Don’t State the Obvious

 There is a kind of line in job documents that is technically blameless, but is so generic, so very much “stating the obvious” that it also completely pointless.  This kind of line fills space while doing nothing to distinguish you in any way.
The rule here is: If Anyone Can Say It, It’s Not Helping You.
Here are a few examples:
  • The ultimate aim of my classroom strategies is to help students gain useful skills and knowledge.
  •  My courses present writing as a means of communication and a tool for developing thought.
  • As a recipient of the grant, I will have the opportunity to apply my expertise in short-term projects and longer-term projects, expanding my learning capabilities and diversifying my network.
  • By presenting my current and future research in the departmental symposium, I would be able to put my work in dialogue with fellows in various departments, and to collaborate with researchers in disciplines other than my own.
  •  I can teach a variety of courses in the department.
  • Your department offers many opportunities for collaboration.

In each case, there is literally no academic who could not write the sentence!

Study your job documents and make sure that every line tells something about YOU, not about “Generic Job-Seeker X.”


The Job of an Academic Editor: Part 2 (Fruscione #postac post)

by Joseph Fruscione

Joe Fruscione

Joe Fruscione

In the previous piece, I talked with a few fellow post- or alt-ac editors about the kinds of work we do with academic clients. Some (like Margy Thomas Horton) offer a variety of services, whereas others (like Annemarie Perez or Laura Fowler Graham) handle formatting and copy editing while still working in academia. Figure out your own strengths and preferences as an editor or consultant, and advertise your services an editor catering to scholars and graduate students accordingly.

Several new and would-be post-acs have asked me for practical advice how to find the work, how much to charge, how to foreground academic skills, and so on. Now that you have a sense of what editors can do with academics (or in STEM and other publishing venues), here’s some actionable advice to help you get clients, negotiate fair fees, deal with problems, and build your editing portfolio.

  • Annemarie Perez: I ask clients to send me the work, and then I provide a list of services and a breakdown of prices. I’ve generally invested an hour or so into each client before I officially start working for them, but I’ve found that’s the best way for me to work. Otherwise students don’t know what I can do for them, and I don’t know what they need.
  • Laura Fowler Graham: Don’t be afraid to network with academics and promote your business. Initially, I was shy about promoting my editing services, fearing that others would think I was rude. I’ve learned that self-promotion is key in the post-ac and alt-ac professional world. Whenever possible, work and talk with others in the editing business.
  • Margy Thomas Horton: Your business comes down to two things: what you know and what people think of you. Always be learning and cultivating your expertise, and always be sure clients know that you are fair, transparent, and looking out for their best interests.
  • Laura: Accept that you are not an academic anymore, and don’t let your new post-ac identity get in the way of working with scholars. Initially, I felt embarrassed about pursuing such work because I was afraid that other scholars wouldn’t take me seriously, but I realized that the embarrassment was self-made. Once I moved past my irrational fear that I wouldn’t be seen as a “real” academic, I was much more invested in my chosen career.
  • Annemarie: I think my academic training has generally helped me, partly by making me understand the stress faculty and students are under with regard to their writing. I also know how hard it is to hand a draft over, the anxiety about being judged and found wanting. It’s helped in a practical way—I know what research and research-based writing look like.
  • Margy: The most common challenge for my dissertation-writing clients is understanding and meeting their advisors’ expectations. The main challenge for my faculty clients is to produce publications consistently despite other competing priorities. No two clients are alike, which is why I’ve developed different methods for helping people to get their work done efficiently and well.
  • Annemarie: Potential post- and alt-acs should try working with a few people and find out about themselves as an editor. Practical things like how long it takes to do X or their skills at Y will help them decide how much they need to charge to make doing the work worthwhile. They should consider the intangibles, too: Is this work satisfying or frustrating? Is it something they enjoy, or is it something they’re basically doing to earn money?

Finally, get very familiar with Microsoft Word. There will be problems connected with software versions that cause formatting issues. I try never to come back to a client with “this is wrong, but there’s nothing I can do about it.” They’re paying me to figure out how to get it right.

I’ll add to these to my peers’ strong points:

  • If you don’t already have a LinkedIn profile, create one. Read how other editors and consultants—especially a few post-acs and alt-acs—describe their skills, experience, and services. LinkedIn will help you add connections, as well as give you some jobs to apply to so you can hone your resume, professional image, and positive career-change story.
  • A few potential post-acs I’ve talked with have been hesitant to publicize their career plans, because they worry that they’ll jeopardize any chances of getting a full-time academic position. If you’re concerned about going public, you could advertise yourself back channel through e-mails to colleagues discussing your plans (while requesting privacy).
  • Before agreeing to terms and payment, have a meeting with the client, preferably by some means other than e-mail. If you can meet in person, great; if not, schedule a phone call or Skype chat. Such conversations go better in real time; they’ll clarify your services, your clients’ expectations, and a fair fee structure.
  • Forgive me for repeating myself, but get a writing sample from the client before establishing your fee. Listening to the person discuss his or her project is one thing; actually reading it and seeing how much work it will entail is something else. Assess the client’s strengths and weaknesses, and offer your estimate accordingly. Don’t make the mistake I did of missing how labor-intensive a project will be by not reading the sample closely.
  • Before making an arrangement, clarify your services and the client’s expectations about what you will and won’t do. It’s sad but true: some clients—like some students we’ve had—will knowingly submit subpar work and expect free editorial magic. Outlining your duties from the beginning helps prevent this, as does addressing such problems directly, perhaps with something like: I’m noticing a lot of avoidable errors, such as This or That. Can you clean up these issues on your own and then send me a cleaner version? Our agreement was that I only handle X. I could also do Y, but you’ll have to pay $___ extra. Being professional and diplomatic might be tricky, but ensuring that your time and efforts are fully valued is necessary.
  • If, like me, you’re not especially strong with APA, ASA, or other styles, let your clients know that you’re best suited for other kinds of work. They should know exactly what you’ll do before formal (and paid) work on a project begins; this helps clients know what they’re paying for and you ensure you get paid fairly. I’ve offered to direct such clients to trusted colleagues who specialize in a certain format or style when I lack the knowledge.
  • A few graduate students have asked me questions about their argument or research better suited for their professors, so I’ve suggested they arrange meetings to discuss such substantive issues. Be clear from the beginning that clients should ultimately follow the professor and assignment prompt.
  • Add your academic clients to your list of references, and offer potential clients the chance to talk with them. Past clients can also be great sources of LinkedIn recommendations (scroll down here for mine). If there’s a certain aspect of your editing you want stressed—such as your exceptional turnaround times or formatting wizardry—ask the client to spotlight it.
  • Always advocate for yourself when describing, advertising, negotiating, and doing your work. Make sure you’re paid fairly for the work you do, and speak up when necessary.

There’s a lot of support and collaboration potential in the post-ac and alt-ac communities. In making new professional connections, you might also find an editing or consulting partner—perhaps someone with colleagues needing the kinds of skills you have. Keep connecting with and learning from your network, and always be looking for the new clients and opportunities that arise on social media and elsewhere.

What is the REF? A Primer on UK Academia (Guest Post)

This was generously sent in by a former client, now employed faculty member.  She is Lecturer (assistant professor) at the University of London.  I am always grateful for info on the UK job market, especially the REF.  For more on the UK academic job market, see this post for more on the REF and this post on the peculiar British interview process.


What is the REF?  The REF (Research Excellence Framework) is the assessment exercise that took place in 2014, taking over for the RAE (Research Assessment Exercise of 2008). It is a national research evaluation that affects all research universities and some arts colleges.

Why does it take place? All universities are public in the UK, so research funding generally comes from government-funded agencies. The REF is therefore, indirectly, the government’s accountability exercise to assess the quality and quantity of research being subsidized with public money. (NB with the rise in student fees in 2012, the funding structure has changed, so the REF will likely change as well for 2020).

