Mascot for #DevilDiss

Mascot for #DevilDiss
Mascot for #DevilDiss

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Job Seeker's Workshop Reflections

Last fall my university conducted a job seeker's workshop. We met once a week, covering a document a week, workshopped the documents, and heard from other faculty members.

As I've said before it was very helpful, not just to draft solid templates, but also because the professor leading it brought in a lot of different professors so we got a lot of feedback from different places. I felt really good about the templates I created and revised.
This time, it's a two week intersession class, four hours a day. I like this better for my second time around because it's more one on one, and being on the market, I feel that's what I need more.
We've been going over the requirements of a document, then workshopping our documents. There are eight of us in the class, one master's student, the rest PhDs, but I think only two (maybe three?) actually on the market this year.

A couple of general notes that I've thought of this week:
  • You cannot compare yourself to others in different field. Numbers and anecdotes vary but I've heard numbers roughly this: if you're a contemporary American literary scholar you could face up to 400-500 people competing for a single job. Anglo-Saxonists rarely face double digit competition. Medieval and early modern (ME) seem to fall in the middle. Of course this varies for R1s, SLACs, certain states and regions. 
  • If you can even remotely imagine living somewhere, apply.
    • However don't imagine an entire life when a job ad hits your email inbox- it's WAY too early for that.
  • I have noticed here that in general people are told that one publication is enough to go on the job market, and I've never heard professors really explain why grad students should be presenting at conferences. 
    • I can understand that professors want to be supportive, and don't want to discourage students they believe in. And I get that. But I also believe that they are not doing their students any favors. 
      • This is part of a larger issue- if your student is not doing any of these things, and has proven in other ways that maybe they lack the rigor for this profession, a serious conversation should be had about what their future holds. Competition on the job market is hard enough without dumping someone in the chum water who has no hope of surviving the shark attack.
      • I advised a grad student earlier this summer that small, regional conferences weren't really where she should be aiming for at this point. I got a fairly negative response.I won't be giving advice anymore. On a side note, it's a pet peeve to ask people for advice and then tell that person you're not going to listen to them. THEN DON'T ASK!
    • I was taught that you should present at the major conferences in your field, at least twice a year, and you should think of these conference presentations as prep for articles. So roughly every conference paper should be turned into an article. They won't all get accepted but it does a couple of things that are great professional habits:
      • You're consistently researching and writing
      • You get in the habit of submitting, and having things in the pipeline, it's professionalism
      • The exposure to publishing, and revising and resubmitting is also great experience
      • Your CV will then show a clear connection between conference presentations and publications
    • I think these expectations need to be presented to grad students their first semester. The timeline of submitting to a journal, and the the time it takes to get a response means that IF people are on the market this year, it's too late for a publication.
  • If you plan on making a career in academia, you need to be on Twitter. You need to have a professional social media presence. You should be aware of the scholar-activists in your field and you should be aware of the specifics of the job market. I have been surprised by how little advanced PhD students seem to know about the job market they are prepping for. We're spending a lot of time explaining basics. I do think it's good advice to take this workshop more than once, so you know what to prep, and then to actually prep. But still, this is your chosen field, you should know more about it.
    • The downside of this is that the workshopping is helpful, but the information provided is not anything new to me.
  • I feel good about the documents I have, and it's helpful to know that there's an expected template to these documents (like the cover letter, CV, and research and teaching statements) so that there's a checklist committees will look for. Knowing what specifics in the job ad to address in the letter has also been great advice. 
    • I do worry that because these documents have a formula, and because I don't have a pedigree, that I won't stand out. Nothing I can do about that, so relying on my publications and conference presence as well as my strong teaching record.

  • Because I'm on the market ABD I've made sure in my research statement to detail the chapter descriptions of #DevilDiss so I can prove of one of THOSE ABDs and not one of THOSE ABDs.

  • For me it's also super helpful to have lots of different sets of eyes on things. My academic support network on Twitter and Facebook have also been great about looking at drafts, offering advice and sharing documents.

  • So far I've added five jobs to my tracking documents Google Sheet. I am encouraged about the number of pre MLA Joblist postings. While they are all different, they are all good positions. The last couple of years there were 20-30 jobs initially (not counting later additions) that I would have qualified for as someone who is marketing themselves as a medievalist/early modernist so the more positions posted, the better for me.
    • And while I said to not compare yourself to others in your department, I'm also not competing with anyone in my department. The other person on the market is an Anglo-Saxonist and the possible third is an ALS. While I don't care about competing with people in my department,  knowing this isn't an added level of things to deal with is nice.
  • And I guess this is my last point that is only tangential to the workshop but key to the market and the profession. This is work. This is a job. This is a profession. So you should comport yourself as though this was true. This means that passive aggressive high school drama should not play a role. This means the people in your department are colleagues, not friends, and you should keep that in mind. If you act/dress like a child, a student, that is how you will be seen. Likewise the reverse is true. 
    • I will admit that part of lack of patience about this has to do with age difference. At 39, I am not a 22 or even 25 or 30 year old graduate students. Having been an adult since before I graduated undergrad, and having held a job, I do not have a lot of patience for immature or unprofessional behavior.
    • That being said (which really should be the name of my blog as I do seem to use that phrase to excess!) there's no excuse for not acting like a professional in a professional environment and I think it needs to be made clear to grad students how these negative behaviors can impact their careers.

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