The “I Believe” Statement, Post-Ac Edition – Langer #Postac Post

By Jessica Langer
Jessica Langer

Jessica Langer

You wouldn’t believe the number of cover letters I see – both in my work here at TPII and as a hiring manager who hires employees and freelancers for my agency – that include some variation of the statement “I believe I am an ideal candidate for the position.” Sometimes it’s phrased “I believe that my experience and expertise make me a good candidate for the position.” Sometimes it’s even more aggressive: “My experience combined with my knowledge and education make me the ideal candidate for the position.”
Don’t do this. (And please recall Dr. Karen insists that on the *academic* side, one must never employ this trite, overused, desperate-sounding phrase).  But, unlike in academia, you can – if you’d like – include an “I believe” statement as part of your cover letter. The key is to word it properly so that you’re pointing out a piece of information about yourself, not telling the hiring manager what she or he wants in a candidate.
My ideal “I believe” statement? “I understand from the job description posted on [wherever] that you are seeking a candidate with skills in [X, Y, Z] and expertise in [A, B, C]. I believe that my skills in [X, Y, Z, though rephrased slightly] and experience [A,B,C though rephrased slightly], as well as [other allied skills and expertise], fit this description well.
The detail of my “I believe” statement is the key here. It’s a suggestion rather than aggression. You’re not telling the hiring manager that you are the ideal candidate, because you can’t know what they’re looking for, and it’s rude and aggressive to presume that you do, and comes off badly; You’re not telling them what to think, how to feel, or anything else like that. You’re pointing out that, in your opinion, your skills and experience match well with what they say they are looking for. It’s not an assumption about what they are looking for. It’s a submission that, based on what they say they are looking for, you fit the job description.
This kind of statement is also key in getting through some non-academic keyword gateways; that is, a lot of major companies and organizations, particularly government organizations, will literally run a keyword data search on resumes and cover letters automatically, and automatically reject anything that doesn’t come close enough. So an “I believe” statement of this type is a way to get keywords from the job description into the cover letter. And it’s also a way to demonstrate that the candidate has read the description carefully and taken the time to determine that her or his skills and experience are a match for what’s stated there.
So: it’s a matter of wording, yes. But these statements are a lot more common and accepted outside of academia than in academia.

What Not To Do at Your Campus Visit

Today I share some remarks by a tenured client, who just completed a search at her department, and wrote to tell me about it:

“We just finished doing a job search here and an offer has been made.  I wanted to share with you something the last candidate did because I was shocked.

The candidate walked around most of the time she was here with earphones in her ears listening to music. At one point she started dancing in the hall!

She was wearing a dress that looked like she was going out for cocktails.  It looked like this, but in two tones (beige and black):


I am not very judgmental about dress, and it didn’t bother me at first, but then it did  at the point that she was dancing down the hallway to her own music.  I’ll be honest, it freaked some of my colleagues (the science types) out.

Also, she was left in my colleague’s office to prepare for her talk; when my colleague came back into the office she was on my colleague’s computer without permission, surfing the web.

She is very young, but…yikes.  I felt like I was back in my son’s teen years.

The grad students also didn’t like her; she was very unengaged at the graduate student lunch.

By contrast, our first choice asked each student what they were reading at the moment  at his lunch with them and commented on every book they named. He also asked them what they were working on and made recommendations for readings.

We were blown away by this guy. His job talk was excellent–even the [distant subdiscipline] people understood it; he was just a humble but brilliant guy.  After he left I told my students: ‘take note, that is how you do a perfect interview.’

Meanwhile, the ‘dancing candidate’ is still the talk of the hallways.  In a very bad way.

I truly wondered who advised her in grad school and almost feel compelled to call her after all is said and done to give her advice.  Anyway, I thought you might want to add earphones, cocktail dress, and dancing in the hall to your ‘do not do this on a job interview’ list for grad students.”

