A Personal Note From Karen

I want to offer a personal note. I’ve had an extraordinarily difficult year. My teenage son has struggled with mental health challenges that have required constant attention as well as constant travel, along with a profound reevaluation of my family system and my own history of mental illness. My 90 year old mother was in a serious car accident. Other family members have been dealing with major health issues. The stress of all this, and the continual travel (I was traveling 21 out of 31 days in October) have – along with the escalating grief, strain and fear of being a queer Jew with biracial children in the national nightmare of 2018 – damaged my mental health and immune system, and I’ve spent the year struggling with both almost continual illness (in the past two months, for example, I’ve had both Epstein-Barr and coxsackie virus), weekly migraines, low grade depression, and constant state of overwhelm. The travel and illness have kept me from the dancing that is my front-line mental health defense, which has exacerbated the struggle.

Some of you may have noticed a decline in my rate of blogging and social media activity, and disruption in my editing schedule. I want to acknowledge that. If you’ve had encountered any frustrations in engaging with The Professor Is In this year, please accept my apologies.

I decided to just share this openly, because I know how many of you are struggling as well (because you tell us)  and because I strongly believe in de-stigmatizing mental health struggles. Secrecy and shame are major elements of the toxicity of the academy. I am a real person and The Professor Is In is not a faceless corporation and after eight years of existence I feel like it is ok to say: sometimes this is really, really hard.

The fact that I can write this, however, is a good sign–it means I am able to see and articulate my circumstances, instead of just drowning in them. That means I’m coming back up. Writing this today, on the literal eve of the midterms, may be tempting fate, of course. But this time around we at least know the enemy and its strength, so whatever happens, it won’t be the sickening (literally sickening) shock of 2016.

Blogging is still challenging, however. Writing takes a level of focus that has been hard to muster.  It has been hard to stay focused on the conventions of the academic job search when so much that we’ve taken as “conventional” has evaporated or been exposed as a sham. At the same time, speaking directly to audiences, either at talks around the country or virtually online, has been much  more meaningful for me this year.

And so, right now, I am relying on webinars where I can talk through the topics and also respond to live questions. I’ve scheduled three webinars for the next three weeks. The first one is tomorrow. To make the webinars more useful to everyone, I give all registrants open access to the recordings afterward, whether or not you attend the live events. That schedule is below. Please use WEBZONE10 as a discount code for these, which provides 10% off.

And I also want to invite you, if you haven’t been coming already, to our weekly FB Live on Fridays at 11 AM EST, where Kellee and I talk through the stresses of staying active under the psychic assault of the present moment.

And my series of guest posts continues.

Meanwhile, I’d love to hear from you all, in the comments, as to how you’re all doing. How has this past year been for you? Has it caused any reevaluation of your life? Your goals? Your relationship to academia? Please share.


Interview Intervention Webinar

In this 90-minute webinar Karen Kelsky shows you how to interview effectively for an academic job. She covers the major questions asked most often, and their unspoken agendas.  She discusses the most common errors made by candidates, and how to organize and deliver concise, content-rich, non-desperate responses.

She will provide templates for responses to basic questions about your dissertation/current research, publishing, teaching, and fit, and abundant examples of both bad and good answers from actual client interviews.

In addition, we confront illegal/inappropriate questions, micro-aggressions, and the all important issue of overcoming Imposter Syndrome, and communicating confidence through verbal and non-verbal modes. And she spares a few words for how to dress, the best shoes for cold weather, and ideas for briefcases!

The material applies to skype, phone, and conference interviews, and the campus visit (although note that we have a whole separate webinar and recording available that is devoted to the campus visit!)

This webinar covers the same content, and addresses the same questions, as the live Skype Interview Intervention service ($250); it is an immediately available and cost-effective way to learn what to expect and how to prepare for all forms of academic job interview. Some clients do the webinar as preparation for a live Skype Intervention, if there are slots available.

As always there will be plenty of time for Q and A at the end.

You have access to a recording of the event afterward.

Tuesday 11/6 at 6 PM EST

Cost: $50

After completing payment by clicking below, you will be redirected to the dedicated Go-To-Meeting Webinar Registration page, where you will fill out a registration form and be given instructions and an access code to sign in on your chosen day.

