Mascot for #DevilDiss

Mascot for #DevilDiss
Mascot for #DevilDiss

Friday, September 12, 2014

Prepping for the Job Market: Part 1 The CV and Ad

Some background: I am in my third semester of my PhD program. I finish my course work this semester, comp in February, will defend my prospectus soon thereafter, am currently writing my dissertation, and am planning on going on the job market in a year, with a dissertation defense date of early spring semester 2016.
I have my committee of studies for comps in place, and just secured my fourth/outside reader for my dissertation last week.

Over the next month my department is offering job seekers workshops on different topics to prep people for the job market. We had our first one this past week. The MLA Job List comes out today. And half the people in the room didn't seem to know a whole lot about the job market or how to prepare. I have to admit- this is worrisome to me. Particularly, this is worrisome because this knowledge is everywhere on the Internet and I worry about people attempting to go into this field who are not aware of the field or aren't being told this by other sources. What was perhaps more worrisome is that the job list comes out today- so why don't these people have their job market materials ready to go? I digress...

This week we focused on our CV and how to break down/respond to job ads. I had a member of my committee look at my CV last year, and we made corrections, but based on the feedback I got for the workshop, I still had a lot to do. This was what my committee member and I came up with. This is what I ended up with.

The professors running the workshop (two of whom were on the job market the last couple of years) stressed how dire the market was, although the stat they gave was 150 for every application, and from what I've read, that number is more likely 400 or 500 depending on your field.

We all got feedback on our CVs, so I'm feeling pretty good about how it looks now, and thanks to     all who were wonderful about sharing their CVs and pointing me towards Dr. Karen’s Rules of the Academic CV for some extra help. We spent the majority of the workshop (2 hours) asking questions and looking at a sample job ad.

So, here's a list of the good information/tips we got about the CV:
  • Make sure your CV is streamlined, use the white space, make it easy for the committee to read. Don't make them work for it.
  • It should be 2-3 pages right out of grad school
  • It's a toss up on whether to put your dissertation title and abstract. Most seemed to think that the paragraph about it in the cover letter was enough.
  • List committee members as references. Side note: make sure that your faculty stress in their letters that you'll be DONE if going on market ABD. Also, along these lines, even if you just put dissertation title on your CV, ALWAYS put defense date.
Other advice that was a little more general:
  • A lot of ads are starting to say medieval literature (or whatever field) + digital humanities. We were encouraged to take the DH courses offered here, or publish with an emphasis to qualify.
  • I also noticed that there's been a lack the last couple of years of ads mentioning sub categories (feminist, Marxist, etc.).
  • Start saving now so you had a slush fund to go to MLA to interview if asked.
  •  Number of publications wasn't important, as long as you were working, could show you submitted something. Also, feel free to put on CV that you've submitted to a journal (even if you haven't heard anything back from them). I STRONGLY disagree with this. I think in this job market one of the few ways you can prove you're a rock star/solid bet who can produce is to publish. I think you need at least one publication for every year you've been in grad school. I also think that you should not put submitted, as anyone could do that- accepted, yes. Asked to revise and submit- maybe.

We're covering the application/cover letter next week (here's my draft), but we did cover some tips this past week:
  • Don't mention previous (read high school, for-profit) teaching experience in cover letter. Mention only in interview if you get there and it's relevant.
  • Cover letter should follow this format: publications, dissertation, teaching. The paragraph on your dissertation should be a really good one. Also, write dissertation title to include tags of what your research covers so it's clear what areas you work in. I used this template for my letter.
  • Create a template, then tailor each letter for each job. Research the school, and be sure to specifically refer to their programs/faculty.
On a more personal note- 
I am fully aware that the job market is dire. Next fall I will not only be competing with newly/almost minted PhDs from schools that have better reputations than mine, but also this year's PhDs that didn't get jobs, and last year's, and the year before that, and so on and so on. I can't control that. I can't make my school higher ranked, or ivy league. I can't lessen the numbers of the competition. The way I see it, I can only control myself. 
It's a short list, but this is what I'm going with:
  • I have three current publications- two articles and one chapter in an edited collection. In the next year I should have two more chapters in edited collections, one on fairy tales, the other on comics and the working class. I have two journal articles submitted, but have heard nothing back yet. I plan on aiming for a medieval publication this year and an early modern one next year.
  • I was always told that conferences were only valuable if your CV also showed that these became publications. That seems like sound advice to me. I've lessened the conferences I'm attending one, because I'm writing my diss at this point, and two, I'm focusing WHERE I'm going more.
  • Teaching is important. It's no longer, for most jobs, unnecessary, or a barely there requirement. That being said- even SLACs are going to require research, so a page of local teaching awards with no publications and few conferences is not the right mix. I can tell you that I'm not even applying for these awards because they are a lot of work, and I don't think they will move my CV the way a publication or conference would.
  • Get on social media. Start a scholarly blog- share your work. Be on Twitter. Connect with people in your field- share your work. Get your name out there and engage with people.
Last year when I looked at the MLA Joblist there were 23 jobs that I qualified for. I'm marketing myself as a medieval/early modernist. These fields have collapsed the last few years, so I feel comfortable with this positioning. 
This year there are 17 jobs that I would qualify for. 
That's a shrinking pool of an already miserable job market.
But I'm not giving up. Is it possible I may end up flipping burgers after grad school? Absolutely. But I'm not thinking like that. I'm focusing on everything I can do to make myself the best possible candidate. That's all any of us can do.
Next week- my reactions to the application letter and more on the job list ads.


  1. Be aware that publications are not as important as collegiality and departmental "fit." It can be shocking when you realize a list of pubs doesn't always make a difference.

  2. Thanks a lot for your information.That's a great idea and interesting post
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