Are Academic Businesses Low-hanging Fruit? Horton #postac Post

I’m excited about this #postac post by Margy Horton, the genius behind the business, ScholarShape.  Entrepreneurship is a topic very close to my heart; I even have a chapter on it in my forthcoming book.  I want to see more academics pursue entrepreneurial opportunities and get over their fear of going into business for themselves.


by Margy Horton

Margy Thomas Horton

Margy Thomas Horton

Every Q & A needs one audacious question, so I was grateful recently when, after I’d given a starry-eyed talk to some humanities PhDs about entrepreneurship as a partial solution to the academic jobs crisis, one audience member put her hand up and said (I’m paraphrasing), “No offense, but I see what you and The Professor Is In and some other academic entrepreneurs are doing, and I think, how many businesses like that can there be–businesses that academics create to support other academics? Didn’t you guys already pick all the low-hanging fruit?”

In other words, hadn’t we taken all the easy business ideas?

Some background: Two years ago, I launched a business, ScholarShape, that offers editorial support, coaching, and consultation to academics across the disciplines. I’m not an entrepreneur in a seismic-shift kind of way, but I am entrepreneurial in the sense that I like solving problems by inventing new solutions rather than by looking for prefabricated ones. While my business model might seem obvious now, when I was first launching, most of my academic colleagues and friends were like, “What? Academics aren’t going to pay you for those services.”

But back to that skeptical audience member. Her point is an important one: For an academic starting a business, the most comfortable clientele is other academics. That market is not limitless, though, and if all the PhD. entrepreneurs simply stake their tents on the grounds of academia, we have not solved the jobs crisis at all. Rather than opening the floodgates, we will have merely carved out another inlet, where endless academic entrepreneurs toil in vain to sell their services back and forth to one another.

What if the academic entrepreneurship trend isn’t creating a clogged inlet, but instead building the first settlement on an uninhabited planet like Mars? As I see it, a few academics have now survived the perilous journey through the vacuum of outer space, set up a makeshift station on their adopted planet, and written home to Earth that the space colony thing is pretty doable. Now the next wave of settlers will come, and they may not all fit in the original station, but we’ll work together to build an annex to accommodate them. Next year, when the third wave of settlers comes, we’ll expand our little station into a village. Eventually another village will spring up, and another, until the whole planet is populated with academic entrepreneurs launching all manner of brand consultancies, community development initiatives, marketing firms, policy consultation practices, and writing consultation businesses. Some will even write historical novels, or sexy historical novels. (Yes, writing and selling novels counts as entrepreneurship!)  And the more businesses these academic entrepreneurs create, the more new jobs and opportunities there will be for the settlers who come later.

And none of them have to become Republicans unless they want to.

The entire point of entrepreneurship is that it opens up infinite possibilities. The entrepreneurial mindset is promising precisely because we don’t know what direction it will take us next. Of course entrepreneurship isn’t the whole solution to joblessness, in academia or anywhere else. Of course not everyone is cut out for the lifestyle, which can be unpredictable and grueling. And of course I fully recognize that in plenty of academic circles, entrepreneurship is still conflated with philistinism and greed. But I’ve seen for myself that when frustrated academics try on an entrepreneurial way of thinking–by which I mean, looking around for ways to solve problems through the provision of goods and services for pay–the result can be profoundly freeing. Suddenly, no one but you has to give you permission to do meaningful work for a living.

So I’m glad to see that people are starting to see academic businesses as “low hanging fruit.” This means that entrepreneurship is beginning to seem like a viable option, like a thing that people do. Two years ago, launching an academic support businesses marked a person as a freakish aberration, or worse, a moral failure. Today, it’s zeitgeisty–an intriguing if dubious possibility. By next year, the Mars settlement will be thriving. And when it gets crowded, the boldest among us will pack up and give Jupiter a try.


Buy My Book!

Love the blog? Now get it in handy book form–only $11.40!  Available for pre-order now–comes out August 4!


