How to Strategize for the 2020 Job Market

Happy New Year, everyone! It’s the start of 2020. And, it’s also the midpoint of the academic year. That means…. a lot of people are coming back from winter break facing the stark realization that they didn’t get shortlisted for the jobs they hoped for this year.

Other folks are looking ahead to going on the academic job market for the first time next Fall.

For everyone who’s already turning their minds ahead to the applications they’re going to need to send out in Fall 2020, this video is for you. It’s a quick sketch of what to do with the next 8 months to make yourself as competitive as possible for the academic job market next year.

And just to anticipate one predictable reaction: my focus on peer reviewed achievements is most responsive to R1 and elite SLAC hiring, but is absolutely also relevant to lower tiered teaching institutions as well. Those institutions have become increasingly “aspirational”, and frankly, greedy for research outputs even though they don’t support the work with funding or research leave time. And the wretched job market means they can demand high research productivity from their new hires as well. So please BANISH the thought “I just want to work at a teaching oriented school, so I can skip the peer reviewed publishing imperative.” NO. Those days are gone.


Resources Mentioned In Video:

You can go here to schedule a one-on-one consult with me.

Purchase the CV Strategizing Service that I mention in the video here (Special January Reduced Rate just for video post viewers!):


Get the Spring Special 3-Doc Package ($430 instead of $540 for full review of three academic job documents) here; as I mention in the video, Jan-April is THE time to get on our schedule and knock out those job docs like the CV, Cover Letter, Teaching Statement, Research Statement, etc.:



Do Less

Second installment in the new video blog post series! Please, please forgive me for the leaf blower in the background! I thought using earbuds would prevent it being heard, but… no. I even went peak #Karen before starting and asked them if they would EVER finish blowing leaves, but it’s my deeply, disturbingly neurotic neighbor who demands nightmarish levels of leaflessness and the poor 5-man team was just doing their best to follow orders. So, alas. It does stop about halfway through.

Citations to follow of the various posts and things I reference.

What Everyone’s Calling Emotional Labor Is Just Labor. Marie Solis, Vice

Making Holiday Magic is Hurting Women. Caroline Kitchener, The Lily

Holiday Magic Is Made By Women and Its Killing Us. Gemma Hartley, Care-Clinic

You Should’ve Asked (The Mental Load). Emma

Green Chef Meal Delivery Service, loved by Karen

Don’t Be the Good Little Girl – Women and Service [New Video Post Series]

I’m starting a new series of video posts this week! I hope you enjoy. I’m actively soliciting topics to address so please put them here in comments, or email me at

Here is the blog post I mention: A Good Little Girl, on the Xykademiqx blog.

Our New Podcast Is Coming So Soon!

Kel and I had a mini work-retreat this past week, and recorded the trailer and 5 episodes of our new Professor Is In podcast! We’re also finalizing music (I love that part! Want to hear a clip? Here’s Two Sides, by Martin Klem. Great title, right? right?)

The first episode drops early January.

We’re also busy planning all the goodies we’ll be offering members who sign up for the Professor Is In Plus membership option, available starting early January!

Remember: the podcast is FREE, but membership brings lots of perks, like an exclusive members-only podcast episode per month, ad-free content, and also academic career/productivity-related items that aren’t available anywhere else like Dr. Karen’s 30-Day CV Rehab, Kel’s 5 Steps to Productivity, a monthly call-in with Karen and Kel, with the chance for live on-air individual coaching!

Stay tuned next week when we announce a limited-time incentive for early Professor is In Plus sign-ups. And be sure to download the Himalaya app and find us there [Reminder: you’ll be able to find us on Himalaya from next week; we’re not quite live yet!]

While you can hear the free episodes on all the regular platforms, Himalaya is the only place Professor Is In Plus will be available.


Here’s the podcast description: The Professor Is In has been the world’s leading source of academic career advice for a decade, and in this new podcast academic career coach and author Dr. Karen Kelsky and productivity coach Kel Weinhold, with their trademark combination of candor, humor, and compassion (and a healthy dose of critique), tell you the truth about how the academy works, with strategies for reaching your goals while prioritizing your emotional well being. We go where others don’t, breaking down the unspoken rules of academic cultures, including all the ways they center white folks and marginalize everyone else. Our mission: whether you’re in grad school, on the job market, on the tenure track, adjuncting, or deciding to leave the academy and do something else, we are here to support you with insights, advice, and real talk.

