Thursday, September 8, 2011

Reluctantly Crouched at the Starting Line (As Usual)

It's getting to be that time of year again, and I've been busy preparing my application documents for another miserable job-market season. I had a relatively successful year this past year in terms of writing and publishing, and so I was able to move a bunch of stuff out of my "statement of current research projects" and add a bunch of new stuff in, which basically required me to rewrite the entire document from scratch. I've also changed strategy slightly in that I'm trying to sell myself more aggressively this year (not that I would have described my prior strategy as "passive"), and so I've had to rewrite a bunch of other material that could otherwise have stayed basically the same. It seems to me that my file is stronger now than it has ever been. I don't exactly feel great about my chances or anything, given the realities of the job market situation, but I also feel that, given the realities of my (heavy) courseload and (negligible) research support, I have done everything that it is possible to do to make myself into a strong candidate--and that I am a strong candidate. But I suppose we'll see.

How are the Smokers preparing for the job market this year?

--Mr. Zero

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just a question here: Numerous ads have already popped up in the Chronicle and HigherEdjobs, and also on the APA's summer web ads. The application deadlines are mostly all in november or later, but does anyone think it is worth getting the applications out immediately? That is, if the application deadline is in the middle of November, does one fare better by getting one's application in by the middle of september rather than, say, the end of October? Last year I got everything out pretty much right after the October JFP came out, but it just makes me nervous to see all these ads appearing already.

Mr. Zero said...

does anyone think it is worth getting the applications out immediately?

I mean, it can't hurt. But I can just about guarantee that nobody will look at your file until november at the earliest and probably not until after final exams. Rather than rush to get the applications out, it would probably be better to spend the time polishing your file.

I've been noticing the same thing, though. It does seem like the TT ads have been popping up earlier than usual this year. I don't know what to chalk it up to.

Anonymous said...

Having served on my department's search committee numerous times, it won't make a bit of difference when things come in, so long as your file is complete by the announced deadline. To comply with all the non-discrimination rules at my (public) university, everything was logged, files were set up, all were put onto an alphabetized spreadsheet, etc. by the department support staff. The search committee typically doesn't start reviewing those files until right after the deadline, especially as the files are typically missing things like references, log sheets, etc.

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to sell myself more aggressively this year.

What exactly do you mean by this? And how does the "aggression" translate into the application?

Are you working the sentence "I'm a fucking rockstar and all the other applicants are just haters" into the cover letter?

(But seriously, I'd like to know.)

Mr. Zero said...

What exactly do you mean by this [reference to selling myself more aggressively]?

It's hard to say precisely what I mean by this. But here's an attempt that somewhat exaggerates the differences between my earlier approach and the present one: instead of saying, "here are my accomplishments," and then hoping that the SCs realize that they are awesome and then draw the inference that I am awesome, I am now saying, "I am awesome, and you can tell that I am awesome by taking note of my many awesome accomplishments."

As I say, that's an exaggeration. But I've never been comfortable tooting my own horn, and I worry that this has hurt me on the job market. So I'm trying to step out of my own-horn tooting comfort zone and brag more.

Anonymous said...

I have to respectfully disagree with those who say that it won't make a difference when you get things in, and I encourage you to submit your materials on the early side.

I'm sure in some departments it doesn't make a difference. In my department, though, for some arcane administrative reasons we had to state a Dec. 1 deadline in the ad for our latest search, when in fact we began reviewing applications as soon as they started coming in (because this was the only way to manage the workload - it was a big search). Applications were filed chronologically, so those applicants who got their materials in early were more likely to have them read by fresh, enthusiastic eyes.

Here's another thing: don't wait until the last second to submit your cover letters, if your other materials have been sent out by your department's dossier service. Some members of a search committee find it off-putting when it appears that the candidate has not bothered to formally apply for the position.

Anonymous said...

Having served on a few search committees, I can say that, as with Anon 12.49, search committee members often start looking through files (at least a bit) before the deadline, just because it is so much work one needs to start early. Does this mean that the files that trickle in just before the deadline get a less than fair shake? I don't really know, but knowing what I know about human psychology, it is possible there is such an effect.

Also: I'm at a Canadian University, and one year applicants from a very top Leiter school didn't send the correct postage (they, or more likely the administrators sending materials on their behalf, assumed that the postage cost was the same for Canada (or didn't notice they were sending materials to a Canadian University)). As a result, by the time they figured this out (their initial application materials were returned by the postal authorities), their materials arrived late and a preliminary long-list had already been made. Some of these late applicants were quite strong, and, for better or for worse (for both us and them), I don't think they got an entirely fair shake (though some of my colleagues would probably dispute this).

So keep this in mind, too.

Anonymous said...

"Does this mean that the files that trickle in just before the deadline get a less than fair shake?"

