Mascot for #DevilDiss

Mascot for #DevilDiss
Mascot for #DevilDiss

Friday, September 19, 2014

Prepping for the Job Market: Part 2 Application/Cover Letter

This week's job seeker's workshop was interesting on a couple of levels.
First, the number of attendees dropped by half. I don't think this is a reflection on the workshop. Half of the attendees the first week were not prepping for this year's market, so maybe they don't see the need to prep. I think they are very wrong. I'm not on the market until next year, but I think it will prove to be incredibly valuable to have vetted templates all ready to go come next fall. I want to be able to personalize these letters and statements and just send them out. I don't want to be creating them.
But that's me.
This past week's focus was on the cover/application letter.
My first draft was crap. The year before I applied to/started my PhD program I applied to a wide range of community college, lecturer positions to see if I could get hired with what I had (masters in education, masters in English literature). The draft I submitted for the workshop was the letter I sent out for a lecturer position at Middle Tennessee State University- a place I'd love to be. After seeing the feedback I got on that letter, I see now why I didn't even make the cut! Draft 2 was a little better. I am especially grateful not only to our professor running the workshop, but also a Twitter connection for taking the time to give me specific notes and suggestions as well.
What I ended up with was this. I think it's a strong template for me to use as a basis next fall, although it's over the two page limit we were advised of, so I've sent it off to my professor for advice/comments.

We also got some basic notes on the letter:
  • Use the preferred qualifications in the ad to see what you need to address in your letter. One professor said search committees scored how well letters addressed these on a numeric scale that determined whether or not they made the cut.
  • We should have two versions of the letter: one that put research/publications first and made that our emphasis and one that put teaching first and emphasized that.
  • We should research the schools we're applying to an mention courses of theirs we could teach as well as make reference to undergrad/grad contact. However, don't mention specific people there you'd like to work with as that can blow up in your face.
  • If they don't ask for a teaching/research statement/philosophy bulk up those sections in your letter.
  • Consider getting a letter of interest/contract for first book so you can say that in your letter.
  • No more than two pages, dump header address if needed for more space
  • Set up interfolio account. It allows you to upload all these documents and helps you track everything. It also has the bonus that your recommenders will only have to upload their letters once (in a secure manner) which makes it easier on them.

This week we're covering the research statement. I'm a little concerned/worried about this. We were told to relate to other disciplines, how my interests would help the university, and I'm a little unclear on how to do this without feeling/presenting as scattershot flake.

Also asked my professor about marketing myself. I'm a medievalist/early modernist. Yet professor said I was more early modernist. So having a medievalist as my chair may be a detriment. He said we'd have to revisit that.
So, that's week 2. Let me know if you have additional advice, or if you have questions for me to ask for this week. I'm off to try and sell my varied research interests in some coherent manner.


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