Reflections On Our Way to Europe

As this goes out to you today, I am on my way, accompanied by my partner in crime Kellee Weinhold, to Scotland to start a month-long speaking tour of Scotland, England, Denmark, and Switzerland.

Here’s the schedule:

University of Aberdeen: April 25-26
University of St. Andrews: April 27
University of Edinburgh: April 29
Kings College London: May 3
London School of Economics: May 4
University of Oxford: May 6
University of Cambridge: May 9
University of Warwick: May 10
Roskilde University, Denmark: May 12
University of Zurich, Switzerland: May 19

I’ll be speaking mainly about the US academic job market, but also, at different points, about the post-ac transition, interviewing, and academic leadership for women.

Here’s where we’re going, pictorially:


University of Aberdeen


University of St. Andrews (founded 1413)


University of Edinburgh


Oxford University


(Kellee and I will be having dinner at High Table at Worcester College, Oxford, invited by historian Josephine Quinn)


Dinner at High Table, Oxford


Cambridge University



Roskilde University (ah, Denmark…)


University of Zurich


There are moments when you wonder, how did I get from where I was, to where I am now?  And you marvel. This is one of those moments.  That is all.

The Post-Ac’s Guide to the Resume

by TPII Post-ac Coach Darcy Hannibal

Dr. Darcy Hannibal

Dr. Darcy Hannibal


Many job applicants make common and nearly universal mistakes in their resumes, but some are more specific to people with PhDs. I also made many of these same mistakes until I became a supervisor and realized just how tiresome it is to sift through a stack of resumes that bury what you need to know in way too much detail and overdone formatting. Even though it is part of a supervisor’s job to review resumes, it is one small job duty among many others that are more critical and more demanding. Supervisors aren’t going to spend extra time on your resume if yours takes more effort to read than most of the rest. If you want the job, make your future supervisor’s job easier—give them a resume that shows in simple and clear language what you can do for them.

Pass the <10 Second Scan Test

Professional recruiters only spend a mean of 6 seconds scanning each resume. The first goal with your resume is to pass the scan test that decides whether to put you in a “no” or “consider” pile. That first round of elimination will be done by a computer or an actual human (possibly HR staff, the actual hiring supervisor, or one of your potential future co-workers delegated the task of culling applications). The more applicants there are, the more crude and error prone that first round of elimination. If your value as a potential employee is buried in a bunch of irrelevant text, you increase your chances of elimination because your job materials won’t be read closely enough to uncover it.  If you use the same terminology from the job ad to describe your skills, experience, and accomplishments you have a better chance of passing that first cursory scan. If you make it into the consider pile, your application will get more attention later to determine interview selections.

Large employers have online application submission systems. The best way to deal with these is to go around them and deal directly with the hiring supervisor (more on this in my next few blog posts). Some hiring supervisors are required by policy to hire from the pool of applicants that submitted to the online system. If this is the case, then you should both contact the supervisor directly to find out more about the job and submit to the online system.

Organizations that routinely receive hundreds of applications for some positions may have a uniform policy to use “applicant tracking system” (ATS) software to sort through applicants. This can be as minimal as a source to view and download applications or as substantial as parsing your information into a database and summarizing it into a report with a score for how well your resume matches the job description (for more on this read: 5 Insider Secrets for Beating Applicant Tracking Systems and How to Get the Applicant Tracking System to Pick Your Resume). If your resume is formatted in an unusual way, it may cause reads errors for the ATS and your application will likely just get rejected. Don’t give it a reason to cull your application!

Formatting Basics

No special paper, fonts, tables, or graphics (including watermarks). Attempts to grab attention don’t make anyone look special or stand out (in a good way), ever, only desperate to be special. These sort of tactics are typically employed by those with few or no relevant skills and experience—this is not the group you want to be associated with. You don’t need to grab attention—you are going to apply to jobs and write cover letters and resumes that deserve attention because they have substance.

1 to 2 pages long with breaks between short paragraphs. If the applicant pool is relatively small, the hiring supervisor will likely review about 10-15 applicants. If each applicant has a 1 page resume and a 1 page cover letter, that is 20-30 pages of text to read through and assess. Each page of your application is precious real estate. Shorter is better as long as you’ve covered all elements. Never submit your full and lengthy master resume, thoroughly describing all of your work experience, for any job application. You will edit down a specific version of each job application highlighting your duties, skills, and accomplishments that are most relevant to the job description, with little to no additional information.

Standard 1 inch margins and standard 12pt font. Use a simple, standard and readable font type (such as Calibri, Arial, Georgia, Garamond, or even plain old Times New Roman). What matters is that it is easy to read and not annoying (like Gothic or Script type fonts, seriously).

The Necessary Elements

Name and contact information. List simply and on separate lines: your name, email, phone number and LinkedIn profile address. No fancy bullets or graphics (even simple lines) to separate them. This will mess with the ATS and is visually distracting. Keep it simple!

Work experience. For each item list employer or organization, your title, and dates. Or your title, then employer, then dates. Just don’t put dates first—it will throw-off an ATS that parses resumes. 1-2 sentences that describe the position, followed by bullet points describing your most relevant skills and accomplishments in terms used in the job description.

Don’t try to make your resume more interesting by using similar, but slightly different words. The people reviewing your resume have the words from the job description in mind when scanning your resume, so use those.

Phrase your skills as fact, not opinion. Anyone can say “Excels at data analyses,” however, “Performed multilevel GLM analyses in Stata and SAS for multiple projects” tells the prospective supervisor something specific about your experience.

Work experience doesn’t have to be in chronological order—you can list these in order of relevance for the job you are applying to. Have little to no detail for jobs that are less relevant.