Yup. Though I wouldn't use the word "trickle."

I can promise you that last year, when I served on a SC, I read the early applications with far more care. The ones that came in early - and at a reasonable pace - were read with care. The 50+ applications that were posted on the due date (we only accepted online application) were read far more hastily.

Anonymous said...

How are the Smokers preparing for the job market this year?

Step 1: Collect underpants.
Step 2: ???

Anonymous said...

I would re-iterate the comments made by Anon 3:17--especially if you are sending mail from the U.S. to Canada, Canadian mail service (even domestic) seems to be slower than U.S. mail service. Allow extra time, and do make sure that postage is appropriate. It once took me 2 weeks to receive a letter in Canada from a U.S. state in the same time zone (and it was sent from and received in major metropolitan areas).

Anonymous said...

I once received a call from a school to set up a first interview BEFORE the actual deadline had arrived. So, yes. Get your applications in relatively early.

zombie said...

Sell yourselves. Toot your horn. Self-promotion is a necessary (not so) evil. One of the ways I refined my dossier and cover letters last year was to really point out my accomplishments, especially the ones that set me apart. I believe it made a difference because I got significantly more interviews (and I got a TT job). Teaching awards, grants, public education, multidisciplinary aspects of your work, etc. should be things you want the SC to know about. I applied for several jobs last year where having the potential to generate funding through grants was desirable, so being able to show how my work had that kind of potential was something I pointed out in the cover letter.

Re: applying early. The job ads really trickled in last year too, because I was applying for jobs through the spring and summer, and well before the JFP came out. I divvied up my apps last year between those that had to be mailed, and those that had to be e-filed. I was in Canada, and let me tell you, the mail is UNBELIEVABLY slow there. Give your packet at least two extra weeks to arrive, but mail it as early as you can. (Mailing from abroad can make it tricky to time your letters if you use Interfolio, since you don't want your letters to be orphaned and arrive weeks before the rest of your dossier.)

As for applying early in general, I can think of two reasons not to: 1) your dossier really isn't ready, and you need to polish it more, or 2) you've got publications out that you might be able to move over to the "accepted" or "forthcoming" column if you wait another month or so. If neither of those conditions obtain, apply early because once the JFP drops, you'll have a bunch of early deadlines to contend with. In the immediate aftermath of the JFP, I was sending out about 5-7 dossiers per day, and I pretty consistently got 3-4 applications done every night after the initial rush. I sent out the postal ones first, then the digital ones in order of their deadlines. (Having a spreadsheet helped me keep track of deadlines, letters, method of delivery, etc.)

Anonymous said...

"2) you've got publications out that you might be able to move over to the "accepted" or "forthcoming" column if you wait another month or so."

I would not wait on this. Should a publication be accepted, it's fine to notify the SC of the update. It's also not a bad way to get a second read of the application.

Anonymous said...

Oh fuck all this shit.

Anonymous said...

On tooting your own horn, be aware of cultural differences if you're doing an international job search. I had an Australian professor tell me that my American-oriented cover letters were too explicitly own-horn-tooting for Australian schools. For instance, he advised me not to say things like, "X, Y, and Z show that I would be an outstanding candidate for this job." Instead, he advised, just tell the search committee about X, Y, and Z and let them figure out that those things make you an outstanding candidate.

It's hard to get more horn-tooting than the US, but I don't know to what extent my professor's advice generalizes to Commonwealth countries besides Australia or whether other Australians would dispute it. Any insight, Smokers?

Anonymous said...

It does seem like the TT ads have been popping up earlier than usual this year. I don't know what to chalk it up to.

Are some of these perhaps ads for jobs which are under threat of being cancelled (and so the SC wants to move as quickly as possible)?

tenured prof said...

"X, Y, and Z show that I would be an outstanding candidate for this job."

-- I really hope no one is saying anything like this in your cover letters. I teach in the US (and was born and raised here) but this sounds awful to me. Just mentioning X, Y, and Z is the right thing.

BunnyHugger said...

I'm thinking of taking this year off after several years of bashing my head against the job market. I'd rather use the time to work on research and make myself more attractive when I go back to bashing my head. I have to talk to my partner about this, but that's my current sense of things. Of course I'll still be here commiserating either way.

Anonymous said...

" I don't know to what extent my professor's advice generalizes to Commonwealth countries besides Australia or whether other Australians would dispute it."

We in Australia are getting more used to what we call Americanized appications ("everyone who has read my work wishes that David Lewis was still alive, because only he is deserving of kissing my feet") but we still cringe when we read them. Sames goes for the UK. But things have changed: you are expected to sell yourself more than formerly.

Anonymous said...

I suggest you guys take up Spiros' suggestion and become the jobs clearinghouse.

