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: http://elouson.blogspot.ca/…/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). https://www.facebook.com/hssgecc/photos/pb.110597685695591.-2207520000.1416521488./720056011416419/?type=3&theater

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: http://www.themedievalacademyblog.org/maa-news-parenting…/

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 gradschool@umd.edu

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

Four Tips for Getting Hired at a Christian University (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.

I realize that I am fortunate to follow this horrendous academic job market from the other side of the desk. With that said, in every search, I see scores of applicants make simple mistakes that sink their candidacy. Here are some common-sense tips when applying to a Christian University. Remember, the faculty and administration at my type of institution see themselves quite differently. My advice applies specifically for member schools of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), but it is also may be helpful for any institution with some religious affiliation.

  1. Research the School’s History

You must research the religious heritage of the institution and situate your candidacy accordingly. For example, if you applying to any of the Methodist related institutions, such as Greenville College, then you should be able to speak to Wesleyan theology and its influence on your own career trajectory. If you are applying to a Jesuit institution such as Santa Clara University, explain why you would want to work there if you are not Jesuit. Anything is helpful. Did you go to a Mennonite high school or were you deeply influenced by the writing of Yoder? Then you should inform the search committee of Eastern Mennonite University. Just a couple of sentences can demonstrate that you have some familiarity with the religious culture of the institution.

[NOTE:  Of course, you need to research and get a feel for the way this is played out. For example, Johns Hopkins University and Earlham School of Religion were both founded by Quakers. But obviously, the Quaker influence will be much more pronounced on the latter school.]

  1. Show Your Integration of Faith and Learning

The idea of the integration of faith and learning is pretty important for these schools. Be sure to demonstrate how faith informs your field. If you are a sociologist, you may want to explain how faith compels you to develop your research regarding income discrepancies along racial categories. If you are a biologist, you could speak to the wonder of creation that nurtured a love for all living things. Be sure to speak to tangible ways that this integration of faith and learning influences your teaching.

  1. A Hiring Committee is Not a Dissertation Committee

If you are coming from a top tier PhD program, remember that these schools want to be academically respectable (and generally speaking, I believe that they are), but that also have other mandated missions, particularly service to society and communities of faith. I’ve seen colleagues at my school make the assumption that “Candidate A went to (insert prestigious R1) so I’m worried that he/she will not be satisfied teaching our heavy load in this type of environment.” I personally believe that these assumptions are tremendously unfair. But if you finished your PhD at Harvard, remember that you do not need to prove that you are smart. Instead, you need to prove that your heart matches the institutional mission, which may involve an outreach beyond the academe.

  1. Be Authentic

I know that the nebulous idea of “fit” is maddening to candidates. But if you cannot do #1-3 authentically, then you will be absolutely miserable at a school like mine. If it’s not a fit, then it may be better to move on to another type of school where you truly be yourself!


What an Editor Does- STEM edition (Fruscione #postac post)

by Joe Fruscione

Joe Fruscione

Joe Fruscione

For the first installment of this series, I talked with three editors doing Humanities or Social Sciences-based work—in other words, my comfort zone. Since I’ve been telling current and would-be post-acs to expand their networks and get out of their comfort zones, I’m taking my own advice in writing about something far afield from my training in literary studies: STEM editing.

There’s some overlap between my typical copy editing and proofreading work and that which these and other STEM editors do regularly: getting details right, trimming text, fixing grammar and style, finding extra spaces and other typos, and “translating” complex work for a wide audience. The most successful freelancers typically have connections outside their chosen field(s). If you’re exceptionally good at proofreading or making text more concise, a client might want an editor with a different background and knowledge base. I’ve been chosen to edit pieces on religious history, business leadership, international development, and defense contracting because I brought an objective, detail-obsessed set of eyes to the projects. Just as you should try to avoid self-selecting out of certain jobs, your background shouldn’t necessarily dissuade you from applying outside your field. For instance, STEM client dealing with projects for a wide audience might appreciate the sensitivity to language and audience a former Rhet/Comp professor can offer.

