How to Plan Your Research and Writing Trajectory on the Tenure Track

This is a re-post.  Various readers and clients are looking ahead to the new jobs they are starting in the fall, and I want you all to have a very firm handle on the nature of a tenure track research trajectory.  This post is written from the perspective of an R1 book field, so please get your own tenure expectations in writing from your department head as soon as you can.  And then, as this post explains, work BACKWARDS from Spring of your 5th year to plot out a writing and research schedule.

**This is my last post until I return from summer vacation in early August.


Today’s post is a Special Request Post for Ana and Lauri, who both wrote in requesting advice on how they, as new assistant professors, could best plan out a research trajectory.

I was actually a little startled to encounter this particular query. For myself, my research trajectory as an assistant professor was relatively clear. But by the same token, I landed in a good and supportive department for my first position, a department in which senior colleagues took pains to make sure that the expectations for tenure were clear.  This might not be the case for everyone.  And actually, as Department Head, when I had my annual meetings with the assistant professors to go over their research trajectories, they got so. stressed. out.  But they thanked me later–yes, they ALL got tenure.

So, I want to share here some general advice for thinking about a pre-tenure research trajectory. I am going to limit my comments to book-based fields in the humanities and social sciences at R1 institutions.

Now, before I begin:  any discussion of your research trajectory must begin with a discussion of your tenure expectations. These will vary according to field, department, and university setting,. You must schedule an appointment with your department head, and get, in writing, a clear picture of your tenure expectations. In addition, attend any and all workshops held on your campus about the tenure process, especially anything organized by specialized groups such as the Center for Women and Gender Studies, etc. You want to see this thing from as many angles as possible, as early as possible.

Now, once you have a clear sense of the expectations, sit down with your dissertation and other research, and map out a plan.

For the sake of this blog post, I am going to assume that you need a book and five articles for tenure, with your case starting in Spring of the 5th year. This is a relatively rigorous set of expectations, most likely seen at an R1 institution, but not the most rigorous imaginable. However, if you do confront more rigorous expectations than these, chances are you’re at a super-elite institution that has relieved you from quite a bit of teaching and service, and awarded leave liberally.

Of the five articles, three will most likely be based on the dissertation research or closely related work. Two will then be on a major second, post-book project. Be aware that a second major project is a critical element to a successful tenure case at a research institution.

Lay out a timeline, working backward from Spring of your 5th year, which is when the tenure file will be sent out to your external reviewers. At that time, you need your book and all of your articles to be published or in press. The reviews will come back in Fall of your 6th year, your department will vote on your tenure in or around September, your file will be submitted to the College in or around October, and then wend its way through upper committees, with your final decision coming to you in about May.

It takes approximately one year from first submission to a press to having a book reach the stage of being “in press.” Therefore, the book mss. must be finished and ready for submission, at the very latest, by Spring of your 4th year.

Working backward yet again, we know that you will undergo a Third Year Review in Spring of your third year. At that time, it will be quite apparent whether or not the book is shaping up to be submitted to a press within one year’s time.  Your third year review committee will judge the state of your manuscript very severely indeed.  Your article production will also be examined at this time.

As you can see, there is very little room for missteps in this timeline. What there most definitely is not room for is switching topics in mid-stream. If you have a dissertation, then that dissertation needs to be the foundation of your book. I understand that some assistant professors find themselves bored with their dissertation topic and involved with fresh new research early on the job. Rarely, very rarely, does that work out well for the individual’s tenure case. The new research must be kept aside as the major second, post-book project.

Basically, an ideal research and writing trajectory will look something like this:

Year One: Start work on the book mss.; Apply for research leave

Year One Summer: Article #1;

Year Two: Book mss.; Apply for research leave (if you didn’t get it yet)

Year Two Summer: Article #2

Year Three: Book mss.; Apply for research leave (if you didn’t get it yet)

Year Three Summer: Article #3 and book mss.

Year Four (ideally on post-third year review automatic research leave): book manuscript completely finished and submitted.

Year Four Summer: Article #4 (on new project); Possible research and fieldwork on new project.

Year Five: Book revisions and copyediting, and Article #5 (on new project)

As you can see, the key to maintaining a succcessful research and writing program is research leave.  It is not possible to reach the standards of productivity expected of young assistant professors in this day and age without leave.  You must prioritize applying for internal and external leave over all other writing in your first and second Fall semesters.  If you are unsuccessful in obtaining external leave within the first two years, speak to your department chair about the possibility of an automatic post-third-year-review leave, or negotiating, minimally, one semester of teaching release.  Do not consider applications for leave time as in any way secondary to the other writing that you do.

As you develop the articles for publication, one of the best and most efficient methods for getting them written and out, is to commit yourself to presenting them at major national conferences in your field. You don’t have to have a 35-page mss. with full citations and bibliography for the conference itself (unless, I’ve learned, you’re in philosophy, in which case you need those just to apply!). The 12-ish page double-spaced “paper” for presentation can suffice. But those 12 pages should be the core of an actual journal submission.  In good time, get that article expanded and submitted.

The early set of articles is tricky because they must build excitement about the coming book, but not reveal its contents.  It’s critical that they be in the highest status journals you can get into, as they establish your voice and authority, and lay the groundwork for the reception of your book.  They also help build credibility for you to get the contract for the book at the best presses.  Note publishers will likely not accept your book for publication if more than 50% of the manuscript has been previously published as articles.  Thus if it’s a 5 chapter book, then two chapters can have been published, but if that number rises to three, then it will be difficult to sell the book project.

The second major project does not have to be in book form for most tenure cases (we do hear of some Ivy Leagues expecting two books for tenure), although it does need to exist in article, conference paper, and grant form.

The second major project needs to show a natural development of the research trajectory that you began with the dissertation/first book, a kind of organic move forward, while still being quite new and original. In other words, deep thematics remain consistent while the topic is clearly distinct.

As you can imagine, a major squeeze happens in Year Four Summer and Year Five, when you must produce refereed journal articles on this new original second project, without any real time to conduct new research. Sometimes the second major project is a product of a certain amount of smoke and mirrors, and some creative thinking about how to conjure up a major project without doing lengthy fieldwork or research, or going overseas.

Thinking ahead about this squeeze, it is good to begin thinking about the second major project while still in your first year on the job. Begin a file for it, start reading some of the literature, and eventually, in year three or so, start presenting papers at panels on the new project. You want to have the core of an idea that is feasible and plausible by Year Four, so that AS SOON AS the book manuscript leaves your desk, you are ready to hit the ground running on two new publishable pieces on the second topic.

In general, plan to submit all of your best work to refereed journals. Chapters in edited collections are significantly lower status in a tenure case (particularly at an R1), and can sink a weak case.