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It also makes a great gift for all those struggling grad students in your life!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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



I’m so pleased with the accessible price of the book, and the speed of production.  It will be out August 4, 2015, just in time for the Fall 2015 job market.

Table of Contents. 

(About half of the book is material adapted from the blog, and half is new material.  Notice that the entire last section is devoted to the post-ac transition!)

Part I:  Dark Times in the Academy

Chapter One:  The End of an Era
Chapter Two:  Breaking Out of the Ivory Tower
Chapter Three: The Myths Grad Students Believe

Part II:  Getting Your Head in the Game

Chapter Four: The Tenure Track Job Search Explained
Chapter Five:  Stop Acting Like a Grad Student
Chapter Six:  The Attributes of Successful Tenure Track Candidates
Chapter Seven:  Building a Competitive Record
Chapter Eight: Your Campaign Platform
Chapter Nine:  Why They Want to Reject You
Chapter Ten:  When To Go on the Market and How Long to Try
Chapter Eleven:  Where Are the Jobs? Institution Types and Ranks
Chapter Twelve:  Where to Find Reliable Advice
Chapter Thirteen: Why ‘Yourself’ Is The Last Person You Should Be

Part III:  The Nuts and Bolts of a Competitive Record    

Chapter Fourteen: Take Control of Your CV
Chapter Fifteen:  Getting Teaching Experience
Chapter Sixteen:  Publish This, Not That
Chapter Seventeen:  Why You Want and Need Grants
Chapter Eighteen:  Cultivating Your References
Chapter Nineteen:  Applying to Conferences
Chapter Twenty:  How to Work the Conference

Part IV:  Job Documents That Work

Chapter Twenty-one:  The Academic Skepticism Principle
Chapter Twenty-two:  What’s Wrong With Your Cover Letter
Chapter Twenty-three:  Tailoring With Dignity
Chapter Twenty-four:  Rules of the Academic CV
Chapter Twenty-five:  Just Say No to the Weepy Teaching Statement
Chapter Twenty-six:  Evidence of Teaching Effectiveness
Chapter Twenty-seven:  The Research Statement
Chapter Twenty-eight:  What Is a Diversity Statement, Anyway?
Chapter Twenty-nine:  The Dissertation Abstract

Part V:  Techniques of the Academic Interview

Chapter Thirty:  Academic Job Interview Basics
Chapter Thirty-one: The Key Questions in an Academic Interview
Chapter Thirty-two:  The Conference Interview (including Phone and Skype)
Chapter Thirty-three:  The Campus Visit
Chapter Thirty-four: The Job Talk
Chapter Thirty-five:  The Teaching Demo
Chapter Thirty-six:  How To Talk to the Dean
Chapter Thirty-seven:  They Said What? Handling Outrageous Questions
Chapter Thirty-eight:  Waiting, Wondering, Wiki

Part VI:  Navigating the Job Market Minefield

Chapter Thirty-nine:  Good Job Candidates Gone Bad
Chapter Forty:  Fear of the Inside Candidate
Chapter Forty-one:  Wrangling Recalcitrant References
Chapter Forty-two:  Managing Your Online Presence
Chapter Forty-three:  Evaluating Campus Climate
Chapter Forty-four:  When You Feel Like You Don’t Belong….
Chapter Forty-five:  What If You’re Pregnant?
Chapter Forty-six:  What Not To Wear
Chapter Forty-seven:  Covering the Costs

Part VII:  Negotiating an Offer

Chapter Forty-eight:  Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate
Chapter Forty-nine:  The Rare and Elusive Spousal Offer
Chapter Fifty:  The Rescinded Offer–Who Is In the Wrong?

