A Joyful Job Market Digest

Normally I put the Job Market Digest on Facebook only, but my wonderful new Executive Assistant, Rain Rue (please say hello to her!) took the trouble of gathering together the outcome emails that had been gathering in the inbox the past few months. So I am posting them here.

It’s nice to be able to share the joy, and I want to particularly draw your attention to what I call “Joy of editing” emails (they are near the end), because they show how the document work itself is meaningful, entirely separate from any particular outcome. And I really love the very last entry, about Kellee’s and my Facebook Lives. Those are labors of love for us. “Neither of you pulls any punches,” writes the poster, “but you’re both tough and gentle in different, but complementary, ways. I don’t know how this works, but it really does.” 

Kellee and I both dearly love to hear when we have made a difference. Please don’t hesitate to write and tell us, no matter what the context. We take just as much pride in those who decide to leave the academy, or make a radical change, as those who get the kinds of jobs I am listing here today.  Tenure track jobs are just one option among many #realac futures.

Multiple TT job offers, client, Poli Sci: “Hi Karen, I wanted to send a final update and tally on my job market experience. First, and most importantly, I’ve accepted a position as assistant professor of political science at [Private] University! I’m beyond excited and happy to have some finality this early in the cycle. In the end, I had 13 conference interviews, 7 phone interviews, 8 campus interviews (of which I attended 6), and 4 offers. Thank you so much for helping me craft strong job materials. I have no doubt that working with you gave me a real edge and will make sure to recommend your services to friends going on the market in the future.”

TT job offer, Music, ABD at an R1 in music; Teaching college: “Dr. Karen’s blog and book were so helpful as I went through my first round of TT job applications – her advice about the interview process and campus visit were spot on. I constantly recommend this book to people thinking about a career in academia as a clear, realistic perspective on succeeding in a field that is often frustratingly opaque.”

Negotiating client, Psychology: “After 8 years in a non-TT, grant-funded research position, I was contacted by two academic departments and encouraged to apply to open TT positions. I sought advice from former colleagues that had gone on the job market directly following post-doc about what I could reasonably expect in terms of salary, start-up, etc… In general, the feedback was that TT jobs are more valued than my current position and I should expect to take a pay cut, ask for less start-up than I was planning, accept whatever the university offers for moving expenses. When the first interview offer came through, I was asked to bring a detailed list of start-up needs. I reached out to Karen because the advice of my colleagues wasn’t sitting right with me; it didn’t feel right to uproot my family for less money and a start-up package that wouldn’t allow me to rebuild my productive research program in a new location. She was flexible and was able to provide her negotiation assistance service even though I wasn’t at the offer stage. Since I was being recruited, Karen advised me to ask for more money, more start-up funds, more research space, double the moving expenses than I was planning. Even though the chair only asked for start-up costs, Karen also advised me to be upfront about my salary requirements, space needs, and realistic moving expenses. When the offer came through, it was everything I had requested, allowing me to accept the position without any further negotiations.

TT job offer and negotiating client, Sociology, ABD, mid-tier R1, the offer regional teaching: “I’m a reader of the blog and the book, purchased several of the webinars, and an interview intervention (and now negotiating assistance) client.

I consulted TPII every step of the way throughout my job application process, everything from how to write a cover letter to what to wear on the campus visit. At each new step in the job search process I would turn to TPII– I can’t overstate how helpful it has been to have a reliable source of information and expertise to fill in what my advisors on campus were unable to provide. Reading the blogs, the book, and watching the webinars (and following the advice) helped me to get 7 phone/Skype interviews my first year on the market, and the interview intervention helped me turn 3 (and counting!) of those into campus visit invitations, and now an offer!”

Interview success, client: “Dear Karen and Kellee: I wanted to thank you for the document editing services, as well as the Skype interview intervention — I now have two campus visits lined up for January! Thank you for providing a much needed service. Wishing you a wonderful holiday season.”