Include your dissertation research! This is where you honed your most important professional skill—managing all aspects of a major project. Your title will be something like “Doctoral Candidate,” “Research Fellow,”  or “Visiting Scholar,” depending on whether you were funded, at a field site or research center, etc. Include any experiences that built the skills you have for the jobs you want and put a title on it. The key is nothing with “student” in it.

Education. Yes, this goes after work experience and not before it. It probably seems most important to you if you’ve recently been steeped in earning it, but your work experience matters more. Also, only use the header “Education” so the ATS can recognize it. List the most recent degree first, with: degree type, department or program, locations, and date received. Nothing more. No details on your coursework, thesis, dissertation, etc.

The Optional Elements

Skills. If you include a section that lists skill separately, do not put it at the top and only use it to summarize skills that are evident in your work experience. This should go at the bottom. Too often applicants use this as a way to stuff in a bunch of keywords that appear in the job description, but not in their work experience, in an effort to get an interview. For this reason, a skills section at the top is a red flag that the applicant may not be qualified—again, not the group you want to be associated with.

Professional associations, certifications, and other credentials. If these are relevant to the job you are applying to, then include them after education. Otherwise, omit them.

The Elements to Exclude

References. No one should call your references until after interviews are completed and they’ve at least narrowed it down to a few equally good candidates. Unfortunately, not all employers follow the rules on references. If you are doing a stealth job search and don’t want your references to know you are on the job market, it is critical you avoid giving them out early. If you have to (some online submissions require it) leave out anyone who you are not ready for them to contact. If you get an interview, you can provide an updated reference list at the appropriate time.

Career goal statement. This is unnecessary and does nothing to showcase your skills and accomplishments. Your immediate goal is obvious—a new job, preferably this one. Don’t waste your precious resume real estate on this.

Applicant summary/profile statement. Again, this does nothing to showcase your skills and accomplishments and wastes precious resume real estate. However, you should absolutely have this on your LinkedIn profile and that is why you will include a link to it at the top of your resume.

Dance, Dance, Revolution

Years ago, the gender studies program at my university hosted a Latin American female hip hop group, who gave a roundtable on women and rap in Latin America on campus, and then a live concert.  The roundtable was great, but I’ll never, to the day I die, forget the excruciatingly painful sight of my colleagues and me attempting to “dance” at that (spectacular) hip hop concert in that conference hall on campus.  I love to dance, but in that context, I could barely move.  Stiff, self-conscious, repressed… We were a group of people who existed entirely in our brains.  There was no conceivable space to “let go,” or “move” or “feel.” When we were asked to, by the performers we’d allowed into that space, it produced a horrifying degree of total cognitive dissonance. We shuffled about miserably, avoiding each others’ eyes.

That concert stays in my mind, a decade later, as the thing that I find most soul-crushing about the academy.  It’s not that the academy is a place that prioritizes mental or cognitive work that is the problem.  It’s that it prioritizes that to the exclusion of all else.

When we leave the academy, recovering our bodies and spirits is the first order of business.  But of course, even those who are still inside (ha!) might want to do that as well.

For the last three years I’ve been dancing with a group of women in Eugene who take classes from two particular teachers, Cynthia Valentine Healey and Shelly Galvin [see their bios below!]

We do all kinds of dance in these classes–hip hop, Latin, African, and burlesque, to name a few.  Here is a burlesque night at Shelley’s class.  In the front row, I’m on the left, Shelley is in the middle, and Cynthia is on the right.

How great is this, seriously?

This isn’t the first time I’ve danced; in fact, I took dance classes for about twelve years when young–mostly ballet and modern dance. I even went to dance camp!  But I never went on to do any performing. I didn’t expect to ever go back to a dance class again, actually–i thought it was a thing you do as a kid. I wasn’t drawn to it the way I was to intellectual work.

But for some reason, about three years ago I tried out a zumba class at the YMCA, attracted by the booming hip hop I’d hear on my way to swim or work out.  I was instantly hooked.  After about a year I got into the classes I go to now, and truly I’m not exaggerating when I say they are the centerpiece of my week.  Cynthia and Shelly are best friends, and fierce in their commitment to the power of dance to empower and heal both individuals and the world. It inspires all their work, and it inspires us.  They’ve gathered a passionate following among a group of us who have become essential community to one another.

This is class last week. In the front row again (I like being in front- I’m sure that surprises you) I’m on the right, Shelly is in the middle, and on the left is Jess, who owns and runs one of the top yoga studios in Eugene.

Dance has given me back to myself.  It’s endorphin-pumping fun, it’s exercise, it keeps me fit, it lifts my depression, and opens up my heart. It’s given me new friends and ways to reconnect with old friends, including a former tenured UO colleague who is one of the regulars.  And the way we do it, it’s pretty raunchy.  And I love that – the raunchier the choreography the happier I am!

What dance does for me is exorcise the remnants of academic repression from my body and spirit.

There are a surprising number of Ph.D.s and other hyper-educated sorts who come.  The other day, in Cynthia’s class, I realized I was in the front row with 2 other Ph.D.s, a JD, and an MD.  Cynthia is herself a Ph.D. (Psychology, now in private practice), and she and I have talked a lot about the mind-body disconnect of the academy, and what it takes to heal from it.

Here is Cynthia, in a video collage she and Shelly made to share their dance empowerment vision.  All of her choreography is original and may soon be licensed!  For a lot of us, it’s like church (and I say that as a Jew).

(I don’t have any videos of me dancing in Cynthia’s class.  But if you watch to the end of this video you’ll see another bit from one of Shelly’s classes. I’m in the back).