It goes without saying that your tenure case cannot rest, if you are at a research-oriented institution, on an edited collection.

I understand that edited collections can serve for tenure at teaching or lower ranking institutions. However, if you have aspirations to move to a higher ranking institution, then the edited collection will do you little good. And beware—the edited collection takes at least as much time as a monograph, and often more. These are the reasons, as you know from this post, that I advocate just saying no to edited collections until after tenure.

There are countless other considerations in planning a research trajectory, but many of them are too individualized to be discussed in a general post. Readers, if you have some tips, however, please do contribute them in the comments!











How to Create Your Own Post-ac Job

by Margy Horton

Margy Thomas Horton

Margy Thomas Horton

Have you been reading all the posts about how to write a resume and what to say in interviews and thinking, “These posts are great, but I don’t have any jobs to apply for”? Maybe you’re geographically limited in your job search, or you’re bored by every job posting you read, or you’re riddled with guilt over the prospect of stealing some Art History major’s job, or (my personal favorite) you hate the idea of taking orders from anyone besides yourself, especially after having suffered the indignities of the academic labor market. If any of these conditions applies to you, then perhaps the reason you’re feeling so frustrated by the post-ac transition is that the job you’re looking for does not yet exist. Perhaps the person who is going to hand you your dream job is, cue swelling music, you!

At this moment, as you lie curled on your couch with 15 open tabs on your computer mocking you with postings for 15 different impossible jobs (jobs in distant cities, jobs that require coding expertise, jobs that pay less than the cost of childcare), the idea of creating your own job might seem just as impossible. How would you even begin to build a business? What would you sell? Who would give you a paycheck? And how soon? Adding to your unease may be the awareness that most small businesses fail within 18 months, and that your academic colleagues are likely to look down on you even if, or especially if, you succeed.

But I want to suggest that you have a much better than average chance of success in small business for two reasons: (1) given the skills you honed in academia, you can start a knowledge-based business that requires almost zero startup capital, and (2) your desperate thirst for challenging and meaningful work is going to make it impossible for you to give up until you find a way to do that work every day. I predict that, once you discover the Big Idea for your business and commit to making it happen, you’ll fall so in love with the project that you’ll actually start feeling happy and inspired again as you go about the work of creating your business: of designing your services and experimenting with your marketing message and figuring out what works for you and your clients. It may be slow going at first, but you can always ramp up gradually as you continue a steady day job.

In an earlier post I proposed some exploratory questions that you might ask as you prepare to write your business plan. After answering these basic questions, like “What can I do?” and “What do people need?”, you can move onto the specific questions that will undergird your business plan. You may opt to write a traditional, highly researched business plan or go with my own preference, an improvisational “lean start-up” plan. Either way, as you develop your business plan, don’t just guess what the answers are to these questions. Conduct some type of market research, even if informally.

1. What service(s) will I offer?

You might consider coaching, consulting, or editing, as these are all knowledge-based services that correspond to your skills honed in academia. In a coachingrelationship, the coach helps the client to achieve competency in a specific area, but does so mostly by asking questions rather than prescribing a course of action. By contrast, consulting tends to be more directive; the consultant provides expert advice for how the client ought to proceed.  Editorial services, broadly construed, involve written feedback on a work in progress. The lines among these three services can be blurry, of course. For example, in my business I provide writing consultation, which as it happens, can be more like coaching than like other forms of consulting. I do not prescribe solutions to my clients so much as ask them questions, help them tease out ideas that they hadn’t clarified before, and suggest strategies for revision. The client maintains full ownership of the project.

2. Who are my clients?

These people are the heart of your business, so know them well and love them deeply. A few considerations: Are your target clients aware of the need you propose to solve? If not, how can you help them see the need? What has kept them from meeting this need before now? Will they find your solution uniquely compelling? Also, consider whether you’ll target individuals or institutions, or both. If institutions, who are the decision-makers with whom you need to develop relationships? If both, will you need two distinct marketing messages? No matter who your clients are, be sure to design your solution (services) in a way that it will fit their time and money constraints.

3. What’s my Unique Value Proposition (UVP)?

This is key. Think of your UVP as the thesis of an argument: the concise, compelling articulation of what makes your your business both unique and important. Answering this big question requires attention to what similar services others are providing. How do those other people describe their services? What qualifications do those people have? How are you similar to or different from other people offering similar services? How can you communicate unique value so that you are not competing on price alone? For me, developing a UVP is not just a marketing technique. It is, far more significantly, a way to see oneself and one’s “competitors” as a community of unique individuals who respect one another and even collaborate. Call me Millennial, but I find this perspective far more inspiring than one of zero-sum competition.

4. How will I communicate with potential clients?

This begins with choosing a name for your business, which will succinctly and evocatively communicate the essence of your brand to the public at large. After you’ve decided on a business name and bought the url, you’ll want to think about what combination of web presence and in-person networking you’ll use to get your name out there. Again, it’s amazing how much you can accomplish without spending a cent. Once you create a genuinely compelling Unique Value Proposition and tell everyone in your network about it, the news about your business will have a way of spreading on its own. For me and many others with knowledge-based service businesses, the entirety of the marketing budget is the annual fee for website hosting–under $100 a year. I do spend lots of time building relationships, but this is the fun part of entrepreneurship! One note of caution against relying on online marketplaces such as Elance, Fiverr, Craigslist to generate new business. On these sites, people compete with one another based on price alone and do so at well below market rates. Avoid the commodity trap! Focus on quality relationships, and as much as possible, work with clients who appreciate the value of what you do.

5. Which resources do I need?

When launching your business, don’t spend money for something without first trying to get it for free. The public library, for example, is where I found this book on building a consulting practice. Believe me, I worked my way through the entire Business and Marketing section. I also found Quora to be a valuable resource, a place to ask questions of a brilliant community of people in all spheres of life. Canva is my source for graphics, and plain old Excel and PayPal are sufficient for my current accounting purposes. Obviously, social media accounts are free. The trick with those is to choose only two or three platforms in which to invest time in a purposeful way, rather than trying to be present on every platform.

Suffice it to say that creating a business plan is, like writing a dissertation, a recursive process. Even now, I still revisit and reimagine my business plan. At the moment, I am working out the details of an exciting expansion (I’ll be announcing my first Associate within 3-6 months!), so I am thinking a lot about how other people’s services fit within the ScholarShape brand. For me, this endless room for growth is what makes entrepreneurship fun, energizing, challenging, and rewarding–all of the adjectives that most of us are looking for in a job.  In my next post, I’ll discuss two different approaches to self-employment, entrepreneurship and freelancing, and I’ll explain why the distinction is important. Until then, keep dreaming and scheming!