Who participates? Most departments across the country send in a submission, and most members of those departments contribute to the submission. People have to be “selected,” but everyone is expected to participate if they are “permanent” (the equivalent of TT/tenured). To sit out the process would imply not being an active researcher, and this would have salary ramifications.

What does it entail? Individuals send their “output” (publications) to their faculty research office, and the material goes out for assessment – it gets reviewed internally, and then externally by an appointed “critical friend” of the department. Much of the material has already been through peer review, so the re-assessment, sometimes by non-specialists, can be troublesome for people who do non-traditional work. The university decides which individuals “get to” participate, and individual output goes into the departmental portfolio. Then the department is assessed as a whole. The process takes 2-3 years.

How does the assessment work? Specialists (usually at the rank of full professor) from every discipline are assigned to REF sub-panels, and they are relieved of their departmental duties for a year or so while they read the complete submission for their sub-discipline (this task is prestigious but thankless), and each item (article, chapter, book) is given a ranking: 4* (world-leading), 3* (internationally excellent), 2* (nationally excellent/internationally recognized), 1* (nationally recognized), “Unclassified.” The complete departmental portfolio is then tabulated, and the department is assigned a collective ranking for output on the basis of how many 4* outputs it has, along with other criteria like “impact” (public engagement) and “environment” (facilities and resources). Departments that rank highly get a pat on the back from admin, while departments that “do poorly” are threatened with salary cuts and closure.

Do adjuncts participate? Usually not, although any candidate who has a book has leverage to upgrade their contract. Many part-timers participate, though, such as people who leave mid-year, or full professors approaching retirement who drop down to part-time.

How much material gets assessed? In 2014, active researchers were asked to submit four pieces.

That must be a mistake – only four items? Right, a newly-minted PhD working hard to build a research profile might not think that four pieces in six years is much to produce. But this applies to people at all levels, and a Professor has to put out the same amount as a Lecturer (assistant professor). It doesn’t seem like much to someone one the tenure-track, but more senior researchers might see keeping up with the cycle as a lot of work. And for people working on a book, the need to put out articles while trying to finish a manuscript can mean not finishing the book.

How do you put together a submission? Ultimately, what confuses most people is how to weigh quality against quantity. At the moment, every document counts as one item, meaning that a single-authored monograph counts the same (quantitatively) as a chapter in an edited collection. But the former would generally earn a higher rating than the latter. So status publications remain the best route to a 4* ranking – almost anyone with a single-authored monograph and three journal articles will earn top marks. It’s harder to earn 4* without a book, but it can be done by publishing in top-status journals. This means that people who do multi-media, outreach, or anything non-traditional will sometimes be penalyzed for not focusing on traditional text. On the other hand, the system of weighting allows people to game the system if they know how it works. Edited collections and conference proceedings are often used as filler to round out a submission, especially for people who have already established their reputation. This is why some British academics have dozens and dozens of publications – they write as much as they can, and leave it to the research office to sort out which pieces are worth submitting. From Karen’s “Don’t get your career at Costco” perspective, this is an inefficient use of research time.

Whom does this system favour? It depends on who you ask, but the data indicates that the system favours men in their 50s and 60s. There is research about gender imbalances – in most universities, the REF submissions slant heavily male, regardless of departmental ratios, and there is low representation of people in their 30s (and virtually nobody in their 20s, at least in the humanities). The overseers are working to fix this imbalance, but slowly and largely ineffectively: For example, an Early Career Researcher (ECR – someone who finished within the past six to ten years, depending on the metric) is entitled to a reduced submission – 1 publication if they filed in 2011, 2 if they filed in 2010, and so forth. This appears to be a benefit. However, hiring committees in 2012 and 2013 were single-mindedly focused on making hires that would raise, rather than meet their departmental rating, and an ECR with two good articles wouldn’t make much of an impact statistically. So in the years leading up to the REF, departments usually hired someone with a book, leading to short-sighted hiring practices that favour a candidate with a book in-hand, and occasionally not much else, over a candidate with a lot of demonstrated productivity and potential. Likewise, departments keep senior faculty on well into their 70s if they are still publishing books. To some ECRs, this appears to be a transfer of privilege upwards.

Does anyone like the REF? The REF is stressful and time-consuming, it strains relations with administration, it causes bullying within departments, and it’s subject to the same critiques of neoliberalism and corporatization as the job market. One thing I can say on its behalf, though, is that it forces senior/experienced colleagues to remain in active research. I have some colleagues back in the US who complain about the full professors who stopped publishing long ago and are coasting while those on the TT work like mad to get their work done. I don’t find that to be the case, at least in my department – the same expectations apply to everyone, or, everyone who’s already an insider…

If I’m looking to work in the UK, how should I plan for the REF now? As an ECR, I use Karen’s five-year plan as a good template. The same things that make a successful tenure portfolio make a good REF submission, so publishing one article in a top journal per year, plus finishing your book, will leave you in a good position.

The Job of an Academic Editor: Part 1 (Fruscione #Postac Post)

by Joseph Fruscione

Joe Fruscione

Joe Fruscione

I’ve written previously about the life of an academic editor.  In previous installments, I wrote about developmental and STEM editing opportunities. With a hat-tip to Jo VanEvery for the suggestion, I’m focusing today on editing academics’ work, which can be an easy segue for current and future post-acs. Virtually all academics know a colleague, mentor, or graduate student in need of developmental or copy editing. Jo, who works with tenured and tenure-track scholars, offers this: “Understand what an editor can do for you; if you outsource some of the editing, you can do more writing. Get the support you need.”

I’ve done several projects for professors and graduate students—some of whom I connected with via Tall Sister Editing, which a friend and former colleague runs. I’ve worked on different stages of scholarly projects: from trimming and restructuring a monograph, to helping revise journal articles, theses, and dissertations, to guiding Master’s or doctoral students’ work on multiple writing stages. Letting your academic connections know about your career transition can boost your freelance or full-time editing work. Get your name out there in academic circles via e-mail and social media, and do your best to keep it out there and build your clientele and editing portfolio.

You don’t have to be fully post-ac to work with academic clients. Laura Fowler Graham is a current academic who works as a writing consultant and coach. Laura finds her clients through social media platforms and word of mouth: “Some of my clients have been referred to me through friends and colleagues. I’ve solicited business from colleagues who are writing monographs and are looking for an independent editor. I have a website that lists the types of services I offer and my prices.” Laura does light to heavy copy editing, depending on what level of service her client requests. In her experience, “scholars prefer medium to heavy copy editing because their writing is generally much more complex and lengthy than the other types of documents.” If you do different levels of editing, make sure you have different rates, and charge accordingly for time-consuming work. I’ve worked from this breakdown of light, medium, and heavy copy editing, and I share it with new clients when discussing their needs, strengths, and areas of improvement as writers.

Laura’s academic training has been useful, but not without hindrances: “My experience with peer review and grading student papers has made it difficult for me to break away from the habit of wanting to analyze the material on a scholarly level, rather than just looking to the text to make sure that it is clear, concise, and free of grammar errors.” Academics gain a lot of useful and transferable skills through teaching and research. If you’re transitioning, self-reflect and identify these skills and your areas of improvement to help buttress your post-ac identity and increase your professional confidence.