I’ve wanted to share my dancing here on the blog for awhile, because I have become such a proselytizer for self-care for academic women.  Self-care that goes beyond saying no to committee work and speaking up in negotiations and lowering your standards on the housework — although these are all essential.  This is self-care that actually nurtures you and build you up and reintegrates your mind and your body and your soul.

Everybody has their own thing– it might be running, or art, or music, or yoga, or knitting, or walking, or meditation or a hundred other possibilities.  They’re all good. For me, it’s dance.  If you’re still looking for something for yourself, I encourage you to try dance.  There is somebody in your town teaching it, and you’ll be amazed at what it does for you.  But do something.  For your own sake and everybody else’s.


Shelly Galvin

Shelly Galvin

Shelly Galvin is Director of Corporate Social Responsibility for tech education firm, CBT Nuggets, based in Eugene, Oregon. Shelly’s passion and life’s work is to develop, build capacity and further the success of global humanitarian efforts. Along with CBT Nuggets, Shelly is pioneering a revolutionary and exemplary philanthropy program, stay tuned!

Dr. Healey

Dr. Healey

Cynthia Valentine Healey is the founder and creative director of Dance Empowered, a dance fusion fitness experience. Having studied numerous dance genres throughout her life, Cynthia leads dancers of all ages and abilities through high energy choreography paired to evocative and carefully chosen music from around the world. In addition to Dance Empowered classes, Cynthia also has a private practice as a holistic psychologist where she integrates evidence-based intervention approaches with mindfulness and energy medicine. Cynthia is also the lead singer for the band Concrete Loveseat.

The 30,000 Foot View – a STEM Postac Guest Post

By Brandon Cochenour, Ph.D.


It would seem lately that a lot of the discussion around “alt-ac” are mostly “Variations on a Theme”…

Get PhD
Search for tenure track position
Receive tenure track position (or not)
Fall out of love with Academia
Figure out what the heck you’re going to do next

Indeed, there are some heroic stories and lots to learn from those brave enough to “make the leap” after you get to the last step.  It occurs to me though that most of this discussion assumes that “alt-ac” is something that you only arrive at after all else fails.  But why does this have to be the case?  Why can’t “alt-ac” be the plan all along?  Why does getting a PhD presume the only logical conclusion is landing a professorship?  And why does it assume that being “academic” can only take place in “Academia”?

Some of this perspective may stem from my own personal experience.  I went to work at a Navy research lab immediately after the undergrad, and only pursued graduate education to enhance an “alt-ac” career that was already in progress.  Revisiting Academia provided me with the opportunity to develop and fine-tune skills I needed to be successful in my field, while my prior experience as a practicing engineer allowed me not to get lost in the Ivory Tower.  It’s a path that’s served me well, and affords the opportunity to mix the best parts of “in-ac” and “out-ac” into a hybrid pathway.

But what can you, as a current or aspiring PhD student in a STEM field, do to develop your alt-ac skills and set yourself on a path that provides you with the most options after the defense?

To this end, I see two broad “alt-ac” career paths for us STEM folk.  One is being an Academic…just not in Academia.  After all, you know how to operate in a lab.  You’re technically competent.  Maybe you know how to code.  None of this means a life destined to Academia.  In my own experience, I’ve been able to do cutting edge research without having to be on the tenure track at a major research university.  I can teach and mentor young engineers without the pressures of course loads and student reviews.  I can collaborate with industry, small businesses, and start-ups to help bring new technologies to bear in my field.  And, I have the work-life balance that allows me to pursue other passions outside of STEM, like my other ‘job’ as a jazz pianist.  There are plenty of opportunities outside the University to maintain your scientific prowess, if that’s what you desire.

On the other hand, what if you end up wanting to leave the lab bench all together?  Fortunately, I think we STEM folks are inherently well set up for success here too simply due to the nature of our studies.

How so?

Someone once told me that in the STEM disciplines, a B.S. student knows how to perform an experiment, an M.S. student knows how to design an experiment, and a PhD knows which experiment to do next.  In other words, STEM PhDs, through their training, are placed at the forefront of the “state-of-the-art”.  They’re able to use their training to see into the future and connect dots that aren’t yet connected.

In the end, we Scientists and Engineers are problem solvers.  While our initial training may be in the nuts and bolts of a particular scientific field, there’s always some bigger picture.  What solution does this science address?  What are the implications?  What are the potential real-world useful applications of this technology?  Point being, once you zoom out from the textbook, the “alt” options become clear.  Business Development.  Public Health.  Policy.  Non-profit.  Technical Communications/Journalism.  Law. Tech Transfer (i.e. – Entrepreneurship or Venture Capital).  Taking a 30,000 ft. view of the field may help overcome the initial obstacle of, “what do I do if I don’t do science?”.  Remember, you’re the expert in your area!

In future posts, I hope to be able to share with you some practical ideas on how to start building these alt-ac skills while pursuing your STEM PhD, and how to leverage everyday Academic experiences to develop your “alt-ac” swagger.


Bio: Dr. Brandon Cochenour has served as an Electrical Engineer with the U.S. Navy since 2004.  In his current role, Brandon collaborates with industry, academia, small business, and other federal labs to develop next generation laser imaging and communication technologies for ocean exploration.  Brandon obtained his M.S. and PhD both while maintaining his duties as a Navy engineer, an experience that gives him unique insight into the worlds of academia, industry, and government service.  Brandon is an avid supporter of STEM outreach, appearing before thousands of young students interested in STEM fields through classroom visits, science fairs, laboratory tours, and mentoring. He has twice been named Navy Scientist and Engineer of the Year, and is a Maryland Academy of Sciences Outstanding Young Engineer.  On weekends, you can find him moonlighting as a jazz pianist in the Washington DC area. On the Twitter, you can find him moonlighting as @DocBrando.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not not necessarily reflect any official policy or position of the U.S. Navy or any other federal agency.