Rape Threats Revisited

Most folks active in the academic blogosphere are aware of the nightmarish situation that developed over the past week around Sarah Kendzior and rape threats she received, and the insanely escalating blizzard of abuse directed at her upon Jacobin magazine making them public.  Sarah Kendzior describes the events in an essay, “On Being a Thing.” She writes, “I want people to stop sending me rape threats. I want to do my work. I want to stop being treated like a thing – or, shall I say, like a woman.”

The path to this place is convoluted in a way only internet disputes mostly mediated by Twitter can be.  But the upshot is that a whole bunch of leftists–mainly men, but a solid sprinkling of women mixed in–have spent a week dissecting why Sarah a) didn’t get any rape threats, b) did get rape threats but didn’t talk about the rape threats correctly, c) shouldn’t have felt threatened by rape threats, d) is deserving of rape threats because of her personal and/or professional politics.

A whole crew of Sarah’s political opponents felt empowered to take the opportunity to mock and belittle her.  When she spoke out about the rape threats, they escalated, and eventually directed, I understand, toward her young daughter.

Josh Shahryar articulates the outrage many of us felt while watching this unfold, in a 44-tweet Twitter rant (storified by @Teobesta).


Being that is a woman, the threats to her are – as our rotting society goes – of sexual nature – rape to be precise. 7/n

In the past few days, those threats have been belittled and amplified by the actions of certain “left wing” individuals and . 8/n

No one would give a shit abt what thinks or any of the other no-name trolls. is more valuable than them all. 9/n

However, their attempts at gaining some kind of traction by disgustingly attempting to harm exposes sth else. 10/n

Many of these people questioning the rape threats against are supposedly “liberal”, “progressive” and “left wing”. 11/n

Yet, none of them seem to realize that by questioning or belittling her experience exposes to more rape threats. 12/n


The fact is, so-called radicals and progressives are no less likely than others to use rape threats and other threats of violence to police, discipline, and silence women who write political commentary in the public sphere, especially if they depart from “approved” ideological party lines.  Robin (@caulkthewagon) describes her own experience with rape threats in the post “On Rape Threats and a Culture That Enables Them.”

‘I’d guess that I received dozens of them, mostly of the, “bitch, your [sic] gonna get raped” variety. I’ve gotten rape threats off and on throughout the years, but have been receiving them with alarming frequency since the beginning of this year. … After the MRA mass killing in Santa Barbara, I received two very grisly, detailed threats of rape and murder against me from two different accounts impersonating the killer. Last night I received another threat. (Side note: I am hoping that the acceleration of rape threats is just about me, and isn’t indicative of a larger trend.)’

Robin’s account makes it clear:  rape threats happen when women speak out against privilege to which different sorts of men (in varied sorts of contexts, including quote-unquote radical politics) feel entitled.

‘The link between all of the aforementioned rape threat “outbreaks,” as it were, that I experienced is that they were always perpetrated during a time when I used Twitter to speak in opposition to power, usually of the patriarchal sort. In this sort of scenario, rape is a weapon: rape is about power. The ability to threaten a woman without any accountability or consequence must be very tempting to the men who wish to maintain patriarchal power. It is an almost foolproof tactical maneuver.’

It is reprehensible and barbaric to use the threat of violence as a response to a person’s politics, and it is equally reprehensible to then turn the person’s fear of that violence into further fodder for mockery, dismissal and intensified threats. While speaking out about threats often incites more threats, I think it’s vital to name this dynamic so that other women who encounter it know they are not alone.  That is why I write this post.

Ask the Post-Acs #2 — What’s It Like to Work With You One-on-One?

Dear Post-acs,

Can you tell me what it’s like to work with you on a one-on-one basis? What happens in the free initial 20-minute consultation?  And, once we’ve decided to work together further, what happens in the 50-minute Skype consultations? How do consultations differ from document editing?


From Karen Cardozo:

I manage the initial consultation by circulating some diagnostic questions ahead of time and then formulating an agenda for discussion based on your responses. As an experienced career counselor (and someone who has experienced a lot of transition in my own academic and nonacademic work), I’m especially interested in helping you break from academe’s patterned mindset and narrow values to compose a satisfying life from the full toolkit of your aspirations, experiences, and skills.

As for the consult/editing distinction, I find these to be different processes only in degree rather than kind:  that is, document editing is often a vehicle for a more in-depth career consult because the devil is always in the details–document work brings out the nuance in a client’s background and goals in ways that a general consult may not.  For example, it was only in working on a resume for an advising position that one client disclosed (in response to my prompt about geographic connections) that she had attended high school in the very same city where she was applying for the Alt-Ac job!  Following conventional wisdom she had deleted high school from her resume; in this case, that history gave real credence to her desire to return to that community (in an application that otherwise made her look like someone new to the area).  We decided she wouldn’t put high school on the resume, but would mention it in her cover letter as part of the rationale for relocation: returning to a part of the country she knew and liked and where she had strong personal connections. This might reassure any search committee concerned about her retention.

Overall, whether in consulting appointments or in document work, I emphasize how important it is to be willing to rethink your story, and tell it in fresh and responsive ways for each new job application – much more so than in the academic application, which follows a more predictable generic format.  The Alt/Post search requires a greater willingness to change up the presentation in accordance with the requirements of each new job situation. My hope is that after showing you how to do this in a few concrete cases, you’ll gain the creativity and discernment to do it confidently for yourself in the future.

From Maggie Gover:

In my 20 minute consultation I will try to get to know who you are and what you need in regards to assistance with a job search.  I begin by asking about your background.  If you already have an academic career, some of the things we might then discuss are what you find satisfying about that career and would like to continue to find in your new career.  We may discuss different career opportunities and the different skills you would like to highlight in order to transition out of academia.  If you are very early in the process, we may talk about how you can position yourself for a career out of academia.

I like to end my session with “next steps.”  For those early in their career, I might suggest an early draft of a resume.  If you already have documents ready for editing, I will spend a few minutes talking in generalities about how they can be improved or which sections might have to be modified for different job descriptions.  The goal of my 20 minute session is for us to get to know each other and to find out if further consultations would be helpful.

From Jessica Langer:

I’ve done a couple of 20-minute consults now, as well as a few longer consults. I usually use the 20-minute consult to listen to the person, mirror back what I understand their meaning to be – which often gives them some insight into trends in their thinking that they may not have understood on their own, being too close to their own thoughts – and help them to establish goals for themselves (and for possible future work). I ask for a short bio and their application materials beforehand, spend 5 minutes looking them over, and I ask a lot of questions based on what jumps out at me. Most of these questions are “why” questions, designed to get them to think. I also give them “homework” of a few questions that I’d like them to answer for themselves.