Part VIII:  Grants and Postdocs

Chapter Fifty-one:  The Foolproof Grant Template
Chapter Fifty-two:  Proving Your Project is Worthy
Chapter Fifty-three:  The Postdoc Application: How It’s Different and Why
Chapter Fifty-four:  The Good and the Bad of Postdocs

Part IX:  Some Advice About Advisors

Chapter Fifty-five: Best Advisors, Worst Advisors
Chapter Fifty-six:  A Good Advisor Is Not Nice
Chapter Fifty-seven:  Ph.D. Debt and Ethical Advising

Part X:  Leaving the Cult

Chapter Fifty-eight:  It’s OK to Quit
Chapter Fifty-nine:  Let Yourself Dream
Chapter Sixty:  100+ Skills That Translate Outside the Academy
Chapter Sixty-one:   Collecting Information
Chapter Sixty-two:  Applying While Ph.D.
Chapter Sixty-three:  Breaking Free: The Path of the Entrepreneur

Conclusion: Declaring Independence


I can’t wait for it to come out!

My partner Kellee asked me yesterday if I was this excited about my first book, my ethnographic monograph for tenure (Women on the Verge: Japanese Women, Western Dreams, Duke University Press).  I had to think about that.  I finally said, “No, I was not.  I was excited, but not this excited. Because this book I did entirely by myself.  There was no infrastructure of graduate school and advisor and dissertation to lay out the path.  This book I created from whole cloth.”

And I’m also excited because this book will help so many.  What does a monograph do? I’m still not entirely sure.  But this book, this book has a mission.  To get you ready for the job market, yes.  But more importantly, to empower all graduate students and Ph.D. job seekers to understand the unspoken rules about how academy works, make informed choices about your careers, and protect your financial security and mental health.

3 Ways In Which Academia Is Your Abuser – Langer #Postac Post

by Jessica Langer

Jessica Langer

Jessica Langer

Here’s something most people who know me and who know my work at TPII wouldn’t guess:

This year, I went on the academic job market.

No, I didn’t do a full search. I didn’t even do a halfhearted search. I applied for one single solitary job, because the combination of sub-sub-subfield (exactly mine) and location (in Canada) seemed to match perfectly. And, I suppose, because I wanted to take one more swing at the fences to see what would happen. At this point, I’m five and a half years out from my PhD, but I’ve been publishing as if I’m in a TT position mostly because I enjoy it… and I also have a very well-received monograph from a very well-regarded publisher in my subfield. (Postcolonialism and Science Fiction, if you’re interested and don’t feel like Googling.)

Reader: I got an MLA interview. I actually went to MLA for the interview instead of doing it by Skype, in part because I love to travel and in part because I wanted to see my friends, and in large part because I know that meeting people in person gives one a leg up.

And then I was invited for a campus interview. And I went. And it went extraordinarily well.

And then they offered the job to someone else.

(Please don’t get me wrong, especially if you know which job I’m talking about, which isn’t hard to figure out; I was treated impeccably through the entire process, and nearly every person I encountered during the search was lovely, friendly, intelligent and welcoming. This is not a post in which I denigrate the university that invited me to interview; quite the opposite. They are wonderful, and I wish them well. This is a post about academia as a whole, and the unhealthy dynamics that happen in academia.)

This has been an interesting experience, because in my post-ac life, I am basically rocking it. I have a really successful little business that affords me and my family a lovely house in a beautiful neighbourhood in my favourite city, and plenty of time to spend together. I have a husband I love, two little kids, and a great community. I have work that I love doing and am excited to do every day, both in my business and here at TPII. I have essentially everything I want.

And yet? Going through the process of post-interview anxiety about this job brought me right back to feeling not good enough. To feeling stupid, worthless, pointless, and like an abject failure. Because somehow, none of that good stuff mattered to my psyche while I stared down the barrel of yet another academic job interview that turned into no offer. What’s wrong with me? I thought. Why I am I good enough for everyone else in my life, but not good enough for academia? Does this mean I’m just not smart enough, just not good enough, to be a real scholar, a real intellectual, a real person who’s doing good, important work?

Spoiler alert: it means none of those things. It means that academia is capricious. But as I wrote to Karen and Kellee – with whom I did some interview prep for my MLA interview that turned into a campus invite; they really do work wonders! – more than anything, it felt like I had escaped a dysfunctional relationship, turned around and given the person one more chance, and gotten burned again.