Mededitor (another colleague from Editing Twitter) writes, commissions, assigns, and edits articles about science, medicine, and the business of medical practice. (He also has a great Tumblr on language and usage.) This includes forays into law, finance, regulation, and similar matters. For him, “this work demands a well-rounded body of knowledge and isn’t a field one would enter directly. Rather, these skills took a fair amount of time to acquire through general editing work and journalism.” As I did with Benjamin Dreyer in my previous piece, I asked Mededitor about any experiences or concerns he’s had with academics transitioning into STEM editing:

My greatest concern would be that the person would lack experience in editing the work of others. Knowledge of the field of medicine isn’t really required to edit medical materials. With an Internet connection, everything can be researched and checked. What is needed most is the ability to take turgid, clumsy, and unfocused prose and turn it into polished, coherent material. The errors most often encountered aren’t mistakes in fact. They are problems of composition. However, academics from disciplines in the Humanities who have extensive backgrounds in grading and correcting student essays may have developed skill in this area.

If you have these kinds of transferable skills, you might be a promising fit for an editing job with a STEM client seeking accessible, polished writing for a variety of readers. Teaching writing-intensive courses for undergraduates and graduate students, collaborating on a research project or presentation, editing a collection, and similar projects all may have required evaluating and revising others’ work.
A fellow post-ac editor whose academic background has helped advance her career, Viviane Callier is a Senior Science Writer at a consulting company that supports such federal agencies as NIH and the EPA. She writes a lot of meeting summaries, teleconference minutes, and technical reports, as well as does some freelance writing. For her:

My scientific background definitely helps me understand the meetings I attend. The material is highly technical in some cases, so I rely on my scientific knowledge to understand the presentations and discussions. My background also helps me understand how the committees and review panels that I support work. The main difficulty is learning how to write for a variety of audiences. Sometimes, the audience is a group of scientists, but sometimes the document is public and anyone (with or without a scientific background) should be able to understand it. Some clients prefer detailed summaries, whereas others prefer a more synthetic, big-picture view. Understanding what each client wants is key.


A post-ac STEM job might entail making complex arguments and research accessible for an uninformed audience. Viviane has “had to ruthlessly purge academic jargon” from her own professional work, as well as work on “tighter deadlines” than she did as an academic. Whether your academic background was in STEM, Humanities, or something else, you should be prepared to work with tighter turnaround times and deadlines; I’ve heard from a handful of professionals that some post-acs have struggled in making the transition to careers with less flexible deadlines. If you’re good with deadlines and timeliness, stress such abilities in cover letters and interviews.

Closer to home for me is Jill Thomas, an editor at the U.S. Department of Justice who comes from a Humanities background. Jill primarily edits for consistency and understanding: “I approach each piece as a general reader, meaning if I don’t understand it, then someone else won’t either. We ultimately try for plain language, which can be difficult to obtain in some STEM fields.” Jill’s work echoes what Gwendolyn Beetham does in translating academic work for a broader audience. For Jill:

My preferred editing style is Richard Lanham’s Paramedic Method, which strives for clear and concise sentences. I work for a statistical agency, which requires editing numerous tables and figures. For these, I refer to published reports and use context clues across the report to edit for consistent information. Each table and figure must be able to stand alone separate from the text, so it falls on me to ensure that each component has been included.

Such editing work is possible for post-acs from various backgrounds. When applying for jobs outside academia, it’s always helpful to know how employers view those of us transitioning careers, which can help you frame a cover letter, present yourself in an interview, or revise your LinkedIn profile:

I look for the ability to communicate clearly and compromise, as well as a meticulous eye for detail. Editing is a lot like teaching, as the interaction between author and editor is very similar to the interaction between student and teacher. It’s a dance to strive for clarity while not stepping on the author’s toes. My teaching background helped me understand that how I approach the author with my edits impacts how likely they will be incorporated. Queries are generally better than demands, and praise is sometimes necessary to make the author comfortable with your suggestions. If an author doesn’t like an edit but you feel strongly, then suggest working together to come up with a compromise.