My goal with the 20-minute consult is to help the potential client decide whether they would benefit from a longer consultation – but I also want them to get at least one actionable thing out of the consult, even though it’s free, because I really do want to help!
From Joe Fruscione:

I recently finished my initial Skype consult with a client looking into career-changing. Specifically, she needed help converting her teaching-geared resume & cover letter into materials for non-academic jobs. She was also interested in how to frame herself as a strong candidate for a writing or editing job in the private sector. She sent drafts of her sample resume, letter, and Statement of Purpose to familiarize me with her writing style and qualifications. I then clarified the realistic purpose of the consult–i.e., to talk and advise, not to fix her resume immediately or perfect her self-presentation in 20-30 minutes.

I started by asking her how she’d most like to proceed–with me asking the questions, or her asking them, or just me doing a lot of listening. I posed these questions throughout our conversation:

  1. Strengths: What are your strengths as a teacher and thinker? What labels or terms can you use to describe them, and how can you then use this lexicon on your resume, cover letter, and interviews?
  2. Concerns: What areas of improvement or concerns do you have about applying for and then doing a non-academic job?
  3. Network: What contacts do you have outside academia? Who do you know who’s doing the kinds of teaching or writing & editing work you’d like to do?
  4. Informational Interviews and Freelancing: Can one of your contacts set you up with an informational interview with a supervisor or director in the profession? (Informational interviews can be incredibly helpful for getting a frank, honest assessment of the field, your “fit” in it, and your areas of improvement. Because you’re not officially being interviewed, the industry professional isn’t as limited by HR rules and the like.)

What opportunities are there to do freelance or part-time work in a writing or editing field? Since it’s possible that you won’t get a full-time job right away, how can you start small, so to speak, and gain valuable experience? (I reiterated the freelance/part-time approach as baby steps toward full-time work.)

  1. Resume: What do you think needs to stay in your resume, and what’s expendable? (We discussed how to tighten the writing and rearrange the material based on the jobs being applied to. I also reminded her that she can have a short self-description at the top that echoes the language of the job ad. The key thing I stressed was to foreground the writing and editing skills she already has from her teaching & presentation experience.)

These, I hope, are the kinds of questions other post-ac job seekers can ask themselves when changing careers. Self-reflecting on your strengths, weaknesses, and transferable skills often improves your manner and language of self-presentation as a job seeker. And, while you’re doing this self-reflection, do a little self-advertising as well: when friends, former professors, colleagues, and others know you’re looking for new work, your net is cast all the more widely.

From Margy Horton:

I view the free 20-minute “mini-session” as a chance to explore how we work together and to see whether we’re a good fit. Beforehand, I ask you to share some basic info with me via email or the intake form on my website: info such as your degree field, geographic region, transition timeline, and general goals. My post-ac specialty is helping people figure out how to earn a living by “selling” their knowledge-based skills (ie, as freelancers, contractors, consultants, or small-business owners). So, I like to spend consultation sessions (both the 20-minute session and the proceeding sessions) helping clients to identify and label their most marketable skills, and then figuring out a specific plan for selling those skills. What service will you provide, and to whom, and at what rate, and how will you get the word out to prospects? As we conclude each session, you state the next steps in your process. For example, if you’re starting a small tutoring business, we might spend some time working to define the target market, services, and marketing message, and we conclude with you affirming that you plan to write a first draft of your business plan within a week. I usually follow up by emailing some free resources and/or suggestions for further reading.

As for the editing service, please note that I do not edit resumes and cover letters; I leave that to the experts who know those genres better than I! However, I do edit business plans and marketing materials. (In my “day job,” ScholarShape, I’m a scholarly editor and writing consultant.) For me, the distinction between consultation and editing is that consultation is a discussion (one that’s focused, rigorous, collaborative, task-focused), and editing is written feedback, in the form of revision suggestions and comments. In many cases, you could feasibly opt for either consultation or editing. People tend to select services based on (a) whether they have a draft worth commenting on (if not, consultation is an obvious choice because it can help you plan and produce said draft), and (b) whether they prefer engaging with ideas in texts or in person (if the former, they choose editing; if the latter, consultation). Some my clients opt for both consultation and editing at different stages of the transition process. One scenario for combining consultation and editing is to spend a consultation session talking through the business plan, and then draft the business plan on your own, and finally send me your business plan to so that I can provide a detailed, substantive edit/critique. I say more about the distinction between consultation and editing on the Services page of my website. But of course, these distinctions and approaches can vary from one service provider to another, so always check with the person you’re thinking of hiring! And good luck!

The Bottom Line:

Your free 20-minute session is an opportunity to experience, with no strings attached, what it actually feels like to work with the post-ac expert of your choice. Because you and the consultant prepare for the session by exchanging basic information, you get to spend most of your 20 minutes actually having a productive discussion about your post-ac transition. You will experience first-hand the approach that your post-ac consultant describes explicitly in his or her consulting philosophy and implies in the blog posts. Each of the post-ac experts has a distinct approach to consulting and editing, but all of the experts are committed to arming you with the specific knowledge, skills, and strategies that you need to transition into post-ac work that suits you perfectly.

The Professor Is In is Hiring

[July 2014 Update:  this search has been completed and I have hired two new staff members.  Please stay tuned for future searches moving forward].

I am seeking to hire two editors for The Professor Is In, to start immediately, contingent upon successful completion of training, and to continue through the 2014-15 academic year.  The hours are approximately 10 hours a week, and hours are flexible to suit your schedule.  Editors work directly with me to manage client inquiries and scheduling, and edit client documents.

Applicants must have previously worked with me on their job documents!  I want editors to be familiar with the process from both sides.

I will select the successful candidates based on background experience, performance in a set of editing tests and an interview.  The successful candidates will join a team of editors who all work closely together with me on a daily basis.  You can be located in any geographical location, but you must have been trained in a U.S. Ph.D. program, be active in an American academic context, and have received your Ph.D. within the last ten years.  You must be able to commit for the whole next academic year.

To answer a question I am often asked:  if hired, you do not have to “go public” that you are working for me; it is optional if you want your name listed on my “People” page.

If you are interested, please email me at for more information about the test process, training process and the pay.  Please send your CV with the email, and let me know when we previously worked together (I’ll probably remember, but just in case!)


Speaking the Language, Getting the Job – Fruscione 3/Polizzi 6

Joe Fruscione and Allessandria Polizzi have partnered to create today’s post on the language of post-ac reinvention.


by Joe Fruscione and Allessandria Polizzi

Joe Fruscione

Joe Fruscione

Dr. Allessandria Polizzi

Dr. Allessandria Polizzi

A key part of one’s post-ac career- and self-reinvention is finding the right kinds of language to describe skills, experience, and assets gained in academia. In a non-academic career, you might never again write theoretical construct, heuristic, always already, or other thingsacademics say, so one of your early tasks is figuring out how to ‘translate’ your knowledge and experience into understandable terms. You’ll be adapting your language on your resume and cover letter and when marketing your work and services.

