(Another) Preparing for the academic job market workshop

Below are some of my notes from a workshop on the subject of preparing for the academic job market. Dr. Elizabeth Jameson led the workshop, which took place on February 18th at the Center for Great Plains Studies. This is the second formal workshop I’ve attended on preparing for the academic job market, but I learn something new each time. It’s encouraging to see that conversations about the difficulties of the current job market are becoming more commonplace in academia, and that the newest generation of humanities graduate students are being prepared–from the very beginning of their academic careers–to consider the different trajectories their training can take them. I found the advice related to networking and organizing to be the most useful and inspiring.

Preparing for the academic job market:

  • Dr. Jameson entered the academic job market for the first time in 1975
    • 10 jobs in social history at that time
    • states she was “very, very lucky” to “score” one of the jobs, considered it “miraculous”
    • (Jameson says she did not have her dissertation or degree completed yet when she “scored” her first academic job –> different job market)
  • when Jameson left her first academic job, and lost funding for her second, she freelanced “in the wilderness” for a while (adjuncted for a time, low-pay, tenuous situation)
    • but kept working w/in women’s history & studies –> published two books (but still hadn’t completed her dissertation, into the 80’s)
    • eventually able to re-enter academia: tenure-track, “invited to apply for 3 chairs”
      • very successful, finished her dissertation, recognized for her experience
  • academic job ads now: “want you to teach everything AND do Digital Humanities” (a little tongue-in-cheek about the “walk on water” tone of some job ads today)
    • Dr. Katrina Jagodinsky: read the job ads early in your academic career and figure out how you steer your training to fit within the categories they are looking for
    • recognize that your entry job = “not necessarily where you’ll stay” (in job or intellectually)
      • & there is “a lot out there, beyond academia”
  • advisers and mentors = critical throughout the process (of your entire career, not just for your first job)
    • you will need letters of recommendation even 10 or 20 years on –> constantly cultivate an array of mentors and letter-writers
      • have multiple mentors, some outside your institution of training or employment
    • if you are “stubborn, flexible, and creative” you can make it into a career you like over time
      • be prepared to retool & look for ways to do so
  • networking, publishing:
    • if you have 1 or 2 potential articles, “get them out there”
    • early in your academic training, attend events like the Pacific Coast branch of the AHA – receive friendly feedback on your early work
      • then move into national conferences
      • e-mail folks ahead of conferences you are attending to ask for lunch/coffee dates to talk about your research –> be bold
    • “get involved in the movements that excite you”
    • take long enough on your dissertation that it is “close to publication,” so your adviser can attest to this, so presses can “start cruising you”
  • academic job interviews:
    • prepare 1, 5, and 20-minute descriptions of your dissertation
    • pay attention to the mission statements of the institutions AND departments you are applying to –> be able to articulate how you will contribute to their mission
    • do mock interviews
    • have drafts of your cover letter reviewed
      • find something to make you stand out in your cover letter
    • workshop your job talk AND a sample lecture
    • get on the AHA/OAH program the year you interview and invite your interviewers to your panel
    • ask for copies of teaching recommendations from anyone who has observed your teaching
      • include these in your teaching portfolio (this is in addition to, and separate from, your letters of recommendation)
    • constantly cultivate letter-writers and be sure they are tailoring their letters to the job
      • Jagodinsky: can include more than 3 letters of recommendation, provided: (1) each writer knows who else is writing and what (generally) they will talk about; (2) if are sure the additional letter(s) will be of high quality; (3) it won’t look like “fluff” or padding
  • get something good on your c.v. every year –> show you are “a professional and engaged historian,” even (or especially) if you are freelancing and hoping to return to T-T job market
  • organize: YOU will be the generation that has to defend the professoriate from serious efforts to de-skill, to turn academia into a factory system
    • “don’t settle”
      • “but be strategic” –> when you get “higher,” protect those who are still struggling and vulnerable
        • Jagodinsky: “don’t get caught up” in negativity and high competition among your fellow graduate students –> they will be your colleagues someday, don’t let harsh job market destroy valuable networks & relationships
          • tell close colleagues when you are applying for the same jobs & recognize that “one of you is mustard and the other is chocolate” –> both “make life great, but you don’t know if the search committee is having wine or hot dogs” so you shouldn’t beat yourself up over their decision, don’t lose confidence

“Preparing for the [Academic] Job Market” workshop notes

Dr. James Coltrain, UNL
Dr. James Coltrain, UNL

Below are my rough notes from a whirlwind workshop on the subject of preparing for the academic job market. Dr. James Coltrain led the workshop, which took place on August 21st at the 2014 History Department Graduate Student Retreat.

