If you had asked me, prior to my opening of The Professor Is In, what I imagined would be the biggest communicative challenge of young job candidates, I would have said, “being excessively pompous and pretentious.”
And I would have been wrong.
The fact is, I’ve learned after conducting some 100 Interview Bootcamps, the biggest problem that young job candidates have is not sounding pompous and pretentious enough.
It’s really the oddest thing.
Client after client, setting out to attain the position of professor, reveal themselves to be completely unprepared to sound actually….professorial.
I spend an inordinate amount of time telling Interview Bootcamp clients to, first of all, pause. Pause, and stroke your metaphorical beard. Nod sagely. Think deeply. Inhale. And then—and only then—respond to the question. This is the classic professorial move. Learn it.
I tell them to slow down. The slow, deliberate delivery is a core professorial conceit. Professors don’t race breathlessly through their words. They savor them. They relish them. The h-y-p-e-r-articulate them, the way Ross used to do on Friends. Watch here, at 3:57, where Ross hits his stride on the subject of evolution. (sorry this isn’t embedded; i tried!)
Like Ross, cherish your final consonants, because they are your allies. Contractions, however, banish. What are you, an undergraduate?
Practice saying this: “I. Am. quiTE convinceD that they. Are. correcT in their assumptioNS, although [heh heh—conspiratorial laugh] I mighT dispuTE soME of their con-clu-sioNS.”
Gesture widely, expansively. Opine. Assert. Dare I say it, explicate.
I would never have dreamed that I’d be telling graduate students to be more pompous, but in fact, that’s exactly what you need to be.
What most young job candidates lack, that actual professors have in spades, comes down to one thing: self-importance.
Remember, if you’re setting out to be a professor, the first thing you have to do is act like one.