Episode 1: Why the Academy Is Like a Cult
Episode 2: Publishing and Toxic Comparison
Episode 3: The Culture of Overwork
Episode 4: Why You Need a 5-Year Plan
Episode 5: Dealing with Rejection

And remember: to be the first to hear when the member site opens and the podcast goes live, sign up here:

Boston U Dean to Struggling Grad Students: Go To the Food Pantry – Guest Post

This post shared by a reader.


An intercepted email from a dean at Boston University to faculty and staff reveals that the administration is responding to poverty-like conditions among its grad students by sending out links to food pantries and short-term loans.

The stipend that many graduate students at the university receive is ~$23,000 per year, about 1/3 the median income of Boston, and the terms of the stipend forbid employment outside the department; additional income through the university is limited to $3,000 per year. Considering the exorbitant living costs of the Boston area, PhD students struggle to make ends meet, with some facing the euphemistic issue of “food insecurity” if they struggle to afford food.  

Although Boston University is a wealthy private institution charging $70,000/year per undergraduate student (for tuition and room and board), they are unwilling to pay their graduate workers a living wage. 

In a move analogous to Wal-Marts holding food drives for their employees, this administrator’s solutions for students experiencing “food insecurity” are to seek external assistance or take on debt, rather than increasing graduate wages so that workers can afford to know where their next meal is coming from. 

Date: Tuesday, November 19, 2019 at 10:39 AM
Subject: Resources for Graduate Students Facing Financial Challenges and Food Insecurity


A number of graduate programs have brought concerns to me about their graduate students’ financial challenges and experience of food insecurity. Even with the best of budgeting, the amount of our stipend (which will continue to increase slowly over the next few years) and the cost of living in Boston means that there are times when it is difficult for our PhD students to make ends meet.  

In response, and with thanks to the Graduate Program in Religion, I wanted to share resources that are available to our graduate students. 

Graduate students may reach out for support and emergency financial assistance at Boston University in one of two ways.

GRS provides emergency loans to all graduate students and advances on stipends to qualified PhD students. The stipend advance may be of particular use to PhD students receiving a non-service fellowship, where the fellowship is paid out monthly.  PhD programs are encouraged to let incoming PhD students know in a timely manner (ideally at the start of the summer) that they can receive a mid-September advance on their stipend, in order to bridge the gap between the start-up costs of moving to Boston and their first stipend payment at the end of September. See for more information.

While Boston University does not operate a food pantry, the Dean of Students’ Office offers meal assistance:

In addition, the Graduate Program in Religion has a new website that lists other resources in the community available to graduate students who are experiencing food insecurity and have implemented a number of measures of their own to support their students:  

Please be in touch with any questions or concerns.


#MakeupMonday: My New Setup

Instagram (or was it Facebook?) markets to me so well it is really scary. One day I was just scrolling and suddenly before my eyes appeared a customizable rotating makeup storage tower. My makeup storage situation did not even remotely keep up with my accelerating investment in makeup products, and things were getting ugly.

Reader, I bought it. And it’s everything I hoped. (I tried to post a video of it rotating in its true glory but my sad outdated wordpress theme rejected it).

Also an ongoing frustration: a decent makeup mirror. I’ve gone through so, so many, and blogged about a lot of them. This week, on a quick trip to Bed, Bath and Beyond to get a mattress cover, I happened upon this Ihome item on sale. I bought it with my 20% off coupon.

And… it’s everything I have wanted in a makeup mirror. It also plays music, lol, which is NOT something I’ve wanted in a makeup mirror so I haven’t set that part up yet. But the lights are finally — FINALLY – bright enough. The mirror area is large enough. And the lights can be switched warm or cold, and a range of brightness.

And here’s a cute look I did – the big news here is this amazing NARS Erdem Lip POWDER palette I found super-cheap at TJ Maxx!

I didn’t know what to think about lip powder, but turns out–i love it! And the palette allows you to carry a full range of lipcolors with you in a super compact way. Not very long-lasting, but vivid and great shades.