Starving the Beast

“I’m glad it’s sunny out today.  Because it sure is dark in here.”

So said a grad student during the Q and A following my talk last week at the University of Oregon. The talk, “Hacking the Academic Job Market,” is a talk that I’ve given at almost 50 universities and disciplinary association meetings over the past three years.

The talk starts by pointing to the “crisis” in academic hiring, and then immediately repudiates the term “crisis.”

Because “crisis” means an immediate or short-term moment of emergency or calamity, and/or a turning point, or a watershed moment.  But the current moment in academic hiring is none of these things. It is merely the latest point in a perfectly consistent, predictable, and totally transparent 40-year trend replacing tenure line and tenured faculty members with contingent instructors.  In 1980 75% of university instructors were tenure stream and 25% contingent. Now 25% are tenure stream and 75% are contingent.

This is not news.  Every single source of data confirms it. The depredations of the adjunct population have burst onto national consciousness. New stories of adjunct debt and poverty, and the efforts of NTT faculty to unionize, come across Twitter and Facebook daily.  If this were merely an outcome of economics, it would be improving with the so-called improvement of the economy.  It is not.  It is a systematic POLITICAL disinvestment in the idea of higher education as a public good.  Learn more from the new documentary, Starving the Beast: The Battle to Disrupt and Reform America’s Universities.

And yet, talk after talk, campus after campus, grad student after grad student, my message—that only a tiny minority of Ph.D.s get tenure track jobs, that the tenure track job is the “alternative” job in virtually all fields, that the financial costs of the Ph.D. in terms of debt and opportunity cost (ie, payment into social security or another job retirement fund, for example) are skyrocketing, and ivory tower idealism, perpetrated by self-serving advisors, departments, and graduate colleges,  mystifies the actual existing price tag of graduate school — comes as a total shock to the majority of the audience, who turn pale, slump in their seats, and look around anxiously.

I speak not to brand new first year grad students, mind you, but almost exclusively to advanced ABDs, new Ph.D.s, and postdocs. How is it possible that I am the first person to deliver this message to these audiences of highly intelligent adults who have been working in the academy for 5 or 10 years or more?


Well, a combination of denial, self-interest, and deliberate misinformation.

Grad students remain enmeshed in denial. Why, I do not know.

Faculty, meanwhile, are motivated by self-interest; they  will almost never voluntarily give up the prestige of their own Ph.D. students and Ph.D. programs in their departments. (There are exceptions to this, I’m glad to say. But they are rare). Indeed, I continually hear of departments that are CREATING — incredibly, unbelievably — new Ph.D. programs.

And there is deliberate obfuscation by administrators, who know that their campus will lose essential teaching staff, tuition dollars, and AAU ranking and prestige, if the supply of naive, manipulable new graduate students ever dries up.

Where will it stop?  When will people face the truth?  In almost all fields jobs are disappearing. Debt is increasing.  When I did the Ph.D. Debt Survey two years ago, many contributors from the humanities and social science had six figure debt–some as high as $200,000 or even $400,000.

Now, the National Science Foundation provides the latest data:

More people are pursuing Ph.D.s than ever.  American universities awarded 54,070 research doctorates in 2014, the highest total in the 58 years that the National Science Foundation has sponsored the Survey of Earned Doctorates, a new edition of which was released Friday.

Number of Doctorate Recipients by Field of Study

Field 2004 2009 2014
All 42,123 49,553 54,070
Life sciences 8,813 11,403 12,504
Physical sciences 6,047 8,324 9,859
Social sciences 7,043 7,829 8,657
Engineering 5,777 7,642 9,568
Education 6,635 6,528 4,793
Humanities 5,210 4,891 5,486

The number of those Ph.D.s leaving with jobs is down. Note that the figures below are NOT figures for secure tenure track placement!   “Job commitment” means only a job of some kind, including contingent, visiting, instructorship, postdoc, etc.

Percent of Doctorate Recipients With Job or Postdoc Commitments, by Field of Study

Field 2004 2009 2014
All 70.0% 69.5% 61.4%
Life sciences 71.2% 66.8% 57.9%
Physical sciences 71.5% 72.1% 63.8%
Social sciences 71.3% 72.9% 68.8%
Engineering 63.6% 66.8% 57.0%
Education 74.6% 71.6% 64.6%
Humanities 63.4% 63.3% 54.3%



And debt continues to increase.

Debt of New Doctoral Degree Graduates, 2014

Field Mean Cumulative Debt % With Debt > $70,000
All $22,392 12.6%
Life sciences $19,605 9.8%
Physical sciences $12,365 5.1%
Social sciences $34,999 22.6%
Engineering $11,645 5.1%
Education $36,260 23.3%
Humanities $29,953 17.4%


Almost a quarter of those finishing Ph.D.s in Education and the Social Sciences carry debt of more than $70,000.

Please.  Stop the madness.  Faculty: stop admitting new Ph.D. students.  Students: stop going into Ph.D. programs.  If you’re in one, calculate the real likely ROI, in terms of your years out of the job market, the financial cost, the opportunity costs in terms of lost wages and lost payments into social security/retirement, and the debt accrued.  Face reality.

