“Where do I begin? I began working with you in August as a fumbling, stressed out ABD with 23 pages of the dissertation written. It is April and I have just signed a tenure track offer at an R1 where I sense I will be extremely happy, just a few days shy of my defense. You helped me with every single step throughout the process, both as a formal client and a reader. At times I was annoyed with your brevity and, dare I say, ruthlessness, but came to realize this came from a place of candor and a scientific approach to a deeply unscientific, but all the while patterned process.
As I have told you before, I had great accomplishments as an applicant but they were hiding behind tone deaf documents and ways of thinking that my advisor and not even the career office was willing / able to take the time to sink their teeth into and critique in a sustained and constructive manner. Thank you for saving me from my untrained self and thank you for bringing out the best writer, the best interviewee, the best job talker and the best negotiator in me.
There may even be a psychosomatic effect of having Dr. Karen in your corner, an ally in a process where there sadly aren’t any, and although that is nothing you have actually done, it is a niche you have created, one which I am fairly certain has changed the landscape of the process on a national level. I send you a big hug and an even bigger thank you.” 2014 Ph.D., landed a TT position, humanities.
“I went on the job market knowing so many brilliant people who had struck out, over and over again. I also had an advisor who would not be taking the time to read my job letters or to strategize about the market, and told me so. My advisor thought of questions about job letters and the like as “careerist.” Moreover, as a somewhat senior scholar, my advisor was out of touch with how the market really worked.
Hiring Karen was the most worthwhile investment I have made in my graduate career. Now, at the end of the year, I am hearing again about the brilliant people who went up on the market with me and did not succeed. This has made me more adamant in my recommendation that they seek out Karen’s advice. Without her, I know that I would not have been asked for seven job talks and five conference interviews–and that’s only before pulling out of searches after securing a prestigious research-based postdoc with an international profile. (And I’m ABD!).
In particular, Karen’s “Interview Intervention” was a tremendous help. I didn’t know many people who had had conference interviews and didn’t know what to think about them. The mock interview with Karen was crucial to building my confidence. She called me out on being “manic” and overly excited in my answers. She helped me calm down, prepare responses, and be ready for what was, for me, the most nerve-racking part of the process.
Some have asked me whether Karen is “scary” or “mean” or “condescending.” None of these describes her at all. Rather, Karen is honest in a way that is refreshing in an environment in which advisors too often offer platitudes about how great and wonderful their students are. Karen tells you what you need to hear. In fact, my conversations with Karen were empowering, rather than condescending. They inspired me to respect myself enough on the market to get what I want, to judge healthy and unhealthy situations, and above all to be more confident in my own intellectual identity.
Beyond the market, my conversations with Karen have made me think about the kind of advisor I want to be and how I might be able to give my own students that kind of empowering experience.
I will continue to read the blog and seek Karen’s services as I progress through my career. I will also keep telling my colleagues to do the same.” 2012 Ph.D., Anthropology, Secured a Multi-Year R1 Research Postdoc
“So the closing stats were pretty amazing: this job season I applied for 5 jobs, had 5 on campus interviews, and was the first choice of two search committees and likely a third, and the second choice of at least one more. I say this not as a means of bragging but in way of thanking you and showing how important and effective what you teach is. Since I discovered your blog and website in the Fall of 2011, I have read it religiously and it was my handbook for crafting all of my application documents. When I started getting on campus interviews, I took both your “Interview Intervention” webinar and your “Campus Visit” webinar and I can’t tell you how many times I thanked you and myself for doing that during my interviews! And now having worked with you one-on-one for negotiating assistance, I am certain that I could not have negotiated a better offer for myself and my partner.
“Revising my application materials with you got me as far as campus visits last year. This year I had my actual Job Talk revised by you and just like all my other documents, it needed major revisions. Surprise! I’ve been publishing on this research for many years, I’m such an expert on it, how could it be so wrong? Once pointed out, the needed revisions seemed glaring. The truth is that no one had ever revised my writing or taught me how to construct an argument successfully. Also, I was not an expert on the Job Talk genre. I was able to revise my talk in time for my first campus visit. The revisions allowed me to present my research in such a professional way, I felt much more confident. I got my preferred TT job! I’m lucky to have found your website in a random search of what font to use in my CV! I’ve learned much more from you than I ever did from my own advisor. It’s lucky for so many of us that you changed careers! Thank you so much for your help.” 2006 Ph.D., Languages and Literatures, TT job offer
“The interview Intervention was really great, and I loved talking to Kellee. I got myself quite anxious in anticipation, more so than before any real interview, because I didn’t feel prepared enough. After going through all the steps with Kellee, I think I know what to do and how to keep my answers tight, focused, and concise. And, I think I also got the anxiety out of my system. I will be reporting to both of you about the two interviews later this week.” 2013 Ph.D., Languages and Literatures.
