Making Good Choices in an Ugly Time

It a brutally ugly time to be an American.  I am enraged, furious, heartbroken, grief-stricken at the racist mass murder at AME Church in Charleston, and at the shameful, hateful, self-serving denial of racism as motive by the media and white Americans who will not face the truth of white supremacy in this country.  It is painful to watch Fox, the Wall Street Journal, and other commentators and people I know twist themselves into knots trying to find an “explanation” for killings that the murderer himself openly admitted were racially-motivated and derived from specific events in racist American history.

In the face of this outrage, there is little to say on the subject of academic job market preparation that doesn’t seem trifling and pointless.
However,  this week I received an email from a former client, an email that is about choosing love over fear, and connection over alienation. In anthropological terms, choosing affiliation over achievement.  And that seems something worth sharing today.   We all need to make choices–to care for ourselves, care for others, do the right thing, not the expedient thing.
So I leave you with this.  And the request: speak up, white Americans.  Be an ally to the black community that is staggering under the weight of systemic violence.  It’s time for white people in this country to step up and speak out: racism is real, white privilege is real, black people are being targeted in systemic violence. Here are some posts on how to be a white ally.
We all have a choice–stay silent, focused on our private interests, and perpetuate our privilege, or reach out, connect, listen, join, support, fight.
Dear Karen,
I was a new PhD client of yours in 2012. I have already thanked you for whipping my job materials into shape, but I haven’t yet thanked you for whipping my work/life balance priorities into shape afterwards.
We met up at the XXX meetings in 2013, shortly after I started my TT job. I had had two offers, one at an R2 in a lovely but small location, and another at a competitive R1 in a city. I chose the city and the stress of an R1 track, in part because I was single and wanted to meet someone. You schooled me: why choose more stress? Has the gamble paid off or are you still single? Indeed, I was. My personal life was not a priority.
Our conversation motivated me to write up the blog post Trailer Park Professor the very next day. The process made me rethink why academia has always been my priority, and why I was so worried about always trying to act the part of a junior R1 professor.
As I finished writing the blog post, I got an email from a colleague around my age, in my same field, that I had met 6 months earlier when giving a talk. Even then we had chemistry. But I ignored it, as I did when she was in my same session at the conference, because it was not “strategic” to date someone in the same field. I had been running away from her for months…
But then I asked, why? Because if all went well between us, it might mean I have to leave my big TT position one day? Would I deny myself personal happiness for the sake of this job?
For the very first time in my life, I decided that personal was more important than professional. We went out, soon we were engaged. We got married last weekend, with the support of our family, friends, and colleagues (photo attached).
She got a TT job in another state within long driving distance (and hired you to help negotiate). Our next challenge is to find positions in the same state, dare I say city. We’re already strategizing…and will contact you once we have a lead. (I was shortlisted at XXX this year, and although I was a close second, no offer. I’m relieved!).
Thank you for helping me see the psychosis behind prioritizing academics over a personal life. I could have ended up taking a very different, very miserable path.
[The client attached an adorable picture of their wedding, but she asks me not to share it just yet].

Collaborate, Collaborate, Collaborate – Fruscione #Postac post

by Joe Fruscione

Joe Fruscione

Joe Fruscione

In the year since I left academia and began writing things for The Professor Is In, the biggest difference I’ve seen between the academic and post-ac worlds is the attitude toward collaboration. My experience collaborating in academia consisted exclusively of planning one conference and a few panels. I didn’t coauthor or coedit anything, in part because I knew such projects wouldn’t have the same CV weight as the articles and book I published, and in part because coauthorship isn’t too common in the Humanities. It’s been much the opposite in the post-ac world—thankfully. Collaboration is both more possible and more valued in the private sector. Since the post-ac world rewards experience and collaboration, tackling a project cooperatively can boost your resume, expand your network, and strengthen your skill set.

For instance, I’ve worked with fellow editor Bridget Rector (Tall Sister) on a few M.A. capstone projects: I handled the final rounds of copy editing, and Bridget handled APA formatting and citations. This was a pragmatic decision for us in terms of time management and playing to our strengths. Most recently, I’ve been working with freelancer Lisa Munro on copy editing a scholarly collection. I got this project through word of mouth: a colleague remembered my Facebook posts about changing careers and contacted me to help polish the collection’s 15 essays before it went to press. After communicating about the scope, timeline, and price, we had an arrangement. (This is an important step: don’t forget it.) I brought in Lisa because of her abilities and because splitting up the editing worked best with our schedules. Once we got a batch of essays, Lisa and I worked on the same draft and compared notes to make sure we were essentially doing the same things. From there, halved the remaining work, and we communicate regularly about issues or judgment calls that arise.

All of this is to say that collaboration in the post-ac world is helpful, valuable, and—especially as you’re starting out—necessary. For Lisa:

One thing that I think is interesting is that in so many disciplines (at least in history), the individual monograph and independent research are considered the gold standard. It’s been surprising to realize how different things are outside academia: it’s been more of a Here’s a problem, how can we best solve it? approach that welcomes working with others. I’m hard pressed to think of times when I’ve used that approach in academia.

So far in this project, I’ve seen how freelancers can learn from and help each other. Like Lisa, I’ve been impressed by my post-ac colleagues’ openness to working together or sharing experiences and advice. I’d like to see new or would-be post-acs do the same thing. (More collaboration inside academia could be good as well, as Gregory Semenza has recently written about.) Collaborating with a fellow freelancer can help both of you gain experience, connections, and knowledge, as well as prepare you for tackling future projects jointly.

Blogging or tweeting about your experiences can help other post-acs see the benefits of collaborating. #Postac Twitter is a wonderful resource for networking, sharing ideas and experiences, and coming to terms with a new career, as well as potentially getting new projects. Most current and future post-ac tweeters I’ve met have been open to sharing advice about topics ranging from finding work and contacts to handling taxes and payment logistics. If you’re not already doing so, join these conversations to expand your network. Jennifer Polk, founder of From Ph.D. to Life, runs the #WithAPhD chat and is working on a “Hire a Ph.D.” page to help prospective clients find experienced freelancers. As she told me recently, “I feel much more part of a community now than I did dissertating. Community is huge for me.” Find and follow Jennifer, Lisa Munro, me, and such post-ac tweeters as Liana Silva, Katie Pryal, Kelly Baker, and Chris Humphrey. I’ve traded notes and ideas with them and many others, which has helped all of us navigate the post-ac journey. For Katie, “collaboration is a path to success in a way that it never was during my eleven years within academia. There, we’re siloed in our institutions, our departments, even in our offices with our own research agendas. Beyond academia, we accomplish more together, as part of a network. My friends are writers, coaches, editors—but more importantly, they are there for me, for just about anything that I ask for.”

