The Reviews Are In!

I want to take today’s post to share a few of the Amazon reviews of my book, The Professor Is In: The Essential Guide to Turning Your Ph.D. Into a Job, which has been the #1 bestseller in its category of Academic Development Counseling since it came out!

The reviews are almost uniformly great.  Sharing them might look a bit like bragging, but hey,  if I can’t brag on my own blog, where can I?  And, the ones I’m sharing here are worth reading–they’re funny, well-written, and make some interesting points about the academy along the way.  I do include one of the less-positive ones at the end, because it too is illuminating.

I hope that if you’re a job seeker, you buy a copy of the book for yourself! And if you’re a professor, that you buy the book for your students, and assign it in your grad and professionalization seminars! (please do let me know if you do).

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From 10/8/15:  “Reading college advice guides is a lot like looking at those pictures where they overlap the faces of the 25 hottest stars to show you what beauty is. You can pick out an ear here, an eyelash there, but you realize they’re almost all exactly the same. The Professor Is in: The Essential Guide to Turning Your PH.D. Into a Job is the Quasimodo of this allegory. Karen Kelsky‘s guide to transitioning from grad student to tenure-track faculty doesn’t overlap with books of its ilk, and it looks pretty damn ugly to anyone considering grad school.

If it sounds as though I’m downing Kelsky, rest assured: I’m not. I can’t fault The Professor Is In for any of the ugliness it brings, because it’s a necessity. The outlook for grad students isn’t Hollywood overlap-pretty, and Kelsky isn’t airbrushing its rough edges. Instead, she eviscerates the flaws in the academic system that allow PhDs to languish in adjunct hell for years, and maps out the most hopeful course for those with their eyes on the tenure prize.

Not only has Kelsky identified and appealed to a gap in advice materials available to grad students, but she’s also closed it. Barring great changes for terminal degree holders in the jobs market, The Professor Is In has monopolized and exhausted the conversation. Kelsky leaves few, if any, stones unturned, and she spreads out her information in such a way as to leave no need for other voices. It’s a shrewd and compassionate decision on her part, to offer graduates a single book to answer all their questions. For Kelsky’s readers, there’ll be no combing nearly-identical texts for minor differences in chapters and footnotes, and no competition for the foreseeable future.

It’s worth noting that I almost never purchase copies of books I’ve read digitally, but I ordered a copy of The Professor Is In before I’d even finished it. Kelsky’s words didn’t dissuade me from pursuing a graduate degree, but they have proven vital to that journey. The Professor Is In is the item you grab when it gets dangerous to go alone, and I wasted no time recommending it to friends in the process of applying to graduate programs. If you’re considering a second degree, or know someone who is, put this book in their hands. They’ll thank you later.”

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From 9/9/15: “I will say that I was very, very hesitant in purchasing this book as there is always so much information online and it does feel wrong to buy a book to tell me how to get a job. However, Dr. Kelsky is the very necessary slap across the face when you are desiring a job in academia. I am currently a postdoc in a psychology department and on the job market again. I am not an ardent follower of Dr. Kelsky’s blog, but I absolutely adore this book. It is indispensable to graduate student, postdocs, and faculty. I recommend every graduate student purchases a copy and read it when they start graduate school so they can start making the correct decisions right away that are needed for a successful graduate career. For more senior graduate students and postdocs, her advice is very useful in crafting your documents, deciding how you want to market yourself, and preparing for interviews. For faculty members, I would recommend reading this book so you can be a better advisor for your students. I go to every graduate student I work with and tell them about this book. I wish it had been published years ago when I was first starting graduate school! It is worth every penny and every academic-wannabe should see it as a reasonably-price investment in their future!

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From 9/2/15: “I discovered Karen’s blog in my darkest time in grad school when I felt like a failure and could not figure out how to turn all the time I spent in school into a paycheck that I could live on. Reading the blog helped me stop wallowing in self-pity, realize that I wanted a non-academic job, get my PhD, and then get that job. I have now bought and read the book and would recommend it to every PhD student and undergraduate contemplating a PhD. The book is well-written, absolutely non-judgmental, and contains career and life advice that almost no one, and definitely not my tenured and neglectful PhD advisor, would share with me.”

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From 8/6/15: “If you are a graduate student, considering graduate school, a faculty member, academic support, academic administration, or human; you need to read this book. The American academy is broken. I say this as one of the lucky few with a tenure track job. A system of graduate education was created in a time with circumstances that no longer exist. As Karen Kelsky explains in the opening chapters, the path to secure employment via a doctoral degree is a rocky one with a very uncertain outcome. For those that choose to pursue it, this book (and Kelsky’s blog and social media profiles) provides a frank, honest, and accurate description of what it takes to get something out of the doctoral experience.

Highlights:
– The scope of this book could have been problematic. Yet somehow Kelsky pulled it off: covering what it takes to get a tenure track job, the job market process, and throws in some additional material on grants and leaving the academy….
– Occasionally Kelsky’s experience as an anthropologist does not resonate with my experience in a different field. Almost always Kelsky acknowledges when there are disciplinary or paradigmatic differences and suggests that the reader knows her field.

This book may frighten some people. But it is absolutely essential that anyone that is a part of this process understands how this works. I read the book as a veteran of Kelsky’s blog and consulting. I suspect that reading the entire book would be challenging and/or overwhelming for a young graduate student. I would suggest that an early graduate student read Part I, II, III, and IV carefully and skim the rest for familiarity. A graduate student that successfully passes exams should re-read Parts I-IV and then read V-VII carefully. Parts VIII-X are more topic-specific, but are excellent resources for any scholar.