How to Be a Fiction Editor, Part II: Novelists’ Views – Postac Post by Joe Fruscione

By Postac Coach and Consultant, Joe Fruscione

Joe Fruscione

Joe Fruscione


In Part I of this series, we heard from three editors who’ve worked on fiction projects. Now we flip the conversation and hear from two writers who’ve worked with freelancers to edit their work. Erika Robuck has published Hemingway’s Girl, Call Me Zelda, and The House of Hawthorne, among other works. Fellow post-ac Katie Rose Guest Pryal has published Entanglement and Love and Entropy, among other fiction and nonfiction works. Their perspectives will help expand your client base, frame any edits or comments you have, and understand the marketplace for creative writing.

I’ve tightened, proofread, and polished several fiction and nonfiction manuscripts before they went to press. My background in English and Writing studies helps me edit fiction, but post-acs from various academic backgrounds can also do this kind of work. Frame your editing experience and marketplace knowledge effectively. A STEM or Social Sciences background might be an incentive for hiring you, depending on the writer’s subject and needs. Writers often need an educated non-specialist’s perspective on a manuscript to help them see if their work appeals to a wide audience.


A successful freelancer is an active freelancer. Although some projects might fall into your lap, you should be proactive in advertising your services and expanding your client base. Remind friends and colleagues of your editing work, and ask former clients for references or referrals. Always be connecting:

Katie: The editors I’ve “hired” I’ve met through workshops and conferences, mostly. Some I’ve never met in person—only through social media. Many are former academics. It’s important to decide the scope of work in advance. Don’t be surprised or defensive if an editor comes back to you and suggests that your book needs more work than you think it needs. At the same time, don’t be afraid to get a second opinion.

Erika: I hired a freelance editor in 2011 before sending Hemingway’s Girl to agents. I met my editor at a writing conference where I had an opportunity to work in instructional and critique sessions with her and several other freelancers. We had a connection, and she had an understanding of what I was trying to accomplish. Her website clearly listed her pricing, and she offered a slight discount to participants she met through the workshop. Because my budget was tight, I hired her for a partial edit: the first 100 pages. I couldn’t have been more pleased with her suggestions and insights, and I ended up receiving multiple agent offers. I believe the workshop and her editing contributed to my success.


Writers, like students, have different preferences for discussing their work. Communication is key at all stages of an editing relationship: from deciding on the kind of editing needed to sharing your revisions and queries. During an initial Skype or phone chat to discuss your standard practices, ask your potential clients how they prefer getting feedback.

Erika: My ideal editor would have a phone conversation with me about my project, themes, and goals. He or she would provide thoughtful feedback in terms of both content and style—within the body of the manuscript and in an editorial letter—and would allow for one or two follow-up conversations. It is helpful to hear what works well and what needs work.

Katie: I went through one of the roughest workshop experiences imaginable during my creative writing master’s degree, so I’m pretty much bullet-proof now with feedback. Aside from ad hominem attacks, I want a reader/editor to tear up my writing, pulling no punches. I recognize, however, that most people are a little more personally attached to their writing. They might perceive attacks on their writing to be ad hominem because they have a hard time separating their selves from their writing. A good editor realizes this and can personalize feedback to the person. I want a Word document so covered in comments and tracked changes that I have to make it quintuple-spaced to read them in the margin. The more the better.


I asked Erika and Katie what would comfort and concern them about working with a post-ac freelancer. Learn from their answers when marketing yourself as an editor who can work on fiction.

Erika: Of comfort would be the technical expertise, the well-rounded background in literature, and the deeper understanding of fiction, in particular, they might have from teaching. What would concern me would be their removal from the marketplace and the possibility of an affinity for an outdated style. I would like an academic-turned-editor to have a clear pulse for the market (blog posts or social media presence) that demonstrates they are both savvy and capable.

Katie: What I would look for in post-ac editor is one who wrote for discourse communities beyond academia while still an academic. Does this person write…a foodie blog? Regular letters to the editor? Literally anything beyond the super-narrow genres expected of her field? If so, then she can likely move across discourses. Ideally? The person would have written the same genre, or at least a similar one, that I am hiring her to edit. If I’m hiring a person to edit a novel, it would be great if she had published, say, a long-form narrative essay on Medium. Her narrative essay-writing would tell me that she is likely comfortable with narrative genres.


“We write how we practice,” notes Katie. “If the only writing that you have done is a certain genre for a certain discourse community, then that is the genre and discourse that you will have perfected. It is difficult to move between discourse communities if you don’t have practice doing so.” Practice—and then keep practicing—how to move between different writing communities. If you want to edit fiction, learn more about the marketplace, and explore options to get your work published outside academic circles. Post-ac freelancers aren’t pigeonholed by field in the same way academics are. The more you can edit or write across genres, the more attractive you’ll be as a freelancer.

Self-Criticism and the Academy — Postac Post by Jessica Langer

by Post-ac Career Coach Jessica Langer

Jessica Langer

Jessica Langer

Academia is a climate of constant and unrelenting criticism.

This is obvious in a professional sense: our work is often called “criticism” as a catch-all, and in the process of building upon our field colleagues’ existing work it is often necessary to counter it. Some of this work is necessary: reading “against the grain” of dominant cultural or critical texts, for example, and identifying problematic elements in texts.

After a while, criticism may become the academic’s dominant mode of thinking. This can be great in a professional sense: you become attuned to minutiae and intricacies in arguments that you wouldn’t otherwise have identified, and you gain a more nuanced perspective in your work.

And if it ended there, it would be perfect. But most of the time – particularly, though certainly not exclusively, for women, people of colour and other people who are variously and/or intersectionally marginalized – it isn’t. Because when you are trained to look at everything with a critical eye, it’s almost inevitable that such a critical eye will turn inward.

