Over the next few weeks I’ll be introducing the wonderful members of the Professor Is In staff, who assist me in editing client academic job and grant documents and welcoming and directing old and new clients to the best range of services available for them suited to their particular needs. We work side by side (in a virtual sense–since we’re scattered across the country), corresponding by email and text throughout the day, every day, on client documents, evaluating not just the writing, but also the fit of the documents for the particular job or grant, and beyond that, tracking new and emergent trends in the job market to constantly adapt and update the editing and advising help we provide. We pool our years of experience with different disciplines, campuses, departments, jobs, and grants, and departmental politics in a kind of continual, ongoing daily training in all elements of the academic (and postacademic) experience. I constantly learn from my staff, and the expertise they bring from their respective fields (as a social scientist I’m particularly grateful for their expertise coming from the humanities and sciences). The Professor Is In is what it is because of them! Feel free to say hello in the comments, or ask them any questions you might have for them!
Margarita (Maggie) Levantovskaya
Maggie completed a PhD in Literature at the University of California, San Diego in 2013. She has taught a wide range of courses at UCSD, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Lafayette College, from Russian language to graduate seminars in Translation Studies. She brings this experience to her work at TPII, where she helps clients of all disciplinary backgrounds wow search committees by presenting their qualifications in specific and exciting ways. Maggie will make your materials stand out within ever-growing pools of applications! She currently lives in the Bay Area, where continues to teach, write and live her best life as a culture vulture.
What do you do for TPII?
I edit job market documents, job talks, grant proposals and book proposals. I also help clients strategize about ways to make their record stronger.
What did you do before TPII? Tell us about your background and career path to this point.
In 2013, I received a PhD in literature from UC San Diego. My research is in Russian-Jewish literature and I have been an active member in the fields of Slavic Studies, Comparative Literature and Jewish Studies. After defending my dissertation, I took a couple of visiting positions in different parts of the country (Midwest and East Coast), leaving my partner and the rest of my family in California. I gradually learned that VAP-hopping was, for me, not conducive to managing my chronic illness or achieving personal and professional fulfillment. For this reason I decided to return to the Bay Area. Currently, I’m working for TPII, adjuncting at a local university and figuring out my Plan B.
What has been the biggest surprise for you about working for TPII?
By far, the biggest surprise was how fast I became at identifying client writing issues! When I first started, I spent a long time identifying problems, racking my head over how best to help clients solve them. Now, I spot mistakes a mile away and I have a whole reserve of solutions for all kinds of job document pitfalls. Basically, I’ve become very efficient about problem solving, whereas I always thought of myself as a “slow but meticulous” editor. Similarly, our clients learn that they can get very good at this. Producing good documents requires skills, not magical powers. I’ve also been very pleasantly surprised by our clients’ ability to take constructive criticism and maintain a positive attitude throughout the editing process. Our clients often make me laugh and it’s always delightful to see academics have a sense of humor about their (often) serious research projects.
How do you like being an academic job market editor?
This job has been empowering for me in a number of different ways. Being an editor at TPII has helped me gain a sense of control over the job market, albeit in a limited way. I feel confident in my ability to produce strong materials that are going to catch the attention of the search committee. I still cannot do anything about the shrinking job market, the fickleness of search committees or that elusive problem of fit. However, I can represent myself honestly and clearly and can help others do the same. Also, for me, editing and teaching are intersecting and mutually-beneficial activities. My editing makes me a better teacher, especially when it comes to working on students’ writing. Working at TPII has only helped me in this. On the other hand, I bring my teaching into my editing. The most rewarding aspect of working at TPII is helping clients express themselves better and learn from the editing process. What I didn’t expect was the pedagogical nature of my work at TPII.
What do you wish clients knew about applying for jobs or grants?
That it’s a nearly full-time job. Producing documents that sing takes a lot of time and labor – intellectual and emotional! Some clients say that producing job and grant documents is more difficult than conducting research and writing. Throughout the job market process, clients have to keep an open mind and do the tough work of figuring out what their research is about, who they are as scholars and teachers. I think that most clients do not expect to have to tackle existential questions while working with us. However, the ones who use the application process to define their academic identities, end up gaining something valuable, regardless of how their search turns out.
What’s your big picture plan for yourself, now and moving forward?
I plan to continue working as a teacher, writer and editor. My current goal is more abstract than it has been in a while: to remain intellectually engaged while striking a work/life balance.