Anonymous said...

ok, i have a question about in which part of your dossier to do what?

for instance, does one toot their horn in a research statement or in a cover letter? should one toot their own horn in more than one place?
for instance, if i wrote that i did x, y, z in my research statement but did not mention how x,y,z make me an outstanding candidate, but expressed this rather in the cover letter (e.g., x,y, z add to my credentials to do the said job perfectly), would that be enough?

also, should you repeat yourself in all over the places in your dossier? that is, should you keep repeating what your research is on, how it is even more awesome than your dissertation, all over your dossier, or in just one place? or, alternatively, should you strive for things complementing one another?

also, how do you fall asleep when you are on the job market?

feel free to turn this into another thread...

Anonymous said...

I'm Australian and have never heard of 'Americanized applications' (as per 9/9 8:33). My colleagues pay almost no attention to cover letters, furthermore. Nor would I cringe at self-advertisement or self-promotion; we are required to do it ourselves each year (if we expect a salary increase), so of course I wouldn't hold it against you.

Mr. Zero said...

I suggest you guys take up Spiros' suggestion and become the jobs clearinghouse.

I can guarantee you that I will not have the time to manage a project like that. I would be surprised if any of my teammates were to have that kind of time. I don't think this is what Spiros had in mind, actually. I don't think he meant that we, the applicants, should set up and run the jobs clearinghouse. He may be a cranky jerk, but he knows that we have enough to worry about.

And anyways, why not just use the wiki for this? It's pretty complete, has links to the actual ads, and is pretty searchable. If we were worried about the problems with the APA's website causing the text of the ads to be unavailable, we could ask people to paste the text of each ad into its module thingy.

ok, i have a question about in which part of your dossier to do what?

for instance, does one toot their horn in a research statement or in a cover letter?



Each document you send out has a purpose, and should be narrowly designed to play its particular role. The cover letter is a good place to highlight your accomplishments and stuff; your research statement is probably not such a great place to do that. (I understand a research statement to be something that explains where your research is going, and not so much a place to draw attention to your previous projects.)

should you repeat yourself in all over the places in your dossier? that is, should you keep repeating what your research is on, how it is even more awesome than your dissertation, all over your dossier, or in just one place?

Again, focus. Don't talk about your research in your teaching statement.

also, how do you fall asleep when you are on the job market?

This article from Esquire changed my life.

Anonymous said...

OK, I was kind of joking about you guys running the jobs clearinghouse. But the wiki won't work. Departments need a well-known, reliable, organized and transparent (i.e., a site not run or even edited anonymously) place to post jobs in order to ensure that the right information gets out to a wide range of job seekers.

Mr. Zero said...

Departments need a well-known, reliable, organized and transparent (i.e., a site not run or even edited anonymously) place to post jobs...

I'd be happy to be proven wrong here, but I suspect that it is not possible for any website to be well-known enough to do that job. Spiros's idea, as I understand it, is that departments would send their ads to this website, which would then publish them in a convenient and easy-to-navigate form. In order for every ad to show up on the site, every ad-placing department would have to come to know about it, and then go to the trouble of sending the ad. I don't see that happening. I think that for anything remotely along those lines, the Phylo wiki is your best bet.

Anonymous said...

The APA's website was supposed to be just such a website. So I think it is possible to have such a website, but to actually have a successful non-APA-run website, it would have to be established in a way that made it *the* place to look for jobs.

Anonymous said...

I'm also Australian, and am astonished that anon 4.15 am has not heard of Americanized applications. This is general lore everywhere, I thought. Here's Leiter on a related topic.
http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2010/01/the-differing-codes-in-which-letters-of-reference-are-written.html

Anonymous said...

4:15 here.
That Leiter blog entry is about *letters of reference*. I am, of course, aware that American letters of reference are on average inflated relative to Australian or English ones.
8:33's remark (and the expression 'Americanized application') is about cover letters.

Anonymous said...

4.15. Right, that's why I used the words "related topic". It would be surprising if given (a) the well-known American tendency to puffery (google "American British understatement") and (b) its expression in cover letters in philosophy did not also affect cover letters. And my observation - which I took to be common knowledge, certainly it is not unique to me - is that it does affect cover letters. You and I agree that selling yourself is (increasingly) expected here too, but my sense is that one is still expected to do so more subtly than in the US.

zombie said...

Anon 8:25 -- like Mr Zero says, the different parts of your dossier have different functions, so no, you are not supposed to repeat yourself and say the same things in all of them. I can't imagine that would leave a good impression. If you're not clear about what the different docs are supposed to look like, I suggest you ask your placement advisor for samples (or if yours is as craptacularly unhelpful as mine was, find someone else to ask, or look online).

Your teaching statement is specifically about your teaching -- what your goals are, your approach to teaching, your teaching interests and philosophy, etc. You can use concrete examples from your experience. It's not about your research, except to the extent that your teaching is informed by your research, and vice versa. No more than one page.