There is no “you are good enough as you are” in academia. There is no “you are enough”, in fact. There is, instead, a constant drumbeat of necessity for accomplishment after accomplishment, paired with the constant risk of failure. And this doesn’t end when you pass your comps or go ABD or get your PhD or get a tenure-track job or even when you get tenure (especially since tenure itself is changing and, potentially, ending). There is an endless lineup of paper submissions and conference presentations and manuscript reviews and student evaluations, all of which represent instances in which you are being explicitly judged. Judgment after judgment, often carried out anonymously (and viciously).

In academia, you are your work – as I’ve discussed before, the academic system deliberately cuts its acolytes off from their outside support networks and from outside sources of income, so as to develop total devotion to the system on pain of failure that is not only professional but personal. And if you are your work, and your work is constantly criticised as part of its purpose, then academics live in a state of constant surveillance and criticism – and junior academia live in a state of constant self-surveillance and self-criticism, as they add ‘try not to piss off anyone senior or important’ to the list.

One of the most significant things I’ve noticed in my post-academic work with clients transitioning out of academia is the extent to which they have gotten into the habit of extraordinarily harsh and total self-criticism, to the extent that they are sometimes unable to recognize their own accomplishments as accomplishments. One of my clients teaches at an Ivy League university that everyone reading this has heard of; she actually didn’t mention it initially, and when I told her – incredulously and with no small amount of awe – that literally any employer would be impressed by the fact that she taught at this school, she demurred and said, “Oh, but I’m just an adjunct there!” (Protip for the reader: no one outside of academia cares if you were an adjunct. If you teach at Major Ivy, they will be impressed as hell.) My clients will have incredible things on their resumes, things that would impress almost any non-academic employer – years-long stints abroad doing fascinating work, major grants, speaking gigs at European embassies – and will demur because they simply cannot see these things as the impressive, high-status things they are.

What’s more, these people with these incredible experiences and accomplishments will often see themselves as failures because they don’t have a TT job in academia. For no other reason than because they aren’t on the tenure track. It’s astonishing. But I think I know why.

My theory: because academia trains you to be abusive to yourself. To constantly criticize your own work as well as others’, and never to be satisfied or even content with your work. To put yourself in situations in which you are infantilized and made powerless within a strict hierarchical system in which you are a waste product, not an intended outcome. To accept negativity from yourself that you would never allow to be directed towards someone you love.

This constant self-criticism and inability to see or accept success is very common among my clients and among people leaving academia in general, and it breaks my heart.

So here is my message to you:

Your accomplishments are worthwhile, and they mean something, and they are important. You are not a failure. The academy does not get to determine whether you are OK. You are OK no matter what.

And if you can’t accept that, then here’s a shorter message, especially if you’re leaving academia: 

You are no longer obligated always to second-guess and think twice and surveil yourself. You are allowed to be who you are.

You are free.


Don’t Be That Asshole (by Kellee Weinhold)

We continue in our series of interview-focused posts by Kellee Weinhold, the master of Interview Interventions, Job Talk Interventions, and Campus Visit Interventions here at TPII.


Kellee, accompanied by Penelope the Rabbit.

Kellee, accompanied by Penelope the Rabbit.

Several years ago, at a Yom Kippur break fast with a group of professor friends, the conversation turned to my work preparing newly minted PhDs for academic job interviews. After the requisite job market horror stories (Theirs, not mine–I DO NOT discuss client names, disciplines or search details ever, under any circumstances!), a senior colleague at an R1 institution announced, rather dramatically:

“The thing they don’t understand is that they’re being surveilled from the minute they walk on campus until the minute they leave!”

Others chimed in. It’s not just at the campus visit, they said, but from their very first engagement with the potential colleague’s work. “Yes, we want them to be good scholars,” a Department Chair said. “Yes, we want to know what they can teach. AND… we are trying to figure out whether they’re going to be colleagues we enjoy, or assholes.”

Colleagues or assholes?  That is the question.

That one conversation established my core ethos for the live Skype Interview Interventions: A) You are being surveilled;  B) Don’t be an asshole.

What is surveilled? Your scholarship, your potential for tenure, your teaching, and your collegiality. And the most challenging element, without wandering into arrogance and self-absorption, is that last one:  collegiality.

Turns out, it’s kind of hard for new Ph.D.s to illustrate that they are not assholes.

This isn’t personal, it’s structural.  Think about it: if you ask someone to be utterly absorbed by one single obsessive project for 6 to 10 years in order to produce a document proving that you are worthy of the PhD, it’s going to be almost impossible NOT to come out sounding self-absorbed.

This basic truth of academia colors the job search. Faculty members know that many, many Ph.D.s leave their graduate programs sounding like self-absorbed prima donnas.  (Yes, I see the irony in those who bear responsibility for creating potential assholes trying to screen them away). As another colleague of mine was fond of saying after faculty meetings in his department, “We build an entire cohort of people who want to be left alone to do their own thing, who don’t play well with others, then we ask them to work together.” One more of academia’s little paradoxes.)

But enough about the causes. What can you do? For the job candidate, the challenge is facing a potentially bizarre array of questions designed to determine: “Are you an asshole?”

There are several forms these questions can take.

Some institutions simply use the fit question. “What do you want to be here?” or “Why did you apply for this position?”

They want to know that you’ve thought about being there. That you know a little bit about them. Your answer needs to be more than simply “This is how your department and university serves my agenda and goal.” What is about THEM that attracts you?

Your answer should include who they are and how you fit into that ethos. Check out my post “The Dreaded Fit Question” for a complete workup on how to handle this question.

Some departments stretch a little further and include the contribution question: “How do you see yourself contributing to XXX Department?

Once again, they want to know you’ve thought about being there. Do you have a plan for going out and shining in the larger discipline and reflecting positively on their R-1? Do you have ideas about how to grow the profile of the department on campus? Have you thought about how you would advise students at a SLAC? Can you articulate how you would work with graduate students at an R-1? Are you able to explain the role of the academic adviser for a teaching college?