Having thought about it a little more, I’ve identified some of the ways in which academia really is like a dysfunctional, perhaps even abusive, interpersonal relationship:


  1. Academia has a Madonna/whore complex.

I am going to expand on this in a future post, I think. But the short version: academia greatly privileges both pedigree and lack of experience. That is: research universities in particular, but most universities and colleges in general, tend to choose candidates who are ABD or new PhDs and who have a lot of “potential” rather than a lot of experience. Candidates who are virginal, if you will.

This is why internal candidates and current adjuncts so often lose out on tenure-track positions to new, exciting outside candidates. This is why adjuncting in a department is usually a disadvantage, rather than an advantage, in getting a tenure-track job there. And this is why, the more teaching experience you get as an adjunct and the more varied that experience is – especially if you teach at the community college level, which far too many universities denigrate for reasons that have little to do with quality concerns and much to do with classism and implicit racism – the less likely you are to get a full-time job as a professor.

Once you’re an adjunct, it’s not just that you’ve failed to get a TT job immediately. You’ve now been around the block one too many times. You’ve had too many students. You’re sullied, in a way that echoes the Madonna/whore dichotomy to an extent that’s actually pretty disturbing.

  1. Academia isolates you from family and friends.

One of the hallmarks of a dysfunctional romantic relationship is a partner who seeks to isolate you from your support network: your family, friends and wider community. Sometimes they do this by claiming that they don’t like those people, or that those people don’t like them, for a good reason; sometimes they decide that it’s “us against the world”. Whatever the reason or motivation, the effect is to create a scenario in which you are cut off from the people who have your best interests in mind, and are more easily controlled.

The cultural bias in academia towards career at all costs and against life outside of work, which very often becomes material discrimination against people (generally, but not always, women) who choose to prioritize or even participate in family and social life, has this effect. In academia you are, on pain of failure, coerced into a culture in which the influences and requirements of outside life are not welcome. And, of course, this makes it much easier for academia’s constant drumbeat of anxiety and what Aimee Morrison calls “systematic infantilization” to inculcate itself deep into your own sense of yourself and your inherent worth.

  1. Academia forces you into financial dependence upon its own structure.

This was one of the important points of contention in the recent strikes at the University of Toronto (my undergraduate alma mater) and York University (where, full disclosure, I am a member of CUPE3903 Unit 2 when I am teaching there, though I am not currently a union member). Very often, contracts for graduate assistantships pay very little – at U of T, the minimum is $15,000 per year, literal poverty wages in the city, and this amount is what is normally given to humanities grad students.

However, that’s not the most insidious part: these U of T contracts bar students from taking any outside employment whatsoever, and from making any money outside the bounds of the contract. In short: graduate students at U of T, and at hundreds or thousands of other universities, are literally forced into poverty if they choose to be in their programs full-time, because they are made entirely dependent upon the university for their financial well-being. And in this way, the university is able to control them more easily.

We have a word for that when it happens in interpersonal relationships, and it’s not “graduate assistantship”.

So, in short: this experience has given me a lot of clarity about why I wanted to be an academic so badly, and why I have never been more glad to be happily post-ac.


Introducing a New Way to Work with The Professor Is In

I’m excited to announce that over the next two months I’ll be launching a new podcast/subscription service that makes TPII help available at low cost for those who need it.

The basic idea (we are still finalizing details) is this:  a 4-6 week subscription service that will provide individual access to exclusive instructions and worksheets to help you generate all your core academic job application documents, as well as recorded videos and/or podcasts by me, Karen, walking you through the principles for the work, and providing catalyzing questions as well as examples, explanations, and commentary.   Of course I’ll still expect you to read the blog posts!  But I’ll also be talking you through the main points I want you to get from the posts, the ways to apply the ideas to your own record, examples of common misunderstandings, challenges, and pitfalls, and stories of successful readers and clients who made the principles work for them.  My goal is to provide a package of written, audio, and visual materials that give you more extensive information than you can get from the blog posts alone, at a rate that is accessible to many. (Price details to come).