Add to Cart


Campus Visit Webinar

In this 90 minute webinar I walk you through the basic expectations and potential pitfalls of the dreaded Campus Visit (sometimes called a Fly-Out). We will cover all of the core elements, including:

  • The three key criteria at play in a campus visit

  • The single biggest pitfall for candidates

  • The basic organization of a campus visit

  • The initial arrangements and scheduling

  • Preparing for the visit

  • Meetings with faculty, Head, Dean, and graduate students

  • The formal interview with the Search Committee

  • The job talk and Q and A

  • The teaching demo

  • Handling meals gracefully

  • Maintaining your stamina

  • Evaluating campus climate

  • What to wear, especially in cold weather

As always there will be time for Q and A at the end. You will have access to a recording of the webinar 24 hours after the event.

Campus visits are hard!  A little advance knowledge will save a world of hurt!

Tuesday 11/13 at 6 PM EST

Cost:   $50

After completing payment by clicking below, you will be redirected to the dedicated Go-To-Meeting Webinar Registration page, where you will fill out a registration form and be given instructions and an access code to sign in on your chosen day. 

Add to Cart

Job Talk Webinar

In this webinar we will delve into the challenges of the all-important job talk.

I will explain the role of the job talk in the campus visit (it’s the single most important element) , and what it is meant to show about you as a candidate (it’s not what you think).

Kellee and I together created this webinar because I edit hundreds of job talks a year at TPII, and she hears them in her live skype Campus Visit Interventions, and the first drafts we see are routinely truly awful. (And when we were faculty members, in truth, most job talks we heard from candidates were pretty bad.) This is not because your research is poor!  It’s because nobody has ever explained to you WHAT a job talk is supposed to accomplish and HOW a job talk is supposed to be organized.

We now understand that most candidates have no idea about the proper ethos and organization of the job talk. They don’t get the “point” of the job talk, what it’s meant to achieve, and then how to achieve that through specific substance and organization.

So I will explain the most common pitfalls of the job talk, which are legion, including:

Excessive lit review (this isn’t your comprehensive exam!)
Forgetting to explain the topic before the analysis
Imbalance of theory and data
Overambitious scope
No clear argument
Overwhelming, illegible powerpoint slides

And I provide a proven template for job talk structure that will ensure yours showcases your research, engages the audience, and establishes your scholarly profile AND collegiality.

Finally, I will discuss the treacherous Q and A after the talk–what kinds of questions to expect, how to handle the audience, and most importantly, how to handle challenging, critical, or inappropriate questions.

Includes 30 minutes of Q and A.

All participants get access to the recording of this webinar.

Tuesday 11/20 at  6 PM EST/23:00 GMT. 

Cost:   $50

Add to Cart



A Personal Note From Karen — 15 Comments

  1. I’m so sorry you’re going through such a hard time. This year has been rough for me too, our dog, who was with us for 10 years, was in liver failure in July and we had to put him down. My grandmother passed away in September of cancer, which was agonizing. My family is from Mexico and we attend a predominantly Latinx Spanish speaking church, so when the Tree of Life massacre happened last week, I have been truly scared for my community. I have anxiety with all that is going on, and sometimes I want to quit. But God is good and keeps me going, and I’m thankful for the people around me. My work in racial and social justice is important, and I will keep on going, just as your work is important in helping those of us who don’t know the ropes to get through. Gracias and I will keep your health and family in my prayers.

    • This is so kind, thank you. It is so scary. It was so scary to be standing in shul last Friday night and realize that THAT space is exactly the space a gunman might enter to inflict terror and death. I felt on and off divorced from my surroundings, although the service brought me back in.

  2. Karen, I appreciate your sharing this. I, too, have a son who has struggled with mental health issues and is now just coming home after 3 years in a residential program. Thankfully he is doing really well right now, but yes, it takes a huge toll. I, too, found that I had to just out myself and all we were going through at work b/c it was just too hard to keep trying to keep performing as if everything was ok. Being open helps fight stigma and helps make yourself open to the care of others. It also helps shatter some of the illusions we are encouraged to maintain working in the academy (esp. women).
    So thanks for opening yourself up here….and hang in there… do what you need to do..you’ll find your way through. Sending strength your way..

