Saturday, June 2, 2007

Meeting of the Job Hunters

We held our first job-seekers meeting yesterday afternoon, spent a couple of hours going over each other's CV and talking through how we rank criteria for the jobs we will soon pursue. I use pursue loosely and with a string of asterisks, of course, since this year I am only something like one-tenth on the market and nine-tenths not. I mean that I am going through the material preparations processes as if I am on the market and will only apply for positions too sweet to resist, provided, also, that I'm making progress on the diss. Why? Well, it would take an offer somewhere in the ball park of a five-year contract and 27.5 million a year for us to relocate before Ph.'s senior year of high school. Make that 30 mil. On top of that, it's not especially ethical or wise (in terms of reputation-building) for me to court jobs I have no genuine interest in filling from the outset. While I would like to dangle a toe in the waters of interviewing and giving job talks, I won't be pitching jobs for that reason alone. The process is too grueling for candidates and committees to tie up everyone's time and resources on my desire for full-on play-acting the year before I go on the market in earnest. Better to spend those energies building bridges (i.e., writing, conferencing, etc.) rather than dismantling them.

I have a fairly short list of criteria for my optimum job (#1. It pays. #2. Fringe benefits, such as health insurance. #3. The institution is accredited. #4. Not more than a 5/5 load. And so on...). But after those factors, I understand that there are many, many variables involved that have bearing on a candidate's fit, several of which are outside of the candidate's control. There's enough to say about this that I probably ought to make it a separate entry rather than ramble through it all right now. Jeff's point about good colleagues resonates with me. Entering an embattled department, while possible (I accept!), is not how I want to live out my first years on the job. May I be so fortunate as to land in a program where people like and respect each other, where they get along professionally even if they are not best chums.

What else came up in the meeting? The bullet-by-bullet-by-bullet:

  • We talked about institutional differences, from R1 and R2 to comprehensive colleges, liberal arts colleges, community colleges, and technical colleges. Expectations are all over the map--likely to fluctuate quite a bit among the types.
  • How are administrative duties distinct from forms of service? My notes have it that administration places a clearer emphasis on leadership and responsibility, where service is a slightly different designation for involvement (committees, advising, etc.).
  • Fledgling CVs ought not to look qualification-desperate. Use care in over-logging the minutiae of every meeting you attended in your graduate program. It fills a CV's pages, but there's no substitute for a demonstrable record of research, teaching, and service (no matter the extraneous yarns and additives). Along these lines, I described my own CV as the junk-drawer version. I'm still in the mode of tossing everything into it, but I understand that filtering is due before it would circulate to any hiring committee.
  • Connected to this previous point, we talked about whether there are risks involved with keeping online versions of materials that don't match verbatim with paper-bound materials. In other words, must an online CV be an exact match with the copy that goes off in pursuit of a job? Probably (right?). Transclusive texts--those existing in multiple versions--can lead to unnecessary confusion, and confusion over a candidate's record can be disastrous.
  • What are the ethics involved for graduate students listing in-progress publications on their CVs? On the one hand, we want the CV to do the work of answering what we're working on now. "Oh, it says here that you have an article in-progress." But should an article ever be listed on the CV before it is sent out? In other words, how many different designations are appropriate for in-progress works: submitted, under consideration, in-progress, under review, accepted, etc.? I'm of a mind to err on the side of conservativism for this one. Seems risky to list anything that hasn't been touched by the USPS (or an editor's email server for electronic submissions).
  • My articulation of the conditions surrounding the ideal job got me thinking more about my own confidence. I am a confident teacher; I am learning to be a confident researcher. I have no concerns whatsoever about being a good colleague, a steady contributor when it comes to service, administration, and so on (unless I fail to say no and end up taking on too much). But the teaching/research confidence issue leaches into my description of the ideal job. In other words, I still find it much easier to discuss the appeal I find in teaching-intensive appointments compared to research-intensive appointments. Might be true for many graduate students who have taught extensively but who have published considerably less if at all.

Next meeting in +/- three weeks when we take up job letters.

Bookmark and Share Posted by at June 2, 2007 12:55 PM to Academe

But should an article ever be listed on the CV before it is sent out?

No. At most schools, it's not taken seriously. Anyone can list an "in progress" article. Same with "Under Review." You don't know if someone sitting there actually read that "Under Review" article and recommended rejection.

You probably discussed it, but the job letter is the real foot in the door. CV, too, of course, but a job letter has to be polished, fit the genre, and highlight your work.

One guess I'd have is that your CCC Online stuff may substitute for having an article out right now at some schools (i.e., this graduate student didn't publish, but in addition to all his conference activities, he was a major part of CCC Online).

Of course, some is the best qualifier for how a committee may read your stuff; it all depends on who sits on the committee and what the school is.

Posted by: jeff at June 3, 2007 9:17 AM

Right in line with what I was thinking and what I'd been told before. If current research projects can't be represented on the CV because they're too underdeveloped, probably better to use the letter to express that (as speculative plans, with future tenses). Sounds like you'd advise posting it to the CV only once it's accepted, yeah?

We're going to work on the letters carefully, I think, and I have a solid stock of samples to work from to help familiarize me with the genre.

Posted by: Derek at June 3, 2007 3:52 PM

If you need any more examples, let me know. I'll give you mine. Jenny may give you hers - though I haven't asked her if she would. So may give you....

Posted by: jeff at June 3, 2007 8:54 PM