Jill’s interaction with her authors echoes the developmental editing Liana M. Silva and others do. As writers, we’re always supposed to know and consider our audience; as editors, we should make sure we know and consider our authors, too. Some may need more guidance or encouragement than others—perhaps in the same ways our students once did, too.

Regardless of your field, make sure you keep connecting with professionals from different disciplines and career levels—both these three editors and others doing similar work. That dissertation you may have written in a Women’s Studies or History department may, in unexpected ways, have prepared you to edit or proofread something in a subject area you thought you’d never be reading. As a post-ac, you have many of the adaptable writing and editing skills different kinds of employers value—regardless of how close or far away you are from your comfort zone.


In the next installment of this series, I’ll be writing about editors who’ve worked with scholars and graduate students inside academia, as well as addressing potential successes and struggles for academics who’ve worked with editors. Feel free to contact me if you’ve worked with an editor on a scholarly project.

What an Editor Does (and Can Do) – Joe Fruscione

By Joe Fruscione

Joe Fruscione

Joe Fruscione

Editing, like writing, is fluid. The work ranges from handling multiple drafts, nip-tucking to meet the required length, and fine-tuning a text to running a blog, column, or book series. It can be a welcome career for post-acs, because many kinds of editing draw from academic experience. As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve done some developmental editing and consulting for graduate students. Colleagues such as Laura Fowler Graham and fellow TPII consultant Margy Thomas Horton do similar work, which is great for gaining experience and recommendations.

To give a sense of the spectrum of editing jobs and skills, I called on my Twitter circle: two former academics and one long-time copy editor. I asked them about the kinds of work they regularly do, as well as about the usefulness of academic experience in an editing career. Academic skills are transferable for editing, but not always automatically or flawlessly.

Gwendolyn Beetham, who does content and copy editing for University of Venus and Feministing, works on “translating” academic work for a larger audience:

This type of translation can be a challenge, since many academic disciplines use specific terminology not widely understood outside the discipline, let alone academia. And we are rewarded for presenting ideas this way in the academic context, so scholars are sometimes resistant to leaving more obscure terminology behind. But this is also part of the reason I do this work—I have dedicated most of my career to bridging the “activist/practice” divide. For me, there is no greater reward than helping scholars get their ideas out of the tower, or giving someone in the non-academic community access to powerful feminist theory.  

If you’re still engaged with the research you did—or perhaps are still doing—in academia, work like Gwendolyn’s can help you segue into a new career. Having the ability to help academics be, well, less academic in their writing is valuable and marketable, so foreground it in a cover letter or interview.

Another fellow post-ac, Liana M. Silva, does work similar to Gwendolyn’s, as well as developmental editing. She started as a Managing Editor for Sounding Out! A Blog About Sound Studies, and then branched out to freelance work before landing her current job as Editor-in-Chief for the professional newsletter Women in Higher Education.

I was doing developmental editing before I even knew it was developmental editing. For me, it was the approach we had (and still have) at Sounding Out!: we consider every first post an initial draft. So we help them hone their ideas, bring other sources to their attention, and ask them to consider questions about the relationship of sound to other issues.

If you’ve taught writing in your courses or written your own dissertation or thesis, you have the transferable skills required for overseeing a project through multiple stages:

Because of my training as editor and experience as a first-year composition instructor, I became comfortable with writers’ drafts and helping them see the potential past the first one. I enjoy engaging with their ideas on an abstract level, talking with writers about their work and watching them push it further.

Such developmental work can be fulfilling and engaging, especially when the writer appreciates the time and effort it takes to shape multiple versions. It’s another important skill to emphasize when marketing yourself professionally.