We are in the beta-testing phase in May 2015. I expect to launch the service June 1 or June 15.

Once we get this launched, we’ll be creating a post-ac series as well!  Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, if you have questions, comments, a request to be considered for the beta-testing group, and or suggestions for content, let me know here in the comment thread, or by email at  I can’t wait to get started!

Three Truths and a Lie? Negotiations at the Christian College (A Guest Post)

Today’s anonymous author is a tenured professor in the field of religion at a mid-sized Christian University. He has sat on and chaired numerous search committees for both faculty and administrative hires. He sees the enormous stack of applicants for each open position, but insists that there are certain methods for distinguishing yourself from the crowd.

Most of us watched with horror at the story of the rescinded offer at Nazareth College last year. While these cases are spectacularly rare (I actually have never heard of one), remember that Christian Universities represent a distinct subset of the academy. If you are sitting on an offer, I offer some negotiation advice in the form of the popular Protestant Youth Camp Ice Breaker, “Three Truths and a Lie.” My advice primarily applies to those with job offers at member schools of the Council of Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU) or the Association for Theological Schools (ATS).

Truth #1: Christian Institutions of Higher Education are extremely economically stressed.

Of course, all colleges are under economic duress, but this is particularly true for many Christian institutions of higher education for a variety of reasons. For example, most Christian mainline denominations (Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, etc) are contracting in size, number and financial resources. In the past Christian schools depended on generous financial support from these churches, but that is simply no longer the case. The end effect is that many of these CCCU and ATS schools have limited financial resources. Thus, a tenure-track hire is extraordinarily risky for them. A low-ball offer may be a way to hedge that risk so be aware.


Truth #2: “God told us to pay you less.”

I admit that this isn’t very fair of a subtitle. But Christian institutions view their mission in terms of service to a community of faith. The administrators and board members often couch the language in terms of ministry. This effects perceptions of faculty pay. They may consider the vocation of professor more similar to the pastor than an accountant or engineer. This puts a tremendous bind on negotiations, because such discussions may implicitly or even explicitly take on the aspect of divine calling. You should be aware of this, expect this and respond accordingly. For example, if the provost/dean says that the position is a matter of calling more than finances, then you can respond, “Yes, I agree ultimately that it is a matter of call and that is the biggest component of my discernment process, though should I accept, I would expect fair and just compensation to be somewhat commensurate to my contributions to the university mission.” See what I did there? If they try to negotiate through Christian morality (calling), acknowledge, but do the same thing back to them (justice).


Truth #3: See your salary in the bigger financial picture

Yes, salaries are generally lower, but for some of these schools, so are expectations. Because the research demands at some of these institutions can be considerably less, there may be latitude to take on additional work on small and large scale. I know of professors that actually take on entire 2nd jobs (pastors, hospital chaplains) to supplement income. Some schools will look at this quite favorably, as it puts the professors deep in these religious communities and the heart of the institutional mission. If you need the money, then you need to consider your options. Many of my colleagues find creative ways to do so outside their university salary, even with a 4-4 load. If it is still not feasible, then you should consider better paying institutions or moves to (gasp!) non-academic careers.

The Secret Lie:

Ok, so perhaps this is not a blatant lie, but it is certainly misleading. Many of these schools claim to operate on an equality pay scale out of ideological principal, and deans may outright claim that salary is not negotiable. Some schools will have just three categories: assistant professor, associate professor and full professor. Others will add on a subcategory of years of service. But I know that in certain CCCU or ATS institutions, these pay scales are not followed and that there is room for negotiation for candidates that they really want. With that said, unless you are a superstar, it is wise that you try to negotiate within reason of their pay scale. Much of the TPII content is very applicable such as this this and this.