I believe that faculty should read this entire book with a goal of being better advisors and better academic community members. We all need to take responsibility for the system that currently exists and Kelsky’s book (and other work) may be a good starting point for trying to resolve some of the problems – either as individuals or systematically.

I sincerely hope that Kelsky can carve out time from her consulting work to write a similar book about life on the tenure track and getting tenure. Her blog posts on this topic are fantastic and I suspect that it would be a good “second project” 😉 for her. We all desperately need this sort of frankness and guidance.”

~~~

And one that was less positive:  “I bought this book hoping for some good advice on how to succeed post-PhD. Unfortunately, most of this advice is coming too late for me. If you’re still in your grad program (particularly in the early stages), I think you’ll find this book is helpful. If you’re already out and working the adjunct circuit, as I am, I’m not sure it’s particularly helpful. Mostly, it just made me feel like a failure.

(I have to say, I don’t really agree that the book isn’t helpful for those who are beyond the Ph.D., and who are adjuncting.  All the same principles apply in terms of creating a competitive record, crafting your application documents, and interviewing.  Chapter 10 includes notes on how to talk about an adjuncting record.  But a couple reviewers made similar points, so I guess I should have addressed the post-Ph.D. job search a bit more directly.  I will do that in my next book, The Professor Is You: Your Life With a Ph.D.)

 

 

A Perspective From the Hiring Committee (A Guest Post)

This is a guest post, volunteered by a tenured reader.  Also check out her previous post.

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I and my fellow committee members work in a somewhat technical field at a mid-tier state university.    While every institution and department is different, there are some things that are common to all tenure-track hires.  Frankly many of these things should be obvious, but apparently they aren’t, at least judging by many of the applications we’ve received.

Understand the other side:   It’s tempting to blame the committee for the awful job market and seemingly byzantine hiring process.   But take a moment to understand what it is like to be on a hiring committee.    We are typically recently promoted Full Professors or Associate Professors and are juggling this assignment along with our regular teaching and research load.  This type of service takes a lot more time and effort than what most of colleagues get away with, such as membership on the “Task Force to Re-craft the Mission Statement”, but we undertake this effort because it’s crucial to our future and, frankly, because somebody has to.  Remember how you as a student used to think that your professors enjoyed giving hard midterms until you actually got stuck grading 200 essay exams?   Perhaps we aren’t reading all 200 applications the same weekend, but it’s similar.

We aren’t asking for sympathy, just some empathy, evidenced by you making your application easy to parse.    An additional bonus to demonstrating empathy is that we will assume you can apply this talent with your future colleagues and students.

Tailor your application to the position.   Yes, we know that we aren’t your one true love, and we expect- indeed hope- that you are applying many other places.    But spend at least 15 minutes convincing us that your attempt to land a position with us is more targeted than an oyster’s broadcast spawning.  At a bare minimum, put the position, department and school in the cover letter, and if an actual person’s name is provided, address your letter appropriately.   If we are asking for 3 letters of reference, either include them (if at all possible) or provide your recommenders’ contact information and explicitly mention that the letters will arrive under separate cover.   Our professors both need to teach and do research, so failing to mention either duty in your cover letter would be a fatal flaw.

Don’t dump:    Yes, we know that different committees ask for different materials.   But if we didn’t request a teaching statement, a research statement or a writing sample (which we didn’t), don’t send it.   We aren’t going to read it, and it just makes you seem like you didn’t read our advertisement closely.     Sending in a manuscript not yet even conditionally accepted in a journal smacks of desperation.    One applicant sent us 9 pages of raw computer-generated teaching scores with no explanation of the scale.  If you have an article in a prestigious journal or have been the subject of a glowing report in a relevant trade publication, feel free to mention it in your cover letter and offer to provide it on request, but let us ask for it first.   When we see 13+ attachments that we have to download, we tend to get cranky.

Anticipate objections:   Perhaps you are applying to a department outside of your doctoral study or perhaps you have never taught students before.     Provide evidence of why our concerns are unwarranted, and if you can’t provide such evidence, at least find a way to acknowledge them in your cover letter.    For example:  “While my school does not provide graduate students the opportunity to undertake sole teaching responsibility for classes, I have served as the primary TA for class X….” Don’t think we won’t notice, and you don’t want our one comment on the spreadsheet by your name to be “Not a good fit.”  If you are trying to switch from a tenure track job at another school to us, we are naturally going to wonder why (and also if you’d bail on us after a year or two), unless you tell us that you are attempting to relocate due to a better fit with your research needs, geographic preferences or another plausible reason.    For those of you still ABD who are looking to start in our fall term, the term “expected to defend in Summer 2015” raises concerns when our next academic year starts in the middle of August.   Lock in that date in and, if at all possible, make it before July!

Streamline/simplify your CV:   As Dr. Karen says, don’t shop at Costco.   If you put too much filler in, we might not notice the good stuff.   Here’s what we are looking for:

Research:  Ideally, we’d like you to list publications in reverse chronological order.  You can include acceptances and even “accepted pending minor revisions” as long as they are identified as such, but listing “submitted to Journal X” or “targeted for Journal Y” under “publications” is misleading and instead belongs under a “Work in Progress” section.   We’d rather see 1 publication and evidence of a healthy research pipeline than see 3 journal publications dating back to 2011 with no evidence of new research in progress.  Furthermore, we get accreditation kudos (and you get credits toward tenure) for articles that are published after you start working for us. So, in a perverse way, we would prefer an “accepted pending minor revisions” over an outright publication, once you have at least one relevant intellectual contribution in print.