We’d like to start building a vocabulary for post-ac job seekers to maximize their employability and best stress the transferability of their skills and experience. Consider this a work in progress, which we’ll happily expand or revise based on comments and feedback. We’re hoping this piece gives valuable insight by providing perspectives from someone with an established corporate career and someone who recently transitioned out of academia.

In part, we’re building on what Lana Cook wrote for Northeastern’s Career Development Blog (as well as other bloggers on this site). She began to see her “graduate work through the perspective of project management. The dissertation, conferences, teaching, and tutoring taught [her] how to prioritize multiple high stakes projects and negotiate diverse stakeholders.” The University of Michigan Career Center’s guide to transferable skills for PhDs also provides guidance on how to translate the skills you have into skills potential corporate employers or business clients will understand. Danielle Deveau has also written on this practice of reframing academic skills in the private sector, as well. For her, “This means communicating your wealth of skills and experience in a language that they actually value and understand.”

Following the lead of these and other predecessors—including some of our fellow post-ac experts—we’d like to share what we hope is a useful yet expandable list of words and terms you’ll need to use on a resume, cover letter, interview, LinkedIn profile, and the like. Our goals are constructive for post-ac job seekers in literally trying to use the right words. We don’t want new jargon but useful, adaptable language.

Of course, the proper language you use will also depend on the kind of job and workplace you’re targeting. Government jobs—especially the USAJobs site—prefer very particular language. (Years of parsing MLA’s Job Information List may come in handy here.) Also, due to both of our backgrounds in English, we will be heavily focused on the Humanities this space. We encourage those with experiences in the sciences and other fields to flesh out transferable skills in their space, as well.

Part of this list came from a crowd source Joe did via Twitter in mid-February. Big thanks to Katie L. Thompson, Joseph Fisher, Accidental Academic, and others who shared some examples.


Academic Language Post-Ac Language
Discourse community Network/Team/experts in field
Rhetoric Language

Writing Style


Composition/Rhet-Comp Writing
Conference Talk Presentation
Text Document
Journal Article Study



Peer Review Commenting
Critique Edit


Give Feedback

Adjunct Freelancer


Contract Position or Contractor

Seminar Workshop
Pedagogy Teaching (Style)


Knowledge Transfer

Approach or Method

Instructional Design

Monograph Book


Citation/Literature Review Acknowledgment


Job Talk Interview
Post-Doc/Fellowship/VAP Previous Job or Position


Research Position

Post-Ac Private Sector



Colleague Coworker


Team Member

Archive Study




Research practice




Broad Scope/Context




Theoretical Scaffolding

Theoretical Schema

(never use them)

Examples of resume or cover letter language:


Partnered with experts in [field of study] to produce five published articles, with over 12 million in combined readership.

Excellent written and oral communications skills.

Taught introductory and advanced writing skills, with a positive evaluation of 95%.

Collaborated with team of four coworkers to organize a professional meeting.


Can you think of something that we haven’t? Mention it in the comments field.

As some of us have stressed lately for The Professor Is In, the trick is always to show how transferable your academic knowledge and skills are while stressing your adaptability outside academia. A good place to start is by looking at the job descriptions for the positions you are actually interested in and using their language as it applies to your work. You can also learn more by conducting informational interviews with those in your field of interest. In some cases—and when you’re not also submitting a cover letter—you can include  a short self-description at the top of your resume that echoes the language of the job description.

The important thing to focus on here is that you have marketable skills already. (Our colleague Margy Thomas Horton just did a webinar on this very thing.) If, for example, you’ve gone through 10+ years of undergraduate and graduate education, taught, and organized several writing projects, you have a lot of the skills an employer will likely need:


  • Done any kind of capstone, thesis, and/or dissertation? You know how to write, organize, and revise an extended project in multiple stages.


  • Taught at more than one school while doing some professional work and research? You can multitask and stay on schedule.


  • Planned an academic conference? You can organize schedules, communicate with speakers or guests, and edit conference materials.


  • Worked in a Writing Center and/or taught courses with a meaningful writing component? Commented on a colleague’s book, article, CV, or cover letter draft? You can edit and give feedback on different kinds of writing.


  • Co-written an article or other project? You are a collaborator with strong teamwork skills.


  • Presented at a conference? You have demonstrated your strengths in oral and written communication and presentations.


  • Done archival and/or first-hand research for a project? You know how to locate, study, and apply a variety of sources to a specific purpose.


This is not to say, of course, that the skills transfer and professional rebranding will happen overnight or without a few hiccups. As with many post-ac experiences, this is a process: start figuring out how to describe what you know and can do, and refine your language and self-marketing. Employers will have trouble hiring you if they don’t quite know what you’re saying. And communicating is easiest when we are speaking the same language.


What Do You Like To Do? Polizzi #5

Allessandria originally titled this post, “Who Do You Want to Be?”  I have changed the title to “What Do You Like To Do?”  I did this because what I’ve come to understand about the postac job search is that the most important task is to replace your focus on your IDENTITY as the academic (specialist in Renaissance literature) with a focus on the SKILLS and APTITUDES you can bring to a range of different kinds of work.

In this post, Allessandria provides some techniques for doing that, and then shows how to link those skills and aptitudes with actually posted corporate jobs.


by Allessandria Polizzi

Dr. Allessandria Polizzi

Dr. Allessandria Polizzi

Once you have decided that you want to explore a corporate career, the next question to ask yourself is: “doing what?” There aren’t generic corporate jobs out there, from my experience. Rather, companies are looking for specific skills and experiences to hire. And, I want you to repeat this to yourself: they are looking for people just like you.

I say this because, chances are, if you are contemplating a change, you are doing so with mixed emotions. I liken it to coming out of a break up. If academia didn’t want me, why would anyone else? But this isn’t the case. It is you who is choosing to “see other people.” You are in control. And you have a lot going for you.

But first things first: what do you want to be doing?

To start, pull out a piece of paper and write down the things you like about academia. Why did you get into it in the first place and what has kept you coming back? Do you love research, studying up on authors or artists and finding out as much about them or their works as possible? Do you like writing, crafting a well constructed sentence, engaging people through language? Is it reviewing and grading the works of others that you enjoy, helping others be better, or are you most energized when in the classroom, having lively discussions and watching your students grow in their thinking and analysis? One thing I have done is picture my perfect day and then describe it to myself in detail. Why was it perfect? How did I feel? Spending time on this is important, so try to approach things with a clear and open mind.