As I’ve written before, always be looking for new colleagues, new clients, and new opportunities to collaborate. The more you connect with others doing the same kinds of work, the more likely you are to find an ideal collaborator: perhaps someone who needs your sharp proofreader’s eye after doing the developmental editing. Regardless of who does what, you’ll teach each other a few things along the way.

Effective collaboration depends, of course, on effective communication: before you start this kind of work, make sure you’re on the same page as your collaborator regarding how you’ll handle the work, deadlines, and method of payment. Think about logistics, too. If you’re working on two parts of the same document, decide early who’s responsible for merging the files or otherwise combining the work for the client. When I cowrote this piece with Allessandria Polizzi last year, we first identified what we’d each bring to the discussion: Allessandria wrote from the perspective of a long-time corporate educator, and I wrote from that of a new post-ac shedding academic language in my professional correspondence. We shared a GoogleDoc and Skyped a few times. The work went smoothly because we communicated throughout the process about our experiences, writing habits, and progress.

Much private sector work involves collaborating—e.g., writing and editing multiple stages of a project, or publishing something as a cohort without attributing individual authors. Doing joint work as a freelancer can give you valuable job experience, resume language, and material to share in an interview. Since many of us have worked independently in academia, working collaboratively on writing or editing projects may seem unusual or unwelcome. Try your best to get past this mental hurdle. The more you’re open to collaboration and networking among colleagues, the more you’ll be in a position to add to your experience and skill set.

Why You Need Your Own Academic Website – Guest Post by Adeline Koh

by Adeline Koh


The first thing that anyone interested in your work is going to do is to Google you (See Dr. Karen’s recent Vitae post on that subject). It’s a hard, bitter truth to accept, but our online presences are increasingly becoming stand-ins for our professional selves. If someone is looking for a contributor for a special issue of a journal, if someone is looking for a speaker, indeed, if a search committee member is interested in a candidate–everyone will go to Google first, because it’s easy, and because it gives the researcher a sense of who you are and how you present yourself to the world.

Your own professional website is going to be one of the first landing pages that you want them to find. Yes, you should also have a professional presence on social media, but having your own website in your own domain presents you as a serious professional, and allows you to craft some of the first impressions you make to others most strategically. If you don’t have your own website, you are letting the little bits and pieces about you on the web dominate your professional identity.

Think about it: is your personal Facebook profile the first thing you want someone interested in you professionally to find? Of course, you’ve probably locked down the majority of your settings, which means that this person won’t be able to find out much. And therein lies the problem–said person won’t be able to find out more about who you are as a scholar, what interests you, what your theoretical trajectory is, what you think about teaching.

The webinar I’m running on Wednesday, June 17, will give you the tools to get started building your own website.

What I’m going to cover:

– how to make a beautiful website even if you have zero programming knowledge;

– A comparison and evaluation of different types of content management systems (WordPress, Tumblr, Wix, etc.) for academic use;

– the importance of having your own domain name vs. using your university’s webpage,

– a quick comparison of hosting services and

– a guide to finding good and professional-looking designs, how often you should update your site, and more frequently asked questions.

The webinar will end with a hands-on workshop which will get participants started with purchasing their own domain name and hosting, meaning you should plan on walking out of there with your own domain, something like:

What qualifies me to give this webinar? I’ve ten years of experience with web design and am passionate about how people construct their online identities. I’m also the director of a digital humanities center (DH@Stockton) at Stockton University, and an associate professor of literature. I’m self-taught in technology, meaning I taught myself how to do all of this while pursuing very traditional humanities academic training.

Also: why take this webinar rather than taking some free tutorials online? What I can give you is information that is tailored to you as an academic, rather than someone appealing to jobs outside of academia. I can provide for you the kind of shortcuts and evaluations of software, hosting services, and content management that is ideal for a professional academic.

You might still have doubts in your mind:  isn’t creating your own academic website self-promotional in the worst kind of way? Isn’t it essentially vanity publishing? It might be both to some, but having a professional website is one of the best ways to get your name out there. My own website was responsible for getting me invitations to speak and to write when I was an unknown assistant professor teaching at a small school in New Jersey. Without my website, I would not be in the professional position I am in today.

So take a deep breath and get started. Come join me on June 17, 2015, 2-4pm EST. I would love to have you and will make it worth your while.

Data Point, Data Point, Data Point…

Sometimes I hear reactions to The Professor Is In, that my level of attention to details and minutiae (everything from what kind of bag you carry to where your voice rises in your delivery of a sentence) is excessive–even anal or obsessive.  Sometimes people will huff, indignantly, “If they’re going to judge me on something as small as what bag I carry, I certainly don’t want to work there.”  When I hear these reactions (I don’t always, since they’re usually out of earshot.  But sometimes they come to the fore), I always take pains to clarify.

Will they not hire you because of the bag you carried?  Solely because of your bag?  Unlikely.  No search committee is going to say, ‘she was excellent as a scholar and teacher–her job talk was path-breaking–but sadly we can’t hire her because of her bag.  If only she’d carried a different bag…’

No, that doesn’t happen.  Even when a search committee has a judgment about your bag (and they may well have none at all), it may not even rise to the level of discussion, or even consciousness.

What does happen is this:  you are surveilled from the moment your application arrives, to the moment you step back on the plane at the end of your campus visit.  At each point in between, you are being judged.  The people doing the judging are using all of their senses–some consciously, some not–to evaluate you.  They encounter you, take you in, and instantly begin to file away impressions, data point by data point:

  • Good cover letter: data point
  • Sloppy CV: data point
  • Typos in the teaching statement: data point
  • Quick, courteous email response: data point
  • Strong response to publications question: data point
  • In need of a haircut: data point
  • Weak response to teaching question: data point
  • Good idea for a second project: data point
  • Querulous, anxious vocal patterns: data point
  • Innovative research methodologies: data point
  • Ratty backpack: data point
  • Sketchy familiarity with campus programs: data point

And on, and on, and on… data point by data point.  At the end, these will all be gathered into a larger general “impression” of the candidate.   Again, some will be explicit — all elements of the formal record, for example — while some will be implicit.  Things like haircut, clothes, bag, vocal patterns may be noticed by some search committee members and not by others, and may be weighed differently even when they are noticed.  I make no claims that all search committee members will notice everything in the list above, or consider them significant, or evaluate them consistently.  What I do claim is that someone on the search committee is likely to notice some of the above (and an infinite list of other such factors) and file them away in some form, to become part of the overall judgment that carries forward into the evaluation process.

