Yesterday's workshop was the first one I felt completely unprepared for.
That was not the case yesterday. The research statement is an odd duck to begin with, so it started in an odd place.
Some of the general notes we received:
- First paragraph should be overview, second should be your dissertation, the third should be recent publications, fourth your next big research project, and then conclusion which ties your work together.
- Have deliverables and a clear timeline for future research.
- Shorter = better, scannable = best. We were told that some ads will state just 1 page, but usually anything under two pages is good.
- We were encouraged to take the scholarly publishing class next semester, and one piece of advice was to delay graduation so we could time our dissertation coming out as a book before graduation.
Some advice was less helpful. Like the bit about not mentioning my popular culture work because it meant I wasn't a serious scholar, and not literature scholars would take that seriously. I was told to remove the chapter I've worked on on Steve Rogers, "I don't know who this is and no one else will." I was also told that my next research project, an extension of the dissertation, which examines how Milton's mythology becomes what is forwarded in popular culture, should be revised without the popular culture (despite the fact that I'm looking to submit it for a series called religion and popular culture).
I was also told I couldn't prove my dissertation.
I wanted to go cry. This was done at full volume (although I stress not in a mean tone) in a room full of other grad students and professors. Several turned to look at me with pity at several times. I was embarrassed, and felt awful.
But here's the thing- these are not uncommon views. I am lucky to have a great support network of media/culture studies folks. And while some of these ideas are changing, I understand that hiring committees may be weighted with older faculty and it's my job to make my work clear and not to make them work for it. I get that.
This was also a abject lesson in how to be a grown up and behave. Whether or not I agree with the views of this person, they took the time to come to the workshop. They took the time to read my research statement, and give me feedback. They deserve respect for that. Which is why I took notes, some of which I have noted for improving my statement, and when finished, thanked them, shook their hand and was done.
But part of me also feels a lot like this, I mean seriously, who's Steve Rogers? *headdesk*
(gif posted to my timeline on Facebook by a friend)
The job market at times seems to be like the Swamp of Sadness. The place that slowly makes you more and more depressed until you simply cannot go on and DIE!
There are silver linings.
There are some great people out there who are offering advice (or at least passing the whiskey bottle). I have friends who are looking at my documents and offering long-distance advice.
There are also more senior scholars out there who blog about these issues, or offer Twitter support.
These two posts are wonderful for people actually on the market this year:
- Understanding Your Academic Friend: Job Market Edition
- Understanding Your Academic Friend: Job Market Edition Part II
Next week, the teaching philosophy and teaching portfolio.