Now that you have this captured, do the opposite. What are the things about your job that you hate? In a prior post, I mentioned how much I dreaded doing the same thing over and over again. When I was teaching technical writing, I actually thought about (only partially jokingly) having stamps made that said “show, don’t tell” and “watch your margins” because I hated writing the same feedback over and over again. I loved teaching; I abhorred grading. Knowing what you don’t like will be as important as finding what it is you love because it will help you edit and focus on which role(s) you want to go after.

You should also look at your hobbies to see if these could be good indicators of what potential ways you would enjoy spending your time 40+ hours a week. Maybe a part of you really likes computers and systems, but you never thought about taking that on as a “real” job. While I would steer away from anything that would put you into a similar financial situation to the one you are in, try and find the skills and strengths you have to build on.

Now that you have this, lets start talking about how some of these roles might translate into corporate positions:

  • love teaching? Look into jobs like corporate training or instructional design.
  • enjoy analysis & research? How about something in strategic planning or project management?
  • find grading and editing a thrill? How about editing, process or change management, or something in the finances, like auditing?
  • is writing your thing? Explore roles in communications or PR.
  • just love people? What about HR or talent management?

This is where the Internet is going to come into it (& my favorite trick for choosing a career path or next step. I have used this process a lot). Google the skills or talents you have for ideas. Once you have a couple of starters (or using the ones I listed above), go to a website like LinkedIn or Indeed and type these into the search. And start reading and reading and reading. This will give you insight into what the roles are out there and what might be interesting to you. No, you probably aren’t qualified for the role yet. Don’t panic! You are just window shopping.

Let me walk you through an example. Here is an excerpt from a posting on LinkedIn (it’s one of ours, so I don’t feel bad):

• Use appropriate skills to deliver training programs to ensure trainees attain competency in the skills and knowledge necessary to deliver exemplary customer service as described in the 7-Eleven Five Fundamentals; and to maximize sales and profitability in their store.

• Conduct all aspects of approved training programs including delivery of materials, facilitation and evaluation of participants.

• Document all test scores and maintain written documentation on trainee progress.

• Initiate discussion and provide feedback (both written and verbal) throughout the training program. Communicate to appropriate departmental representatives within approved timeframe.

• Work with Operations Training Manager to evaluate the effectiveness of training using the Kirkpatrick’s 4-Levels of Evaluation.

• Conduct all activities according to the 7-Eleven Way and 7-Eleven’s Servant Leadership model.”

In reading this, you may say, “hey, I could totally do that because I have been teaching for 5 years!” Or, you might be saying, “what the heck is a Five Fundamental?” So, consider the following:

  • job descriptions are often written by the hiring manager who will use a lot of internal jargon and, worse yet, acronyms. Don’t let them scare you. They aren’t really trying to make you feel left out, I promise.
  • if you don’t know something, look it up. Proprietary stuff like “the 7-Eleven way” won’t be out there, more than likely, but Kirkpatrick sure is and so is Servant Leadership
  • if you can picture yourself doing 50% of what’s listed and being excited about learning the rest, keep it as a potential good option for you to consider ( I will talk about this more in my job hunting post)

And this is what is most important: finding something that will get you as excited as you were about academia (if not more). What jobs do you find that sound interesting? Which ones do you get excited about? It doesn’t matter yet if you are qualified because you will be some day. You just need to know which direction you want to head in. And this investment in better understanding what drives you and what options are available is your first step in that direction.

The European Project-Based Postdoc

I’ve worked with a handful of clients applying to project-based postdocs in Europe.  We’ve had some bumps in the road, as I had to learn the expectations of these postdocs.  A successful reader recently gave me a few pointers, which are below.  The most important is, these postdocs–although often in the humanities or social sciences —  require the applicant to fit into a larger pre-existing project (similar to lab-based science postdocs).  Also, they emphatically do NOT cover the revision of the dissertation into a book.  In these matters they are quite different from the typical North American social science or humanities postdoc, which typically exists to support the production of a first book or series of articles based on the dissertation.  Proceed with caution!
In Europe, especially as a result of the increasing importance of grant programs such as Marie Curie, they are the most common type of post-docs. The project’s over-arching topic is defined by the original team, and usually staff (post-doctoral and doctoral researchers) are hired only after the grant is awarded. This means that particular attention should be given to the fit of one’s research with the general goal of the project. I think that your suggestions on “how to tailor” are particularly useful in this stage: one should remain true to his/her interests and adapt them to the context at the same time. However, understanding the project’s nuances from the one-page published in the call for applications can be tricky. I found it useful to research the profiles of the team members, and see what their interest in the project may be and then pitch the proposal accordingly.
It is important to note that in these cases the applicant’s dissertation really belongs to the past: although it may be discussed in the interview (it was in my case) and must be mentioned in the letter, the goal of the post-doc is to develop new research on a new topic (which obviously may stem from the dissertation or build on some of its findings). In these post-doc there is no space for dissertation publishing, therefore the focus must be on the new project, which needs to be relatively developed and not just a vague idea.
Materials-wise, this spring I have applied to two project-related post-docs and both required:
– a CV
– a cover letter
– a project proposal (in one case the page limit was 2 (!!!), in the other 5 pages (2.500 characters) plus
– a writing sample
– only one required recommendations letters (two)
Your grant writing template works great as a template for the proposal (it was fine also for the shorter one), the difficult thing is to find that golden balance between the applicant’s research interests and the project’s scope and general goals.Sometimes the post-doc is expected to take additional tasks: one of the positions was for a post-doctoral researcher/network coordinator. Accordingly, things like international research experience and the coordination aspects of other service and job activities should be emphasized.

The interview covered the following topics: profile and research interests in general, dissertation, current research, project proposal (a lot and in depth – both theory, methodology and practical issues like organization of fieldwork and context specifics), future plans, availability to move to the particular country, and so on.

What Will You Gain When You Lose? – Langer #2

You know the Special K cereal commercials with the tag line, “What will you gain when you lose?”  I actually can’t stand those commercials or any advertising that try to glamorize dieting, market thin-centrism, and sell women on some kind of highly processed food-commodity as the key to weight loss, let alone happiness, success, or, in the Special K campaign–‘sass.’

However, it is true that in many cases in life, when you lose something, you do gain something else.  And that’s why the Special K line instantly popped into my head as I read Jessica Langer’s latest post on leaving academia.  Sure you’re losing the academia career [cue for violins], but, what are you gaining?  Make a list and tape it next to your computer, next to your bed, next to your toilet, wherever you need a reminder. Leaving academia can mean gaining a whole world of opportunity to do new things, and to free yourself from the cramped, narrow judgments that circumscribe the academic mind.


by Jessica Langer

Jessica Langer

Jessica Langer


For many of us, the most difficult thing about leaving academia isn’t finding work outside of it. It isn’t the practical concerns. It’s the emotional and psychological pull, the geas that’s put by the institutional cult of academia on each and every one of us as we enter graduate school and keeps its claws in our souls no matter what we do.