Preparing for the [academic] job market:

  • every aspect of getting a job will be a grind”
  • being a good job candidate = not same as being a good grad student
  • To be a good job candidate:
    • for an elite position, at a Research I university have:
      • publications (ideally 2-3 peer-reviewed article in your field; any other kinds of publications = a good idea; chapter in edited edition; anything shows through an editorial process)
      • major conference presentations (as many as you can – esp. the big ones like the AHA, OAH; you need people in your field who can advocate for you)
      • a fellowship or two (money to go to a library = very good; apply early – in the Fall; EVEN if it’s only a week’s stay at a library it will help your C.V.)
      • teaching experience (do everything you can to teach your own class + develop the major courses you know you’ll be expected to teach)
      • for digital jobs: do something with strong disciplinary purpose (significant historical questions) AND be knowledgeable about a particular kind of technology (esp. good if its innovative)
      • show impact on your field: If you nail your dissertation, what would the textbook companies be OBLIGATED to change (a chapter, even a sentence)?
  • Where should you look for job listings?
    • Hnet.org
    • academic jobs wiki (google this, disciplinary areas divided by subfield)
    • AHA – “last generation”
    • Chronicle of Higher Education
    • follow a bunch of people on Twitter, institutes – see what pops up
  • Your cover letter – no more than 2 pages; single-spaced
    • must be PERFECT → okay if you spend a month on it
    • VERY direct intro – you, what you’re applying for, your research
    • how your research changes your field, your major field → explain in way that non-experts can understand
    • methodology, which archives you used, travel you’ve done, previous discourse you’re engaging with
    • your WIDER research, how you fit into a school, a mode of analysis, pitch your NEXT project → your next book, connected in some way to your current book (not committed to this, so BE BOLD)
    • brag → don’t just repeat your c.v. – substantive things that don’t come across in your c.v. (communicate its importance); remember: people evaluating you are NOT in your area
    • everything else, especially TEACHING and SERVICE (up to two paragraphs); good place for school specific arguments (particular center you’d be excited to work in; you have a relationship to the place – but don’t go overboard)
    • change this cover letter for different DISCIPLINES you are applying for & for different LEVELS of universities (research, community colleges)
      • work influenced by debates in other fields, taught classes in other areas, etc.
      • cover letter for teaching institution versus R-1 institution → ALWAYS start with your dissertation, adapt your paragraphs after that (emphasize teaching experience and philosophy)
  • Your C.V. – every important thing you’ve done in different categories
    • emphasize professional-level stuff over grad-level stuff (prioritize/list them in this order)
    • 3-4 sentence abstract of your dissertation on your C.V. = good sometimes
    • 2-3 pages of GREAT stuff is better than padding it
  • 3 letters of recommendation
    • 1st person = your advisor → CUSTOMIZED letter; CRITICAL (hopefully “says it all”)
    • 2nd person = could be a committee member, someone who knows your RESEARCH very well 
    • 3rd person = lots of options: someone you taught for that knows you very well, someone at another school IF you know them WELL; want someone with a NATIONAL profile whenever possible
    • NO LAST MINUTE stuff on requests for letters → send a spreadsheet with deadlines, start as early as possible
      • about a month’s notice = the “sweet spot”
    • Interfolio = good; generic letter of recommendation that YOU write for the advisor to give them an idea of what you think you need
      • don’t be afraid to GET ON your letter writers if they’re not keeping up with deadlines – “it’s part of their job” to write letters for you
  • Some things often (but not always) asked for in job applications:
    • writing sample
      • dissertation chapter OR peer-reviewed published article → whichever is BETTER
      • stay within the page limit
    • teaching evaluations → pick the best, most informative ones
    • teaching portfolio – including syllabi (classes taught, planned), evaluations, teaching philosophy
      • come back to those books from your comps for the basic courses you know you will be asked to teach (show your historiography)
      • what you do, why you do it, assignments given (avoid buzzwords without examples)