So: will a school not hire you because of your bag?  No, not likely.  But will one or more search committee members observe a ratty backpack as part of the general impression of “professionalism” you make, and consider it (consciously or unconsciously) as part of your readiness to leave behind a grad student identity and operate as a faculty member…?  I believe the answer to that is yes, and so urge you to attend to it and all the other details of your record and mode of self-presentation that I talk about at The Professor Is In.





On Foregone Earnings, or the Economics of Adjunct Life (A Guest Post)

by Russ Burgos

In August 1994, at age 31, I started graduate school in the hope (widely shared) of becoming One Who Professes. In May 2015, at age 52 and stuck in the adjunct life like a bug on flypaper, I rather wish I hadn’t. It’s the money, you see; more specifically, the lack of it.

Don’t get me wrong: I love the teaching, and there’s something indefinably splendid about lighting upon a question, digging into it, and coming up with an answer. I enjoy conversations with brilliant colleagues and former students worldwide. I’ve even been known to have a passably good time at academic conferences, 8 a.m. panel times to the contrary notwithstanding. And while I do blame “The System” for the penury it imposes on contingent faculty, I’m not blaming it for my status as an auxiliary in the armies of academia. I made that choice for what were good reasons at the time; the fact that they’re no longer persuasive is an artifact of changes in my life and not in the university system itself.

Nevertheless, I rue the day that scholarship got its hooks into me. While it is true that money can’t buy everything, it’s just as true that it can buy pretty much everything you need. In a recent column at Chronicle Vitae, Kelly J. Baker wrote of her conflicted feelings at having turned down a retail management job with The Gap in favor of completing a Ph.D. in Religion. Her husband, she wrote, “asked me if I knew how much money I’d lost while working in low-wage academic jobs for 11 years. I couldn’t bring myself to do the math.”

I could; here’s what I found:

Based on my last full year of earnings in the “civilian” (non-academic) world and using the very conservative assumption that I would never have received a raise or moved into a higher-paying position than the one I had at age 30, working in the adjunct professoriate has cost me roughly $750,000 in foregone earnings to date.

Three-quarters of a million dollars. That’s a lot to pay for the privilege of teaching thousands of undergraduates without job security, an office to call my own, or even a trivial share of the professional support the university provides for ladder faculty. And the meter keeps ticking: every year I spend on the adjunct treadmill essentially costs me an additional $40,000 or so in foregone earnings – again, based only on what I was paid 22 years ago – and even controlling for things like commuting expenses (which I would have had regardless).

To put that another way, I would have to work two-and-a-half additional full-time jobs at the federal minimum wage simply to make up the difference, to earn what I was earning as a solidly middle-class worker two decades ago.

Bear in mind, these are back-of-the-envelope calculations; I was interested in the comparative statics of then and now, not in an econometric analysis of my personal finances. My main concession to mathematical rigor was to control for inflation, and so I used the handy dollar inflation conversion table maintained by Robert Sahr of Oregon State to put all my figures in 2014 dollars. Taking out my tax files, I computed both my “what-if” non-academic gross earnings and my actual gross earnings, ignoring changes in tax rates, retirement contributions, and the like (if anything, including retirement contributions and the foregone wealth they would have generated would only make the comparison more stark).

Drilling down into the numbers, the picture gets even bleaker.

Like so many adjuncts, I held out hope too long for a tenure-track position and so stayed committed to the social/professional norms of my field. I went to conferences; I wrote journal articles and book chapters; I maintained association memberships and subscribed to journals; I bought books. Those expenditures were pure losses – not even loss-leaders, because contrary to expectations they didn’t lead to tenure-track employment.
As a non-academic, I certainly would have traveled and bought books. But I have no doubt those travels would have been far more pleasant (no discounted conference hotel rooms next to elevators) and those books far less costly (it’s a rare day indeed when Narrow Market Academic Publishers Inc. puts out a volume for less than $100) – and every bit as satisfying. The difference between spending for pleasure as a civilian and spending for necessity as an adjunct is another example of what Elizabeth Keenan called the “compounding disadvantages of adjunct life.” The more you spend (and forego) to perpetuate your status as an adjunct, the greater the value you attach to having done so: It’s the teaching, the mission, the challenge of exploring new ways of thinking.

It’s self-delusion.

The fact is, people find rewards in all kinds of work. As an undergrad, I drove a forklift. There was satisfaction in a day’s work done well – umpty-ump pallets moved from Point A to Point B – and once the day’s work was done, it was done: no sampling books you’ll ultimately not adopt for a new or revised syllabus, no grading, no curriculum review, no interminable e-mail exchanges with students demanding grade changes, no drafting of conference papers that won’t out-live the conference weekend, no assembly of job applications for jobs you won’t get – all of which constitute loss of value in time, energy, and opportunity costs.

What I have done – and what I suspect a lot of adjuncts and soon-to-be-Ph.D.’s do – is selectively discount the payoffs to the Path Not Chosen so that the “life of the mind” looks better retrospectively. We systematically underestimate the life-satisfaction we would have received from a “straight job” and systematically overestimate our life-satisfaction from things like conference participation and teaching. It’s a form of what economists call “post-purchase rationalization” or the Buyer’s Stockholm Syndrome, a cognitive bias that blinds us today to the full consequences of a costly – and bad – decision we took yesterday.

When students approach me about graduate school, I do my utmost to deter them, especially those who hope to become professors. Hope is not a strategy. The fact is, the professoriate is not a calling; it’s a way of making a living. It’s a job. Dressing it up as a “calling” is simply a way of avoiding the cognitive dissonance associated with the costs. As a contingent professor, I’ve come to believe the cruelest part of contingency is not the status, but the rent that status extracts. The brutal economic reality of contingency is this: Adjunct life is a pay-to-play system, one where the dollar value of foregone wealth – and the foregone quality-of-life that implies – is the only real measurement of career progression that matters.

Why You Need to Know About Social Media Marketing – a #Postac Post

by Jessica Langer

Jessica Langer

Jessica Langer

Let’s get right to the point: social media is one of the biggest growth industries within marketing, communications and their cognate fields. If you have a PhD in the humanities, communications is potentially a natural fit for you as an #altac/#postac target field… and if you’re hoping to land an #altac/#postac job in communications, at this point, you must have at least some competency in social media.