From such investment and confidence will come successand, if you’re so inclined, entrepreneurship. Fellow TPII consultant Margy Thomas Horton has her own editing business, Scholar Shape:

I offer the full range of editing services, from development to final document processing. What sets ScholarShape apart from other editing shops is the menu of customizable editing and consultation services I’ve created. Examples of my unconventional editing services include Real-time Editing, Article Submission Management, and Reverse Outlining. My consultation services include Writing Sessions and Project Mapping.
Most of Margy’s clients find her through referrals, word of mouth, and reading her blog posts. Her academic training “was necessary preparation for my work as a supporter of scholars”:What has changed for me is that my perspective on academia has broadened. I had always looked at everything through a humanities lens, but now I approach academic inquiry from many perspectives at once, having absorbed the fascinations and tried on the approaches of my scholar-clients in fields ranging from chemistry, to law, to sociology, as well as in humanities fields like history and literature. I now see into the work lives of academics at every career stage. I recognize for the first time not only how intertwined all the disciplines are, but also how interdependent the many members of the Academy are—even if, at times, scholars can be isolated or alienated from one another.  
I like this idea of being “a supporter of scholars,” because manyand not just PhD studentsneed different kinds of editing, encouragement, and developmental work to advance various academic projects.


Another “supporter of scholars” is Annemarie Perez, who is in a strong position to know the challenges facing her clientsas well as how to offer the necessary support:

Sometimes it’s psychological. Especially for students finishing their dissertations, the process of writing is fraught with anxiety and insecurity. By the time they reach me, many of my clients have been treated quite poorly by advisors and departments. Finishing a dissertation (or book with the tenure clock ticking) is hugely stressful in its own right. I treat my clients as people who are paying not just for my editing skills, but also for my compassion, professionalism, and ability to treat them with dignity. I do my best to relieve as much stress as I can by being professional. This can be hard because, in working with academics, deadlines inevitably get pushed and I have to balance one client’s needs against my commitment to others.

Annemarie does different kinds of editing and coaching. Her services run the gamut from formatting (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.) and line editing (light, medium, and heavy) to developmental and consulting work. “My clients find me through word of mouth, both from former clients and from departments and schools who know me. I used to do a lot more editing, dissertation coaching and ‘bootcamps’ and less teaching, so there are a number of people passing my name around.” Annemarie’s work for the Doctoral Support Center at USC’s Rossier School of Education has helped her editing–coaching career: “I was a graduate advisor there for two years and saw the balancing act students working full-time have to do to finish their dissertations. It made me understand why someone would need or want an editor.” If you’ve worked in a writing center or similar environment, stress the skills and experience you gained when applying for jobs.


Laura, Margy, and Annemarie have helped show the kinds of editing work available for scholarly projects. If this is a current, or even possible, post-ac or alt-ac career path for you, let one or more of us know. The post- and alt-ac communities are strong, supportive, growing…and always eager to help new members. In the next piece, my colleagues and I will offer some practical advice to get you started finding and doing this work.

The Question Is Not The Question

Kellee and I were chatting the other day about her work in Interview Interventions over the past few months. She said to me, “What clients always need to understand is that the question is not the question!  They always think the question is asking XXX, but it’s actually asking YYY, they just don’t know it!”

We talked more.  We came up with some examples of common questions, and what our clients think they’re supposed to say vs. what the search committee really wants to know.

1) Tell us about your research.

You think they care about your research.
You say way too much about narrow, narrow, oh so narrow, tediously narrow interests.

No. They want to learn about how your expertise fits into their departmental needs as expressed by the job ad, and connects with the work of the people doing the interview (which is why your methodology and contribution are actually the most important portion of your answer), and is quickly getting funded and published in ways that bode well for tenure.   At the same time, they observe how you express yourself, how self absorbed you are or aren’t.

2) Tell us about your plans for the next five years.

You think they want to hear about your interests and motivations in the life of the mind in huge, grandiose, boring abstractions.

This is the equivalent of someone asking you how to get to from LA to NYC by car, and you start the answer: “The corn of Nebraska is beautiful in late summer!”

No. It’s not about the corn.  Instead, you’ll need to explain how, leaving on XX date, on XX road, you’ll make it to XX city by sundown.  Then starting the next day, you’ll reach XX by sundown.  You will give the step-by-step route complete with mileage goals and destinations along the way.  They don’t need to know your feelings about the scenery.

Same for tenure. Tenure is a destination that must be reached in careful and well-planned stages.  The search committee needs to know 1) that you get what tenure at their institution means and 2) that you have plan complete with dates and locations to get there. All framed within THEIR concerns. R1 = RESEARCH goals, along with teaching and a tiny bit of service; SLAC = TEACHING goals, always informed by research and more service.

3)  Tell us how you would teach our big survey course.

You think they want to hear how you’re going to make those undergrads finally grasp the point of transnationalism, once and for all.  Or modernity.  They must know modernity.  Or intersectionality, goddammit!  They MUST. BE. TAUGHT. INTERSECTIONALITY.

No.  They do not want to hear that you are going to dogmatically hijack their big intro course and make it into an altar to your personal theoretical preoccupation.  They want to know that 1) you get that you will be teaching big survey courses, 2) you get what the discipline expects students to learn in those classes and have a plan to assure students learn it. They want to know that even though they are hiring an expert in the power dynamics of gender on Mars it does not mean you will hijack their Introduction to Anthropology class and teach it through a Martian gender theory lens. In other words, they want to know that you will not take their courses off the rails and leave them with ill-prepared students in their 200 level courses.

4)  Tell us how you see yourself contributing to this department.

You think they want to know the courses you will propose and how much you loooooooove students (graduate or otherwise)

No. They need to see you making specific connections between your work and the work being done by current faculty in the department, at thematic and/or topical levels.

They also want to know how you will raise their department profile or raise the profile of their students (depending the institution) both on an off campus. Working Groups. Interdisciplinary collaborations. Professional Affiliations. Programs. Initiatives. Field Schools. And yes, courses. But really the courses you propose only go so far.

5) Tell us why you want to work here.

You think they want to know how great their department will be for you and all the great things you will do with all of their great resources.

No.  That is self-absorbed.  This is not the time for more “me, me, me” and how the job is going to serve you.  They want to know that you understand the university, the department, the faculty. That you have thought it through and see where you can connect, build, and engage, giving specific examples and ideas.

6) Do you have any questions for us?

You think the purpose of these questions is to gather information.

No.  These questions are more ways they elicit information about you.  They want to know what you are prioritizing in your academic life. Your questions always reveal your values, and you must manage them for what they disclose.  They are often where your deepest priorities and anxieties come out into the light.  If all your questions are about teaching, and it’s an R1, you look like you don’t belong.  You must show them that you are thinking about what they think you should be thinking about.  Always with an eye to your tenure case.  I wrote some specifics about this in a recent Chronicle Vitae post, Good Question!

Kellee was talking with her brother recently and lamenting how often people they’ve  interviewed for positions had clearly failed to prepare in any way to understand the position or the organization. He mentioned a recent search he was chairing for a position in the U.S. Forest Service.  He and his colleagues asked, “Do you have any questions for us?”  The candidates fell into two groups: those who asked something like, “How often am I paid and what are my benefits?” and those who asked something like, “I was looking at XXX project that you did last year, and it really intersects with my work;  I am interested to know if you have plans to further develop XXX?  I would like to be involved.”

To quote Kellee’s brother: “Who do you think made the short list?”

Want to work with Kellee on a live Skype Interview Intervention?  Here’s the info:

The Interview Intervention and Job Talk Intervention are both  50-minute Skype appointments with TPII colleague Kellee Weinhold, who specializes in communications and presentation.  The latter is a practice job talk.  The former is an intensive mock-interview.  The cost for each is $250.

For the Interview Intervention. we take you through a set of 6 basic interview questions (several of these are described in my blog post, The #Facepalm Fails of the Academic Interview) in a mock interview, stopping after each question to evaluate every answer for its strengths and weaknesses in terms of brevity, spin, word choice, tone, body language, etc., and refining it for effectiveness.  For some basic questions, you may repeat your response 2-3 times until perfect.  It’s grueling, but very effective.   Read some of the testimonials on the Testimonials page to learn more.