For teaching experience we’d like to see classes listed in chronological order, indicating role (sole or co-instructor, or TA?) and any teaching evaluation scores with relevant scale and context, such as “Overall evaluation: 4.5 out of 5(best) where the departmental average for this class is 4.2.”   Not including evaluations for classes that should have them or merely providing a few cherry picked student quotations suggests you are hiding something.  We know firsthand the common pitfalls that occur the first time a class is taught, so we won’t hold a few bad evaluations against you- honest!

Service: You should certainly list relevant activities outside of research and teaching:  pertinent industry experience, membership in relevant organizations, (especially any leadership roles), reviews for respected journals in your field.   But as this is the least important section (sorry- it just is!) for most schools please keep it to the point: do we really need to know you were team captain of your college trivia club?

If you can master these basics and have done some decent work, you dramatically increase your chances of being noticed by us and our peers in the other schools you are applying to.

Heroic Mother Teaches Class With Sick Child – Guest Post

(This is not a post-ac post, as I normally put up on Mondays.  But it’s a great guest post and I wanted to share it right away.)
It’s by Stephanie Brown.

Stephanie is cultural anthropologist and adjunct instructor in the Department of Human Development and Women’s Studies at California State University, East Bay. She studies the anthropology of childhood and conducts program evaluation for child-serving non-profits in the San Francisco Bay Area. Stephanie is currently traveling around the world with her family. You can follow her journey on her blog at www.movingchildhood.com/blog.
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Twice in the past six months, I have stumbled across a viral news stories about a professor heroically holding a student’s baby while lecturing. In May, a story appeared about a psychology professor who took in arms the fussing infant of a student. Then, last week, another story emerged about a management professor holding a toddler brought to class by student.

 
In both cases, the story covered a male professor holding a child brought to class by a female student. In both cases, the professor was lauded for combining the lecturing required by his job with compassion toward a student in need of child care, described using words like, “generous,” “compassionate,” “patient,” “heart-warming” and “kind.” In both cases, the story sent me into a tizzy.
 
I don’t object to the presence of a child in class nor to the professors’ actions, but a couple of months prior to the appearance of that first story, I brought my daughter to a class I was teaching and earned a different response: an anonymous complaint to the dean about the presence of my child in class.
 
What was the difference between my situation and those reported in the news? Was it that the consumer model of education favors the consumer/student, such that the consumer should be accommodated at any cost while the worker/professor is not afforded such flexibility? Yes. But I think a great deal of the difference has to do with gender.
 
My daughter disrupted the class, as did the two children in the news stories cited. In those stories, the professors were lauded for assisting a parent in need of support. It’s heartwarming to see someone helping a parent in need of support, but notice that the praise goes to the person offering support and not the parent. Parents are frequent subjects of criticism in our culture, and it’s easier to praise the hero who steps in than to forgive the parent whose child has been disruptive.
 
Male workers are less likely, however, to find themselves in the position of needing parenting assistance. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, seventy percent of women with children under the age of 18 participate in the work force. Male workers are still less likely, however, to be the parent primarily responsible for child care in their households. This means, of course, that a working parent who needs accommodation for their parenting responsibilities is more likely to be a woman than a man.
 
This is true in my household: my husband works a fulltime tech job and his long commute means he is often away from home for 12 hours a day. I, on the other hand, am an adjunct professor. I left a tenure-track position when my husband received a job offer in another city, a decision that was largely economic: because his career earns him more than I earned as a tenure-track professor, I “opted out” rather than “leaning in.” Pay inequity plays a role: women continue to make make less than men, even in identical careers. Pay inequities within my profession played a role as well: I was the lowest paid assistant professor in the College of Liberal Arts at the public university where I taught, a situation reflecting both my gender and the feminized discipline in which I taught.
 
After leaving that job, I have worked less than fulltime so I could be available for our children (a luxury many families don’t have). I am the parent in my family who takes children to doctors appointments, attends parent-teacher conferences, drives to lessons. I was also the one who, for 18 months, was available during the day to help with the care of my husband’s dying mother. Despite their presence in the workplace, women still perform the majority of the care-work of all kinds, and the burden for care work is especially high in “sandwich generation” families like mine.
 
Stepping in to “help” may have been a luxury available to the professors precisely because they were not doing so of necessity. I’m making assumptions, of course, about the family circumstances of these two professors. But the female students in these stories—the mothers—were not the ones receiving praise. They were incidental to the tales’ protagonists.  And the praise heaped on the male professors is a further sign of the gender imbalance in the work-family equation: men earn praise for doing the care work that women do as a matter of course.
 
An article in the January 23, 2013 issue of the Atlantic Monthly, titled Dads Caring for Their Kids: It’s Parenting, Not Babysitting made this point: when women are the presumed primary parent, men’s involvement in parenting becomes praiseworthy. Doyin Richards, author of the blog Daddy Doin’ Work, also made this point when a photo of him parenting elicited widespread praise on the internet: Richards responded in a piece for the Huffington Post:
 
I’m concerned that the bar for being a good dad is set so low that a dude can take a photo with his kids, post it online, and automatically become the ‘world’s greatest dad’ in the eyes of some because of it.
 
Profs Engleberg and Bunkowske became “world’s greatest professor” for doing something that earned me a poison-pen letter.