Like (Post-)Academic Twitter, Editing Twitter is a wellspring of good ideas, lively discussions, and experienced people from diverse backgrounds. Benjamin Dreyer—Vice President, Executive Managing Editor, & Copy Chief at Random House—offers useful information about trade publishing. He runs a department at Random House, so he only occasionally works on specific titles. As he reminds us,

A copy editor’s responsibilities are the same as they’ve always been: to check spelling and grammar, to point out logistical problems (e.g., plot holes) or other inconsistencies, to make note of pet words an author is overusing, and so on. As I always say, a copy editor’s job is to help make a book into the best possible version of itself it can be.

At one point, I considered trade publishing as a career path; I still might pursue it on a freelance basis, but not without heeding Benjamin’s advice:

This work is done almost invariably on a freelance basis, and is supervised by in-house production editors. If I have a particular concern about potential copy editors who are coming from an academic background, it’s that they tend to copyedit a bit too severely and strictly. Knowing and applying the basic rules of prose is of course a great thing; actually listening to an author’s voice is just as important.

Post-ac job seekers should know what trade publishing entails. The trick, as always, is gaining meaningful experience. As Benjamin reminds us, “It helps, at least as far as Random House is concerned, for a potential freelancer to already have a good amount of experience, and even reasonably experienced potential freelancers may be asked to take a copy editing or proofreading test.” Such tests are common in publishing, whether it’s trade, scholarly, or something else. You might need to review the nitty-gritty rules of grammar, spelling, and usage you’ve perhaps not had to think about for a while.

As Liana points out, “academics who want to delve into editing must remember that it is not like teaching writing or exchanging drafts with your peers or peer review. When you edit, you make decisions about what works or what doesn’t. Don’t tell them to add a comma; go ahead and add it. My rule is, if the problem is at the level of ideas, of content, I will ask about the sentence or offer a suggestion. If the problem is in how it’s phrased, I’ll make the change. Editors can make those changes! But that doesn’t mean we should be rude about it either. Writers are people too—and chances are editors are also writers.”

I’ve also learned a lot from #CopyeditingProTip, which Benjamin and many others use to rant about/calmly discuss common misspellings (“soft-peddle”), redundant phrases (“12 midnight”), incorrect usages (“Daylight Savings Time,” or “Frankenstein” for the name of the creature), when to use an en-dash, and other issues. Join in and see the different issues that come up—and, more importantly, to prepare yourself for the kinds of knowledge and connections you’ll need regardless of whether you’re doing copy, developmental, or another kind of editing.

My only other advice is to continue your post-ac networking—Always Be Connecting, remember—and follow these and other experienced, supportive editors on Twitter or LinkedIn. A key step in figuring out the ideal post-ac career path is to connect with mentors and others doing the kinds of work you’d like to do. Gwendolyn, Liana, Benjamin, and other editors have a lot to say: find them and learn from their experience. Such professional connections can, if we rethink something Benjamin said above, help make you into the best possible post-ac version of yourself you can be.


The Teaching-Centric Letter

In response to many requests, I am devoting today’s post to the teaching-centric letter.  The absence of a post on this subject before now might seem surprising on a blog that purports to cover every aspect of the academic job search.  But that absence was intentional.  The fact is, very few tenure track jobs outside of community colleges actually need a teaching-centric letter, and this is a point of great confusion among job seekers.  Many liberal arts colleges, mid-rank universities and small teaching colleges claim to be “teaching-focused,” and “student-centric,” but decisions about hiring and tenure will nevertheless be firmly focused on research.

Job seekers routinely mis-identify the jobs that require a teaching-focused letter, because they naively take institutional rhetoric about the importance of teaching at face value.  As I said, the vast majority of institutions, departments, and positions weight research far more heavily than teaching, regardless of the PR on their websites.  (See this guest post on the inner workings of a search at just such a department).