TT job offer, client, STEM field: “I just wanted to drop you a note and say thanks for your work editing my documents last year. I just accepted a great tenure-track position at a small research-focused university in eastern Canada

During my campus visit, three people brought up the quality of my documents. First, the department’s curator (and the only faculty member of colour) complimented my diversity statement for being thoughtful and on point. Next, the VP Academic called my teaching statement “outstanding”. Finally, the Dean of Science said my research statement was the most exciting and compelling statement he’d read in recent memory. His support translated into a start-up supplement of $50k from the provincial government.”

Interview request, client: “I thought you might like to know that I have a skype interview on Monday at a small private Liberal arts college —they got back to me on Thursday afternoon, so I am spending the weekend in rehearsal and suit shopping, and setting up lights … But this really is due to fabulous editing your end, so I wanted to say thank you!

TT job offer, client, Architecture: “Dear Karen & Kellee, I’m writing to share the news that today I accepted an TT AP offer from [Small college]! The proverbial jelly beans in the easter egg worked! 😉 But in all seriousness, I want to thank you both for your work with me both this time around, and back in 2015. I feel so grateful for your guidance on the documents and the process, and I feel like I have grown as a scholar and as a self-promoter in strategic ways thanks to your guidance. I also feel so lucky to have landed at [Small college]. It’s just the kind of academic environment I was hoping for and this conclusion feels especially sweet (and still a bit surreal) after working for it for so long.”

TT job offer, client, Australian institution: “…I knew this offer was generous to begin with so I was pleased with the additions to the new contract. Thank you for letting me know what to ask, as my contract (3 years) has gone up $5,000 per year. Plus the funded trip to Australia. I am sure when I have to re-negotiate after my mid-tenure review, I will be in contact to ask for what I deserve.”

Tenured job offer, reader: “Just wanted to thank you for the fantastic resources on your website.  I just accepted a lateral offer (full prof with tenure), and I’m so happy.  I’ve been a fan of yours for a long time, but throughout the process, I returned to your website to read and re-read your advice.  I particularly paid attention to what you said about preparing for the skype interview, your reminders about not babbling on during the skype and on-campus visits, your tips about reading up on current events, and just preparing the job talk like crazy.  I was really busy during the process with a teaching overload and job talk prep, so I might not have read up on current events, but with three weeks of reading (and somewhat skimming) the Economist, the NYT, the Atlantic monthly, the Chronicle of Higher Ed, and others, I was prepared to talk on the various topics that came up over dinner and during the campus visit.  With all this preparation, I felt fairly confident on the visit and was able to do my best. I highly recommend your website and resources to everyone on the academic market, because you state exactly what hiring committees want and expect, including their unstated expectations. Of course, these jobs are highly sought-after, and many people are qualified on paper. I think your advice makes a huge difference for those who are willing to listen and prepare according to what you say.” 

TT job offer, client, Kinesiology: “Thanks again for all the help during the job application process. I was able to secure a position at one of the top institutions in my field as an ABD and strongly believe the  guidance from TPII played a significant role in that. I look forward to working with you again.”

TT job offer, Reader and negotiation client, Art History: “I am at least a few months late on this but I had to write to thank you properly and share the happy ending of my job application season. I was on the job market last year, applied internationally and across disciplines, and had a good run. I got 6 campus visit invitations in total: 3 in the US (2 of which I had to miss because my visiting visa application was rejected under the travel ban, but the third one decided to do the campus visit via Skype), 1 in Canada, 1 in the UK, and 1 in Australia. Out of the four second round interviews that I managed to attend I received three offers for tenure-track/permanent positions. You might remember that I was working with you while negotiating with 2 of these. On top of these I got a year-long portable fellowship which I managed to keep at the institution where I was based as a post-doc, and two short-term fellowships for archival research in the UK.

Some days I forget how amazing all of this is. I have been having a hard few months after signing my contract, mentally and physically. I think all the anxiety from last year have been taking its toll on me. On good days I am excited about my new job and really look forward to getting to know a new country. I have been writing quite a lot this fall, whenever I was well. I try to remind myself of what happened, how and why it happened, and how it ended. This email is helping me with that. Looking back at how I started applying for jobs a couple of years ago, it is clear to me that without the guidance that you are providing through your work I would not be here. Thank you! I hope you are doing well. I read on your blog that you have been having a stressful year. I wish you and and your family health and happiness. I know it’s a constant battle.”