 
The expectations on women as caregivers are part of the picture. But here is the double-bind: it is also that women are the focus of criticism for anything that “goes wrong” with children. This has been true for at least the last 100 years: mothers have been blamed for everything from “inadequate” masculinity to autism. My student’s letter did not just criticize my bringing my daughter to class, but also my parenting more generally. My student’s letter complained:
 
Her daughter then proceeded to be a complete disturbance to the class the entire time. She would not sit still, she kept interrupting the lecture and the professor kept allowing her to do this. [emphasis in the original]
 
Here is the trap for working mothers: damned for your commitment to your children, and damned for your inadequate commitment to your children; damned for your commitment to your career, and damned for your inadequate commitment to your career.
 
As her parent, I felt the disruption caused by the presence of my child in the workplace (believe me!), and I empathize both with my student’s annoyance and his/her feeling that I was asserting a privilege a student would likely be denied. I would like to see all families afforded support so that accommodating parenting wasn’t treated as a burden and tolerating it didn’t make one a hero.

The Job Search is Not a Striptease

One of my pet peeves in job documents is when the job candidate coyly gestures toward a research conclusion, without actually coming out and saying what the conclusion is.

I have no idea why so many job seekers are so invested in this coyness.  The job search is not a striptease; you don’t get points for strategically withholding.  That withholding does not make search committees perk up and take notice. It makes them bored and irritated, and motivated to instantly reject you in favor of the people who can actually articulate their arguments and conclusions.

This coy withholding is done through the vague meta-claim.  Here are some examples:

“I conclude that gender plays a significant role in xx.”

Really?  And we care why?

No.  We need to know: WHAT ROLE does gender play?  WHAT ROLE????  Spell it out!

“I discovered that there is a relationship between xx and yy.” 

REALLY?  IS THAT INTERESTING?  (no).

WHAT RELATIONSHIP did you find between xx and yy?  Spell it out!

“I argue that this is an example of neoliberalism.”

SERIOUSLY?  WHAT ISN’T, at this point?   Tell us, instead, HOW, SPECIFICALLY, IS THIS AN EXAMPLE OF NEOLIBERALISM????  WHAT IS NEOLIBERAL ABOUT THIS PARTICULAR THING AT THIS PARTICULAR TIME AND PLACE?

“I conclude that policy is not linear or static, but multidimensional and changing.”

WHO IN 2015 SAYS ANYTHING IS LINEAR OR STATIC?  Don’t waste our time with idle pseudo-theoretical posturing.  If I were on a search committee I’d throw out the letter from sheer irritation at the combination of tendentiousness, self-importance, and cluelessness.  TELL US A SPECIFIC CONCLUSION: “Policy emerged from the input of [xx actors], [yy actors], and [zz actors], operating in [xx condition] and [yy location], and shifted in response to [xx event] and [yy event].”

Don’t tease, job seekers; show us what you’ve got.

(By the way, this is a close cousin to both stating the obvious, and making claims so painfully general as to be meaningless.  Please read and study these posts and banish generic verbiage.)

Certifications You Can Use for Post-Ac Employment – Robert Oprisko (3 of 3)

by Robert Oprisko

Dr. Robert Oprisko

Dr. Robert Oprisko

One of the largest hurdles that a non-STEM Ph.D. will face moving into the Post-Ac environment is perception, both their own and others of who they are and what they do.  Successful transition into a non-academic environment is assisted by practical production of post-academic passion and performance.  In today’s white-collar service economy, one of the very best ways to prepare for this transition is to acquire a credential or two that emphasizes your skill-set and is recognized across disciplines:  elite certifications.  My favorite one-two punch for all post-ac job seekers is to become LEAN and Agile.

LEAN certification is used in business analytics to reduce waste and increase efficiency in processes.  For anyone who holds an analytic mind, increasing your skill-set by getting the premier LEAN cert, Six Sigma Black Belt, will pay dividends.  LEAN methodologies follow systems of empirical review to control process improvement.  Often these process improvements utilize the Deming Cycle, or a revision of it, including Six Sigma’s and Motorola’s.  Effectively, these methodologies present processes as problems and the task of the quality manager or quality analyst is to use statistical tools to measure the impact of alterations to the process.

First and foremost, there are a number of credentialing bodies because there is no overarching certifying body, so purchase with care.  If you’re still in graduate school, there is a good chance that a class (likely housed within either the business or management school) will be designed around Six Sigma and may result in certification.  Perhaps the best known credential can be earned through the American Society of Quality, which helpfully provides deep discounts to students and requires passing an exam.  If you have no familiarity, you can enter into Six Sigma with the lower certifications before progressing to the Black Belt level.  This progression can be helpful for improving your mastery of the processes as you gain Post-Ac experience.

Project management is a growing sector of the economy and is moving out of technical fields, such as software development, into other areas, including higher education.  The most sought after certifications are the Project Management Professional (PMP) and the Certified Scrum Professional (CSP); the former is used primarily for static teams while the latter is essential for teams that shift and change based upon the needs of the project, hence it is Agile.  The Project Management Institute issues PMP certifications while CSP certifications are provided by the Scrum Alliance.

Similar to Six Sigma, project management certifications have accessible points of entry, with the Certified Associate in Project Management and the Certified Scrum Master available for individuals to formalize their interest in project management and to provide mastery of the terms of art needed to succeed within the field.  Agile methodologies, such as Scrum, are premised on versatility and translate more readily into non-technical fields and environments.