For the Job Talk Strategy:

Don’t understand the job talk or not sure what your talk should focus on, In this 30-minute Intervention, Kellee will walk you through the mission, ethos, structure and goals of a Job Talk with SPECIFIC attention to your research as it relates to the job call. We will brainstorm key sections of your job talk, including introduction, results and conclusion with guidelines on what you need to be sure to include and avoid. THIS IS ONLY FOR THOSE WHO NEED TO WRITE A TALK AND NEED HELP CONCEPTUALIZING IT. If you need a job talk edit, contact Dr. Karen at

Once an I-I or Job Talk Intervention has been scheduled it is non-refundable. It can be rescheduled up to 48 hours in advance; after that the slot cannot be changed.

Both kinds of Skype Interventions are currently scheduled through an on-line calendar. Please go here to schedule and pay:

What Happens To Your #Postac Application: From Submission to Interview (Gover)

by Maggie Gover

Maggie Gover

Maggie Gover

I do a lot of hiring every year, mostly in academic administration, but I sit on other searches as well.  Partially this is because the majority of my staff are graduate students on academic year contracts, so those positions are opened every year for new applicants.  Partially this is because I am well-connected on campus and am often asked to sit on hiring committees for other departments.  Much of my knowledge about how the hiring process works is based on my experience as a reviewer of applications.  I am often asked what happens to applications before the interview process.  I thought I would share some of that here, with several caveats.  The first is that every job posting is unique, so I am speaking in broad generalities that encapsulate commonalities between many of the hiring processes I have experienced.  The second is that these are my own observations and thoughts.  Every hiring manager is different, and the process will slightly differ in the way they approach the hiring process.  The third is that all of my direct experience is limited to academic administration.  While I have networked with HR professionals and can say that our anecdotal accounts lead me to believe that my experiences are common in other fields, I can only speak to administrative hiring in higher education.  Having outlined the limitations of my observations, I hope you will find a brief insight to my hiring process helpful.

The first thing that I do when on a hiring committee is an internal evaluation.  This begins with my knowledge of the position, the departmental needs, and the job posting.  Generally, the hiring committee will get together to discuss the job posting so that everyone is on the same page.   Often times the qualifications are divided into two categories, those that are necessary and those that would be bonuses.  This is often worded as “minimum” and “preferred” or “qualifications” and “the ideal candidate will…”  Many times the preferred qualifications will be listed in order of importance.  If they are not, I will number them myself.  I will then think about what the position does, day-to-day, and think about the kinds of experiences that might lend one to be successful in the position.  Only after a careful and extensive review of the internal position, do I begin actually looking at the candidates who have applied.

My review of the applicants begins with the resume and the basic qualifications.  By this time I have been approved to review the applicant pool by our HR department.   I look to see if the basic qualifications match their resumes, but those who don’t fit those minimums aren’t automatically eliminated if there is an alternative. For example, if our basic qualification is that the applicant has a master’s degree, and the applicant doesn’t, often times there will be a caveat that the applicant can have “equivalent experience.”  Another minimum qualification might be that they have two years experience, and this applicant has ten years experience, the surplus experience may take care of both of these minimums.  However, if several of the basic qualifications are not met or if I find it difficult to locate the information on the resume or application in fifteen seconds or less, that applicant is put to the bottom of my pile.

Generally, I have seen anywhere from 60-200 applicants for a full-time admin position.  By the time I have made a pile of those who have made it through the “basic application” stage, I usually still have a very healthy stack.  I then do a second review of the resumes based on the ranked “preferred” qualifications.  Those who have the most important “preferred” qualifications rise to the top of my list.  During both of my reviews of the resumes, I have made notes about questions I have about this applicant.

Then I move onto the cover letters.  I am looking to see if the questions I have written on the resume are answered in the cover letter. I might be wondering why this person, who already has an awesome job, is applying for this job.  I might be wondering how this person’s experience as a volunteer for a non-profit will help them be successful in this job.  I might be wondering if this applicant is willing to relocate so that they can work here.  At that point, after I know as much as I can about an applicant from their application materials, I complete a ranked list of those who I think it would be good to interview.

At this point in the review process, I join the committee.  Everyone has made his/her own ranked lists of applicants, and we compare notes.  Generally, as we have already met once to discuss the actual job we are looking to fill, our lists are very similar.  They might have two or three variations, but not many.  After we have discussed each applicant and why we individually thought to interview them, we create our initial interview short list to send to HR.  HR reviews the list and tells us if we are cleared to interview.   So, that is what happens on my end before I begin the interview process.

Common Questions I Have Been Asked:

Does the institution that granted my degree matter as much as in tenure-track and other academic applications?

No.  When I am looking at applications I am looking for experiences that indicate that the applicant can be successful in the job for which they are applying.  If the position requires a degree that means that it requires the knowledge and skills generally obtained in earning that degree.  If the field for the degree is not specified, those skills might be things like analytical reasoning, clear written and oral communication, etc.  If the field is specified, that also might include technical and theoretical knowledge.  How well the applicant has a grasp on that knowledge will be tested in interviews or practical skills components of the application process, such as writing samples, managerial assessments, or prepared presentations. As I work at a large state institution, experience at a similar institution might be an asset, but so would experience in a very similar job at a very different type of institution.  Additionally, having a degree granted from a large state institution is not enough to show me that you have the type of experience there that we are seeking.

Can I ask for feedback on the application?

           Yes, but don’t expect too much.  If you have made it to the interview process, it is always appropriate to ask for feedback.  In this case, you can ask the leader of the interview committee for feedback.  They may or may not say anything useful.  If you didn’t make it that far, you likely will only be able to communicate with the HR representative about your application.  At companies where the first few eliminations are made in the HR department, or where the hiring is wholly contained in the HR department, you might get some good information.  You might also get the standard, “the strength of the application pool made it an especially competitive posting.  We wish you luck in your future endeavors.”  Don’t get discouraged by this.  I think many people are conditioned to think that it is part of the process in the academic market to get little to no feedback on the 30 applications you just sent out, but really it is a pervasive problem in all markets.

Should I bother applying if I don’t have the preferred amount of experience and qualifications?

           Yes!  You don’t know what the applicant pool will look like and you may have the one preferred qualification that is most important for this job.  You might be a better candidate for the job even if you are missing one of the preferred qualifications.  Your job is to articulate in your application materials why you would be successful in this particular job.

How do I know which are the most important preferred qualifications?

           Often times you won’t.  I like to think that they are written in order of importance, but this is not a guarantee.  You know which of the preferred qualifications you have, so try not to give yourself anxiety about the things that are our of your control.  Articulate the qualifications you already have, discuss the experiences that have translatable skills, show that you have a genuine interest in the type of job and the institution to which you are applying, and then move on!

How much time do you spend with my actual application?

           As you can see from my process, this is hard to calculate because I go through the application stack many times and in different orders.  I imagine that on any one application I spend anywhere from fifteen seconds to four or five minutes in my initial review.  If the applicant has made it to my interview list or someone else’s on the committee, we might spend an additional five minutes talking about the applicant.

What Am I Doing Here? Answers to Questions You Have Asked Yourself While “Networking” – Gover

By Maggie Gover

Maggie Gover

Maggie Gover


Maggie Gover is Director for Professional Development at the University of California, Riverside.


Networking can be awkward.  If you have ever asked yourself these questions, here are the answers along with some tips that might actually make networking an enjoyable experience!


What can I do to prepare for this?

