlGrey
    Jul 16 '21 at 10:51
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    Do you mean "not a really good book"? Jul 16 '21 at 12:35
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    @IanSudbery I am thinking that it is one of these great books that deserves reading, because they are very good at concentrating all the "wrong" ideas about a certain set of topics, with the author weights in with his "experience" while contemporary claiming to be bias-free (always, always consider survivorship bias xkcd.com/1827 )
    – EarlGrey
    Jul 16 '21 at 13:12
  • @EarlGrey I try to subvert this trope. I explicilty explain to my PhD students what the attrition rate is from postgrad to permanent faculty. I explain that I made it, and of course I made it, because you can only be supervised by people that made it. It's the anthropic principle on a down-to-earth scale. It occasionally works. Jul 16 '21 at 21:39

The book doesn't say you should never date another PhD student or break up with a current significant other if you are dating one. It says that the two body problem is hard to overcome, and so you should all things equal try to date outside the narrow circle of academia.

  • but why? all things equal in which sense? why should the 2-body problems be easier in the industry? There are more positions in industry in a single geographic locations than academia positions, but it does not mean that industry positions in different locations can be easily swapped. If that is the line of thinking, it would be much more meaningful to suggest to date inside the circle of very rich people, or suggesting to study medicine because it is the faculty with more chance of employment inside or outside the academia (all things equal, of course)...
    – EarlGrey
    Jul 19 '21 at 12:01

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