Tenured position, Ivy, STEM: “Dear Karen, I have not forgotten your tremendously valuable help last May and I wrote an endorsement – here it is: Karen helped me get not one, but two academic jobs. Before reading her blog, I had no luck with applications. For four years after receiving my Ph.D., I had applied to numerous positions without any luck. I got nothing, not even a reply, and that was because luck played no role in it. My cover letters were sheepish and unfocused. I have read them a few weeks ago, and they are a mess: I could hardly understand what my research was about. Thanks to her posts, my writing improved as my vision of the scholarship that I wanted to pursue became clearer. I got my first job after implementing her tips and I got shortlisted for all the jobs to which I applied in the following years. A few months ago I received an offer from [Ivy] University. Karen also helped me with the negotiations and that is some of the best money I have ever spent in my life. She managed to get me a pay rise and $20,000 more of research money in the first year. She helped me get many other benefits, too. Some students and colleagues confessed to me that they find Karen’s advice harsh and cynical. But I disagree: I find it honest and very much value her analysis of the academic market. I wished some of my past tutors and supervisors had offered similar guidance during my Ph.D. instead of letting me sleepwalk through it. And as a foreigner, I am particularly grateful for Prof. Kelsky’s crash course in cultural awareness. Many of the behaviors that I considered virtuous were, in fact, sabotaging my applications and I needed someone with the moral courage and experience of Karen to make me relativize them and see them for what they were. So many thanks, Karen. I hope many other people can find in your words the help that has been so fundamental in transforming my life.”

Lecturer position, client, Italian: “I just got an offer for a great Lecturer job in the Italian department of a good university and I just wanted to thank you for your help.”

The Joy of Editing, client, English: “Hi, Karen!  Please pardon my belated response and appreciation for all your clever stratagems!  The letter is so much more cohesive and succinct than my DIY version. Again, I know the T-T job market in English is at an all-time low, but whatever the outcome of these edits I’m proud I’ve gone through them. It’s good for my self esteem and has affirmed in a way that I have not felt for years the power of the revision stage of the writing process to create clarity in style and content–Dyad Alert, but I sincerely mean this and energizes me to hold my writing students to high standards.

TT job offer, client, Poli Sci: “The Professor is In–the book, the blog, the webinars, as well as the one-one-one assistance–helped me to feel confident that I was approaching the academic job market with my eyes open and with the tools I need. I relied on Karen Kelsky’s advice as I navigated each stage–from my application materials to the Skype interview to the campus visit and job talk and finally to negotiating an offer. Learning what to expect and what has worked for other candidates was beyond helpful to me during this process.”

Multiple TT job offers, client, US and UK, Psychology: “Dear Karen, I am sorry I didn’t reply to you before – at that time I just started getting interviews and things were hectic. Also, I had gotten right away a job offer (in the UK) and decided to not apply to any more jobs. I wanted to thank you deeply with all the help you gave me when I decided to go to the Job Market (aka Hunger Games). Thanks to you, I had all my documents prepared on time, and strong enough that I was competitive, and also felt more confident. I ended up applying to just a few jobs (because I got an offer right away from a University in the UK that I liked, and for the few jobs that I had applied for until then, I was invited for 3 interviews and got 2 job offers (the 3rd one I couldn’t afford to wait, as I had to make a decision for the other 2 sooner).”

Joy of Editing, client: “Karen, Thank you for your comments and edits on my four application documents. I learned so much ‘ticks’ in my writing (lists and dyads, especially), how to write confidently, and how to offer specific examples to “show” and not “tell.” I look forward to submitting my first application with an improved package.”

Interview Success, client, Russian: “Dear Karen, Thank you so very much for helping me with my teaching statement by getting rid of the extraneous details that buried my strengths.  Apologies for getting back to thank you only now. I had a Skype interview with University of XX for a Russian t-t position a couple of days ago, and I just got a request for a conference interview with [Ivy] for a Russian t-t job. Thanks so much again, and I will definitely report back.  I wish Kellee and you a lovely weekend!”