And I don’t just mean “have a Facebook account and know how to use it”. I mean that you need to know how to use social media and other digital channels to achieve real, material organizational objectives. You need to know how to communicate via digital channels effectively, not just on your own behalf but within the context of an organization.

The webinar I’m running on Friday, June 5, “From Humanities Ph.D. to Social Media Marketing: A How-To with Dr. Jessica Langer“, will give you the tools you need to do exactly that: to build your professional competency within social media.

I’ve spent most of the past five years building a business in social media and digital marketing. For me, it’s the perfect fit because I love marketing, I’ve spent a decade in the field, and I spend so much time online anyway (*cough*). I haven’t just built my own business, though: I also teach social media marketing in the MBA program at the Schulich School of Business at York University and the MCM program at McMaster University. Several of my students have gone on to jobs in social media directly from these programs.

In this webinar, we’ll cover:

– The fundamentals of marketing, including value, the 4 Ps, and STP
– Marketing ethics
– Social media best practices
– Analytics and KPIs
– Social media and digital marketing in the organizational context
– Building your network
– Entrepreneurship 101
– Plenty of time for questions!

I’ll take you through the process of discovering what you need to know about the field to decide if it’s right for you, how to develop the specific skill set(s) you need to make yourself credible to potential employers, and real, actionable steps for beginning the transition from academic to social media/digital marketing and/or communications professional. This is not an instantaneous transition, but we’ll get you started on the right foot and set off in the right direction.

Come join us on June 5 from 2-4 PM. We’d love to have you – and I promise it’ll be worth your while.

How To Pitch Your Book to an Editor at a Conference

This week the Daily Nous website has a marvelous post, Answers From Academic Publishers, devoted to advice on publishing an academic monograph solicited from actual editors from Oxford, Cambridge, MIT, Routledge, and other major presses.  It has an eye to Philosophy, but is really relevant to all book-based fields.  It’s filled with valuable insights.  It reminded me of this post that I wrote in 2012, and haven’t updated since.  So I’m re-posting it, along with an addition at the end from the Daily Nous post specifically about approaching editors at conferences.  Good luck pitching your books!


Today’s post is a Special Request for many, many readers who have written over the past year asking how to pitch their book to potential editors while at disciplinary conferences.

I confess, I’ve been kind of avoiding writing this post. I’m always happiest when I can be dogmatic and dictatorial (in what has been lovingly called my “knee-jerk prescriptivism”), and grow less happy as my level of uncertainty increases.

And pitching a book at a conference is an awkward and uncertain process indeed. The fact is, unless you’re Professor Famous-Pants on your third book, you’re really a bit of an imposition in the editor’s extremely busy schedule. That does NOT mean you shouldn’t do it! It just means that if you feel weird and awkward…well, that’s natural.

I felt uncertain enough about this topic that before sitting down to write a post, I actually asked for advice from an expert in the field, an actual editor. To be specific: the Editorial Director of Duke University Press, Ken Wissoker, whom I’ve known for a number of years.

I’m going to begin the post by writing what I consider the rules (“rules” is really an overstatement here; these are more considerations and recommendations) to keep in mind when deciding when and how to pitch your book.

After that I will share Ken’s brief remarks that he made over Twitter (hence the brevity).

The first thing to do when planning to pitch your book at a conference is first off, to think carefully about which editors you want to meet. Do homework to familiarize yourself with the major presses in your field. These are not always the highest status presses in general. Sometimes they are, but sometimes they may be relatively small presses with a firm specialization in precisely your area. Look carefully at the current catalogues of the presses and ask yourself whether your book fits in with what you understand to be the agenda and mission of the press at that time. You must look at current publications from the last 2-3 years primarily, because press agendas and missions evolve, as different individuals take over editorial positions.

Always (and this IS a rule!) aim for the highest status press that you can accomplish. Many, far too many, of you have been allowed to believe that all books count equally. They do not. There are top tier presses–the major university presses and Routledge and a few others—and then there are second tier presses (I’m not going to name these in a blog post just yet. I don’t feel well enough educated on this point to feel confident of my judgment). And then there are third tier presses and below. Beware of ANY press that pursues YOU, if it is positioned below the list of top-tier presses. The fact is, top tier presses do not typically chase young, first-time authors. Second tier presses sometimes do. And third tier presses usually do. Be dazzled and seduced by the interest of an editor who follows you after your paper at the conference and eagerly urges you to submit your mss. to XYZ press that you’ve never heard of, and you’re setting yourself up for a book that does you precisely nothing on the job market. And a bucketload of bitterness when you finally figure this out a few years down the line. The status of the press matters.

A related issue is the geographical location of the press. If your goal is a tenure track job in the United States, then make sure that your book is contracted to a U.S.-based academic press, OR Oxford or Cambridge University Press. OK, I acknowledge, I’m not an expert on British and European presses, so there may be a few more presses over there besides Oxford or Cambridge that you can safely publish with and still be competitive for a U.S. job (and please keep in mind that this is entirely field dependent—Classics, for example, being a field where the U.K. press imprimatur counts for a great deal).  But in general, sorry, our world is parochial and U.S. search committees respect familiar U.S. university press publications.

You should treat the encounter with the editor exactly the same as you would encounters with influential scholars in your field. As I explain in excruciating detail in this post, your greatest ace in the hole is advance planning. Get in touch ahead of time. And when I say ahead of time, I don’t mean 3 days. I mean three months or three weeks. The fact is, famous and influential people (and editors at major university presses fall into this category) tightly pack their conferences with a dense series of appointments and meetings with old friends from graduate school, former students, current collaborators, shmooze-objects, and people who are looking them over for job offers, in addition to an often packed schedule of panels and talks, and executive board meetings for a range of subdisciplinary associations and units. These people have no time to spare. In the case of editors, they will be doing some or all of these things, and in addition will be intensively running around the conference attending targeted talks and panels that they feel may yield future books. In many cases, the only way that you, a person with virtually no capital or status, can claim the time of someone this influential and busy, is if you get on their schedule VERY VERY early, before they have had their conference slots reserved by everyone else.

You should be asking for a 20-30 minute time slot. As a first time author, you don’t really get more than that. I know that you think your book needs an hour to fully describe. Tough. You get 20-30 minutes. When you’re famous, you’ll get more.

You will want to do your best to have an actual “location” for the chat. What often happens at conferences is that you find yourself trotting along after Ms. Editor as she races from one panel to another while being flamboyantly greeted and shmoozed on by 15 other eager writers on the way, while you breathlessly try to summarize ten years of research. This is frustrating and humiliating. If you can avoid it by establishing a plan to sit down in an out of the way corner, do that.