“The job interview process to which I was subjected was both incredibly demanding and unique, which meant that Karen had to create an entirely new method by which to prepare to simulate the circumstances of the interview.
“I am an international scholar. Before using Karen’s service, I was never invited to campus interview. After an interview intervention with Karen, I was invited to four campus visits out of five interviews, all with research universities, and landed on one job. Karen is very smart, always down to the point, and she helps you to understand your strength. I highly recommend using her service.” 2013 Ph.D., Art History.
“I must say that when I first embarked upon this job search I was absolutely terrified, and your clear and confident guidance throughout this process has been invaluable. I believe you wrote in one of your blog posts that if your graduate advisor has never made you cry then s/he is not doing her/his job. The fact of the matter is that while my committee and advisors are very supportive of me, they have not been extremely critical, and I became overly comfortable with the idea that everything I was doing was fine “as is.” You may recall that my first drafts of my job letter and teaching philosophy were met with advisor comments like “this is the best I’ve ever read” and “excellent.” Your comment on them: “you must not have read my blog post on Why Your Job Letter Sucks…” I won’t divulge whether or not this succeeded in making me cry Since then, you have continued to be brutally honest about my materials, but you have also been extremely encouraging and unstinting in your praise when you feel I’ve gotten things right. This balance of criticism and encouragement became a great source of motivation for me, and I thank you for it. I cannot recommend your services highly enough, and I have turned every grad student I come in contact with on to your blog and advice.” 2012 Ph.D. in Communication.
“While I cursed you every time I received a round of edits on job documents, the process empowered me as a job seeker and scholar. Between our one-on-one work, your webinars, and the blog, I came to know what I offer academia and the kind of scholarly community I want to join. I also learned how to present myself as a professional, and to be confident in which of the academic ‘games’ I simply was not going to play.” 2013 Ph.D. Education, Tenure track job at SLAC.
“I wanted to write and express my sincerest thanks for your aid during these last two job seasons. In what is an incredibly competitive field, your help has resulted in my receiving five requests for job interviews, over five postdocs at Ivy League and elite R1 institutions, and a tenure track job offer at my dream university in a major city. You were particularly helpful in demystifying a process which, because so much depends on the outcome and because it comes at the end of years of work, often had the capacity to overwhelm, frustrate, and frighten me. I very much appreciate all your help: in a real way, you allowed me to achieve a major life’s goal.” 2013 Ph.D., Political Science, scored several Ivy League postdocs and an R1 offer.
“The revision process was intellectually demanding in a way that I hadn’t expected. The editorial suggestions you made helped me to see my writing more critically; more importantly they helped me to think more carefully and precisely about what exactly it is that I am doing in my research and in my teaching and how best to present that work to other people, especially to potential colleagues and employers. Thanks too for putting so much of yourself into your work—all of us aspiring professors really appreciate it.” 2009 Ph.D. in Religious Studies
“As a full professor I greatly appreciate what you do; you have literally changed my life in terms of how I mentor my students. I have been a terrible mentor (the nice guy), and I’m growing with every interaction I make, based on every post you post. Thank you so much for all the free information you post (I have occasionally contributed to the support fund, but not as often as I should!) A few of my students have purchased your services and everyone has been very pleased. Yes I know it is services and mentoring that I should be able to do so much, but I have so very much to learn, so I tell them what I read from your blog and I tell them to go contact you too!” R1 Full Professor in the Sciences.
“My tenure vote was yesterday, and it went well. I want to thank you for your advice, both in my individual questions to you and on your blog. Your advice on navigating the conference scene was particularly helpful–thanks to you, I started presenting at national conferences and meeting national colleagues, which had positive results all around. Thank you so much for making the unspoken expectations spoken and explaining exactly what should be done. By the way, I served on a search committee last year, and your advice in that regard is spot on as well.” J.D., Law Professor
“Thank you for being so amazing! You helped me tremendously: from your suggestions about talking like a faculty member for my campus interview to the detailed advice you gave me concerning negotiating my offer.