Joy of Editing, client: “have found while revising my docs that your advice is quite frank and down-to-earth and would appreciate your suggestions (if any) very much.

Joy of Editing, client: “I am writing to thank you for all of your help with my cover letter, C.V., and research statement. I never finished the cover letter with you–to be honest I was overwhelmed with application due dates plus my full-time job. I did follow your advice, especially around the gendered-nature of my writing…”

Joy of Editing, client: “Also, thank you for guiding me through the previous documents. I have learned so much from you. Your feedback has helped me become a better writer overall. Additionally, I have a much clearer idea of what I am doing in my dissertation and the article I am drafting. Thank you for taking me on as a client. I hope to be able to share with you some good news regarding the job market.”

Joy of Editing, client: “Hi Karen, Okay, this week has blown my mind.  Two things that were really one thing ultimately got to me: list/dyad addiction and a lack of inner conviction.When I went to do your directed research on the former, I ended up writing down for myself, “A mature job candidate will articulate a singular position, take a stand, and be prepared to defend it.  And that courage of conviction–manifested as the choice of one thing as the best thing–is what makes a scholarly reputation, and gets tenure track jobs” (emphasis mine). I happened upon the other post, “Finding Inner Conviction,” by accident, but it drove home that conviction is my underlying problem (hence the two things are really one).  I have been that young scholar who wants to please everyone and so does not commit to the one thing she really believes in. I have been a slave to my anxiety.No more! The dyads have been banished, Karen.  The only “ands” belong to titles, to one claim that takes the form of “between x and y” and to the single list I allowed in the final paragraph because it is verbatim from the department mission.  Perhaps you have no interest in hearing about any of this, but as someone who has felt she lacked that molecular conviction because the discipline didn’t really have the space in its traditional practices to accommodate her who can now be freed of this ressentiment, I have to thank you.  So thank you. Come what may, at least now I am telling the truth.”

TT job offer, client, Area Studies, Public Ivy: “I count this job as a truly remarkable opportunity and want to thank you for all the help. I heard that i was their first choice and that it was a unanimous vote from the search chair and I really do believe that it was because I meticulously followed your interview guidelines.  The official offer letter is still on its way and I will seek your help for the negotiating. I feel incredibly lucky as well considering that I have no US PhD — can’t thank you enough for advise in the book as well as your columns and the blog.”

Negotiating client: “Even after reading your book and many other sources on women negotiating in academia my hands were still literally shaking and my heart pounding as I sent the email with my initial negotiation requests for a TT position at a renowned R2 university. I kept staring at the email draft, almost convinced myself multiple times that I should ask for less, that I was being presumptuous, along with all the other similar stories we tell ourselves. I think I hit “send” anyway only because I promised you that I would ask for that amount.
Lo and behold, the world did not end, no one was angry, and they still wanted to hire me! I didn’t get the full 10% increase I asked for but did get an additional $4k in salary and an additional $50k for my start up package. Your responses to my email drafts were helpful and the resultant confidence I had in my correspondence was enough to talk me out of backing down several times. Contracting with you for negotiation assistance was definitely worth it for me financially and made a world of difference emotionally as I successfully navigated the negotiation process!”

TT job offer, client: “About 4 years ago you helped me to edit my job letter. I just wanted to thank you very much for all of your help! As a result of your suggestions,  I got a significant number of campus interviews at R1 institutions, which is no small feat in my tiny and highly competitive field. I finally landed a TT position at the University of XX. I just wanted to thank you very much for doing what you do, and I believe that I owe a significant part of my success to your services. I have recommended you to many colleagues and friends.

Article editing: “I wanted to let you know the article was accepted! What a trip from the first round of feedback!”

Multiple TT job offers, client: Poli Sci: “Hi Dr. Karen,I am writing because I wanted to let you know that I got a tenure-track position. I think I still had a couple of drafts left of the last document that I left hanging – my apologies for not following up with you sooner. Thank you so much for your efforts. I quite literally couldn’t have done this without you. I’ve just begun as tenure-track Assistant Professor of Comparative Politics at XX State, and will be Director of the XX Center in my third year. It’s a perfect job for me, in a nearly perfect location for my son and I. Thank you for sharing your expertise. I got zero bites my first year on the market and was pretty despondent. After working with you during my second year on the market I got two campus visits, two great offers, plus being shortlisted in the top 6 at [Elite]. The substance was there, but I couldn’t get it across until you and I began working together.Thank you again. I can now build the life my son and I need in large part as a result of your expertise and skill in this process. I won’t hesitate to send friends and colleagues your way.