Despite the somewhat derisive tone of this post, I have truly enjoyed working at a Christian university. I appreciate many aspects of my professorial life that are vastly different from a professorship at an elite R1.

Like most things in life, there is both good and bad, though I learned that wise negotiation can help tilt it a bit more to the good.

A View From the Other Side of the Table: Playing the Endgame (A Guest Post)

This is a guest post by a tenured reader at a mid-tier public university.


If you been invited for a campus visit, congratulations.  This means that you are part of an elite group of 5 or so who have been chosen over the hundred or so other applicants.   Let’s assume you gave a decent job talk, didn’t commit any major faux pas during the interviews and actually liked the school and the people that you met.   What to do next to seal the deal and get the best offer possible?  Having just served on a hiring committee for a mid-tier public university, I have some suggestions.

Be thankful:   Send a brief email to EVERY faculty member and high level admin (Dean, etc.) that you had an interview or serious interaction with (you can skip those who just showed up to the job talk or for free food at the buffet).   It doesn’t have to be long, but it should have the following elements:

  1. Your appreciation for their time and hospitality
  2. Your continued interest in the position
  3. If you mention something specific to your interaction with them, you get bonus points.

Not doing 1) makes you look like an ingrate.  We know that campus visits are exhausting obstacle courses, as we all went through them ourselves.   But don’t be fooled that faculty enjoy taking time out of their schedules to listen to a series of job talks and hold interviews,  repeating the same things to a series of candidates.  Even those free restaurant meals get old after the 3rd time.   If you only thank some of the faculty, the others who interviewed you (especially if they were on the hiring committee) will naturally conclude that you think that they aren’t important enough to be bothered with.  Is that the message you really want to send?  For the record we compare notes on whether and where you sent thank-yous.

Doing 1) but not 2) makes it seem like you are giving us the polite brush off.  You are interviewing us as well during your visit, and we would understand if there’s something about the school or the department that made you decide “uh, not where I want to spend the next few decades of my life.”  So if you are still interested in the position, SAY SO.     You don’t need to plead, but playing ambivalent is not conducive to getting an offer.  Don’t make the hiring committee sit around and second guess your interest level.

Be considerate:   If you are no longer interested in joining our faculty for whatever reason, contact us and tell us that you’d like to withdraw your application.  If you do get an offer from us and you don’t plan to accept it, reject us as soon as possible so we can contact our next choice.    Asking to have an offer extended makes it seem like you are hoping for something better elsewhere, so do that only if you are prepared for us say “sorry, no extensions will be possible.”

Be forthright: Entertaining another offer while interviewing is a wonderful, yet stressful conundrum to have, especially as most offers have firm deadlines.  Let us know what your deadline is.  Alas, we may not be able to respond in time (for example, if we are bringing in more candidates over the next 2 weeks for a single position, we cannot cancel their trips, and it would violate our HR rules to bring people out for a visit if an offer has been tendered to another).  However, if we are able to, that may light a fire under our collective posteriors, in addition to signalling that, yes, others want you.   Of course, if you do have other offers, be sure to communicate your enthusiasm for joining our faculty, or we may assume you plan to use any offer from us merely as leverage to bargain with your true love elsewhere.

Be prepared to negotiate: I’d never let my Dean see me say this, but we expect, perhaps even want, some negotiation.  If you have a better offer on the table, let us know the amount.  Even if you don’t, know that the first offer typically holds a little back.  Be realistic: we aren’t going to be able to offer $25K/year more to match that well-endowed private school, especially if that would bump your salary beyond what more senior faculty make!   Even if we can’t increase the salary, we may be able to offer additional perks like summer stipends or course releases.   In addition to getting you some goodies and showing you aren’t a pushover, it actually benefits us, too. We can go to Administration and say “School X is offering $Y more than we are for a similar position, so we need to be able to offer a higher salary than you have allotted to us.”  Likewise, if you do turn us down for another higher paid job elsewhere, our consolation prize is that we can use this information to make us more competitive in future job searches.

