Over Summer 2016 I’ll be introducing the wonderful members of the Professor Is In staff (Dr. Maggie Levantovskaya is here and Dr. Petra Shenk is here) 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!
Verena Hutter completed a Ph.D. in German Studies with an emphasis in Feminist Theory at the University of California, Davis in 2012. Having experienced the ups and downs of the job market for many years, she hopes that TPII helps clients to survive the job market as sane as possible. An enemy of unnecessary jargon and a friend of succinct prose, Verena will tell you when to keep it real. She lives in Portland.
What do you do for TPII?
I edit job market documents, as well as book proposals and grants. I also schedule clients’ appointments. One of my favorite job documents are job talks- it is so interesting to see more of people’s research!
What did you do before TPII? Tell us about your bakckground and career path to this point.
I received my PhD in German from UC Davis in 2012. I was the only graduate to receive a job offer that year and so I moved with my partner and three cats to Indiana, where I taught German at DePauw University in Greencastle. After two years my VAP there ended, and my deteriorating health (I have Crohn’s Disease) and meager job perspectives pushed me to ask some hard questions: Was I going to spend my best years moving from job to job in places I didn’t want to live? Was I going to spend most of our savings on cross-country moves? Did I want to spend the next few years trying to prove my research’s worth to a field that hasn’t moved past the Frankfurt School? The magic eight ball said “hell, no!” Initially, I fell softer than most people deciding to leave cagefighting/ the academic job market. We moved to Portland, OR, and I got my dream of the nineties in form of a rambunctious boxer puppy that I imported from Germany to add to my zoo. I also got a job with Karen (even though I was a needy client from hell!), and I started teaching at the Sophie-Scholl Schule (a German Saturday School) in Portland.
And then the depression kicked in. No affiliation, no access to libraries, no GQ (German Quarterly) arriving in the mail that I could lovingly recycle right away. Then my stomach ruptured, and I spent months in and out of the hospital. During that time, I received such an outpouring of love and kindness (including Karen, who offered to drive up to Portland to help out!). Except for most of my academic friends. While my friend Harriett, an adjunct instructor at UC Berkeley, scratched her last money together to fly up and help me, there was silence from the tenured (except for one). This put me in the rage stage of grieving (I am fully aware that the stages of grieving are reversed here), but I am slowly moving on. I am the healthiest I have ever been, I have actual hobbies (remember that, academics?), when I write, I actually take the time and don’t just snot incoherent thoughts on paper, and I have jobs that fulfill me. Oh, and a functioning relationship.
What was the biggest surprise for you about working for TPII?
I had thought I knew how abysmal the academic job market was, yet, I had been very focused on my own field. Working with our brave clients and hearing their stories really opened my eyes. I like to think that the work at TPII makes a difference in the fairground of vanities that is academia, even if we’re acting in the background- like a team of academic hitwomen.
How do you like being an academic job market editor?
Every day I am amazed at the outstanding research and teaching our clients do. It is a rewarding job to help them present their work in the best way possible, strategize their career movements with them, and in many cases, give them back the pride in their work. I also like deleting unnecessary jargon.
Editing however, has also helped me become a better writer- my writing used to be list and dyad city!
What do you wish clients knew about applying for jobs or grants?
Search Committees like structure and they like clarity, both in writing and in how you present yourself at an interview.
You don’t want your job application to be a Wagner Opera (long, pompous and/or overly meek, and going up in flames at the end). Good job materials are like Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony- start out loud and clear, adhere to a motive, and finish strong!
And a Pet-Peeve: Don’t use the phrase “real-world.” You are undermining everything you do using that phrase, because you suggest that academia, the university and education in general somehow is less “real” than what you do.
What’s your big picture plan for yourself, now and moving forward?
I will continue to be an editor, teacher, and writer, or I’ll become an academic style consultant. Perhaps I’ll get more dogs.