However, there are indeed times when a teaching focused letter is appropriate.  Those include:

  • For a community college
  • For jobs seeking Masters level hires
  • For a temporary replacement hire at a teaching focused institution
  • For an ongoing instructor position at any institution, as long as it carries no research expectation whatsoever; this will be clear from the ad, which will make no reference to research in any way.
  • For tenure track positions at teaching colleges and liberal arts colleges that are low-ranked; regional; possibly religiously-affiliated.  The well known SLACs [Williams, Amherst, Wellesley, Davidson, Smith, Grinnell, and so on] should get research-focused, NOT teaching-focused, letters.

With regard to the third position type listed above, note that temporary replacements (ie, Visiting Assistant Professorships) at research-oriented universities and elite SLACs will likely need to see a letter that balances research and teaching equally. In other words, while the teaching is of course central, and the candidate will need to reference specific courses listed in the ad, the committee’s deliberations will likely weight the research profile of the candidates heavily, because they want active researchers even among their temporary faculty).

If after careful thought and consultation with mentors, you determine that a position does indeed require a teaching-centric letter, then begin by reading the blog posts The Dreaded Teaching Statement: 8 Pitfalls, The Weepy Teaching Statement, Just Say No, Teaching: Not When and Where but What and How  and When I Say Be Specific, What Do I Mean? and at all costs avoid blathering on about your love of and passion for student learning. Keep your emotions about the teaching enterprise to yourself.  While I know that you are convinced that your passion sets you apart, in an environment in which everyone is peddling the same passion, it functions only as white noise.  For more on that, please see my post, Those Twelve Sentences.

If the job posting states that you may be expected to teach specific classes, you must address those classes specifically, and describe the teaching method, approach, readings, and assignments you’ll use.  If no courses are identified by name, then address the bread-and-butter classes you will likely be expected to handle.  It is unlikely that a teaching-only ad will be asking for sophisticated small seminars; chances are, you are being hired to teach the large intro courses, surveys, methods courses, and so on (but judge each ad on its own merits).

Base your letter on the following template; you can of course adjust the phrasing, but stick to this order of approach:



Professor XXX, or if name unknown, “Search Committee Chair”
Street Address
City, State Zip

Dear Professor XXX/Chair of Search Committee:

PARA 1: I am applying for job X in the department Y.  My Ph.D. is in XXX, from the University of XXX, in the field of XXX (20XX).  I am currently XXX.  My teaching specializations are XXX and YYY, with an additional expertise in ZZZ.

PARA 2:  My teaching focuses on… [your core teaching philosophy with key thematics and goals relevant to your discipline and subfield, as appropriate].  For example, in XXX course, I use YYY readings to help students understand ZZZ, with the goal of increasing their awareness of QQQ….  Similarly in YYY course, I….   Etc. [2-3 courses in total; these will respond to the courses mentioned in the ad, or be the basic courses you are likely to be asked to teach].  I am also prepared to teach courses such as XXX, YYY, and ZZZ.  [Do not tether any of your past teaching experiences or courses named to the other campuses at which you taught; render your teaching capacities as general and portable.]

PARA 3: My success in the above efforts has led to: awards, increased responsibility [no runner-up “almost” awards].  My effectiveness in the classroom is attested by my quantitative evaluations. [1 or 2 quantitative averages, no cheesy student quotes].

PARA 4: Additional areas of teaching/pedagogy focus [discipline specific], study abroad, directing a program, innovative curriculum, etc.  Here address any additional pedagogical requirements mentioned by the ad.

PARA 5:  Research description [if you have/if necessary for the job—not necessary for teaching-ONLY instructor positions].  Approximately six sentences: your dissertation topic; its material/data/texts; its theoretical or conceptual approach; the questions/themes pursued; your core conclusion; contribution to the field.

