If all the core members of your committee are in the same basic area, you aren’t exposed to how different sociologists will read and interpret your work. And, if all your letters come from one sub-section of the discipline, they may not resonate with a hiring committee where no one works in that area (no matter how “big” your area, this is likely to happen!). The broader your committee, the broader your reach. Finally, when you have to talk about your work with others, you’re used to doing it in ways that can appeal and makes sense to the broadest range of sociologists.
Think about getting organized early on by deciding how you will keep track of notes, research, data, and other scholarly tasks. Having that workflow will help you be efficient in your research and writing. If you balance multiple responsibilities (being a grad student, a teaching/research assistant, or a grad instructor), carve out as much time as you can for your own work and dedicate time to your research. You might not feel like you are dedicating enough time to your work at first, but focused and uninterrupted time is important for advancing your own projects. As you focus on your research, keep in mind that your professional life is happening while you are in graduate school. Take every opportunity you can to get involved with professional life in your department and outside of your department to build your social capital. If and when you decide on the kind of job you’d like to pursue (either within or outside of academe), have an honest conversation with mentors about those aspirations and connect with people who do the work you dream of doing. Recognize that the path to your “dream job” could depart from the path others take. And finally, take care of yourself because you are no good to anyone if you are run-down or depleted. Your physical and mental health are important for being a successful professional.
(Modified from my original essay.)
I wish I knew when I was a grad student that it is important to pick up skills in writing grant proposals. While it is important to focus on the dissertation and to begin publishing your work, it is also very useful to get experience in developing creative, appealing, and feasible grant proposals. Such skills are as instrumental in advancing one’s career as are publishing and networking.