Okay, maybe that’s a bit dramatic. But maybe not.

I’m coming at this from the perspective of someone who has found success and happiness outside of academia, so know that it’s possible. But academia is like a drug gang in more ways than one: every time we try to leave, it pulls us back in, whether materially or psychologically.

In short: leaving academia isn’t just changing career paths. It’s leaving a way of life and a way of looking at the world; because of this, it requires a real, active shift in the way you envision yourself, your relationship to your work, and your relationship to the wider world around you.

Here’s how I’ve made my own transition as psychologically healthy as possible:

  1. Really, truly believing that I am not a failure for leaving academia.

How I did this: I read all I could about the value of failure. I spent a day or two (ok, maybe a week or two. Or a month. Or a little longer than a month) really inhabiting the idea of being a failure, mourning it, and letting the feelings exist so that I could work through them, like one might climb one’s way out of a ditch.

I enumerated every success in my life, even the really small ones, to build up a little bulwark against the academic cult’s insistence that to leave is to fail.

And I had to start understanding academia as just one value system among many possible value systems, and not even necessarily the best one. It’s common for academia to inculcate its subjects into believing that it is the bearer of the only possible value system for smart people, in a way that quite literally replicates the more cultish of religions. It takes time, energy and insight to get rid of this. But you must if you want to free yourself from the paralyzing fear that leaving equals failure – and that failure is always bad or wrong – that academia so often engenders.

  1. Making a really long list of the positive aspects of my post-ac path.

In my post-academic life, I don’t get to make a living primarily from academic work. But I do get to live in Toronto, my hometown and favourite city. I get to live 2 blocks from my parents (this is not for everyone, but it works for me.) I get to raise my children here. I get to live in a city where I can afford a nice house and a nice lifestyle.

Also? I don’t have to read any journal article I don’t want to read. I don’t have to deal with academic departmental politics. I don’t have to worry that if I piss off the wrong professor, I won’t get an article accepted to Journal X. I don’t have to spend seven years terrified that I won’t get tenure and will have to uproot my entire family.

How I did this: I made an actual, physical list of pros. No cons, just pros: this isn’t a decision-making process, this is a commitment. I wrote it out, put it up next to my computer, and read it over and over.

(There’s a story here: when I went through my first really big breakup as a teenager, I made a list of people I could call anytime if I needed to talk, and taped it to my lamp next to my bed. I only actually called anyone from it a few times, but just the knowledge that it was there was an enormous help, psychologically. Just knowing the list is there – having it written out and contemplatable at any time – is going to be helpful to you, most likely.)

  1. Stay active in your academic field, if you want to… but only on your own terms.

Some people kind of shut themselves out of the academic community when they go alt- or post-ac to avoid the pain of seeing others on the path they used to tread. But I find that the mind is good at imagining the darkest and most hurtful possible realities when it’s cut off from information. Instead, understand that it will be painful, but follow those others’ trajectories… but make sure to follow every part of them. It’s easy to look at new TT folks and imagine that they all work in sunny offices with endless bookshelves and deep institutional pockets. Don’t romanticize; also pay attention to their tweets about how they’ll have to pay out of pocket for this year’s conference, to the field scuttlebutt about the departments that are viper pits. And remember that even a TT job isn’t a guarantee that you won’t be poor.

How I did it: It was a journey for me, and it continues to be, to be honest. I still publish, when it suits me and when I feel like it, and now I’m publishing in two broad, sometimes interrelated fields: consumer culture theory (marketing, in which I work and research now) and literature and film/media (in which I did my PhD). The freedom, now, is that I get to write and publish whatever the heck I want and it has no bearing whatsoever on whether I get to keep my job.

Similarly, I teach what I want, when I want, and I take the semester off if I want. I had a baby this fall, and instead of negotiating maternity leave and worrying about my tenure clock, I just… decided not to teach that semester, and did most client meetings by Skype for that few months. There’s a lot to be said about the unfair situation of adjuncts, and I’ve said a fair bit of it myself, and I don’t disagree that a lot of adjuncts are treated badly and paid abominably. But the flip side of occasional adjuncting as one element of a post-ac career is that it can be flexible on both sides. You aren’t tied down to one job, one city, for an entire career. You aren’t terrified during your T-T years of being uprooted eventually. You just… teach, and enjoy it, and then go home and do something else.

What’s the upshot here? Yes, you’re losing something when you leave academia. It’s a loss, and you can mourn it as a loss. But you’re also gaining something. You have the opportunity now to create your own future, in a way that almost no academic in the entire world does.

And finally: it’s important to understand that it’s OK and normal to always be a little sad or wistful about the academic path, because the loss of a dream is still a loss. But that sadness and wistfulness isn’t a signifier that they should have done anything different. It’s the logical consequence of the road not taken. No matter what, you’d have that wistfulness. So feel it, breathe through it, let it ride along with you for a while… and then let it go, as you launch yourself into that bright future of yours.

ASK THE #POST-ACS – How do I describe my academic work experience in post-ac interviews?

The following is the first in a new occasional series, “Ask the #Postacs.”  The panel of postacademic experts (bios here) will weigh in on reader questions as a collective.  Please send your questions for future columns to  We really want to hear them!


Dear Post-acs,

I’ve already had two job interviews (for the same company in New York), and I am encountering two questions that are giving me anxieties. The first is, “All you have is teaching experience; why should we hire you?” Well, that’s actually not true, as I have three years of non-academic professional experience, but I replied as best I could–responding that being a teacher at the college level gives you so many skills that are transferable in the business world: crafting presentations, managing multiple projects concurrently, client service skills, etc. But it’s tough not to get discouraged, especially since I feel like I’ve answered that question over and over again since leaving academia.

The second has to do with my resume and the perception that I’ve “jumped around” since graduating. I feel like my international experience and my work in multiple fields should be an asset, but I’m gathering that what people see is a professional who cannot commit to one place, one field. And that, frankly, frightens and perplexes me, particularly since I pride myself on my commitment to projects; one doesn’t get a PhD without a degree of fortitude and commitment, after all. I don’t know if this is a problem of spinning, or a problem that can be fixed with a bit of resume editing, or what, but I suspect it will come up again.