  3. Thank you for your honesty & vulnerability, Karen. We are all in the same boat these days. I’m still super bummed that you weren’t able to come to Mizzou but I hope that you’re taking good care of yourself and on the way back UP.

  4. Dear Karen,

    I’m a senior graduate student (defending in January!), and I have silently followed your blog through RSS updates for a few years now. I wanted to send you some sincere thoughts of love an encouragement in these tumultuous times. Keep up your great work and more importantly, take care of yourself!

  5. Karen, I hope things will be better for you and your family soon. I have been trying to deal with my own circumstances for the last 6 years. I had a very difficult pregnancy with bed rest, and emergency C-section. All of sudden, I had premature twin babies (they were born in 29 weeks). They stayed in NICU for 3 months. After they came home, things were so difficult and challenging, we barely got any sleep. I had help but it was not enough. Nothing was enough. The babies had so many problems. I have been mentally and physically so exhausted I could not keep up with my research productivity for a long time. We still struggle with sleep problems ( my kids still do not sleep through the night). Some nights/days are still difficult. During those days, I do not have any energy to do anything. I still want to continue my research but it is really difficult given the circumstances. I want to accept my realities but at the same time I want to move forward with my professional life, start new research projects, teach new courses, etc. 🙂 I struggle with myself everyday. I learnt from you that “Life happens”. I try my best (not my ideal best, my present best now). Hopefully, tomorrow will be brighter for everybody who struggles with life circumstances.

    • Thank you for this. Solidarity. It’s so critical that we all learn what is possible and good *for us* – as Kellee always says, quoting Theodore Roosevelt, of all people: “comparison is the thief of joy.”

  6. Dear Karen,
    I’m sitting at my desk right now with your book open to the “What’s wrong with your cover letter” chapter, editing a letter for a tenure-track job in a department that I would love to work in. Although I’ve never met you in person, your book and blog posts are written with such toughness, compassion, and strong voice that I feel like you are one of my mentoring team. Your book came out while I was ABD, and guided me through applying and then interviewing for post-docs while 7 months pregnant. I flip your book open or search your posts when I’m packing for a conference, writing a grant proposal, writing a 5-year plan for tenure, or shopping for the perfect interviewing shoes and makeup. This has been a shitty couple of years on a national level, but also a joyful and rewarding one for me personally and professionally. I had noticed the drop-off in blogging because I enjoy your essays so much, but the existence of our book and online oeuvre mean that those going on the market this fall still get the benefit of your wisdom. Thank you for taking on job market advice as your personal crusade, and I’m so glad to know that you are starting to turn the corner from a dark year.

  7. Thank you for sharing, Karen. As you wrote, it is so important that we acknowledge and share our struggles. As is, we are all so overwhelmed by the political and social context, and when real personal stressors around family, jobs, and healthcare come our way, life can become a real living nightmare. You have changed so many of our lives, we stand with you in solidarity, empathy and compassion. May smoother times arrive soon (they will!)….as well as a well deserved break!!! Self care, self care, self care!

  8. Dear Karen ,

    Your story is very touching. I’m so sorry that you had to go through these things. That’s life, one time you are down, another time you are up. In all, I say let God our creator be glorified. I pray for your totally healing and for strength so that you can continue to do the great and good things you have been doing. I am a PhD Candidate and about to graduate. While my colleagues plan to go into corporate jobs, which we call the industry, I really believe I’m prone to academia, and that’s what i want to pursue. That said, I know nothing about how to land a tenure, so I’m pleased to find you, believing that you will help guide me through this path. Lecturing is my passion throughout my school days, and I am excited time has come for the actualization of this dream. I am wiling and ready to learn all that you can offer in this area.

    Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.


  9. Thank you for sharing this. As you said, most people hide this and it only gets worse. Know that you have a network of support online among all of us who have benefitted from your wisdom and care. I used you to help with my letter and teaching statement about 5 years ago and that made all of the difference. Be well, and stay healthy! Sending support and thinking of you.

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