I’ve seen both LEAN and Agile methods employed within universities to manage ad hoc projects and it’s becoming a norm within non-profits and academic publishing, including for e-journal publishing.  My experience with E-International Relations (E-IR) has emphasized both over the past year.  Using teams of three to seven academics, E-IR has been able to move into academic publishing of open-access textbooks, monographs, and edited volumes, has been selected to start a peer-reviewed journal of record for the International Association of Political Science Students, and has increased its site traffic and income substantially.  Utilizing LEAN principles, E-IR is able to accomplish all of this at less than 10% of the cost incurred by traditional publishing houses.

Although no credential can guarantee success or employment (if it did, you’d already have a tenure-track position and wouldn’t be reading this post), elite certifications can provide an effective means of transitioning from academe to industry.  As valued credentials, they may also increase your potential salary range.  Within higher education administration (Alt-Ac paths) there are a number of credentials available based upon specialty.  The only limiting factors are interest and cost.  It may be worthwhile to earmark the money you would have spent going to an academic conference hedging your bet and credentialing yourself for Plan B.

The Art of the Cover Letter is Live!

The Art of the Cover Letter is now live!

The Art of the Cover Letter ($79) is a 10-module self-guided course, all-online, available anytime 24/7, that walks you step by step through the planning, info-gathering, writing, and editing of your academic job cover letter. Includes worksheets that teach you how to a) grasp and frame your record for the purposes of job market competition; b) collect all pertinent material in one place and hone it down to cover letter appropriate language; c) refine and edit the complete cover letter to avoid pitfalls like excessive humility, desperation, bragging, emotionalism, self-sabotage, etc. And at each step it includes short videos by me, Dr. Karen, that keep you focused on the big picture of the job search.

Work at your own pace, develop your own materials, learn what you need to say, and how you need to say it!

The Art of the Cover Letter is fast, individualized, and affordable.

Purchase Art of the Cover Letter

Want to know more?  Read on:

Why are we offering The Art of the Cover Letter? 

Because every Fall scores and scores of you can’t get on my calendar in time for your job deadlines or are living on a grad student or adjunct budget that won’t allow for my in-person editing rates.  You want and need help on your cover letter that goes deeper than the blog and the book, is more individualized than the webinar recordings, but costs less than individual editing.

What do you get with The Art of the Cover Letter? 

Once you purchase the online course, you get immediate access to a 10-module program that walks you through each element of the cover letter, from the salutation to the sign-off, with assigned readings in my book The Professor Is In: The Essential Guide to Turning Your Ph.D. Into a Job (which you must own to do the program) and on the blog.

Each module includes worksheets that lead you from the mental process of recognizing the content from your record that “counts,” through the challenge of condensing that content into effective, concise, fact-based language, and finally to the work of refining it into memorable paragraphs that frame your expertise in ways that work for the job market.

Each worksheet also provides you with examples of effective language to describe research, contribution, publications, next project, teaching, diversity, and tailoring.

And you get 10 short videos from me, Dr. Karen, reminding you what search committees are looking for when they read each section of a letter.  I show you how you can avoid the most common forms of self-sabotage, and what you can do to produce an effective, compelling letter that delivers the facts of your record, tailored to the job, without desperation, pandering, hyper-emotionalism, or bragging.

What don’t you get with Art of the Cover Letter?

Personal editing help from Dr. Karen or any live person!  This is entirely a self-guided course. (Once you have completed the program, you do have the option to purchase an ACL-Followup Edit for an additional fee, if you want Dr. Karen and her editing staff to give your letter a single final edit.)

Who created Art of the Cover Letter?

It is the marriage of Kellee Weinhold’s mad technical genius/enthusiasm for all-online learning systems and Karen’s mission to provide TPII job market help to as many people as possible.  It’s been brought to fruition through the organizational brilliance of Kellee’s sister Mary Rogan.

How much does The Art of the Cover letter cost?

It costs $79.  We worked hard to make something accessible to those on an adjunct or grad student budget.

Art of the Cover Letter

 

Post-Ac or Academic Ronin – Postac Guest Post

by Robert Oprisko

Dr. Robert Oprisko

Dr. Robert Oprisko

While in graduate school, you “count.”  You hold an active affiliation with an R1 university, you are assumed to be capable to teach undergraduate students at said R1 university, and your potential is unlimited.  Once you graduate, if you don’t already have a TT job, that’s over and your identity, as you knew it, crumbles.

You lose your affiliation and become an “Independent Scholar”.  Your value diminishes; no longer can you expect full tuition remission, health insurance and a moderate stipend for teaching a single course.  There is a vague, but palpable feeling in the academy that something must be wrong with you because you don’t already have a new academic home, a new master, and a steady paycheck.

Welcome to being a Ronin.

Ronin were of the samurai caste in feudal Japan who, upon the death or disgrace of their master became homeless, jobless, and were discriminated against by their former peers.  The existence of Ronin provided incentive for others to adhere to social norms and to accept centralized authority.  Samurais’ lives became ever more rigid and their actions more proscribed.  Ronin, on the other hand, were free from said constraints.  More recently, a ronin refers to a professional “salary man” who is “between jobs”.  As are you.

Coming to grips with an Alt/Post-Ac professional existence can be difficult because the structures you face approach you as being of minimal to no value.

That norm is bullshit.

You have value.

You have skill.

You’re an expert.

The only way to escape the torment of un(der) employment is to come up with what you feel to be a fair value for your time and expertise.  Employers, even temporary ones, aren’t going to value you or your time if you don’t.  So, come up with a number.  This number should be the amount of money you feel to be your minimum amount of money you need to make annually in order to not be selling yourself short.  For the purpose of this exercise, let’s assume $50,000.  As a ronin turned mercenary, you’ll need to divide this number into purchasable chunks in order to more easily gain clients.  I suggest the following forms.