    • research statement – same as you would do in your cover letter
      • your dissertation, methods
      • final 3rd = future project
    • diversity statement: have someone who actually IS from a diverse background read it
      • how you approach your subject with diversity in mind (pedagogy, research, community)
        • e.g. content of what you teach; can mention your background (but don’t assume that has significance)
  • do as much as you can during the SUMMER
    • different applications will ask for different things, so you’ll constantly be tweaking your application materials
  • significant, polished segment of your dissertation ready to go (in the summer if applying for fall jobs)
    • don’t be shy → go for it if you’re interested
  • Stages of the interview:
    • job posting come out June – January
      • most to Dec. 15th
    • get 70-100 applicants – few cuts may happen early on
      • e.g. send more writing samples (as much of your dissertation as you have)
      • e.g. Skype interviews – look at the CAMERA, wear what you wear to teach in, be in a quiet, well-lit space
      • e.g. phone interview – dress up for your phone interview (state of mind for your interview), have the internet/notes up
      • e.g. conference interview – not all have a conference interview (cuts made to 15-20 or 7-8) → it’s an accomplishment to get there, take it as a good sign
        • be prepared to be at the AHA → think about your finances (ask the department, the center you’re involved in to support your need to be there)
        • make sure you have enough turn-around time (1 hour or so) between interviews
        • ask for names of committee members → do research on them
        • be relaxed for the interview
          • as nice as you can look without being too formal (NOT about style here, about professionalism)
        • get to hotel early, get to the room 5 minutes early
        • bring a clipboard with paper to write on
          • small amount of notes = okay
    • 1st question is ALWAYS – tell me about your research (3 minutes, just like your cover letter – research, methods)
      • theory, method that influenced your research, how it fits within your field
      • the next project
      • teaching experiences, philosophy
      • classes willing, able to teach (make sure you aren’t taking anyone else’s classes at the institution you’re applying for)
      • they’ll tell you about the department, position → you’d BETTER HAVE QUESTIONS FOR THEM
        • read everything on the department website, “stalk” your committee members
        • make YOU and THEM look good with your questions
        • don’t go off on tangents (stick to the basics – emphasizing your research/teaching in your questions)
  • 3-4 folks in the interview on campus
    • everything else in your life is on hold” → don’t be a problem for them, put everything else aside
    • will be stressful, lengthy → give recovery time to yourself between these
    • research every single person you’ll be meeting with on your campus visit
      • try to memorize some names & faces
    • get an itinerary
    • pack a carry-on if you can in case your bags get lost
      • layers, options
    • TONS of meetings – be as friendly as possible, have good posture, emphasize positive things (topics of convo reflect well on them)
    • if you have a weak spot in your candidacy – find a strength to focus on
    • lots of meals – dinners, lunches; “you are on the clock” (do not get drunk); if anyone else gets water you get water
      • do not gossip but be human → bring conversation back to you and the job if it drifts TOO far off
      • order neat, fairly moist food (you’ll be talking the most out of everyone; something easy to eat, not messy)
      • you’re always on; you’re never off”
    • the job talk → 35 minutes to 1 hour
      • questions can be very long sometimes so NEVER go over
      • practice!
      • Have great visuals BUT be prepared to have NO powerpoint
        • have handouts as your backup
      • always have a hard copy or two of your presentation
        • usb drive
        • adaptors
        • e-mail your presentations
      • probably a chapter, or a combo of 2 chapters → but hit on every important aspect of your dissertation
        • mention ALL the important work you’ve done
        • have as many people review this in advance as possible
        • bring water with you
        • clear, direct loud voice – speak slowly and DO NOT READ, make eye contact
        • speak to the person on “your team” as much as you can
        • build natural speech into your talk
        • Q & A: set up possible questions in your talk