Black Girl Magicians and Deferred Dreams – WOC Guest Post

I am delighted to offer another guest post in my series of contributed posts by black women and other women of color.

If you’d like to submit a post or an idea for a post for consideration, email me at I pay $150 for accepted posts. The posts can be anonymous or not, as you prefer and can be about your experiences of racism/microaggressions in grad school or the career, your post-academic musings, hard-won advice for other students/faculty of color coming up, intersectional practices in teaching or research that you have found valuable, and also of course, makeup and clothes, or even tech gear you’ve found that helps in your work. More information can be found here.

Today’s post is by an author who prefers to remain anonymous. She writes: “I am an African American woman from the Northeast who obtained a doctoral degree in STEM at a large public institution. After completing postdocs in the South and the Midwest, I returned to the Northeast to continue my job search.”


I’m writing this essay from the dining room table of my mother’s home.  Well, I guess it’s my home too now since I moved back here nearly a year ago.  That’s right. After many years of sacrifices, near poverty wages, hard work, and many professional accomplishments, I’m back home.

So I’m one of those so-called, highly coveted unicorns.  I’m a Black woman scientist with a PhD. My story is a bit of a circuitous one.  After earning my BA and MS in the northeast, I moved south to begin my doctoral studies.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t the right fit and it wasn’t the right time. And more unfortunately, I internalized my failure.  It was the first time I had ever failed to complete something this big and this important. I was devastated. I eventually moved back home, licked my wounds, worked for a bit, and tried again.  This time, I got into a university a little closer to home. It was a tough ride, but because I was able to find the support I never had at my previous institution, I was able to survive and became the first Black person to graduate from my PhD program.  It was the ultimate comeback story!

After graduation, I moved to the Midwest to begin a postdoc. Just 2 weeks before and 2 hours away from Michael Brown’s untimely death at the hands of a police officer in Ferguson, MO. Welcome to the Show-Me state! After 2 years of isolation and many lessons learned, I was able to move back to the east coast and do a 2nd postdoc, this one more fulfilling than the previous one. 

But a funny thing happened on the way to tenure-track. I realized I was burned out.  I had been running on fear and fumes since I graduated (maybe earlier) and the last thing I needed was to start the race all over again.  But this postdoc allowed me to live in a location more suitable to my needs, it gave the potential for more opportunities to build a personal life, and it was closer to family and friends, all things that I realized I needed most during my time in the Midwest.  It also provided a much needed paycheck, so I pulled myself together and moved forward. It was a productive experience. I attended conferences, published several papers, became heavily involved in campus activity, tried my best to network and explore the many research and administrative options that were within my reach.  But I was still burned out. And I was tired.  

And as much as I did and as hard as I worked, it never felt like it was enough.  I knew that my postdoc was only a temporary position and I would need to find another job soon.  I tried y’all. I really tried. I sent out applications. I made phone calls. I told my network that I was on the job market.  I even got a few interviews. I identified a few gaps in my CV and filled those. But it wasn’t enough. My mind couldn’t take over anymore.  My body was calling the shots. And it was telling me to take a break. My health, both physical and mental, were deteriorating. There were times I couldn’t get out of bed, much less adequately plan for my future.  And although there was a small part of me that wanted to give in and stop fighting the urge to rest, there was an overwhelming part of me that knew that unemployment was not optional. I had bills to pay and a career to maintain. 

Thank goodness I was childless, so I didn’t have the added responsibility of taking providing for others. But I was single. I didn’t have a spouse to emotionally or financially depend on for support. I was alone and I felt alone.  Who would have sympathy for the Black Girl Magician? The one who looked like she had it all together. The educated one – WELL educated one. The one whose identity was intertwined with her work. The one who believed that hard work would eventually pay off. 

Well, it turns out, I didn’t have long to find out because the decision was made for me. Despite my best efforts, I was unable to secure a job before my postdoc ran out. The only sensible choice was to come home. At the time, my mom was sick and needed help around the house, so I figured it was good timing.  We could help each other. But what do you call a break with no rest? How can you relax when you have no money? How do you heal from the trauma of academia and racism and sexism and depression and poverty and isolation and feelings of inadequacy because the chance you took on pursuing your dream seems to have blown up in your face?  