If you have failed to make an advance plan, and see an editor standing there at the booth whom you’d like to approach, then use a mini-version (like 2 sentences) of the pitch I describe below to introduce yourself and sketch in the briefest and most intriguing (yet factual!) terms your project, and ask for an appointment to discuss at greater length. I strongly urge you not to launch into a comprehensive pitch right there at the booth, with no warning, because the editor very likely has other appointments scheduled and will be distracted and annoyed while you are talking.

Now, once you are in your scheduled meeting, you need a pitch. The pitch, like all professional pitches for the job market and everywhere else, has to be efficient, concise, and well organized. Here’s what it must not sound like:

I wrote my dissertation on how more and more Japanese women are studying abroad and living abroad, and also even in some cases marrying Western men, and I did a couple years of fieldwork, starting with my masters thesis, including in Hawaii and also in Japan—especially Tokyo– in which I looked at this from different perspectives, and it touches on themes like transnationalism and globalization and also gender and race, and things that are really important in anthropology right now, and I know that I haven’t yet really finished everything I need to do in terms of fieldwork, because I really need to get back to Japan to do some updated research, and to focus more on popular media depictions of this phenomenon, but basically I defended last year and so right now I’m just trying to figure out how to turn this into a book….. ad nauseum.”

What is wrong with this rendition? First, it starts in the past, with the dissertation. You are not pitching a dissertation, you are pitching a book. Second, it has no title. Titles focus and clarify, and indeed “sell” the project. Third, it devolves into a discussion of the research process, rather than the intellectual project as finished product. Fourth, it talks about themes that it (loathesome word) “touches on,” instead of articulating a clear and focused central argument and the intervention that argument makes in basic assumptions or orthodoxies of a field. Fifth, it collapses into graduate student excuse-making about what it *doesn’t* do and what *isn’t* finished, instead of being a confident statement of its achievements and contribution. Sixth, it states a “desire” for a book without articulating a clear plan for a book, and a timeline for completion. Seventh, it’s disorganized and boring and a depressing run-on, instead of a tightly organized statement of a scholarly project.

A proper book pitch will look something like the following. I give it here in one chunk, but obviously a pitch is a CONVERSATION, so these are all elements that will emerge organically in dialogue, not monologue, form.

I am currently writing a book manuscript which I’m calling “Women on the Verge: Japanese Women, Western Dreams.”*** It is based on my dissertation, which I defended last year in the Anthropology department at the University of Hawai’i, where I worked with Takie Lebra and Geoffrey White. I am currently a tenure-track assistant professor in Anthropology and Asian Studies at the University of Oregon.

The book, which will be my tenure book, examines a recent phenomenon of young Japanese women studying English, traveling abroad, and in some cases seeking to marry Western men. It is based on two years of fieldwork on the subject in Hawai’i and Tokyo. Specifically, the book uses popular media discourses about this subject, which have been escalating in both news media and also an emergent genre of women’s memoirs, and ethnographic fieldwork findings with the women themselves, as well as the Western men with whom they interact personally and professionally, to construct an interdisciplinary study of women’s motivations, the reactions they are inspiring in Japan, and their on-the-ground experiences in their evolving encounters with the West.

My core argument is that women pursue these avenues as a critique of Japanese patriarchy in general, and Japanese men in particular, but at the same time, find themselves enmeshed in a transnational racialized economy of desire, fed by international media such as Hollywood, that privileges white men as desirable objects, and places women and men of other races in varying positions of subordination to them. This economy of desire produces consequences that play out in women’s experiences in international workplaces and relationships in unanticipated and evolving ways. The topic intervenes in current debates in anthropology about race and global mobility, and participates in an emergent anthropology of sexuality.

I have already published two journal articles on this subject, and presented it widely at Asian Studies and Anthro meetings. It garners a great deal of attention, and I believe the book will be highly marketable. I am writing it with an eye to being appropriate as an assigned ethnography for the globalization or sexuality thematics of large Introduction to Cultural Anthropology courses, but because I engage with current theory, I also anticipate that it will be used in a wide range of more advanced anthro courses, as well as Asian Studies and Women’s Studies/Gender Studies courses.

The manuscript will be 6 chapters long, and it is about 50% complete. I intend to revise the five dissertation chapters over the coming year, to do 4 weeks of fresh fieldwork next summer, and to draft one entirely new chapter based on that fieldwork next year. I have a junior sabbatical in my third year which I”ll devote to the book, and I am also currently applying for fellowships for writing leave. I anticipate the manuscript being complete in Fall of 20xx.  I am interested in publishing with XXX Press because I think the book fits in well with your series “xxxx” and your overall recent emphasis on books dealing with globalization and sexuality, and of course race and cultural studies.”

I realize this looks like a lot, but I read it aloud and timed it, and it’s about 4 minutes of text. Divided into the natural give and take of a dialogue, it is an efficient, concise, and well-organized statement of a project that answers most of the questions that an editor will have.

What are those questions? Here is a partial list, which you can see are answered in the summary example I gave above:

Who are you and are you a legitimate scholar? (Should I even be listening to you?)

What field are you in?

Are you aligned with people I have heard of in that field?

Do you have a position that supports the writing of this book with financial resources and leave time? (Can I expect this thing to actually get done?)

How badly do you need this book done (Is tenure the great motivator?)

Am I intrigued by the title? Will others be intrigued?

Do I “get” your topic?

Is the topic interesting? To me? To undergraduates?

Is the topic important in your discipline or fields? Why or why not?

Have you asked whether it’s important in your discipline or fields? Do you care?

Have you tested out this topic in public venues and gotten good responses?

Do you have a core argument that you can actually articulate? Is it persuasive?

Do you have evidence that supports that argument?

Is your evidence interesting?

Is your argument and evidence new and emergent?

Is your argument and evidence accessible to a wide range of undergraduate and educated lay readers?

Is your argument and evidence sophisticated enough to appeal to serious scholars?

Is this book appropriate for my Press? 

Does this book fit into a current series that we’re marketing?

Will people buy this book?

Who will buy this book?

What classes will this book be assigned in?

How long will this book be? Is it a reasonable length?

When will you be finished with this book?

Do you have a feasible plan for writing this book, and support to do so?

Do you seem like a reasonable person or a drama queen?

Can I work with you or are you going to make my life a living hell?

I have never been an editor, so I am actually surmising that these are the questions that editors are asking themselves and you as this conversation proceeds, based on my experience of publishing a book, and helping other young scholars publish theirs. Actual editors, I would appreciate your thoughts in the comment stream.