    The answer to this depends on the event.  For some, you might be able to look up who is coming and think about the people who you might want to meet.  For other events, you might not be able to do that kind of research.  In general, here are my tips for preparing for a networking event.  Get some rest.  No one has a sparkling and charming personality on two hours of sleep and stress.  Eat before you go.  You don’t want your stomach to be growling or to be too distracted by the appetizers to concentrate on what others are saying.  Dress appropriately yet comfortably.  Appropriately will greatly depend on the type of meeting and its location, but comfortable clothing is key.  This also applies to shoes.  Take business cards.  Don’t have any?  Get some printed.  Have a strategy for collecting business cards.  You need a pocket, a purse, or something which will allow you to show that you care about the business card that was just handed to you.  Think about what it is that you want from networking with this group.  If you aren’t sure, read the answer to “what am I doing here?”  Here is the big one.  Practice telling a few interesting or funny stories about yourself that you can tell in one minute or less.  They must be professional, appropriate, and illustrate some aspect of yourself that you like.  They should not be disparaging to others but at the same time you shouldn’t sound arrogant.  This is the important part: you are NOT rehearsing these to use them.  You are simply practicing talking and coming up with appropriate things to say in different situations.  You are refreshing your memory about the different interesting things you have done.  DO NOT shoe horn them into the conversation.


What am I doing here?

    You are networking.  What does that mean?  It means that you are making what I like to think of as “professional friendships.”  These are friendships with people who know that you can create an Excel dashboard in five-minutes flat but don’t necessarily know that you had an imaginary friend named Ariel when you were five.  These are friends who might know that you spent two years researching in Thailand, but not necessarily that you were afraid of the dark until you were sixteen.  Semi-personal things are ok as well, as long as they are not going to make others uncomfortable.  If people know that you are obsessed with anything on the Science channel, that is fine if you are comfortable sharing.  Think about how you made friends in college, or in your graduate program, or in your current job.  This is what you should be doing here.  The people you talk to should not feel like they are on the hot seat or that they are in an interview.  Let the conversation flow naturally, remember things about people, and say hello when you see them in the future.  The really good news is that the more you network with the same group, the more they will come to know about you and the more you will be able to gauge what will make members of that group uncomfortable.


What did he just say?

    I can’t really help you with this one.  I don’t know what he just said.  But I do know, if you have ever asked this question, you were not “in the moment.”  Almost all situations can be improved by simply being “in the moment.”  This means you have to actually listen to what people are saying.  Stop trying to remember the witty story you were going to tell (I told you not to use it anyway!) and stop preparing what you are going to say next.  Stop wondering if you have spinach in your teeth, if you are sweating too much, or how long you have to stay until you can politely exit.  I know you have.  I am telling you to stop it.  Avoid foods that might leave messes and trust that a Good Samaritan will tell you if you do have spinach in your teeth, and then, enjoy the moment.  Listen to what people are actually saying.  Respond to that.  There is nothing more jarring that being part of a conversation where one person finishes a funny story about her new puppy to be answered by another who asks if there are any job openings at her current firm.


What should I say?

    This would greatly depend on what s/he just said.  So, the first advice is to listen to what others are saying and let conversation flow naturally.  However, there will be natural lulls in the conversation.  It might be helpful to have a few questions prepared that might be appropriate for many situations in which you might find yourself.  For example, if you are going to a networking event with a specific company, you could say, “I notice you just had your annual meeting/charity event/company picnic.  How was it?”  If you are networking with a professional association, you can ask how long the other person has been involved and what their favorite events are.  If it is a general association, like an association of young professionals or professional women, you can ask the first date questions: what do you do, where do you do that, how do you like it, etc.  In general, a brief silence is okay.  It allows small groups to break up to meet and mingle with other people.  Avoid conversations where you feel like you are listing your resume.  If you have a story that is appropriate for the situation, tell it.  Keep it short and engaging, and try to highlight the parts of the story to which others can relate.  At all times you want to engage others in a conversation rather than simply listing things or interviewing people.


Do they care about what I am saying?

This requires a fair amount of reading of body language.  If people are looking into your face, smiling and nodding, they are engaged.  If you tell a story and immediately someone else tells a story that is related in some way, that is a win!  When your audience starts seeking other people to talk to, they are probably no longer engaged or are simply ready to move onto another small grouping of people.  After all, everyone is there to network.


Is it ok for me to leave now?

Try to stay for two-thirds of the event, or until you notice others have started to trickle out.  Instead of leaving after your first conversation because you are feeling particularly fatigued, excuse yourself to take a break, and then dive right back in.  You do not need to be the last one there, unless you are having a fantastic conversation with someone, but you also don’t want to be the first one to leave.  This isn’t because anyone would notice, if you are new to this group, I am sure no one would.  This is because you need to stay for a while to get everything out of the experience that you can.


How do I gracefully make an exit?

There are three scenarios.  In the first scenario the person you were talking to becomes engaged in another conversation.  In this case, you can briefly interrupt by touching the person’s forearm and saying, something salutatory, such as “it was nice talking to you.”  If you are in a conversation that seems to be waning, excuse yourself.  You needn’t give an excuse, but you can if you have one.  If you have to go talk to another organizer about something, that is fine.  The third graceful exit for the savvy networker is introducing the person you are speaking with to another person.  As they begin their conversation, you can gracefully exit.  When you are leaving a networking event, thank the organizer if there was one.


Did it work?

    It will only “work” if you do some work afterwards.  Communicate with everyone from whom you received a business card.  You can connect on LinkedIn or you can simply email.  Try to remember things about everyone you talked to.  You can make notes on the back of business cards or you might be able to remember people when you do look up their LinkedIn profile.  The most important thing is to continue to networking with the same group.  You will be getting to know people better, they will be getting to know you, and eventually, the networking events will be something you enjoy!

Taking Baby to Conference: A Crowdsource Project

On Facebook in November, I posted this query: “A reader wonders about taking baby to conference: “I’m particularly interested to know if people (grad students in particular) walked around with their babies or if they kept them hidden away (oy). Organizing infant care (conference childcare doesn’t take babies under 6 months) is a big challenge and I’m trying to figure out it’ll hurt me too much professionally to drag the baby with me to meeting up with people (not faculty, but other grad student friends, etc.)”

It prompted an outpouring of responses. Here they are (as of 11/20/14).

Also, please see this excellent blog post on taking babies to conferences, by Jaime Teevan — who has four kids–as well as her follow-up on NOT taking kids to conferences.  Both edifying reading on this perennially fraught subject.



I don’t think having a baby affects how people will think of you, but it’s simply impossible to have a professional conversation when your baby needs attention, which is pretty much all the time they aren’t asleep. It’s like taking the baby to work – you won’t get much done. There aren’t many conferences and you need to establish professional relationships. It is really okay to take a few days off from your child – it is not harmful for him/her to be left with other parent for a few days. (Sometimes it helps to have someone say this)

  • Thank you. *It is ok to have someone else care for your baby!!*
  • Agreed, but your mileage may vary on baby, mom, other parent, baby’s age…
  • Ah, yes, this option is not available to those of us whose partner’s employment pays most of the bills through sixty hour work weeks. They’re unavailable for childcare, and the cost of childcare for 12+ hours for multiple days is as much or more than traveling to the conference with child in tow.
  • Keep in mind there is cost and there is cost – the point of going to a meeting is to gain professionally. In most cases you will gain little with a baby along preventing you from focusing, being able to go out late, etc. Paying for grandma/babysitter etc. whether at the conference or at home will help you make the most out of a conference. That is why some societies have decided to subsidize precisely these costs. I do sympathize, but I imagine you already pay for childcare up to 10 hours / day (that’s our max) so is the expense significant?
  • Maybe… It seems like we’re making assumptions about academic parents’ situations (spouse or grandparent able to take over for a few days) and judging their financial decisionmaking. There are plenty of reasons it’s better logistically to bring a baby. Maybe their home departments subsidize conference travel but not childcare. Maybe overnight care at home is unavailable. Maybe their budget only covers regular childcare at home (which you often need to pay while on vacation in order to keep your spot) and attending the conference with baby costs the same as attending solo, with no need to pay for any overnight care….
  • I agree that attending a conference with a baby probably means you’re not benefiting professionally as much as you would be without the baby, but for some the relevant calculus might be attending with baby vs. not attending.