Your research statement is about your future research agenda, or, if you are already working on said agenda, your current research agenda. If it's related to your diss, you can discuss how. This is where you show your future colleagues that you have viable research interests, and can get published, and (importantly) can get tenured. Nothing about teaching in there. It's not the place to toot your horn about your accomplishments, but it is the place to discuss what's interesting about your research, its significance, its potential to generate grant money, etc. If you're applying to postdocs, your research agenda ought to be relevant to the postdoc. No more than one page.

The cover letter is fer tooting. There you can highlight your experience and accomplishments. That stuff is going to be described in your CV, but you can elaborate on it in your letter.

Your writing sample should be recent and publishable (even if not published). A chapter from your diss, a published paper or chapter, or an unpublished (but polished) paper.

Sleep? Job season is no time to sleep! You can sleep in April. But if you must, and you can't, valerian is a helpful (legal) herbal sleep aid. Ambien works too, if you're a hardcore insomniac.

Charles Bronson said...

"The cover letter is fer tooting. There you can highlight your experience and accomplishments. That stuff is going to be described in your CV, but you can elaborate on it in your letter."

In my experience on search committees, the cover letter varies wildly from candidate to candidate, especially based upon what type of program from which they are applying. For instance, many of the applicants from "top" programs had incredibly short letters that listed little more than the job number for which they were applying, the title of their dissertation and their committee members. Applicants from other programs often had a lot more, detailing research interests or "passion" for teaching [after looking through so many letters, by the way, the phrases "passion for teaching" and "love of teaching" become reasons for throwing out applications]. The worst letters are those that become a bit too personal. Do not mention your damn kids. Also, do not mention where your program is ranked on some damn report (Leiter or otherwise). Most importantly: no spelling errors. These will get your application thrown out more quickly than anything, I have found.

Anonymous said...

"Most importantly: no spelling errors. These will get your application thrown out more quickly than anything, I have found."

Almost as quickly as leaving in the name of the last school to which you applied. Always spellcheck; always double-check your cutting-and-pasting.

Anonymous said...

Mr Zero: Re a jobs clearinghouse... check out the latest comment by Brighouse on Leiter's discussion of getting rid of APA interviews.

Anonymous said...

Zombie's recommendations for length of various materials are interesting to me. I know of two candidates from last year's market, both of whom secured tenure track positions at good universities, who wrote considerably longer research and teaching statements.

Both candidates' research statements were at least three full pages long. Their teaching statements were about two pages long, but in both cases, the candidates also submitted "teaching portfolios" consisting of course evaluations, recommendations letters about their teaching abilities alone (from students and faculty), sample syllabi, and so on. The portfolios, as I remember, were both longer than twenty pages in length.

Anonymous said...

I'm in a different field, but I have had a lot of success in deciding what my "narrative" is, and then developing the materials to provide a consistent message on that. I know that makes me sound like a primary candidate for national office, but it works. Are you diverse? Are your strengths in publications? What is the story that makes you a coherent wannabe faculty member, rather than just a bunch of documents? Touchy feely, perhaps, but it also allows the job search to be a self-affirming process of taking stock (which is was not for me the first time I did it).

zombie said...

Anon 8:51 -- I also had a complete teaching portfolio, in addition to my teaching statement. The portfolio contained my teaching statement, evaluations, and syllabi from several courses I developed and taught. One of my letters was a "teaching" letter from the dept chair at the U where I was an adjunct. The entire teaching package was more than 20 pages.

My research statement was a little under a page. Nonetheless, I had a strong and well-developed research agenda, with published papers.

My suggestions for length are based on my own experience regarding what worked for me. They're guidelines, more than hard and fast rules. If someone really needs 3 pages to describe their research, they should use 3 pages. I needed less than a page. My approach to writing the research statement was to make it like a detailed abstract -- succinct but informative.

Anonymous said...

As long as we're talking about job market stuff can I bring up the joke (we've talked about it here before) of 'blind' refereeing?

Thanks to google analytics I can know guess with pretty high accuracy the last 6 or 7 people to review my papers for journals. How? Because they all do a search for my paper and then look around my site. I don't know if they do this before during or after reading my papers but it strikes me as off putting.

I think that all of us who review for journals should be more self aware about this though. If you look up someone's site and drop your end of the blinding process they will know it and probably be able to trace it back to you, dropping both ends of the blinding process.

Is there anything to be done about that? I don't know, but I think the notion of blind journals is a transparent falsehood that we maintain for weird reasons.

Popkin said...

Does anyone know where I might find examples on-line of the kind of research statement one might include in an application? (I'm trying to write one, but I'm not familiar with the conventions regarding how it should read). I've been looking through old posts here but haven't found any links to that sort of thing.