In other words, are you going to play well with others and serve the department’s interests as well as your own or hide in your office focused on your own work, drain resources and be an asshole?

Remember academics contribute in three ways: scholarship, service and teaching. So your answer needs to address what you will bring in all three.

Some departments rely heavily on the “Do you have any questions for us?” query. The tricky part here is that your questions should not be to get information. They are to show that you are thinking about what they want you to think about. Check out this post for more on the minefield of “questions for them.

Some departments fall back on more traditional private sector questions:

  • “What do you value in yourself as a colleague/in other colleagues?”
  • “Tell us about the biggest challenge you faced as an academic, how you faced it, and what you’d do differently now?”
  • “Tell us about a conflict you had with a colleague and how you have handled it?”
  • “What has been your biggest challenge with a student and how have you handled it?”
  • “What do you do when students challenge you or have conflicts with each other about controversial issues in class?

These questions may be designed to deal with issues in the department. Maybe they are protecting against someone messing up a good thing and/or attempting to avoid repeating or exacerbating existing problems. At any rate, they dig deeper to get insight into how you cope with the vagaries of an academic (and real) life.

See the theme here: When you compare yourself to other people and/or shit goes wrong, how do you handle it? Does your answer indicate that you focus on being slighted? On being the victim? On being persecuted? Does it show that you have no backbone, buckle under the slightest pressure, give in to keeping the peace at all cost? Will they see the flashing warning lights of a rigid ideologue who cannot adapt to the inevitable changes of life in the university/department/classroom?

Here is one model response: “One significant challenge I faced recently in the classroom was with a young man/woman who strongly disagreed with the author of a piece we were reading. It is important to me that my classroom be a place that is safe for all viewpoints and that they be engaged with in a respectful way. I set that up in the first class by establishing the criteria for respectful communication, including engaging based on evidence not beliefs. So, with this student, when she got really frustrated, I was able to respectfully redirect her to focus on her evidence and facts and keep those students who disagreed with her focused on their evidence as well. It ended up being a very productive conversation where all the participants were able to engage with a range of ideas.”

I know you hear this over and over again from The Professor Is In, but it bears repeating: Faculty members are over-extended, called on to manage multiple demands from increasingly large constituencies. The last thing they want to add to their lives is a colleague who sucks up administrative and emotional resources without a concern for the larger collective project.

Don’t be that asshole.

Can I Negotiate? Advice For All, Especially International Ph.D.s

I am regularly asked “can I negotiate my offer when it’s my only offer?”

People constantly seem to think you need multiple offers to have leverage.

This is not true.   For the vast majority of schools, you can and should negotiate your offer. The only time you should beware of negotiating is when there are red flags about the school itself, or the specific department you’re dealing with, red flags that I explain in my post, The Rescinded Offer: Who Is In the Wrong, and in more detail in the chapter on rescinded offers in my book.

But barring the danger signs explained there, you should absolutely expect to negotiate your offer.  Sometimes you might gain only a couple thousand dollars additional salary–but as a recurring gain, that amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary, raises, and retirement over your career, so don’t neglect to get it!

And at R1s, you’ll negotiate a whole set of things, including salary, startup, moving, course releases, conference funding, lab equipment, and so on, that amount immediately to tens or hundreds (if in the sciences) of thousands of dollars up front, and massive gains over your career.

You should always get help with negotiating, as no new Ph.D. knows how to do it, or how to do it well (and frankly, neither do mid-career folks, which is why about a quarter of my Negotiating Assistance clients are tenured!).  I work on hundreds of negotiations with clients each year, and I am constantly either PUSHING HARD to get over-diffident, insecure clients to ask for what they deserve, or more rarely, PULLING HARD against over-entitled clients who think they should be given R1 offers at tiny teaching colleges, and become angry and petulant (and very inappropriate in their email correspondence drafts) when they don’t.  While some negotiations go like buttah, these two extremes tend to predominate.

And yes, women tend to fall into the first category.  And while the latter category has a varied membership, I can say at this point, after three years of this work (which has grown exponentially as a part of The Professor Is In business), that if you are from South Asia, the Middle East, or Western Europe, you –whether you are male or female — might, possibly, fall into it.  There are clearly strong and varied cultural elements at play, which are beyond the scope of this blog post.  (And indeed, my East Asian clients overwhelmingly fall into the first category – one Chinese client cancelled our planned negotiating work last week saying, “I am sure I could get a better offer by working with you but I think right now I am not ready to take any risk.”). But, if you’re from the three parts of the world I just mentioned, and have a tenure track offer in the US, please move carefully.  One Middle Eastern client had an offer rescinded early this year because she disregarded my advice and plowed ahead with a set of asks at a small teaching college that were both inappropriate in substance, and alienating in tone.

Please know that I would not name cultural groups in this way, if I didn’t see a very clear and distressing pattern.

So, if you don’t have anyone you trust to help you, please do contact me for help at  Contact me the instant you get a verbal or email indication of an offer–the work starts from that moment!

And meanwhile, remember: you can negotiate almost all offers, barring specific red flags, whether or not you have any competing offers.

Good luck!

UCLA Makes Excuses About Sexual Harassment – Guest Post Part II

by Cassia Roth

[KK: please take action by contacting the people below. Stand up for the victims of this serial sexual harasser who is being protected and enabled by his institution.  Letter texts below]

As readers of the TPII Blog know, I recently wrote about how faculty, alumni, and graduate students from the UCLA Department of History have publically voiced their indignation for how the University handled the sexual harassment case of Professor Gabriel Piterberg. Since that post, many women (often wanting to remain anonymous) have stood in solidarity with the victims, some even declaring they also had been sexually harassed by Piterberg. This chorus of voices—both old and new—have made clear that Piterberg’s repulsive behavior has been going on for a long time and harmed a lot of people.