UK Lecturer position, client: “I hope this email finds you well. I wanted to let you know that I had been offered a position of lecturer (fixed term appointment) at XX in London, and will start just a month from now. I wanted to thank you again for your support, and thought you might want to know what happened after we worked together (at least for your stats).

TT job offer, client: “Karen and Kellee, It was so great to see you both, and, again, I am just so grateful for you and what you do. As a 1st gen student, and the only one of my siblings to graduate from high school, being able to get my dream TT job has changed my life and given me the opportunity to now lay foundations so that I can help the futures of my family and community. You are not just helping create careers, but legacies. I will definitely stay in touch!”

Positive Cover Letter Feedback from a colleague: “In terms of the letter, I particularly admire and appreciate the tone. I did not have to struggle whatsoever to hear your voice and personality and yet it was totally professional; this is such a difficult balance. I think your letter will be read with interest not just by creative writing committee members, but by non-cw or English members, too. So often there’s that random “person from another department” on the committee who is like, “Dang, I’m an anthropology professor, I don’t know what this poetry stuff is,” but I think that person would be just as interested as a poetry prof would be.”And then later she calls the letter “pretty damn charismatic” and she also says “I get such a positive feeling from your cover letter and can say that it is much more polished and compelling than most of the letters I’ve read when on committees. “

Research position, Switzerland: “I just though I would give you some quick feedback. You worked with me in 2017 on a grant application and my application package. Unfortunately I did not get the grant but I did end up accepting a head of lab tenured faculty position at XX which is a research institute within the XX domain. So even though it is not a professor position I get to run my own full size lab, have good resources for research and no teaching obligations. I still do a small amount of teaching as a lecturer at XX, however, but this is mainly because I enjoy it and to keep me connected to the students. Thank you for all the help with my application documents and to understand the application process itself! It was really helpful.”

Negotiation client: “Hi Karen, Just a quick update. After initially declining XX College’s offer, we had a number of additional conversations exploring possibilities for a joint appointment. I ultimately concluded that it just wouldn’t be feasible given my travel constraints. So I formally accepted [Elite’s] counteroffer, and am very happy with the terms I received thanks to your sagacious guidance.”

Webinar viewer: “I am a post-doc in the [Ivy]. I am watching your NCFDD webinar from last week, and I wanted to reach out and say thank you. A colleague recommended your book to me in graduate school, and I have read it so often that the binding is falling apart. It has made a huge impact on my work, and following your advice prepared me to successfully apply both for a major national graduate school fellowship, as well as my current position.Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge about the academic job market with those of us who struggling to enter it. I look forward to next week’s webinar!”

Art of the Article and Facebook Live: “I am currently enrolled in The Art of the Article. I had worked with Karen on my CV three years ago. I also worked with Kellee in a campus visit intervention two years ago. Your resources have been, and continue to be, invaluable. I recently discovered your Facebook Live videos. I like it particularly when you each stick to your own points of view when they diverge, because each POV has been very important for me. For instance, in last week’s Facebook live, Karen matter-of-factly sets forth things such as (paraphrased) “But you DO need an article. Do it.” She’s right, of course. On the other hand, Kellee is very calm and reassuring, (also paraphrased) “You’re here. You don’t have an article. We will work with where you are and you will get there.” Both stances are necessary–it’s like Ann Swidler’s concepts of holding paradoxical logics and working with both to continue moving forward. Karen tells what has to be done and lights a fire of I NEED TO DO THIS NOW!, and Kellee eliminates all the beating oneself up over the “shoulds” in order to get rid of the baggage that’s preventing the work on what needs to be done. Neither of you pulls any punches, but you’re both tough and gentle in different, but complementary, ways. I don’t know how this works, but it really does.”

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