In conclusion:    Once we’ve weeded out the inevitable one or two obvious misfits, it’s likely that each of the remaining candidates who visited has his or her own advantages.  Perhaps one is doing more compelling research but another has a more prestigious pedigree, and the question we must consider is how to weigh these attributes in an overall ranking.  Or perhaps faculty opinion is divided as to who is the best. Even if a clear winner emerges across all categories, it’s likely these differences are minor.   So know this:  we would likely rather have any one of our remaining “A” list candidates than have to slog once again through the selection process and another round of campus visits with the “B” list.  This concern becomes more important as the hiring season progresses, with the applicant pool dwindling as more popular applicants accept offers elsewhere.     So we may select the person who we feel is the most likely to accept our offer, even if his/her publication record isn’t quite as solid or teaching experience is less established than more ambivalent candidates.   If you follow the steps above, that could earn you the edge …and the offer.


I Don’t Know You

In last week’s Job Offer Digest, one of my successful clients wrote this:

“Still, don’t kid yourself; working with Dr. Karen is hard! It forces you to take a long hard look at yourself, your work, and your presentation of your work. As she knows you ONLY through these documents, the feedback you get from her reflects what a committee will think when evaluating you. This reflection is sometimes harsh but, if you work with her, you have the benefit of improving and learning from each draft. Everything she says WILL make you better. As a result, I am coming out of this whole process more confident and secure in myself and my research.”

This is the crux of my work with clients:  I know you only through the documents. So I’m an excellent stand-in for a search committee reader.

You may be blessed with excellent advisors who are doing their best to help you. I hope you are.  But your advisors KNOW you.  And that means that they are constantly – albeit unconsciously – filling in quantities of information/background/rationalizations as they read your cover letter and other documents.  I don’t blame them for this. I did the same with my own Ph.D. students.  I was not a brilliant advisor by any means.

But as The Professor Is In, I can do something different.  I can look at your job documents with an objective eye. I have no information to add.  I take everything exactly at face value.  If you don’t write it, I don’t know it. If you don’t write it well, I don’t understand it.  If you write too much, I am instantly bored.

I say all this not for marketing purposes, but for explanatory ones.  Many people still wonder what it is I do, and why it has a value beyond what advisors can provide.  This, I think, is the value.  I subject your writing to the judgment of a perfect stranger.  And that is a good thing, although not an easy one.

For Post-ac Scientists: The “Applications Scientist” Track

I don’t have a post-ac blog post this week.

So, I’ll share this link sent to me by a client.  It is from the Science Careers blog of the journal Science, and it describes the career track of the Applications Scientist.

Applications scientists provide support to customers of companies in the laboratory equipment, reagents, or lab-services industry, and according to the author, is one of “the best stepping stones from the bench to a range of opportunities in industry.”

What do they do?

“When technical inquiries from customers can’t be met by telephone and e-mail tech-support teams, they escalate to applications scientists. “Especially when they require lab work, an applications scientist speaks with the customer and can go so far as to test samples or specific applications,” Herzer continues. Herzer has a Ph.D. in molecular genetics from Rutgers University; such high-level credentials are common among applications scientists, and often are necessary for dealing with the complexity of modern research tools.

Applications people, Herzer says, can be either in the lab or in the field. In the lab, applications scientists tend to have more hands-on experience and often a higher education level than the front-line technical support staff. Their training — and the labs they have at their disposal — enables them to approach customer problems in a more sophisticated way. The field applications scientist (often referred to by the acronym FAS) works in the field, helping customers do their own work and working on collaborative projects. They also provide training, set up equipment, and deliver presentations and product demonstrations at customer sites and conferences.

“Field applications scientists troubleshoot via phone and e-mail as well, but they do have a significant amount of travel expected of them because much of what they do is face-to-face with the customer,” Herzer continues, raising an aspect of the job — travel — that can be either a plus or a minus. Few people travel more than field applications scientists.”

Read more here.