PARA 6: Publications [if you have/if necessary for the job—not necessary for teaching-ONLY instructor positions]

PARA 7: X and Y make this job particularly appealing/your department particularly attractive.  [To write this paragraph, also consult the blog posts How to Tailor a Cover Letter (Without Flattering, Pandering, or Begging) and Tailoring: Beginning and Advanced; focus on courses to develop, teaching synergies with current faculty, and program or curriculum potential.]

PARA 8: I look forward to hearing from you soon.  Thank you.





An Inconvenient Truth (A Guest Post)

A reader got in touch to tell me about an infuriating experience at a recent conference. I asked her to write it up as a guest post, and here it is. Professors: stop the madness. Tell graduate students the goddamned truth.


Dear Karen,

I just attended the annual conference for the XXXX Association. All was going swimmingly until the final panel of the conference, which was led by a group of graduate students from an R1 program that is prominent in my discipline. They had clearly been sent by their institution to promote their program and encourage others to consider pursuing a doctorate there. There is nothing inherently wrong with this shameless self-promotion, I suppose, but when one of the PhD candidates on the panel announced that the interdisciplinary program boasted 60 PhD students, I was shocked, and then angered. You see, as a contingent faculty member who has been on the job market for a tenure-track position for 2 years, I wondered if these PhD candidates had any idea what lies ahead for them in their pursuit of the ever-elusive tenure-track assistant professorship.

So I asked them what their post-PhD plans were – if they planned to continue their scholarship through Academia or through an alternate course. The naivete of their responses demonstrates quite clearly what is wrong with higher education, and specifically, doctoral programs that aim to attract large doctoral cohorts.

I was befuddled when the first PhD candidate stated that if he couldn’t find a tenure-track position at an R1, there would be reasonable alternatives at elite liberal arts colleges. I then asked what I think was a much needed follow-up question: “How many of you are aware that only around 25% of faculty across all U.S. higher education institutions are tenured or on the tenure-track?”


Then, a very sweet female PhD candidate announced that she could continue her research for a while after her defense and write a book until she was able to land a job.

I asked her how she planned to fund her research and whether she had been awarded any external grants.

More silence.

I looked around the audience for some support. Yes, my questions were pointed, but I was delicate and supportive. These graduate students needed to consider the realities of the job market.

And then, a colleague I had met the day before chimed in: “If you can’t find a tenure-track position right away, if you’re married, you can always ask for a spousal hire. That’s how I got my job at XXXX University. My husband was offered a tenure-track job in XXXX Department, and he insisted that they hire me, too.”

At this point, I’m pretty sure I saw a unicorn dancing over a rainbow towards a leprechaun holding a pot of gold. Did that really just happen? Did my colleague just tell these students not to worry because they could be hired if their spouse was made an offer?

I was dumbfounded. And then, clearly defeated by the most illogical advice ever, I sat silently until the end of the presentation.

I turned to my colleague and asked if she had ever been an adjunct. She had.

I still don’t know what to make of her advice. Perhaps she was just being polite. Fortunately, a number of the PhD students on the panel pursued me afterwards and thanked me for my candor. I had given them something to think about. Mission accomplished, for now.

Since returning from the conference, I’ve realized that I may have been the only, or at least one of the only contingent faculty members attending my discipline’s expensive annual conference. At a total cost of more than $1200 for travel, hotel, meals, and the conference fee, I doubt many contingent faculty could afford to attend. I was fortunate, in that my institution paid the full bill for me to attend.

The under-representation of contingent faculty at my annual conference is egregious, especially given that it is a discipline devoted to social justice, but perhaps that’s a guest post for another time. And so I was the lone adjunct telling the inconvenient truth of the academic job market to a group of spectacularly bright young scholars, whose naivete is likely to continue until they officially enter the races with me and the thousands of other tenure-track hopefuls.

But hey, at least they have the option of a spousal hire…if they’re married, that is.

Yours truly,

One disgruntled adjunct