I really don’t know why graduate advisors don’t take responsibility for adequately training their graduate students, but I do know that I’m making it my mission to do just that when I start advising them. There are so many problems in academia right now. I count myself lucky that I found someone who not only knew how to navigate the rough terrain of the job market, but also knew how to quickly point out my missteps and devise simple ways to correct them.” 2010 Ph.D. in Digital Humanities/English, who negotiated a joint spousal hire at R1
“While I wouldn’t have been invited to campus without your advice, I am most grateful for your comments about the campus visit, In particular, I appreciated those about how women sabotage their chances and your post about dressing for an interview as a butch dyke. I could probably recite that butch post, I’ve read it so many times. I read it as more of a pep talk than anything, and I needed some reassurance that it was okay to not wear kitten heels and a skirt suit (that’s a disaster, I look like I’m in bad drag). I found the perfect navy blue androgynous cut suit, which somehow came out under $200 with a combination of sales and a resourceful mall salesperson…. On the big day, I was able to walk into meetings and do my presentations feeling like myself–my professional self, not my grad student self–and I felt like the real deal. Your willingness to be open, detailed, and blunt about how candidates are received, and to speak to the (unfortunate) gender dynamics at work helped me make good decisions about the superficial stuff so I could focus on the substance.” 2014 Ph.D., Education, TT offer at SLAC
“Just accepted a generous counteroffer from an R1 after two years as VAP. When I stop jumping up and down with excitement and look back, I can’t believe how far I have come thanks to Karen’s guidance and the Interview Intervention with Kellee. I now know what other clients and readers mean when they talk about how working with Karen or even carefully following the blog changes effects more than one’s chances on the job market. It is a process that makes you recognize and claim your strengths as a scholar, teacher, academic citizen, and simply as a mature human being.
At first, it seems like just a few cleverly-worded lines in a cover letter. Then you memorize your research contribution for a mock interview, inhabiting your scholarly persona. Soon, you discover this holistic identity that you didn’t even know you had.
This is why I find willful misunderstandings of Karen’s advice to NOT be yourself on the job market ridiculous [KK: ref to my column, “The Be Yourself Myth” in Inside Higher Ed]. For women, this process of BECOMING yourself can be exceptionally empowering. I know there is a whole cultural industry developing on women and leadership right now. However, working with Karen goes far beyond general recommendations about women and power, because it is grounded in the work you have already done (or have a clear plan to do). It is all about recognizing and relating your own worth, not in some abstract fluffy sense and not by telling but by showing with incontrovertible proof both to the world and to yourself. Thank you so much, Karen and Kellee. I cannot wait to donate generously to the job-seeker support fund with my first TT salary!” I am so moved and touched by this. And so happy to see the work going forward.” 2011 Ph.D., scored R1 TT job in American Studies.
“I am a postdoc in the physical sciences who was on the job market this year and am one of the lucky few to have landed an R1 tenure-track junior faculty position. I credit this largely to working extensively with Karen.
Last year I applied to 5 jobs and got no interviews. This time around I asked colleagues for resources they had used in their job search and I heard about Karen’s blog. I couldn’t believe that this resource was available and I just didn’t know about it. In fact, I found the information on her blog so useful that I decided to work with her. I was getting more and more anxious about getting a job and figured the money would be worth it. It definitely was! After working with Karen, I applied to 6 jobs and got 4 campus visit interviews! Karen and I worked together on my CV, cover letter, research statement, and teaching statement. The most field-specific one was the research statement and Karen let me know when she felt I should consult someone in my field for advice. For example, in my field it is common and expected to have a 4-5 page research statement (even though this is not stated in the job advertisements) and Karen’s blog advocates at most 2 pages.
I was so happy with Karen’s editing work, that I also purchased the Campus Visit Webinar and Interview Intervention Webinar and also did the Interview Intervention with Kellee via Skype. The Interview Intervention with Kellee was eye-opening. I thought that after doing the Interview Intervention Webinar the Skype would be a piece of cake, but Kellee noted my responses were coming across as long-winded and unclear and she helped me hone my responses so they came out clear and focused. I walked into my interviews confident having prepped for questions; I was surprised that the vast majority of the questions I received were covered by Karen and Kellee. In the end, I ended up getting two offers and used Karen’s negotiation assistance to negotiate a $4K higher salary than I was initially offered.