Teaching:    Take the salary you feel you deserve and divide it by the number of classes you feel that a full time teaching load should represent.  Having taught a 4/4 load as a VAP, I find that to be a maximum load that can be done well by me.  Dividing $50,000 by eight courses is pretty simple, my rate for adjunct work is $6,250 per course.  Some of you may think, but my current university has set policies for how much they will pay adjuncts.  No they don’t.  They pay a “market price” which only works because some people will foolishly take them.  Salaries aren’t perfectly equitable within the academy, just ask women, people of color, and non-STEM academics.  You have every right and ability to negotiate or set your own rate.  Add more if it requires a long commute.

Writing:    Some people type faster than others and the creative process can be draining.  Take the amount of time you think you need to adequately write and revise 1,000 words and use that as your baseline for scalability.  If you can have a publishable 1,000 words in four hours (remember to include time for research and revision!), your rate is $100/1,000 words, the equivalent of $25/hour or $50,000/year.

Editing:    You can use the equation above to determine how much you should charge for editing documents as well.  Make certain to have multiple rates for depth and intensity of editing.  Light copy-editing is faster than substantive editing is faster than developmental editing, which often restructures entire passages includes a decent amount of original work.  Creating a comprehensive book index is more intense than expected.

Research:    One of the dark secrets of the academy is that there exists a research underground where some academics, usually super-stars, will pay others to do their research and writing for them and then they publish it under their name.  In this way, a TT academic can make six figures annually, produce insane volumes of research, and still golf four days per week.  My gut reaction is to say, “Don’t do it!” because it perpetuates inequality, is, effectively, a gross form of plagiarism, and the pay often doesn’t match the volume and intensity of work.  If, however, you aren’t dissuaded, be certain to make it worthwhile.  Don’t take on original research, especially contracts that include final payment as a product of “publishable quality” in a specific journal because that provides the client with too many escape clauses.  Do the work like a professional contractor and charge professional rates; I suggest double your norm, in our case $50/hour.  I would also mandate that all of your writing kept you as an author in order to build up your portfolio for consideration by future clients.  Remember that other academics aren’t the only potential source for this work.  Think-tanks, policy institutes, government contractors, and any corporation with an R&D division are all viable employers.

Every academic likely is familiar with and comfortable teaching, writing, editing, and conducting research.  Feel free to add your own unique skillset into your pricing structure so that you not only know what services you offer, but also how much you charge for them.  Be sure to bill your client in a timely fashion; if possible, get payment up front.  You have a carefully crafted expertise with a specific set of skills.  It’s time to get well paid for them.

Introducing: The Art of the Cover Letter

Big news here at The Professor Is In! 

Our new product, The Art of the Cover Letter, is about to

go live!

What is The Art of the Cover Letter?

A 10-module self-guided course, all-online, available anytime 24/7, that walks you step by step through the planning, info-gathering, writing, and editing of your academic job cover letter.  Includes worksheets that teach you how to a) grasp and frame your record for the purposes of job market competition; b) collect all pertinent material in one place and hone it down to cover letter appropriate language; c) refine and edit the complete cover letter to avoid pitfalls like excessive humility, desperation, bragging, emotionalism, self-sabotage, etc.  And at each step it includes short videos by me, Dr. Karen, that keep you focused on the big picture of the job search.

Work at your own pace, develop your own materials, learn what you need to say, and how you need to say it!

The Art of the Cover Letter:  Fast, Individualized, Affordable.

$79

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Interested?  Sign up here to be notified when it goes live in the next couple of days!

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Want to know more?  Read on!

Why are we offering The Art of the Cover Letter? 

Because every Fall scores and scores of you can’t get on my calendar in time for your job deadlines or are living on a grad student or adjunct budget that won’t allow for my in-person editing rates.  You want and need help on your cover letter that goes deeper than the blog and the book, is more individualized than the webinar recordings, but costs less than individual editing.

What do you get with The Art of the Cover Letter? 

Once you purchase the online course, you get immediate access to a 10-module program that walks you through each element of the cover letter, from the salutation to the sign-off, with assigned readings in my book The Professor Is In: The Essential Guide to Turning Your Ph.D. Into a Job (which you must purchase to do the program) and on the blog.

Each module includes worksheets that lead you from the mental process of recognizing the content from your record that “counts,” through the challenge of condensing that content into effective, concise, fact-based language, and finally to the work of refining it into memorable paragraphs that frame your expertise in ways that work for the job market.

Each worksheet also provides you with examples of effective language to describe research, contribution, publications, next project, teaching, diversity, and tailoring.

And you get 10 short videos from me, Dr. Karen, reminding you what search committees are looking for when they read each section of a letter.  I show you how you can avoid the most common forms of self-sabotage, and what you can do to produce an effective, compelling letter that delivers the facts of your record, tailored to the job, without desperation, pandering, hyper-emotionalism, or bragging.

What don’t you get with Art of the Cover Letter?

Personal editing help from Dr. Karen or any live person!  This is entirely a self-guided course. (Once you have completed the program, you do have the option to purchase an ACL-Followup Edit for an additional fee, if you want Dr. Karen [or one of her editing staff] to give your letter a single final edit.)

Who created Art of the Cover Letter?

It is the marriage of Kellee Weinhold’s mad technical genius/enthusiasm for all-online learning systems and Karen’s mission to make the principles of TPII job market preparation available to as wide an audience as possible.  It’s been brought to fruition through the organizational brilliance of Kellee’s sister Mary Rogan.

