A student asked me for some advice for pursuing a scholarly career at a college or university, which is a goal of hers. I rattled off a little list that I thought might be useful to others, so I'm sharing it here (YMMV):
- My main piece of advice for someone who's considering a scholarly career would be to get as much research experience as possible. Preferably this research experience will be directly in your area of interest, but any research experience is better than none, and research experience using similar methods OR theoretical approaches can be almost as valuable as experiences that are directly in your area of interest.
- Identifying who you want to work with is a very important step in the PhD application process. Your fit with them, their research, their supervision style, etc. will be massively important. Finding out as much about them as possible, including reaching out to their current or former students, can help you narrow down your search and tailor your application materials to really highlight your fit.
- Writing skills are also really important, so any and all work you can do to get help, get training, and polish your writing is very good.
- One thing to clarify for yourself is to figure out if teaching is your main interest, if research is your main interest, or a combination of teaching and research. Scholarly careers come in many shapes and sizes. It may be that you don't know yet, but talking to people and gradually figuring out what you prefer and what kinds of experiences and skills are needed for the type of job you want will help you seek out the right training opportunities and experiences.
- If you can, apply all over (rather than only in your current location), prioritizing (1) good supervisors who will open doors for you with funding, resources, mentorship, networks, etc., and (2) good programs that similarly support students well, and whose graduates are able to pursue careers you're interested in. Your chances of matching your needs and goals with the right experience will drastically improve if you widen your search.
- One more: there is a LOT of good advice online, but this stuff can be very field-specific, so one idea could be to look on Twitter for some scholars and grad students in your area of interest. This will start to acclimatize you to the culture you're aiming to be a part of.