Wait!! There is conference child care??

  • at many, yes!
  • The American Academy of Religion is this week-end in San Diego. The AAR has a service we like to call, AAR Camp. I’ve never made use of the service, but one of my male colleagues is bringing his child to AAR Camp this year. I’ll let you know how it goes for him. . .
  • For many conferences yes, but it’s often expensive. SMBE and Ent Society have extra grants to help – that includes bringing grandma to the meeting as a babysitter which is really cool.
  • Seems like for bigger conferences it is more common. My primary association told me that you have to hit like… 5k attendees to justify it.
  • SMBE is more like 1000
  • It also may be about what sort of services the hotel provides as part of their conference package and what sort of venues the association uses.
  • I was supposed to be presenting at a conference today but had to decline because babysitter cancelled on me. Wish I had asked about this!
  • Due to liability issues I’ve mostly seen dependent care grants that the recipient can do as they need with (defray cost of other parent attending, hire a babysitter, arrange visiting care for an elderly family member, etc.). At least at the conferences I attend they are never depleted and funds carry over to the next year.

As a grad student, I brought both of my children to conferences when they were about 3-4 months old. Most of the comments here cover my experience (difficulty of carrying on adult/professional conversations, having someone care for my child elsewhere while I present/attend presentations). For child care, I actually relied a lot on grad school friends who might be willing to take the baby for 90 minutes while I conferenced. If you do bring your baby, don’t expect to be a full conference participant. That said, every time I sat down with the baby, especially if I was nursing, another academic woman would come and thank me for bringing my baby and creating space where it is okay to be an academic and a mother. And I certainly wasn’t alone. There are almost always children with grad student/professor parents at the major academic conferences in education that I have been to. When I’ve had other parents ask me this question, I do say that they won’t be able to participate fully in the conference. Does the expense of / reason for attending the conference outweigh that? For me, it did — the conferences were my academic lifeline while having children, the way I kept myself active. And it in no way (that I’m aware of) had a bearing on my professional reputation or how people saw me…if anything, I got the, “Wow! You’re Super Mom!” comments.

I brought my 2 month old and partner to a conference (as a graduate student) last year and both to a workshop 7 months later. I carried the baby during the community events (receptions, dinners) and my partner took her during panels. Both graduate students and faculty members understood the circumstances and were extremely supportive of these choices. In turn, older members of the community shared stories of bringing their kids to these events- during the wrap up session of the workshop a faculty member shared pictures of her son at the same age as my daughter at the same workshop 10 years earlier. I felt really supported by my community of scholars (both male and female) and realized that it was really a small period of time when my life and career had to publicly intersect (and that people understood that it wouldn’t be forever). This year, I went to the same conference without my 13 month old.

I’ve brought my baby to several conferences, but never to panels. I’ve noticed that several faculty members, even those who are quite senior and well known in my field, took special care to stop by and say hello. They seemed to go out of their way to make sure that I knew I was welcome and to share some of their own experiences trying to balance parenthood and an academic career. Not everyone feels that way, and who knows what was said behind my back, but in general people were welcoming.

I’m at a conference right now and I’ve seen tons of babies this morning in the common areas.

Also now that I’m on the faculty side I feel like I worried about this too much as a grad student and that as a faculty member I would probably had more respect for a grad student with a child. On the other hand I heard a male colleague (in a different discipline) complain the other day about how much having a baby slowed down a particular grad student’s progress. Having a baby cost me time too, but I worked my ass off to make up for it. I joked with him… “I had more time to lose as a grad student than I do now, pre-tenure!”

It is so sad that still we feel that we need to hide some very important part of our life to be considered professionals. Men don’t go through this.

I left my baby at home while I went to a conference last year. She was roughly 7 months old, the conference city was just a three hour drive away, I pumped in between sessions and froze the milk in my room’s mini fridge, and I enjoyed the first uninterrupted nights’ sleep since she was born (and the last.) It was nice to get away for a couple nights but it would also be nice to see better acknowledgement of work/life balance on the conference circuit. If circumstances had been slightly different (further away, longer duration, etc) I might have done things differently too.



Ellie Louson, a grad student at York University wrote a blog post on her experiences taking a child to a conference:…/how-to-attend-conference…

How to attend a conference with a baby | Productive (adj)

I took my four month old to a conference in Texas (I’m from the midwest). I did have someone watch her while I presented, but she went to the sessions and meet and greets with me. Since I sat in the back I could leave if she started to fuss. Almost every woman there thanked me for bringing her. I think either way is ok – just make it work for you. Good luck with your decision.

There isn’t an easy answer. Do what you got to/want to do. You’ll live either way. And congrats on the wee one!

Bring the baby. However, I would be wary about taking the child into sessions unless it is a very quiet baby. Make sure you grab a seat in the back by the door so you can bail if the baby is restless (or if the presenter starts to read a paper out loud!).

I am a modular student and had my second child my first term. She has been to 3 Residencies with me and 1 conference. Infants are easier to take with you than older babies. Infants mostly sleep and nurse. I nursed my baby during classes, lectures, and presentations. Normally she would nurse to sleep. I think the key to successfully bringing a baby with you is knowing your baby’s diaper/eat/sleep rhythm. Babywearing is also very helpful. I received many compliments from colleagues and professors about how well my baby behaved during meetings. I also relied on fellow graduates to help watch the baby during meetings where I wished not to be distracted.

Baby is the reason I do not go to conferences right now: 1. Can’t afford sitter at home or to go with. 2. Can’t leave baby at home because of partner’s disability. 3. Nursing. 4. Partner gets no paid leave to come with. Cannot afford to miss work.

If I could, I would get someone to go with me, which would solve the nursing and care issues. Good luck to this mother! Many people are odious to academic women with children.

Depends on the discipline. I had a 1 year old (and then an 18 month old) traveling with me to conferences and worried just like you. I always had his dad or my mom keeping baby while I conferenced. In my field, it would not be acceptable to have a baby in a panel room or at a reception. If I were in your shoes I would try to convince someone to come with you so you can do both things… Parent (especially if you’re breastfeeding) and be “on” for conference activities… Running back to the room when you can. Good luck!

Just do it.


Good question to raise awareness

This came up at a recent women’s mentorship event at a conference I attended and an interesting point was made (by the mentors) – that demonstrating that you can successfully balance your personal and work life, multitask, and prioritize your career while also raising a child reflected extremely *well* on a person that chooses to bring their child to a conference (or on campus interview). All babies that I saw had both parents there (this conference offers dependent care grants that many use to bring a partner or family member with them).

History of Science Society Graduate and Early Career Caucus

“everything you wanted to know about job negotiation but were afraid to ask” workshop in progress ?#?hsspsa14 ?#?hssgcc

I’m Japanese and did my PhD at a US institution before taking my current job in Japan. I took my 4 year-old son to one of the monthly brown-bag talks on campus one time. I thought it went okay that time. But later when another talk was announced, my adviser casually asked me “you are not bringing your son with you, are you?” So that was when I decided I would not bring my kids into my professional space (although I did try to voice). Organizing infant care is such a pain, too, for me professionally and financially. I was a “physically” single mom (my husband was working in Japan) and if I wanted to travel, I had to either hire a nanny or babysitter to watch my kids at home or take the kids with me and use the childcare at the conference site. Either way, I simply couldn’t afford it. There was also one time when my daughter got sick and sent back from daycare a few hours before my presentation. Thankfully it was a regional conference and I asked my friend to watch her for a few hours. After this incident, I asked my parents, in-laws, and my sister to come all the way from Japan. Even if I could afford to ask someone or trade childcare with friends, I didn’t want to ask them to watch my kids when they’re sick or when they get sick.