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Interested?  Sign up here to be notified when it goes live in the next couple of days!

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Fine print:

The Art of the Cover Letter may not be exchanged for any other TPII services.  To be clear: you may not switch out previously or currently scheduled editing services to The Art of the Cover Letter. Please don’t ask.

Once you purchase The Art of the Cover Letter, there are no refunds.

You have access to the course for 30 days.  After that, your access expires.

You are required to purchase Karen’s book The Professor Is In: The Essential Guide to Turning Your Ph.D. Into a Job, to do the program.  Its list price is $15, and it is available for $8.40 on evil Amazon.  Buy it at Powell’s Online and support a writer and a local business!

The Art of the Cover Letter does NOT involve any editing of your documents by Dr. Karen.  Nor does it involve any emailing with Dr. Karen.  Questions about The Art of the Cover Letter will be answered by ACL staff (Kellee or Mary), not by Dr. Karen.  The price of this product is possible because it is entirely a self-guided course.

The Art of the Cover Letter is hosted on a site called Reach the Next Level, which Kellee has created to host a number of similar self-guided courses, including, eventually, Art of the CV, Art of the Teaching Statement, and Art of the Research Statement, as well as her Unstuck: From Stalled to Submitted Writing Coaching Program.  Do not be alarmed that you have left the TPII site to access The Art of the Cover Letter; it’s still just us (Karen and Kellee) — we’ve just added a new platform to work from.

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Interested?  Sign up here to be notified when it goes live in the next couple of days!

 

Being an Academic (Alt, Ac, or Otherwise) – Guest Post

I’m happy to welcome Dr. Robert Oprisko to the TPII post-ac blogging team.  Robert has written widely on adjuncting and the decline and fall of academia, and is deep in his own post-academic transition.

Robert’s Bio:

Robert Oprisko earned his Ph.D. in Political Science from Purdue University.  His academic research focuses on International Political Philosophy and the state and business of higher education.  He has taught/researched at Purdue University, Johns Hopkins University, Butler University, and Indiana University.  Having seen the dark side, he embraced his role as a mercenary (post/alt)-academic.  He’s currently Director/Editor at E-International Relations and consults and writes selectively.

He will be contributing three posts; this is the first.  Find him on Twitter at @oprisko.

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by Robert Oprisko

Dr. Robert Oprisko

Dr. Robert Oprisko

Conventional wisdom holds that employment within the professoriate is a prerequisite for being an academic. This sentiment stems from indoctrination within graduate school programs, which typically spread this fiction as gospel. Failure to obtain a professorial position, under this guideline, equates to failure as an academic and a substantial, sustained, and crippling identity crisis for many people.  Fear of identity loss and the corresponding feeling of failure has led countless thousands of people to suffer through precarious work as adjuncts, complete with paltry wages and no benefits, in order to maintain their status, if only on the fringe of existence.

Conventional wisdom is wrong.

Being an academic is not contingent upon a specific form of employment, it is about training, competence, and successfully contributing to the field.  This can be done in many ways.  Let us consider where perception and reality diverge on what it takes to be an academic:  who counts and who does not?

Within academe there are many alternative routes for professional development and specialty.  It is not unheard of for professors to effectively suspend their teaching and research to move into administrative roles.  Transitioning into a dean-let or higher role has traditionally been seen as an intuitive move up the food-chain within a college or university, but, in today’s burgeoning academic administration, they are the minority of professional roles that are available as professional alternatives for academics.

The current landscape of the (post) modern academy includes many specialties for professional development.  From NCAA and Title IX personnel to coordinators and directors of language centers, international programs, area studies, undergraduate and graduate research, writing and research labs, and beyond, there is a multitude of services being provided within and around colleges and universities that support the core and peripheral missions.

There are also a number of intuitive transitions out of the university structure that have been accepted as lateral moves for academics.  Journalism is a logical transition within the humanities and social sciences; research labs and industrial positions are common within the natural sciences. Academic publishing offers  a number of career opportunities:  acquisitions, sales, production, managing titles or series, and developing LMS integration, pedagogical artefacts, and interactive lessons.  Think-tanks and policy institutes are bastions of original research that is often published either externally in peer-reviewed journals or internally as white-papers.

As a subject matter expert (SME), which includes all persons who have earned doctorates, you may be a valuable asset not only to these entities, but also to many companies. (Don’t forget that adjunct professorships emerged as vehicles for universities to diversify their course offerings by hiring SMEs with specialties that differed from their tenured and tenure-track faculty as professional consultants.)  There exist a very large number of corporations and firms that compete for grants and contracts with the government and utilize SMEs.  RAND corporation, Raytheon, Booz Allen Hamilton, and many other companies openly recruit doctored researchers, analysts, and specialists from diverse fields.  You can also ignore government contractors and use your Ph.D. to leverage a higher starting salary grade (GS 11) within the United States government.

Finally, there is always the way of the consultant.  By building up your personal toolkit and leveraging your expertise toward the practical, a doctored professional becomes a walking, talking small-business.  Consulting may be publicly vilified, but many people within the professoriate consult on the side and may actually exceed their salary in earnings this way. Notably, academics within the business, medical, and legal disciplines are expected to engage extra-academic entities as a lure for prospective students.

When push comes to shove, doctored applicants are commodities that may be more valued outside of traditional academe than inside it.  The prejudices of institutional prestige may have a residual effect, but for-profit entities typically favor results and production over image; if what you do can be effectively monetized, you’ll likely find a company either already doing so or willing to enter the market.