The researcher in me understands that I am not an anomaly.  We are still producing more PhDs than there are jobs available.  And although postdocs are considered standard for most STEM disciplines, it extends the period of overwork and underpay most grad students experience, forcing most postdocs to postpone the fruits of their education and experience.  And after all is said and done, there’s still no guarantee that a postdoc will lead to a good paying job. Yet we continue to encourage women and people of color to pursue an education in STEM. But what’s the cost? How many more Black women do we have to invest in and encourage and pull into academic and research careers in STEM only for them to be divested, discouraged, and pushed out?  What are we doing to them? What is being done to us?  Why do we continue to persuade women of color to stay in environments that are not healthy or supportive of them personally and professionally?  We point out individuals as role models, but are they exceptions or the rule?  

I am reminded of the opening lines of “Harlem” by the great African-American poet Langston Hughes: “What happens to a dream deferred?/Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?”  Or maybe it results in several months of unemployment, bill collectors, crippling depression and paralyzing anxiety, and returning to their childhood home surrounded by people who couldn’t possibly understand the hell you just went through.  Because we’re not just talking about raisins or dreams. We’re talking about real lives. Black lives. Black lives that were convinced that academia and STEM would be their ticket out of poverty, only to find out that it’s still a crapshoot.  This is not what I signed up for. And I don’t think I can encourage other Black women to continue to sign up for it either. Not until the system cares more about the wellbeing and security of Black women than they it does about their cheap and anonymous labor.  

So what happens to a dream deferred?  I don’t know. It feels more like a nightmare at the moment.

#MakeupMonday: Pretending to be a MUA

I did a look last weekend I really liked and want to share it. I decided to go all-in on one of those “flawless” skin effects like the IG makeup artists do. Meaning, a TON of makeup – primer, foundation, concealers, and a finishing powder, and that was just to start!

It was so entertaining, and completely ridiculous for a Sunday in Eugene, Oregon. Ah well.

First, though: I’ve switched up my hair! Ever since my Halloween costume for our party, I’ve been wearing it in a big vertical swoop now, and even still playing more with the temporary gold hair color paste.

Even though my bruises are gone and my scars much faded (although I am still getting these wicked new underye circles when I get tired), I’ve decided to keep using my new concealers. I’ve learned different ones work in different ways for different parts of the face. It’s been a very steep learning curve.

Anyway, here’s the product list:

Tarte Timeless Smoothing Primer

Becca Undereye Corrector

Nars SheerGlow Foundation

It Cosmetics CC+ Powder

Kevyn Aucoin Contour

Hourglass Blush

Becca Concealer

CoverFX concealer

RMS Living Luminizer

The Balm Eyeshadow

Smashbox DoubleExposure Shadow

Clinique Lash Primer

Eyeko Mascara

Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Brow Color

LimeCrime Bushy Brow Strong Hold Gel

NARS Rouge A Levres Jolie Mome

Lipstick Queen Liner in Wine

NYX Setting Spray

I feel rather dashing!

I do love playing with my makeup! If you’d like me to start doing videos instead of just still photos, lmk.

And I have gathered another huge pile of samples, so let’s do another giveaway! Comment substantively (even answering the yes/no on videos) on FB and I’ll enter you in a random drawing for 5-6 prestige/indie samples.

“Good” NTT vs. “Bad” TT: A Conversation (Part III)

This is Part III of a three-part series on weighing the pros and cons of taking a good NTT position vs. a less desirable tenure track position. I use “good” and “bad” advisedly just as a shorthand, because of course these judgments will vary across individuals and context. But many readers have faced versions of this choice and contributed guest posts. I’m sharing their stories.Find the previous ones here and here. Like the others, this is a guest post.


On the pros and cons of term/clinical positions versus the TT….

As an occupant of such a position (a term position, in my case) with fairly recent experience of the academic job market and front row seats to the TT journey of multiple friends, here are my thoughts on the pros and cons. I’m writing this partly to contribute to Karen’s project, which I’ve found enormously helpful through the years, and partly because I’ve had enough annoying conversations with grad students about this that I think it merits raising in the wider community. What lies at the heart of this question, I think, is that we as academics are all conditioned to think of a TT track position as a “real” job, and of everything else as a stop gap measure at best and a failure at worst.