I will stop here, and now share the Tweets of wisdom of Ken Wissoker, Editorial Director of Duke University Press. What he said is:

  • Get in touch ahead of time and make a plan to meet.
  • I hate being ambushed in the booth between appointments – but I know some editors like talking that way. Find out; don’t presume.
  • Explaining your argument to an editor is not like explaining it to someone in the field. Don’t get lost in the details!

With regard to this last point: you’ll notice in the pitch I gave above based on my book, I did not go into chapter summaries or much detail at all about specific theories I was engaging with in the field. If asked, you would certainly be prepared for equally concise and well-organized responses. But don’t lead with those. Let the editor ask for more information, and pursue his or her own lines of inquiry.

Good luck.


From the Daily Nous:

If we see you at a conference, do you want us to talk with you about our book projects, or do you prefer we just send to you a completed prospectus later? – Anonymous

Andrew Beck (Routledge): Yes, absolutely.  Come talk to me and please bring your questions.  I’m at all the APAs and a few other conferences too.  I’ll likely, in turn, have questions for you.  That’s how things get started.

Tony Bruce (Routledge): Yes, definitely, an informal chat over a coffee is always welcome! We make lots of appointments to see authors and would-be authors at the APA meetings, where Routledge always have a booth, as well as some of the  other smaller meetings like ASA for aesthetics, the PSA or Philosophy of Psychology.

Hilary Gaskin (Cambridge): I’m happy to hear about a project at a conference, but also to get a proposal as a follow-up.

Andrew Kenyon (SUNY): We want to meet you! Conferences are great for making personal introductions and gauging your rapport with a potential editor (and vice versa).

Stephen Latta (Broadview): Yes, absolutely! We travel to philosophy conferences such as the APA with the goal of meeting and talking with prospective authors. We often have quite a bit of downtime at these events, and are normally happy to chat about specific projects or about philosophy and book publishing more generally.

Peter Momtchiloff (Oxford): Sure, conferences are for talking – though the real business is likely to be done by email.

Peter Ohlin (Oxford): Same here – in general I prefer being contacted by email, being busy (like most editors) at conferences, but happy to chat at a conference too.

Lucy Randall (Oxford): I agree, and I’d add that, because conferences can be so busy, I’m grateful when people write ahead of time if they want to meet and discuss their work. This is especially helpful when I have a chance to look at even just a sketch of a proposal or your CV before we meet.


***Full disclosure—Although I’m using my own book for an example here, this is not precisely how my book contract came about. I didn’t pitch my book cold at a conference. I also didn’t have this title decided on prior to writing the book—it actually came about through extensive discussions with my editor, Reynolds Smith, at the tail end of the process. Reynolds, if you’re reading this, you know how this all went down!


The Prep School Job-Can You Still Do Research? (Part 3 of 3)

Ric Rader is a classicist and “recovering academic” who taught in non-tenure-track positions at Ohio State, USC, UCLA and UCSB over the course of 7 years. He now teaches in the Foreign Languages Department at Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville. He writes, “the fortunate thing is that I finally got out of the academy and it has been the best decision of my life.”  Feel free to get in touch with him personally at

This is part III on the Prep School Job.  Part I is here, and Part II is here.


Over the course of your graduate studies you develop scholarly and professional interests; you attend and present papers at conferences; you publish articles (if you follow Karen’s advice); you conceive of a major project for your dissertation and eventually defend it. Let’s say you enjoy this process and want to continue, say by revising your dissertation into a book or chopping it up and publishing a series of articles. But now you’re working in a prep school, teaching 4 or more classes a day, planning and grading, coaching after school and, once you do finally get home, raising children. (I realize that most faculty nowadays, especially those at non-selective SLACS, community colleges or regionals – to say nothing of adjuncts – labor under the same kinds of conditions as this.) Even with your comparatively light teaching load the reality is that you will have less time now for scholarship than you did at the university. Since scholarship is a requirement for most academics teaching at the university level, you simply make time for it. At the secondary level, however, there is no such requirement and so making time for scholarship requires pluck and, more importantly, honesty.

Let me start with honesty. You will need to ask yourself whether you genuinely want to keep researching and writing. Key word here is genuinely. Ask yourself in earnest: Do you really enjoy combing through JSTOR for bibliography? Reading heavily footnoted essays on arcane topics in German, French or Italian? Planning and writing 5000 or more words on a discrete topic over the course of months or even years? Getting revise-and-resubmits from journals – or outright rejections, sometimes nasty – and reworking that essay over the course of more months? Finally seeing it published years later in a journal whose readership you can count on one hand? Does your book project really change or contribute significantly to your field as you claimed so eloquently in all those job letters? Can you really imagine spending years scrubbing your dissertation of everything that made it a dissertation? Submitting yourself to punishing deadlines for revision, copyediting and formatting (which, though last, you will inevitably discover to be the absolute worst part of writing a book)? Really?

If all of those things sound dreadful to you, then you’re in luck! You won’t be required to do them anymore. No one will ever ask about that project on Etruscan eschatology you obsessed over but didn’t finish. You will never have to feel guilty or defensive about leaving it behind, or kid yourself into thinking you will actually finish it just as soon as you get the [insert imaginary panacea here: time/break/fellowship/support/feedback/recognition] you claim to need. The shame spiral and the self-deception will be things of the past! (Sing with me loud and gloriously: LET IT GOOOOO, LET IT GOOOOO!)

But only if you’re honest with yourself.

Of course as any therapist will tell you, self-knowledge is hard-won and provisional at best. So I’m not claiming it’s going to be easy to admit. You have been trained for years to believe that research and writing are essential parts of your scholarly identity. Indeed you wouldn’t have finished a dissertation without at least nominally accepting this professional premise. No one expects you to abandon it with ease. Occasionally you will with some justification be tempted to think, If I keep up with my scholarship, perhaps I’ll eventually be able to land a tenure-track job in the academy. But that’s a fantasy, so don’t overindulge yourself. (Sidebar: DO NOT TREAT A PREP SCHOOL JOB AS A PLACE TO BIDE YOUR TIME WHILE LOOKING FOR A “REAL” JOB AT THE UNIVERSITY. Go ahead and keep tabs on your discipline’s job-placement service or even – god forbid – the job wiki. Just keep your mind clear of their attendant pathologies.) Basically, you should expect to struggle with your decision to abandon research. That’s okay because you will eventually get over it. You will eventually recognize the absurdity of academic publishing.