Though your graduate school faculty may be disappointed that you aren’t emulating their professional path, they don’t have the power to revoke your status as an academic.  In fact, the moment they signed off on your dissertation, they welcomed you into an elite honor group as a peer – you have every right to dismiss their opinions as they may your career path.  Whether you remain within the professoriate, find an alternative academic path, or move beyond the university structure entirely, you are an academic.  You are entitled to enjoy, “all the rights, privileges, and honors thereunto appertaining.”

Don’t let your peers diminish you and your expertise.  You don’t owe them anything, most certainly not indentured servitude.  You’ve made an original contribution to the field with your dissertation so continue that tradition and go forge your own professional path.  No matter where you go or what you do, you will always be an academic.

An Alt-Ac Summer Workshop That Works (A guest post)

This post is contributed by reader Rebecah Pulsifer.  I hope that other programs will read this and consider developing similar initiatives.  Thank you, Rebecah!

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Graduate study, as TPII readers know well, is wildly out of step with the current state of the academic job market. Tenure-track positions are scarce and endangered, yet graduate programs have been slow to acknowledge this reality. They continue to peddle the fairy tale of the TT job, often while failing to provide practical advice about the market.

In July, I attended a funded, three-week workshop that offered a different model of graduate education. Jointly administered by the Chicago Humanities Festival and Humanities Without Walls, a consortium of fifteen humanities centers funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Alternative Academic Summer Workshop invited thirty pre-doctoral students in the humanities to explore how academic training can be leveraged for jobs outside the academy.

“This workshop emerged from a conversation at the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes about how to prepare PhDs who can’t get or don’t want jobs in the academy for other career possibilities,” said project manager Jason Mierek. “The center directors saw a need to highlight the skills PhD candidates already have, both for potential employers and for the candidates themselves.”

The workshop offered sessions on networking, writing job documents, and pitching dissertation topics to non-academics. Each day included a field trip to a different workplace in Chicago, where we spoke with humanities PhDs in their natural environments: design, tech, advertising, museums, nonprofits, consulting, public humanities projects, non-academic jobs in the academy, and more.

I came away feeling optimistic about the possibilities for my future career (an unfamiliar experience for many graduate students). This is what graduate-level education could be: experiential, applicable to a range of possible career paths, and pragmatic about the realities of the job market — both academic and non-academic — for PhDs. The following takeaways were particularly affirming.

 

Graduate students are already academics.

Graduate students are overtly and subliminally trained to be suspicious of any feelings of authority. But in the eyes of non-academicians, the work of a graduate student is the same as that of a professor: we design and teach courses, pursue multi-stage research projects, and perform administrative duties. The alternative academic job search requires a shift in mindset to the conviction that you are already an expert, not only in your field(s) of study, but also in a range of transferable skills. Your graduate education is professional experience and must be presented that way to any potential employer.

 

Values are as important as skills.

One side effect of the academy’s culture of desperation is that PhDs seeking jobs outside of the academy may throw themselves at any job for which they are remotely qualified. Mearah Quinn-Brauner, assistant director of graduate student career advising at Northwestern University, pointed out that employers are quick to identify applicants whose career values don’t align with the position. She advised us to narrow down potential alternative academic paths by honestly answering questions such as:

  • In what types of work environment am I most successful?
  • What degree of collaboration do I prefer?
  • To what extent is it important for me to have defined responsibilities versus autonomy?
  • How much do I value work/life balance?

If one benefit to abandoning the academy is re-claiming a sense of career fulfillment, it makes no sense to jump into a job that will make you equally unhappy.

 

Asking people about their career trajectories is part of networking.

The academy is insular and hierarchical, which makes it relatively easy to identify who should be in one’s network. Outside the academy, potential contacts are scattered across many different careers and industries. Establishing an alt-ac network, therefore, can take a lot of time; almost every presenter emphasized that the best way to do this is to conduct informational interviews.

The purpose of an informational interview is not to offer oneself up for a job, but rather to ask someone questions such as:

  • How did you come to be in your current position?
  • What skills are most valued in your profession?
  • Are there experiences you wish you had gained before beginning your current job?
  • What advice do you have for someone seeking to enter your field?

Several presenters mentioned that landing a job after a career transition takes at least 6-12 months, so conducting informational interviews while you still have funding left is a great way to prepare for an alt-ac search.

 

You can prepare for a non-academic career while finishing your dissertation.

Graduate students are often told that we have more time now than we ever will in our academic careers. What we hear less often is that not all of that time must be dumped into the dissertation or, more likely, hours of immobilizing writing anxiety. Plenty of PhD candidates can and do pursue non-academic projects and jobs while completing the dissertation. Presenters and participants in this workshop were involved in non-academic projects such as founding a film society, consulting for nonprofits, curating museum exhibits, hosting a radio show, and creating documentary films. If you are considering alt-ac, now is the time to volunteer or start a part-time job in a field of interest.

 

Career paths are often (usually?) messy.

Academics love to profess their exceptionalism, and this is certainly the case when it comes to career trajectories. The most eye-opening aspect of this workshop was the realization that changing careers is not a particularly unusual event outside of academia. Many presenters needed at least ten minutes to explain how they had arrived at their current positions and another several minutes to explain the connection (or lack thereof) between their degrees and their current work. Many of these narratives were stories of happenstance or chasing a passion until it turned into a career.

I left the workshop believing that professional metamorphosis is not only possible but also common. Academics are not alone on the path to imagining flexible careers; we are only a bit late to the game.