I strongly recommend working with Karen. Even though Karen is not in the physical sciences, I found her advice to be very helpful and spot on. She will tell you frankly if there are things she suspects may be field-specific and will encourage you to ask someone in your field. I’m looking forward to working with Karen again as I start the next stage of my career.” 2011 Ph.D., STEM field, accepted a TT offer at R1
“Just a quick update to tell you I got the dream job at the R1 in education (accepted, starting in fall). I thought I’d thank you and tell you that your advice was amazing. I happen to have great mentors who helped me a lot, but I read your blog and posts religiously and am convinced your no nonsense and wonderfully practical approach helped me have a clear sense of what I needed to do/say/project everywhere I went. Also, I recommend your site and services to all of my fellow grad students (who, from my estimation, desperately need your help!). Anyway, keep up the great work–I’ll be looking at your advice for publishing and grants going forward (and I know I’ll be a better mentor to others thanks to you). Thanks a million!” 2012 Ph.D., Education
“If you are negotiating a tenure track offer, go to the expert! This is the best $xxx I’ve ever spent. Karen’s negotiation advice led to a $10,000 increase from the initial offer, and now I’m starting the new position knowing that I didn’t undersell myself.” 2012 Ph.D. in Hispanic Literatures & Cultures; now tenure track at a leading R1
“Today’s Interview Intervention Session with Kellee was fun! I bet you don’t hear that often, but Kellee is a national treasure. While I had memorized answers to the questions and could anticipate answers to the standards (and even provided an answer for a question about teaching trend, ask Kellee about that one), she was able to pick out what my problem is. It is my delivery of the answers NOT that I don’t know what my answers are or that I’m clueless about teaching and research. But it is in HOW one presents their whole persona. I’m working on that even with friends. My speech patterns are throwing people off and I’m over-compensating for confidence and it’s coming off really bad. But Kellee was kind to me and made me step back to present the information differently…and it was vastly improved. Instead of this session being about “the right answers” or “getting it perfect for a unknown search committee” the session turned out to be a conversation about how to take the interview to the next level. And it is not about getting all the information into that one answer polished, it’s about presenting yourself effectively. And if need be, fake it to make it.
The session went along so well and that it is eye-opening to me that a geographical difference and how I was raised to be direct makes a difference in how I’m perceived on the job market. Of course my advisors and faculty, who are conducting mock-interviews, are going to say I’m doing well because we’re all New Yorkers or East Coasters and no other place exists. I could not get through these interviews without Kellee and you. I would wholeheartedly recommend others to invest in an Intervention in the future.” 2012 ABD, History, on the job market
“The job search in the UK is very different than the US….However that said, I do think your methods and training sessions helped me read between the lines of the job description and the information that is publicly available about the dept/university. My research appealed to a number of colleagues outside of my own expertise, but importantly, in my letter, presentation and interview, I stayed consistently on target. I had a message (though I was prepared to stress an aspect more or less as needed) and I kept to that message. Really through editing my covering letter and CV, I was transformed into a colleague, an equal. My husband was rather skeptical about my working with you; but after I got my job, he owned up that he had been proved wrong!
Your Interview Intervention Session was amazing because it curtailed a tendency of mine to get too enthusiastic or want to fill up dead air, and it opened my ears – because I felt secure in all aspects of my profile I could listen to the questions they were asking and I felt I could take a breath before speaking. Even if their questions weren’t framed in the same way, British hiring committees want to know the same basic things as American hiring committees. I could translate their questions into a theme that was covered in bootcamp, go to that file in my brain, pick it up and deliver it in a succinct way.” 2013 Ph.D. who landed a position in the UK
“I worked with Karen at each stage of the job-seeking process: from documents to Interview Intervention, campus interview webinar to negotiating my offer. I got the only job I applied for (TT, dream SLAC, in my hometown) and I haven’t even defended yet. In some ways, Karen’s services seem straight forward: help with documents, advice on what to say, webinars, negotiating help — but somehow, this process of working with Karen had the result of long-term intensive professional coaching… I went in a very hungry caterpillar and emerged a tenure-track butterfly.” 2013 Ph.D. in Health Promotion, secured a TT job
“Coming from a European, grant-based culture I had learned how to write grants, but I did not know how to write a proper cover letter. I thought it was supposed to be a summary of the places I worked, my teaching and publications, a sort of appendix to the CV. This was clearly the wrong approach. So I decided to hire a professional (Karen) to help me put together a much better letter: more specific details that speak to my abilities as a researcher and teacher, and far less emotional than my previous letters were.
As the job season was over, I applied for 3 jobs (all out-of-season) with the new letter and I got interviews for two of these positions. For the third job I wasn’t shortlisted, but I received a letter from the head of the SC that they were impressed but my letter indicated I didn’t quite fit the research profile they were looking for. For the other jobs, during the Skype and on campus interviews, the SC members referred to passages in my letter – the first time I’ve seen a SC do this. Ultimately I accepted a tenure-track position in a beautiful city, with good conditions and with great colleagues.” 2011 Ph.D., Humanities
“Your website has given me so much valuable advice, especially how to stop acting like a grad student, and how to really rock both phone and in-person interviews. You made me aware of some self-sabatoging young female body language and speech patterns that I was able to correct.I’m a bit different from your target audience; I am a theatre artist with a terminal degree, an MFA. With a bit of translation for my specific work, your advice was extremely valuable. I was lucky to have had very hands on mentors in graduate school, but there was still a lot of specific professional academic preparation I wouldn’t have gotten if I hadn’t found your website. In my field, it is very difficult for recent MFA graduates to land teaching positions right out of school. I know that your advice gave me an edge.” 2012 MFA, scored 2 tenure track offers.