If, on the other hand, you genuinely do want to continue your research – if the absurdity of academic publishing doesn’t faze you – then you too are in luck! Because now you will be able to pursue your research on your own terms, i.e. not as determined by the strictures of your tenure requirements. Doing research on your own terms, however, doesn’t necessarily make it easier. For many – like me – the pressure of strict deadlines, especially those that may result in your termination from the job, creates motivation (even if it’s anxious motivation). Absent this pressure and structure you might find yourself procrastinating, promising to get to your research later, using what little time you have for writing for other (totally legitimate) things.

This brings me back to pluck. All of the tools you used to get your research done in the past – writing between the classes you teach, creating a writing schedule (daily, nightly, pommodoro, whatever), joining a writing group – will still be useful and they will still be necessary. So pick whichever method you prefer and stick with it.

Maintaining your research at the secondary level creates a paradox: Scholarship is not required and so none of your colleagues will assume you’re doing it; at the same time, precisely because it is not required your colleagues will celebrate your scholarly accomplishments with genuine surprise and pleasure – no matter how small that accomplishment ranks in the academic system (review vs. article vs. book etc.). I gave a copy of a book I recently published to my headmaster and he sent me the kindest note of congratulations I have ever received in my professional life. Genuine validation from colleagues you like is, not to put too fine a point on it, F*CKING AWESOME. Guess what else it is: motivating. So you’ll probably feel the urge to do more. Now you’ve created a new and better relationship with your research – no longer a chore but a choice. And if like me you are at a school with a decent number of faculty holding PhDs, and if they too desire to continue their research, then you’ve got a wonderful small community with whom to share goals, deadlines, professional achievements and the like. From my experience it is a community entirely unlike that of the department at a college or university. And if I – a modestly productive scholar who spent too many years doing research begrudgingly – can thrive in this environment, then imagine what someone like you with real scholarly drive could do.


Update on My Book: Blurbs, Reviews, and a Promotion

The book inches closer to actually existing in the material world (August 4)!  It has gotten some lovely blurbs by amazing people, like this one by the inimitable Rebecca Schuman:

“If you would like your academic career to begin in delusion and end in disillusionment, then by all means, ignore Karen Kelsky. If, however, you want unvarnished straight talk about the academic job market—and how to navigate it—then heed her, and heed her now.”

And I’m beyond thrilled that it got a fantastic review on Kirkus Reviews (see below).

Right now, I’m doing a promotion: Pre-purchase my book and send me the proof of purchase at, and I’ll enter your name in a drawing for $300 free TPII services.   Drawings on June 15 and July 15.


Buy it at all these places:


New iBooks Badge - 11 12googlebooks-button-graphic

Remember, it also makes a great gift for the struggling grad student in your life.

If you’re interested in ordering the book for a class, please email me at  Desk copies will be available shortly.

Read on for the blurbs and the full Kirkus Review:



The definitive career guide for grad students, adjuncts, post-docs and anyone else eager to get tenure or turn their Ph.D.  into their ideal job

Each year tens of thousands of students will, after years of hard work and enormous amounts of money, earn their Ph.D. And each year only a small percentage of them will land a job that justifies and rewards their investment. For every comfortably tenured professor or well-paid former academic, there are countless underpaid and overworked adjuncts, and many more who simply give up in frustration.

Those who do make it share an important asset that separates them from the pack: they have a plan. They understand exactly what they need to do to set themselves up for success.  They know what really moves the needle in academic job searches, how to avoid the all-too-common mistakes that sink so many of their peers, and how to decide when to point their Ph.D. toward other, non-academic options.

Karen Kelsky has made it her mission to help readers join the select few who get the most out of their Ph.D. As a former tenured professor and department head who oversaw numerous academic job searches, she knows from experience exactly what gets an academic applicant a job. And as the creator of the popular and widely respected advice site The Professor is In, she has helped countless Ph.D.’s turn themselves into stronger applicants and land their dream careers.

Now, for the first time ever, Karen has poured all her best advice into a single handy guide that addresses the most important issues facing any Ph.D., including:

-When, where, and what to publish
-Writing a foolproof grant application
-Cultivating references and crafting the perfect CV
-Acing the job talk and campus interview
-Avoiding the adjunct trap
-Making the leap to nonacademic work, when the time is right

The Professor Is In addresses all of these issues, and many more.



“If you would like your academic career to begin in delusion and end in disillusionment, then by all means, ignore Karen Kelsky. If, however, you want unvarnished straight talk about the academic job market—and how to navigate it—then heed her, and heed her now.” —Rebecca Schuman, education columnist for Slate

“Karen Kelsky’s The Professor Is In offers a compendium of smart, clear, direct advice to anyone seeking to turn a PhD into an academic job. She covers everything from how to build a competitive profile, to writing cover letters and resumes, to negotiating for that final job, postdoc, or grant. She’s not afraid to give examples of ‘don’ts’ and she models the ‘do’s.’ I’m about to meet with a doctoral student on the job market right now—and I’m giving her my copy of The Professor is In.” Cathy Davidson, Distinguished Professor, CUNY Graduate College, Director, The Futures Initiative.

“Every graduate student in academe should read this book. But also: if you teach graduate students, if you mentor graduate students, if you worry about graduate students, and even if you’re thinking about becoming a graduate student, you should read this book too. It’s just that indispensable.”– Michael Bérubé, Director, Institute for the Arts and Humanities, Penn State University

“It’s tough out there, but no one understands how academic jobs are landed better than Karen Kelsky. If you are a graduate student, The Professor Is In offers sound, realistic advice, and it may be the most valuable book you ever read if you intend to have an academic career. – William Pannapacker, Professor of English at Hope College and columnist for the Chronicle of Higher Education

“Explains in exquisite detail exactly how to land a tenure track job. In her genial yet unabashedly thorough book, Kelsky coaches readers through the critical topics they need to know. I wouldn’t want to navigate the inhospitable weirdness of the academic job market without it.” – Adam Ruben, author of Surviving Your Stupid, Stupid Decision to Go to Grad School

There’s no one way to guarantee that you get a job in academia, but there’s a thousand ways to lose one. In this book, Karen Kelsky levels the playing field, providing practical insider knowledge to demystify the job market and help you improve the odds. – David M. Perry, Journalist, Chronicle of Higher Education, Director of Undergraduate Research, Dominican University

“A realistic account of what it takes to turn a Ph.D. into a job when all the jobs seem to be disappearing, The Professor is In offers sobering, impeccable advice from one of the most honest voices in higher education today.”–Greg M. Colón Semenza, Author, with Garrett Sullivan, of How to Build a Life in the Humanities: Meditations on the Academic Work-Life Balance