          • end your answers with seeding another question
          • anticipate things you’ve been asked to emphasized in your application process
        • stand up for your project → defend your work
        • do the best that you can with “the jerk(s)”
          • there will be people who are aggressive → handle it as respectfully as you can and explain your perspective
        • most of the people in the audience don’t know who’s right”
          • can say something along the lines of “historians continue to debate this point…”
        • think about talking to the aggressive person right afterward → “My committee and I have talked about and debated this too…”
  • adopt a “dating” attitude toward this
    • don’t smother them, don’t creep them out
    • the thank you e-mail after your interview, to the chair of the committee, = a MUST (right after you leave) → show them you don’t take them for granted
      • exercise restraint in impulse to check in on progress
    • don’t be a problem → your personal preferences don’t matter
      • go with the flow
      • only exception = ask for a minimum of half an hour before your job talk, alone, preferably in the room you’ll be speaking in
      • don’t say a negative thing about a person, place, thing, entity the ENTIRE time you are there → you never know who you’ll be making angry (connections of connections)
    • you are nice to everyone the entire time you are there
    • If they had you, they wouldn’t need you.”
    • may not even be the committee that makes the final decision → could be a total faculty vote, higher up considerations
      • keep your distance from any personal connections you may already have at the institution
    • salary, disability, information about the town → DON’T ask until AFTER the offer
      • be light on personal information
      • don’t engage in controversies
      • job offer: be clear about expectations
        • only time you get in touch = if you’re considering another offer (to give them a timeline so you can make a decision)
        • make an effort to negotiate a salary, but realize there is not a lot of wiggle room
  • teaching colleges may ask you to do a guest lecture → they may even dictate which course you’ll lecture
    • so don’t OVER-REACH or over-sell yourself in your application on what you can teach
    • especially true at small liberal arts colleges
    • do a “super-lecture” → rich with sources, images
      • and be a politician with the “students” (who may or may not actually be teaching the course) → get to know them a tad
  • you cannot get down on yourself about rejection
    • & you cannot try to analyze the cause of that rejection
      • it’s such a HUGE combination of circumstances that inform the final decision
    • the pool is too large, the sample size is too small
    • don’t read gossip about jobs (e.g. on the job wiki listed above)
    • also DON’T complain about why you think you didn’t get a particular job
      • don’t check this more than once per week
      • don’t post on this wiki
      • don’t count yourself out → might be a failed job search, other people might have taken other jobs → be patient (this process can literally take a very long time)
  • What if I can’t get a job?
    • Major use of time and effort to get on the market
    • be realistic in both a positive and negative way
    • if your diss is done, don’t get a single conference interview → you may have learned something useful and can try again
    • there are no guarantees because it’s so competitive
    • diversify your skills while you’re here
      • e.g. alt-ac, digital → but don’t over-romanticize the opportunities here (these are still very competitive)
      • think about what else you can do and get started on it (volunteering, internship)
    • post-docs = NOT a “fallback,” still very competitive
      • know yourself” – what this does at best is to extend your shelf-life a while longer
    • know the geography of your job search and weigh your options against the post-doc (compare the resources, connections you have where you are against where you are going – what if you don’t get a job after your post-doc?)
      • consider work a post-doc requires of you too
    • you are probably qualified, but that might not be the way things shake down
      • (American Idol comparison)
    • discourages ANYONE from taking adjunct position in hopes that anyone will turn it into a permanent position
      • okay” for just a year
      • it’s a dead-end” → better investment to focus on writing, researching, speaking (not being a 2nd class citizen basically – no health insurance, pitiful pay, no security, etc.)