Reply from Margy Horton:

I’ll let the corporate post-ac people speak to the resume-writing issue. What I see in these questions is not so much an anxiety about the questions themselves, as a deeper sense of identity confusion. The question “Why should we hire you?” is essentially, “What do you have to offer (to our organization, to the world outside academia, to the universe as a whole)?” The question “Why have you jumped from job to job?” is essentially, “Why does your employment history make no sense (to us in this organization, to people outside academia, to the universe as a whole)?” Once these implicit, existential questions are made explicit, we can see that the issue here is less about “spin,” and more about developing a clear, confident sense of self. Ideally, you will get to the place where, when asked, “Why should we hire you?” the first thought is, “Duh, obviously hire me for my fabulous skills in A, B, and C, which I honed while researching D and pursuing E in the cities of F and G, and which will enable me to do H, I, and J for you. BTW, even though I hail from the foreign land of academia, I am already fluent in the language and cultural mores of your institution.” (But maybe just exude that last part, rather than stating it baldly.)

I’d suggest that you undertake a careful reflection upon the various pieces of your experience and identity, weigh the significance of each piece, figure out how the pieces relate to one another, and assemble the pieces into a new post-ac self. In a sense, this painful process is simply the universal process of human growth and maturation (said the person who wrote her dissertation on the Bildungsroman). For anyone making a post-ac transition, the most daunting yet rewarding task is to construct a cohesive narrative that ties together all of one’s disparate experiences and skills. It’s like applying for academic jobs all over again, only in different language and with different emphases. But the great part is, in the post-ac world, there are so many more possible right answers!

Reply from Alessandria Polizzi:

As one of the corporate folk, let me say this about the resume: moving around means very little. The days of having a 1-page résumé with 5-10 years per job are in the past.  What’s more important is that the résumé tells a story of skills, actions and accomplishments. These can be industry and location agnostic but should speak to the specific qualifications for the potential role.

Reply from Maggie Gover:

In regards to the first question, it worries me that you have three years of non-academic experience, yet people are seeing that you “only have teaching experience.”  I would love to see your resume, which I imagine needs some serious re-working!  Your teaching experience should not be foregrounded, in fact should only be a single bullet point, if you are applying for jobs where you don’t think this would be valued.

In regards to the second question, I have several answers.  First, it is increasingly uncommon for companies to be looking for the employee who has one fifteen-year work experience on their resume.  In fact, a close friend of mine who works in HR talks about passing over people who are “stale” because they have been in the same job for over 7 years.  However, there are still a few industries and companies where loyalty reigns supreme.  This means that you need to employ those researching skills every time you revise your resume for submission.  This is where LinkedIn is very helpful.  Look at others who have been hired at that company in the last two years.  Their LinkedIn resumes will be pretty accurate.  If they had a variety of experiences in their backgrounds, you should reflect that kind of pattern in your resume.  If they are mostly entry-level and just out of undergrad, you should probably look to those who would be your peers in the company.  If their work experience is all at this company, or if they have one long experience in their past, you will want to reflect this in your resume.  In this case, you should be presenting yourself as a woman who has long experience in her company (university) with increasing responsibility.  This is, in fact, the case!  This is one of those stories that really illustrates that one must tailor each resume to the specific post!  Both of your questions lead me to believe that your resume is looking too CVish and not resumeish enough.

My next piece of advice is as someone who sits on the other side of these types of interviews and, I hope will dispel a very common assumption: IT IS NOT JUST YOU!  We (the interviewing committee) will ask these questions of everyone!  We are evaluating if you will be happy here and if we will be happy to have you here.  So this question is important.  For someone who has one long work experience on his/her resume we would ask why s/he stayed so long at the last place of employment and why s/he is interested in making the change now.  If they say that they were looking for upward mobility and I know that the job I am offering is entry-level with no advancement opportunities, I know they don’t fit.  If I see someone who has a variety of experiences, I may very well think of it as a strength of the applicant.  I am still going to ask questions that help me gauge how long the applicant is interested in staying in this position, what they expect this position to be like, etc.  The fact that you have gotten interviews to me means that this company does not view your past experience skeptically, but that they are attempting to evaluate if the position they are offering is a good fit for you and if you are interested in making this a career.  Overall, you can’t answer in order to please the jury.  You may think they are looking for you to say that you want to be there forever, and they may be looking for someone who wants to work in this particular position for only one or two years and then move up to another position.  Instead, always answer honestly.  Explain why this position interests you, how long you imagine you might be happy in this position, the kind of advancements/training/development you are looking to gain from this position, etc.

Reply from Joe Fruscione:

Let me reiterate how important it is that you stressed the transferability of the skills you’ve gained from teaching. As someone also in the middle of a career transition out of academia, I know how key it is to likewise underscore your fit and usefulness for the position based on these transferable skills. If you haven’t already done so, I’d also suggest both stating and showing the interviewers/employer that you’re not the “typical academic” some people envision–i.e., introverted, somewhat socially awkward, non-collaborative, unused to a ‘real’ 9-to-5-type schedule, and so on. Be sure to connect your professional personality with your transferable skills.


Reply from Karen Cardozo:

My colleagues have offered great advice—including Margy’s reminder that you DID get the interviews. Thus you have an objective reason to reorient yourself from feeling discouraged, worried or perplexed: getting the interview is a very positive sign.   It’s important to remember that because however subtly, self-doubt DOES affect the vibe of interview conversations.  If YOU believe, THEY will believe.  And if they don’t, quite possibly it just isn’t the right fit.  Mentally, it helps to remember that (despite the power differential) this is a mutual exploration. Those who are compelled by your transferable skills would be promising people to work with and for.  You don’t want to work for people who don’t get it, do you?!


I would add that it’s very difficult to answer this question generically, without knowing the specifics of the job or of your academic background. Sometimes effective career conversions come out of an organic link between one’s scholarly or methodological background and the particular tasks of the new job or mission of the new organization.  For example, I once worked with a history PhD trying to get into advertising.  The person’s subject area was not “advertising” in any way.  However, it turned out she had studied the post-war period that aligned with the rise of mass media and marketing AND had a strong background in comparative ethnic studies.  She was able to convey a “deep background” on American cultural studies and new markets that could be brought to bear upon market research initiatives.  She offered illuminating frameworks and perspectives that others did not.  Another person I worked with studied themes of exile and trauma in diasporic literature:  she highlighted the transferability of her deep understanding of the impact of displacement on immigrant identity to alt-ac advising work—a substantive way to respond to the description’s cue about “working with diverse populations.”

The point is: if you’re feeling discouraged it’s likely because the work of translation is difficult, rather than because you don’t have what it takes.  Keep believing in yourself, and keep mining your background for new ways to talk about what you have to offer, while looking for very specific links between what you have done in the past, and what the new company needs you to do.


The Bottom Line:

Take heart. You DO have skills, strengths, and qualifications that make you an excellent candidate for post-ac positions. Through a combination of introspection, resume-tweaking, and interview practice, you’ll figure out how to present yourself as the cohesive, confident professional you are.