“Karen Kelsky tells the disheartening truth about the difficulties of getting through graduate school and finding a tenure-track job in a funny, irreverent, and ultimately encouraging way. Getting a job is about more than being smart; read this book if you want to be prepared, professional, and on your game. -Elizabeth Reis, Professor and Chair, Women’s and Gender Studies Department, University of Oregon

“This is the book I wish I had when I was a grad student. As The Professor Is In, Karen Kelsky delivers generous, savvy advice for academic job seekers. Unflinching, supportive, and honest, there is no other book like it. All Ph.D. students (and their advisors) should have a copy on their shelf.” – Carole McGranahan, Associate Professor, Anthropology, University of Colorado at Boulder

Kirkus Review:

In 2010, after 15 years as a tenured anthropology professor and department head, Kelsky (Women on the Verge: Japanese Women, Western Dreams, 2001) left academia to found The Professor Is In, a counseling service and blog aimed at helping graduate students mount a job search. Aware of the current competitive job market, with colleges and universities increasingly trying to save money by staffing departments with part-time adjuncts, Kelsky offers smart, frank, and often witty advice to lead applicants through the complicated process of securing a tenure-track position. She has no illusions about her readers’ ability to do this on their own. Graduate study is infantilizing, she maintains, a process of hazing that leaves students “insecure, defensive, paranoid, beset by feelings of inadequacy, pretentious, self-involved, communicatively challenged, and fixated on minutiae.” Advisers range from moderately helpful to neglectful to downright discouraging. They may not have any idea of the realities of the market into which they are sending students, which Kelsky thinks is “terribly, patently unfair, in that several generations of Ph.D.’s are now victims of an exploitative system that trains them for jobs that no longer exist, and denies that fact.” The author covers in detail every aspect of the job search: building a strong record through carefully chosen publications (prestigious peer-review journals are the gold standard, and in the humanities and social sciences, a book contract is crucial); going after grants; presenting at national conferences; honing a CV; writing a succinct, sophisticated cover letter and teaching statement; presenting oneself in an interview and during a campus visit; and negotiating an offer. “Grad students,” she writes, “remain in an extended juvenile status long after their peers outside of academia have moved on to fully adult lives.” For those students—and anyone who cares about them—this cogent, illuminating book will be indispensable.

Day to Day Work at a Prep School – #Postac Guest Post (Part 2 of 3)

Ric Rader is a classicist and “recovering academic” who taught in non-tenure-track positions at Ohio State, USC, UCLA and UCSB over the course of 7 years. He now teaches in the Foreign Languages Department at Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville. He writes, “the fortunate thing is that I finally got out of the academy and it has been the best decision of my life.”  Feel free to get in touch with him personally at

Part I of this Prep School series is here.


So what’s it like to work at a school like mine? Rather like a “real-world” job you will be required to be on campus every day all day. While I miss the flexibility and openness of my schedule at my former universities (a privilege, I realize, that many like my wife did not have at her teaching-heavy SLAC), I quite like the responsibility of daily presence. You may also be required to dress up for work, which for men means wearing a tie. Believe it or not, dressing up will make you feel like a professional. Like an adult. As anyone in the business world will tell you, your appearance is an important aspect of your authority at work.

You will likely be required to participate in extracurricular activities after school, which means that when, for example, your sport is in season the days can stretch ever later. I coach junior-school football and baseball, and while these are nowhere near as serious and time-consuming as varsity, during the season I normally get home between 6 and 7pm, sometimes later if an away game is out of town. This irks my wife a bit – she’s with our very energetic toddler all day – but fortunately between the two seasons I have about 4 months during which I’m generally home by 4pm. And with the exception of exams or major tests and quizzes I almost always get my grading and prep done during my free periods. I rarely bring work home!

You will occasionally have to come to school on the weekend for games, service outings, dances, admissions-related events, dinners and the like. Sure, you’ll have to give up a part of your Saturday or Sunday, but in most cases you will be fed (spectacularly well if it’s a dinner-related event), you’ll get to meet with parents who adore you for teaching their children, you’ll get to hang out with your colleagues and basically just have fun. Yes, it’s work but it ain’t really work. You will show yourself to be a good citizen of the school community. And good citizenship is rewarding in both senses of the term: you get fulfillment and you also get professional and financial promotion.

One of the real perks of teaching at a prep school is the continuous personal involvement with students you will have over many years. During your time in the university you may have gotten to know a decent handful of students personally, but rarely are college students able to take more than 3 or 4 classes with the same professor over the course of their studies. At the secondary level, however, in your classes and on your teams you will watch young men and women transition year by year from as young as 10 to 18 years old. And what a change that is! It’s not hard to understand how this kind of multi-year relationship produces the most meaningful connections with students, their parents and their other teachers. When alumni of my school return for visits or events, for example, the love and affection they show for their former teachers is moving. This love in fact was the inspiration for a very famous movie from the late 80s that you, like me, probably watched with one of your high school teachers.

The best part of your job will be your colleagues. They will be the nicest, most well-adjusted people you’ve ever worked with – especially if your school (like mine) rewards them personally, professionally and financially for their hard work and commitment. You’ll have some personalities and idiosyncrasies among your faculty, of course, but there are none of the types I came to know during my years in the university: the intransigent, the bitter, the envious, the unkempt, the antisocial, the unproductive, the defensive, the predatory. You’ll have colleagues who’ve been there 20, 30, 40 years, many of whom either went to that very school or one like it and learned as students that a career in teaching can be a desirable choice and not just a consolation prize or fallback. Why would they leave a fulfilling job that provides a comfortable life? Where on any given weekend they can get together with colleagues outside of school for family gatherings, b’nei mitzvahs, athletic engagements, church and intellectual collaboration?

I suspect the simple reason prep school colleagues are such good people is that at this level you won’t have the pressure to publish. Your mission at any secondary school – but especially those (like mine) that pride themselves on small, intimate learning environments – is first and foremost to be effective as teachers, and that requires a fair amount of gregariousness and geniality. This isn’t to suggest that brilliant researchers, prolific publishers and effective grant-writers can’t be gregarious and genial, only that the aims of research and grant-seeking aren’t necessarily compatible with pedagogical goals. I say that as someone who published a decent amount on what in my field would be considered very canonical (literary) material, the kind of material in other words you’d likely see in an undergraduate survey course. I tried and tried to bring my research into the classroom – and insisted upon the necessity of such an approach to many a search committee – but it never quite fit. (More on research later)