“Effective teaching statements and teaching portfolios” workshop notes

Below are my notes from another of UNL’s Office of Graduate Studies workshops, this time on the subject of creating an effective teaching statement and a teaching portfolio. The workshop was held on Thursday, February 20th.

A teaching portfolio = “a coherent set of materials including work samples and reflective commentary on them compiled by a faculty member [or graduate student] to represent his or her teaching practice as related to student learning and development.” (Hutchings, 1996)

  • a useful tool for…
    • identifying areas for improvement
    • developing your teaching methods/approach
    • documenting your teaching experience
    • preparing for academic interviews
  • focus today = preparing for the academic job interview
    • “the product of preparing a teaching portfolio may not be as useful to you in the long-run as the process

Portfolio content:

  • depends on the purpose
    • job search
    • awards application
    • promotion & tenure
  • varies across disciplines
  • linked to your goals for teaching & learning
  • three primary components:
    • roles & responsibilities
    • teaching statement
    • evidence of effective teaching

(1) Teaching responsibilities:

  • include: course number, course title, brief course description, course level (first year undergraduates/sophomores/juniors), date(s) taught, enrollment (number of students in course, maximum number allowed), description of your role in the course (recitation leader, instructor)
    • list these in reverse chronological order
      • be sure to update constantly, just as you would your C.V.
    • if haven’t taught courses, think about including very specific information on courses you would like to teach
    • a good option for your portfolio = to list these courses in table format (for easy browsing of your experience)

(2) Teaching statement:

  • need to get to the point where you can articulate “why you teach the way you teach” within a 30-second “elevator speech”
  • 1-2 page (single-spaced) statement that addresses:
    • What do you want students to do/learn? (learning objectives)
      • e.g. “I want students to become effective writers. I want them to formulate and articulate a stance through and in their writing.”
    • How do you help them learn? (methods)
      • e.g. “I use brief, in-class writing assignments to help students synthesize and critically evaluate information.”
    • How do you know if they’ve learned it? (assessment)
      • e.g. “I evaluate students’ blog posts in terms of content, synthesis, and relevance. Students are given examples of good posts and the grading criteria prior to the assignment.”
    • How do you measure your effectiveness?
      • e.g. “Every three to four weeks, I end the class by asking students to respond briefly to two questions: What’s the most important thing you learned today? and What questions still remain unanswered? Their responses help me identify what they understood from the discussion and what concepts are still unclear.”
  • NOT about telling your general “teaching philosophy” –> show, don’t just tell
    • the person(s) reading this statement are interested in what you’ve accomplished, learned, thought about more than simply what you think/believe
  • Keep in mind that a good teaching statement is:
    • concrete, personal/individualized, vivid, discipline specific, somewhat humble, all about student learning
  • Remember: Not all teaching takes place in the classroom. Think broadly about your contributions to student learning.
    • e.g. mentoring of undergraduate students can be included because it IS teaching; same for tutoring, for example

(3) Evidence of effective teaching:

  • include materials from:
    • oneself: syllabus, teaching sample, narrative reflection
    • colleagues: observation notes/summary, syllabus or material reviews/letters by recommenders
      • letters by faculty/other recommenders can be a particularly strong part of your teaching portfolio IF they are specific about your teaching
    • students: course ratings, comments, products/evidence of learning outcomes, letters, individual samples and aggregated summaries (anonymized & showing progress over the course of the semester)
      • offer raw data from course evaluations (to offer a fuller representation of your evaluations by students) BUT include samples that promote you as a teacher
  • other examples of evidence: list of courses taught, sample syllabi, sample assignments, sample quizzes/exams, teaching awards, evaluations by peers
  • when including student ratings/evaluationsbe selective:
    • choose items that link to your major claims
    • use a matrix/table to display and organize the evaluation questions you are using
    • provide mean (and median) ratings
    • include narrative commentary –> write about some of the feedback you’ve received to respond to criticism and/or illustrate ways you’ve responded to criticism and changed your teaching as a result
    • include selection of student comments that relate back to some of your major teaching goals
    • if appropriate, include complete evaluations in appendices (depends on the discipline)

Portfolio organization: (physical copy)

  • narrative description of teaching roles & responsibility
  • teaching statement
    • description of select teaching methods and strategies
    • highlighted teaching outcomes
    • insights/reflections and new goals
  • appedices (supporting data, documents, letters, etc.)
  • could maintain a physical copy to take with you to a job interview, although it will probably be infrequent that you will be asked to provide a physical copy

Qualities of a “strong” portfolio:

  • readability: format, headings, coherent, cohesive
  • storyline or “picture”: memorable fact/image, clear examples given
  • linked system of objectives, efforts, outcomes, adjustments: evidence that efforts do pay off or are changed

Revise, revise, revise:

  • remember your teaching statement = a work in progress
  • consider the suggestions of others and rewrite your statement over time
  • proofread carefully
    • remember that your statement is a writing sample –> you will be judged on the quality of your writing as much as the content

Final tips:

  • start now
  • be selective
  • don’t make any claims about your teaching you can’t document
  • don’t create your portfolio in isolation
  • consider it a work in progress
  • make cumulative tables & annual review narratives

The new American Dream: Doing what you love

I recently stumbled across Paul Graham‘s 2006 piece, “How to do what you love” and find myself smitten. The ability to do what one loves for a living might accurately be described as the new American Dream, and Graham has some excellent recommendations for those of us in pursuit of our love. I keep a printed copy of his article above my desk and reread highlighted sections from time to time to remind myself of the bigger picture. Below are just of few of my favorite quotes, including some of Graham’s best–on prestige as the enemy of passion.

Why is it conventional to pretend to like what you do?…If you have to like something to do it well, then the most successful people will all like what they do…conventional attitudes about work are, without the owners even knowing it, nth-degree imitations of the attitudes of people who’ve done great things. What a recipe for alienation.

The rule about doing what you love assumes a certain length of time. It doesn’t mean, do what will make you happiest this second, but what will make you happiest over some longer period, like a week or a month. Unproductive pleasures pall eventually. After a while you get tired of lying on the beach. If you want to stay happy, you have to do something.

You shouldn’t worry about prestige…This is easy advice to give. It’s hard to follow, especially when you’re young. Prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you’d like to like…Prestige is just fossilized inspiration. If you do anything well enough, you’ll make it prestigious…So just do what you like, and let prestige take care of itself.

Your opinions about what’s admirable are always going to be slightly influenced by prestige, so if two [kinds of work] seem equal to you, you probably have more genuine admiration for the less prestigious one.

Most people are doomed in childhood by accepting the axiom that work = pain. Those who escape this are nearly all lured onto the rocks by prestige or money…It’s hard to find work you love; it must be, if so few do. So don’t underestimate this task. And don’t feel bad if you haven’t succeeded yet. In fact, if you admit to yourself that you’re discontented, you’re a step ahead of most people, who are still in denial.

You have to make a conscious effort to keep your ideas about what you want from being contaminated by what seems possible. It’s painful to keep them apart, because it’s painful to observe the gap between them. So most people pre-emptively lower their expectations.

In the design of lives, as in the design of most other things, you get better results if you use flexible media…It’s also wise, early on, to seek jobs that let you do many different things, so you can learn faster what various kinds of work are like.

Whichever route you take, expect a struggle. Finding work you love is very difficult. Most people fail. Even if you succeed, it’s rare to be free to work on what you want till your thirties or forties. But if you have the destination in sight you’ll be more likely to arrive at it.

“The Job Interview,” UNL History Department Workshop Notes

Below are my notes from the UNL History Department’s workshop for graduate students on the subject of the academic job interview. It was one of my favorite workshops of the semester and included a lot of specific insight into the interview process at community colleges, small liberal arts colleges, and research one universities. I’ve included links to profiles of the panelists when possible.

Department Workshop: “The Job Interview,” 11/30/2012

Dr. Carole Levin introduces panelists: Joy Schultz of Metro Community College, Omaha; Meghan Winchell of Nebraska Wesleyan University; Timothy Elston of Newberry College, South Carolina; Katrina Jagodinsky of University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Joy Schultz, Metro Community College, Omaha:

  • job opening at Metro starting Monday, Dec. 3rd – requires 18 credit hours in the field to be an adjunct –> Schulz: great way to get teaching experience for your resume
    • Metro has 30,000 students across all campuses, 4 full-time history faculty – jobs more competitive now (more than 200 applications for 1 or 2 positions)
  • Pros of working at a community college: very student-oriented, full control over classroom (can go into context you are interested in/working on currently), small class sizes (10-35 students max), very flexible work schedule (evenings, weekends, online; standard schedule = 2x/week), can go very in-depth in your subject matter
    • emphasis on teaching and relationships with students (mentoring)
  • Cons: students of diverse backgrounds (16-60 years old), no academic requirements for entry into the course, heavy workload (18 credit hours/quarter – although sometimes same course twice + 2 online), time for research = very, very limited
  • personal relationships will help you make connections over time (adjuncting now helps with full-time interviewing later)
    • expect the interview to include a 20-minute teaching demonstration –> demonstrate range of teaching methods (for audience of diverse backgrounds) and use of technology in the classroom

Meghan Winchell, Nebraska Wesleyan University:

  • phone interviews = “tricky,” almost a separate topic from AHA interviews
  • research not just about the school you are interviewing for – prove to yourself and to them that you can live happily in the town the school is in (Winchell also thinks this helps build a personal connection right away)
  • Tips: small schools are looking for teachers (“jack of all trades” – SO also advises to get a lot of teaching experience now and come to interview with syllabi, teaching statement, teaching evaluations); be sure your courses are different from the faculty where you are applying
    • be prepared to meet with everyone at a small school (because everyone will talk about you); have fun and be personable
    • Winchell says sometimes it’s okay/appropriate to ask about the schools for kids if you have them or things related to your hobbies

Timothy Elston, Newberry College:

  • small liberal arts colleges (e.g. Newberry College = 1,100 students); faith-based colleges looking at starting good programs in teaching
  • these colleges often include students in the interview process (this matters); understand the accrediting agency that the college is responsible to (need to prove accreditation in areas you are teaching)
  • try to give the impression you are happy with everything about the college and will get along with everyone
  • get access to a faculty manual (many small liberal arts colleges don’t offer tenure – only 3 or 6 year contracts); teaching is #1 (service to college and town important too); beware the administrative assistants (they can make or break you)
    • perk = tuition exchange (for kids)
  • you will interview with everyone, take them all seriously – are you a good fit? (input from variety of perspectives)
  • Newberry College putting an ad out for U.S. History soon

Katrina Jagodinsky, University of Nebraska-Lincoln:

  •  echoes advice to “bulk up” on teaching experience while obtaining the PhD
  • Jagodinsky was on the job market for 2 years and applied to everything (especially community colleges in regions she wanted to live in) – says 1st year apply for everything; 2nd year apply in a more targeted way
  • interviews at research one universities: dissertation should be finished (or nearly finished) AND should be able to discuss your next project (to show you can achieve tenure)
    • demonstrate an ability to teach for both undergraduates and graduate students, balance service with teaching (service for networking – illustrates dedication and enthusiasm; CAN discuss your experience in a grad student organization or other committee work)
    • be sure to come off as positive and energetic
    • the job talk is emphasized but will have teaching demonstrations too, meetings with both administration and students
      • do NOT read your job talk (it’s about 45 minutes and should be strategic, not comprehensive coverage, high image, low text powerpoint)
      • be prepared for some people in your audience to be uninterested in what you have to say (based on faculty interest and your contribution to the department)
      • explain what phase your dissertation is in, what course you will teach with it, specify where you hope to publish it and how (specific presses, books or article series), demonstrate ability to recruit undergrads to your courses and into the department)
    • ask meaningful questions of the faculty – what is their experience with committees, chairs, diverse students, any other problems you’ve faced; illustrate desire and ability to organize workshops, symposiums (show off your networking)
    • re-emphasizing need to be positive: don’t appear tired, think of how others are feeling even when you are stressed out, nervous, and tired –> think of the interview as much easier than the job you are about to take on
    • graduate student meetings – demonstrate ability to fill a mentorship role, let them talk about themselves
    • ask tough questions of deans and administrators – tenure rate, department strategic plan, areas for improvement, opportunities for faculty research funding, diversity on campus re: faculty and students, benefit questions (here Jagodinsky says it is “safe” to tip your hand about kids, marriage)
    • wear suit to job talk, 2 other dressy outfits for rest of visit
    • be positive and humble (others are there to help you be better); know how you’ll fit within the department – know who the faculty are, what they study, and ask them good questions to show you care and are serious