Super thoughtless to take your baby to a student’s defence if you are a committee member -if it was the candidate -no problem but on a student’s most stressful high stakes day -it’s just cheap and thoughtless and yeah even people with children are judging you.

While a grad student, last year I was lucky enough to have a husband who could watch my little one while I gave a paper at the Chicago AAAs, and then surrounded by colleagues who were welcoming to my daughter joining us for lunch after sessions. Do you babywear? If the baby is young enough s/he might be comfy enough to snuggle in and fall asleep – then one can carry on as usual. Sometimes for committee meetings I’d put my little one on a blanket with toys and she’d be content enough – but it really depends on the personality of the baby. And whether or not this would all hurt you professionally might depend on the field you are in too! I

Just bring the baby! Especially if you have colleagues who will be attending who know about him/her (and probably would LIKE to meet him/her). I wouldn’t mind babysitting someone’s baby as a “break” from the scene for a bit (for free, of course).. Babies just bring smiles to my face and help me forget about whatever stress I’m dealing with.

I should add that one presenter was disappointed when I left her lecture in order to change a diaper. At one point in her paper she presented a view in Latina/o culture that the Virgin Mary’s milk is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. I had been nursing in the back of the room before I left and she referred to me. I was honored as a mother to receive recognition even though I had left. You may get negative responses, but in my experience colleagues and professors have been supportive.

I left my 7 month old baby at home to go to a conference when I was a graduate student and recently wrote a newsletter post about that and other academic parenting issues for the The Medieval Academy of America. In case you decide to leave the baby but are feeling daunted by the pumping while away part, you might find the detailed handout I made useful. It’s linked within this article:…/

MAA News – Parenting in Academia

I was in a panel last spring (a dozen people in a small hotel conference room) where two adults were with a noisy baby about 9 months of age in the back row. I suspected that mom was on the panel and the adults were dad and friend (or aunt). They kept trying to calm baby, give him iPad or food, then take him outside to the hallway, and then come back in with him once he was calmed and then repeat repeat repeat. The opening and closing of the door was really distracting. And I totally understand wanting to see your spouse’s paper but in this case I did not understand why baby was there and why adults thought it was okay to have him there. I guess there is some reason they were there… Maybe mom has social anxiety and needed dad there or something… Maybe? But oh, I was annoyed that baby kept shrieking during my talk.

It’s way too male dominated/hierarchical to walk around with your baby at an academic conference and assume you won’t be judged in some way by at least one possible employer. I also like to keep a nice separation between my work and private life.

I wouldn’t. It’s very difficult to be in your professional role and be mommy at the same time. I either don’t go to the conference or I leave the baby at home. I usually don’t go to conference until they are a year old. I have 3 kids.

A lot depends on the conference too. At something like WAWH or the Berks, no problem at all. For the AHA or other really high-stakes conferences, you may want to be able to devote more of your full attention to the professional aspects, so having a spouse, partner, or trusted friend available to spell you during panels, workshops, and especially job interviews would be a good idea. Receptions and maybe event meals are probably OK, as long as you can make a quick getaway if you need to.

As a grad student I took my 2 year old to a conference and put him in the conference childcare for a few hours so I could go to some sessions. He didn’t like the childcare too much but I pulled him out for lunch and when I went to the expo hall and the vendors were happy talking to him. I think they missed their own kids. I was fortunate to take him to two large conferences before he started elementary school. I don’t see anything wrong taking your child to a conference or sitting in a session if they can be quiet since I see it as a benefit for them to be in a social setting. He would have never traveled nor visited these conferences if I were not in a doc program.

I took my 9 m/o with me and had her with me in a sling on the back. But I also had daycare at the congress and went there to nurse in between sessions. Worked out fine, but was an exhausting enterprise…!

Depends on baby and you. It would have been hard with mine, but I once a friend who travelled from Australia with her 4 mo old and we had a wonderful time catching up at a conference. Her baby slept the whole time and my friend was as relaxed as could be. But once before I had kids I was frustrated by a friend who insisted on meeting with me (not very convenient, but ok, I wanted to see her too) but then was totally focused on her son and his needs as I followed her stroller around the streets.

I see lots of babies at conferences. My son went to his first one when he was 3 months old. I’ve always had a helper along. Sometimes my husband and more often my parents. When it is my husband, we split time at the conference since we are in similar fields. He is old enough now that he will be attending some talks in the january conference we are both attending (he is 10) so we can all see more.

Baby’s health and well-being should be the first criterion. I’ve taken child to conferences, but w the help of my spouse. If you can do it alone (with a little help from friends) go for it. I’ve not hidden child, but have also not taken her to panels. As said by others, it is also nice too to get a break

I took my baby to a conference when he was 4 months old. My husband watched him during the panels and I came out and nursed in the hallway every 2 hours. I met another grad student nursing her baby there at the same time. I’m going to my discipline’s big conference in December to present a panel 35 weeks into my 2nd pregnancy and my now 2 year old is coming. He’ll be occupied during the panels but absolutely will come to events with frineds/ mentors/ etc. I would not bring a baby to a job interview but aside from that, I would not see a problem with it.

In cognitive science conferences I see lots of babies/kids, in my other specializations, philosophy and the occasional religion conference, not so much. I took my 8-week-old son to a 3-day conf (he was exclusively breastfed, wouldn’t take a bottle, so that was the only solution). It did not hurt my career I think: many people came up to me and said they were sad to leave their babies at home. The baby is an excellent conversation starter (I got to talk to a very senior professor in my field who adored little babies). It’s no picnic but a baby < 6 months still sleeps a lot and you can quietly sit with him or her in a pram near an exit.

No, I think bringing a baby is just the normal thing to do in graduate circles. I always like to talk to the babies!

I have brought my babies to interviews and conferences that required travel. In one situation I didn’t have enough milk pumped, and in the other situation the conference told me that there would be NO space where I could pump during the day, so baby had to come with (I was staying at another hotel about 20 min away, so to leave the conference hotel to pump would have been ridiculous… and oh yeah I’m not interested in pumping in bathroom stall). If you don’t have enough milk pumped or if your baby is simply to little to leave with someone else, then you should bring him or her. This is reality and academics need to make room for new mothers at conferences. Do not be afraid of what others have to say. Most people will just ooh and ahh over your baby anyway (that’s my experience).

I’ve always done it, but I have also always had either my spouse or a good friend (another grad student) along with me to help with baby-wrangling during panels, meetings, etc. (eta–at one particular conference I attend annually I also spend part of the time as an exhibitor, so I usually have a minion with me at the booth. They always attract lots of friendly attention from passersby and, like others have commented, have been a great way to get a conversation going with someone who I may not have gotten to talk to otherwise)

I always see babies or young children at conferences. However, I am in the field of Child Development, so that may be part of the reason. I wouldn’t think anything of it to see a young one, especially since this baby is under 6 months!


Three DC Events This Week

This is a special post to let you know about three live events I’m doing in Washington, DC this week.  One is open to all, one is at the AAA (Anthropology) meetings, and one is at the University of Maryland, for grad students there.

1) Public Event for All:



When:  Thursday, December 4, 4:30-6:30

Where:  UC Washington Center, 1608 Rhode Island Ave. NW

Cost:  $120
Use GRAD25 for 25% off [$90]

In this two hour live and interactive workshop, I will walk you through the fundamental principles and practices of the tenure track academic job search. My goal is to demystify the process, and help you gain the knowledge and skills you need to understand the true obstacles, overcome the daunting challenges, and make your best possible case for a tenure track position. The event will feature live Interview Interventions with willing volunteers.

If there is audience interest, we can also talk about the post-ac transition.