In two nearly identical letters dated from March 4 and March 11, the Vice Chancellor of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Jerry Kang responded to faculty and graduate student concerns, respectively. His letters were addressed “on behalf” of himself, Chancellor Gene Block, and Vice Chancellor and Provost Scott Waugh.

Kang believed that three questions lay at the heart of recent concerns: “Did the punishment fit the “crime”? Did confidentiality trump public accountability? How can the community be restored?” I find it interesting that Kang used “scare quotes” around the word “crime.” Really, are we still debating whether Piterberg’s actions were harassment? From the get-go, Kang trivializes the experiences of the victims, delegitimizes their claims, and erases their existence. It’s like they’re silenced over and over again.

In terms of the “severity of the sanction,” Kang reminds us that Piterberg didn’t simply pay a $3,000 fine. Rather, he lost 1/3 of his pay during the 2014-2015 and was forced to resign as Director of UCLA’s Center for Near Eastern Studies (CNES). Kang cites different amounts for Piterberg’s salary reduction in his two responses ($57,700 in the faculty letter and nearly $64,000 in the graduate student letter). This seems like a big slip-up on Kang’s part, as we don’t actually know how much Piterberg suffered financially. In fact, in his letter to graduate students, Kang mentions that UCLA is “in the process of conducting an internal audit to make sure that Prof. Piterberg experienced the full financial loss.” In other words, the administration also doesn’t know how much Piterberg lost.

Kang continues by pointing out that in the coming years, Piterberg will no longer receive the salary bump from his former directorship (figured at $39,700 in the faculty letter and $40,800 in the graduate student letter). Here, Kang tells the faculty that “he [Piterberg] was required to resign directorship of an institute,” while he informs graduate students that Piterberg was “deemed ineligible for renewal as director of the center.” Kang continues by writing to graduate students that “it’s of course impossible to know counterfactually whether Prof. Piterberg would have been renewed and for how long without this settlement.” It appears that Kang is telling the faculty that Piterberg resigned because of the harassment case, while notifying graduate students that perhaps Piterberg’s position wouldn’t have been renewed at all.

And if we look at the California State Salary Website, we can see that Piterberg will still be making nearly $150,000 annually. Compare that to the $20,000 the graduate students he harassed make, if that. Remember, one victim said she didn’t want to come forward because Piterberg sat on the History Department’s funding committee.

Additionally, in neither letter does Kang account for the fact that Piterberg received a Fernand Braudel Senior fellowship at the European University Institute (EUI) from March to May 2015. The EUI Department of History and Civilization that hosted Piterberg has a September 30 fellowship application deadline for the following academic year (September to June). This means that Piterberg applied for the fellowship in September 2013 (after the initiation of the UCLA Early Resolution process). Essentially, UCLA allowed Piterberg to delay the settlement for nine months, so he could take a fellowship that coincided with the quarter he took off in spring 2015.

More important than the individual figures, however, is the issue of prestige. Reputation and prestige are everything in academia. By covering up the sexual harassment case and allowing Piterberg to get the Braudel fellowship, UCLA protected Piterberg’s reputation. Piterberg’s “quarter off” may have cost him financially, but it actually boosted his real academic capital, his research status. And it also enhanced UCLA’s own academic standing. The International Institute said as much when they posted a news article in March 2015 entitled “Professor Gabriel Piterberg granted prestigious fellowship.”

On the second point, the “opacity or secrecy” of the proceedings and decision, Kang really let the excuses fly. In both letters he argued that “those with concerns today must understand that this matter all took place before the new Title IX Office was created, before the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion was created, and before new policies and procedures on sexual harassment and violence were adopted.” (Emphasis mine). This response is laughable if not infuriating. Oh, I wasn’t there, so don’t blame me? Ummm we had a pretty crappy system in the past, oops! (Oh, and BTW, we don’t really seem to be changing it).

Kang finished both letters by saying that “the greatest challenge is to restore the community.” So what were some of the things he came up with? Well, rest assured female graduate students and junior faculty members, the administration is “thinking intensely and creatively” about options like “office location, teaching time, teaching arrangements, and service responsibilities.” Of course, the administration does not want to “inadvertently reward” bad behavior.

I think I found a simple solution, albeit not that “creative,” and it only took me a second to think up. Piterberg resigns. Others have, miraculously, come to the same decision. If the recent “indefinite leave” of the Dean of Berkeley’s law school demonstrates anything, it is that sexual harassment is much more pervasive and entrenched in higher education than any of us want to admit. And it has got to go. So let’s start with the harassers.

Second Call to Action:

Contact UCLA directly to protest non-action on Piterberg.


Chancellor Gene Block

UCLA Chancellor’s Office

Box 951405, 2147 Murphy Hall

Los Angeles, CA 90095-1405


Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Scott Waugh

UCLA Office of the Chancellor

2147 Murphy Hall, Box 951405

Los Angeles, CA 90095-1405


Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Jerry Kang

UCLA School of Law

385 Charles E. Young Dr. East

Los Angeles, CA, 90095


Vice Chancellor of Academic Personnel Carole Goldberg


Stephen Aron, Chair, Department of History




letter_Page_1 letter_Page_2

2016 03 11 VC Kang reply to Graduate Students re Piterberg Matter_Page_12016 03 11 VC Kang reply to Graduate Students re Piterberg Matter_Page_2