This isn’t a tenable formulation—not for our graduate students heading out into the market, and not for the rest of us, who create and perpetuate the problems of that market–partly because this is what we have to think with. It isn’t tenable on an individual level (TT jobs are much fewer in number than term positions, thus the odds of landing one aren’t great, while the personal and professional costs of chasing often are), and it isn’t tenable on an organizational level (because it effectively serves to justify the abuse of people occupying those other positions, rendering academic institutions houses divided against themselves).

So, when I was on the market, what I was after was a job that would allow me to live a full life while offering me the opportunity to do the work that I enjoy, employ my training and my talents, and pay a decent salary with good chances of stability and growth.

Such jobs don’t neatly divide into the TT/term categories, and my advice would be to evaluate the pros and cons of each individual position, not the entire category. To that end, the pros of some term positions:

-They can occupy a structural niche in the university. If not funded by soft money, this can translate to considerable stability.

-They can afford a lot of opportunities for really interesting work

-They are more likely to enable their occupants to skirt departmental politics.

-They pay a decent salary and come with benefits. As for the cons, they all stem from that house divided phenomenon I mentioned.

Basically, what we have by virtue of this division is a class system within the university. Term/clinical faculty are second class citizens, period (adjuncts in this metaphor are basically serfs).

As a result, many of those pros seamlessly transition into the cons:

–the utility to the organization translates to a lot of work. Since term employees aren’t on the TT, there’s little organizational incentive to make sure their work loads are reasonable.

–there’s no guarantee that the work will, in fact, be interesting. Many contract positions exist to do the rote work of a department—teach introductory courses, handle the routines of administration, etc.

–The ability to skirt department politics is in part a result of being less consequential to them (unlike tenured faculty, term contracts are much easier to dispatch, and term faculty can’t participate in university governance on equal terms with the TT).

Then again, a TT job is no golden ticket—it doesn’t protect you from exploitation, burn out or abuse. And a good term job isn’t a step down from a bad TT one.

Live Webinars Resume This Week!

Hello all, a quick note to alert you that Live Webinars are back, starting tomorrow, Thursday November 15!

All are $50, but use this promo code – WEBZONE10 – for 10% off.

Find them here on the Live Webinars page. And remember: all registrants get access to a recording even if you don’t attend the live event.

*Hacking the Academic Job Market (Thursday Nov. 15, 6 PM EST)

*Interview Intervention Webinar (Thursday Nov 21, 6 PM EST)

*The Campus Visit Webinar (Thursday Dec 5, 6 PM EST)

Descriptions below.:

Hacking the Academic Job Market

Thursday 11/15 6 PM EST

In this 90-minute webinar I walk you through the conditions of the current American job market, the most common mistakes made by job-seekers, and the ways you can maximize your chances of success while looking for a tenure-track job.
We’ll cover:

The big-picture conditions of the U.S. academic job market
How to think like a search committee
The four core qualities of a successful tenure track job candidate
The all-important 5-Year Plan
The ethos of job market documents
The most common mistakes made by job seekers
The three keys to academic interviewing
The non-academic option

We also examine the pervasive intangible pitfalls that can bedevil job documents and interviewing, including narcissism, excessive humility, and hyper-emotionalism. You’ll leave with a broad understanding of the real (as opposed to fantasy) criteria of tenure track hiring, and how to tailor your record and application materials to maximize your chances of success.

Includes time for Q and A with Dr. Karen. All who register get access to a free recording of the event.


Interview Intervention Webinar

Thursday 11/21 6 PM EST

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 works in tandem with the live Skype Interview Intervention service provided by Kel Weinhold ($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. Many 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.

All who register get access to a recording of the event.


Campus Visit Webinar

Thursday 12/5 at 6 PM EST

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. All who register get access to a recording of the event.

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

Remember: use this promo code – WEBZONE10 – for 10% off! Find the webinars here on the Live Webinars page. All registrants get access to a recording even if you don’t attend the live event.