We will cover:

  • Approaching the academic job search in a downsizing academy
  • The elements of a competitive CV
  • The 5 most common errors made by job-seekers
  • Fundamentals of scholarly self-promotion
  • Interview techniques that work, and pitfalls to avoid
  • Live Interview Intervention role plays with audience volunteers

This workshop is open to anyone from any discipline. 

You are welcome to bring your dinner!

Throughout the event, abundant time for Q and A with participants.  My promise: I will answer your questions, confirm your suspicions, fill in gaps in your knowledge, and provide a counterpoint to evasions and misinformation that might be circulating around your department. Attendance is capped at 25. This is an interactive conversation. Please join me.

Use discount code GRAD25 for 25% off [$90]

Register here.

2) For Anthropologists at the AAA:

Live Workshop:  Hacking the Academic Interview, Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Thursday 12/4: 9-12
Register at the AAA National Meetings Workshop Registration!

3) For University of Maryland Folks

Live Workshop: Ph.D. Completion Project–CVs and Cover Letters.

Friday, Dec. 5, 2-4 PM, Stamp Student Union Rm 2208

I walk you through the fundamentals of academic cover letters and CVs, provide examples of effective language, and workshop your documents.

Register by emailing

The Status of the Press Matters, Still!

A debate has simmered on the comment thread to my post, Does the Status of the Press Matter, in recent weeks, on the question: is Palgrave MacMillan a press with high enough status for a US R1 tenure case?  My position has always been, based on my years at two R1 universities (in a total of four departments due to joint appointments in Anthropology and East Asian Languages and Cultures): don’t count on it.  While as far as I remember this was not put to the test during my years in the academy, I do know that I was told point blank that anything less than a major university press was thin ice for my own tenure case. This was also the explicit message I received from the Associate Dean for the Humanities who worked with me when I was Department Head, handling my first tenure cases.

In other words, a monograph out with Palgrave MacMillan or another reputable and well known non-university press of that ilk was not an absolute torpedo to a tenure case in the humanities and social sciences at an R1, but it was a definite weaker link.

I believe that these presses would be absolutely fine for tenure cases at lower ranked institutions — R2s, teaching colleges, and so on.  But not at R1s or Ivy Leagues.

And then–the field may play a role: Brill, for example, is a strong press in some humanities fields (art history springs to mind), but not others. You must know your field context.

So the status of the press must be evaluated for every tenure candidate’s individual case: what is your institution? what is your field and subfield? what are your departmental and campus expectations and standards?

Understand that the principle here is the rigor of the peer review process.  The top presses will subject every manuscript to a lengthy and exhaustive peer review process and will not bend on its outcomes—if the reviewers say that X and Y are invalid scholarly claims, they will not publish the book until X and Y are rectified.  The process is long and time consuming and grueling.

By contrast, many of the lesser presses will do either no peer-review process, or a relatively truncated peer review process, in which the mss is sent out to academic reviewers, but the standards are lax, and most things will pass with a few general critiques.  The process is shorter and easier.  As a result, as one commenter below says, these presses  “seemingly publish anything that is sent their way….” and “show signs of poorly digested junior rank scholarship–as if they don’t really have to worry about trying to sell the books and so don’t demand quality.”

There is no free lunch here. If you go with a lesser press that is known to have lax peer review standards and a quick timeline, your book will not achieve a top-rank reputation or value for purposes of the job market or tenure.  You and your mother may be thrilled to death to see your dissertation in print, but everyone else is making judgments about it based on the status and rank of the press that put it out.

If you observe that some famous senior people in your field are publishing with these presses, do NOT assume that this guarantees they are safe for you, just starting your career.  Many senior academics publish with lesser presses late in their career because they already have established reputations and don’t want or need the hassle of an extended peer-review process.  The presses often lavish them with perks and series editorships and various vanity opportunities.  You, however, have no such luxury. You NEED the extended peer-review process to demonstrate that you are deserving of a place at the table.

Nobody can produce a definitive ranking of academic presses that can account for every single field and subfield and institutional bias.  There is no shortcut to you doing the work of thoroughly investigating your own field and subfield, asking hard questions of trusted senior advisors re the ranking of presses, and then making a conscious and intentional choice for yourself about how hard you want to work and how much time you want to spend.  If you are aiming for a career at the R1 level, know that anything other than the top presses is risky.

Below I will paste some of the comments I received about this question, to help young academics understand the scope of opinion on this matter, and judge for themselves where they consider submitting their manuscripts for publication.


 As for Palgrave Macmillan, in my field they’re not the same as a university press (or, I should say, a top university press). I’m an historian, and I work on early modern Europe, and there are only a handful of presses that are actually top presses: Harvard, Yale, Cambridge, Oxford, Chicago, and formerly, Johns Hopkins (they’re moving out of early modern). There are other presses that publish in my field, U Toronto, Duke, Penn State, Penn, California, Stanford, for example, but they’re not as good in my view. The private presses can likewise be ranked: Ashgate is among the best, if only because they publish a lot in early modern history/Renaissance studies.

Palgrave, Routledge, Rowan and Littlefield, Scholars  Press, and even Brill are all minor players, who seemingly publish anything that is sent their way–then charge exorbitant amounts for it.

Price point is something that scholars don’t often take into consideration, but they should: a book like my most recent that is priced at $35 will be purchased by individuals, while something priced at $100 (or above!) will only be purchased by institutions (and typically only those with subscriptions or standing orders). For example, Brill’s books are outrageously priced, and they show signs of poorly digested junior rank scholarship–as if they don’t really have to worry about trying to sell the books and so don’t demand quality. Routledge and Palgrave are the same–although they publish less in my field. I was approached by Palgrave to put together a “Handbook”, and I declined when they told me that the organized volume (which is what this was intended to be) would result in my getting “one copy” of the book. I told them, much to their displeasure, that by paying peanuts, they would only get monkeys. Those monkeys, increasingly, are junior scholars who need to build their resumes, and British academics who need–desperately–to publish in order to boost their department’s rankings on the RAE. It’s a sad state of affairs, but the private publishers, esp. Routledge, Palgrave, and Brill, live off of it.

Full Prof, History, R1


My first book was with Brill and it was more than enough for tenure (2014) at George Fox University. My field is religious studies and I consider Palgrave a major publisher but not quite as good as a university press.

Tenured Prof, George Fox,  a private Christian liberal arts college


I guess there are a bunch of important things here: discipline, country where one is employed (eg, US versus UK), specific regional fields, but for the most part university presses almost always trump the private academic presses. This matters most at the time of tenure decisions. If you want to do a Palgrave book in cultural anthropology, do it as a post-tenure book. That said, I think that if a department wants to tenure someone, they will find a way to do so. And in that case, it doesn’t matter if their book comes out from University of California Press or Berghahn.

Consider what I call The Book Room Test: at the annual conference of your discipline, what are the publisher’s booths you do not miss going to? And what are the ones that if you don’t have time to go to their booth, you can maybe just grab a catalogue and (perhaps) look at it later….?

Full Prof, Anthro, R1


A negative R1 tenure review letter I have seen tells the candidate, “Your book was your dissertation that was essentially neither peer reviewed nor edited, and was published by what is in many academic circles considered a non-reputable publisher.” [this publisher is one of the ones listed in the first comment above.]

Karen’s personal experience


“I encourage you to warn folks about Left Coast Press. In a recent campus visit I named it among four presses that are interested in my work (the others were all university presses) and was warned – by a department chair where I was interviewing – that LCP is considered undependable because only some of their books go through peer review or editing, and the press is not transparent about which ones those are (or aren’t). I always knew that LCP was a para-academic press, but this insight was great enough that I removed the mention from my cover letter (and rehearsed interview answers).”

A client on the job market, in social sciences