In August, you helped me revamp my cover letter to reflect the true version of my scholarly self–a mature, thoughtful, and going places scholar. I’ve studied every part of your website and followed your advice whenever possible. It paid off. I was shortlisted at three research universities, long-listed at more, and received a postdoc to boot. I have just received offers from two tenure track positions, one a top private R1 that is my dream job, the other a public R2 that is in a place I love, with people I love. I still have not decided which way to go, but I wanted to thank you for making this possible! Not only has the process gotten me two jobs, but it has made me someone who will be able to better advise my own students. Thanks for helping the graduate student moth emerge into the tenure track faculty butterfly! Field is Anthropology, and I am not even one year out (2012). Now, for a BIG sigh of relief!!!” 2012 Ph.D., Anthropology, with 2 TT offers.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you for your straight talk and feedback on my materials. This has been an incredibly challenging process and I’ll admit that your pointed comments were not always easy to swallow. But, this has been a good learning experience for me and I’m very glad that I signed up for these consultations.” 2012 ABD, Comparative Literature
“Before reading Karen’s blog AND working with her, I was sending out terrible letters and not interviewing well. Her Interview Intervention was an invaluable experience! It helped me prepare for the most difficult questions while keeping my composure. I wish Karen was available years ago. I had very supportive professors, but they were not enough. She’s the catalyst for professional development for those who lack it in their program. Thank you so much Karen!” –2011 PhD Anthropology, now Postdoc 2012
“The decision to work with Karen was the best decision I made all year. I am a Canadian PhD trying to break into the American market, and she carefully critiqued the two biggest parts (to my mind) of the SLAC job application — the cover letter and the teaching statement. She helped me find my academic persona so I could turn around and sell myself to the schools where I wanted to work. I sent out seven application, was invited for three interviews, and received an offer from my number one school. Contra to Karen’s advice, I accepted the offer over the phone, but then used her tenure contract negotiation strategies to secure sizeable start-up research funds and course release for the first two years. Thanks, Karen!” 2009 Political Science PhD, now Asst. Prof at major SLAC.
“Karen’s advice was crucial during the negotiation process after I landed my second tenure-track job. Frankly, I was totally ignorant of the nuts and bolts of a successful negotiation strategy . Thanks to her I was able to secure a substantially better situation over my previous position without alienating my new colleagues. You want an objective, knowledgeable and supportive coach like her on your side when negotiating with a new employer. She’s a pro and she helped me become a tough yet realistic advocate for my own professional growth.” 2006 Ph.D. in Anthropology, now Asst Prof.
I am a UK PhD. I entered the 2011-12 job market fray as an assistant professor, aiming to move from my first tenure track position to a job I really wanted. I had a lot of experience, both as a search committee member and as a candidate from previous years on the market. However, after a series of bad campus visit experiences in the past, I was very concerned that I would not perform well enough when I reached the campus visit stage. Karen’s Interview Intervention session was incredibly helpful. It helped me to understand the mistakes I had been making in my answers to common interview questions and in the way I had been presenting myself at campus visits. Karen showed me how to rephrase my answers so that they would engage American search committee members effectively. What was especially helpful and reassuring was that, having been through the session, I was able to identify what committee members were looking for during my interview, and I felt able to respond to questions and to sell myself much more effectively than I had been able to do in previous campus visits. I know the session worked for me – I got the job I wanted, and I now understand the principles informing the art of self promotion in American academia, which knowledge will also be very helpful in my new position. Thanks Karen!” 2008 Ph.D., Art History.
“Working with Karen is the single best decision I’ve made in my career as a professional academic. Here’s why:
PRACTICAL BENEFITS. Karen’s techniques really work. She helped me get a 50% conversion rate from job applications to on-campus interviews – even in today’s tight hiring market. Her interview boot camp session helped me nail the campus visits. I’m still waiting to hear back from departments, but I expect to have multiple exciting offers!
KNOWLEDGEABLE SUPPORT. Karen is an expert at the big questions, like “How do I sell myself as an ABD?” But she’s equally good with the little things that send big messages, from how to word your follow-up email to what kind of shoes to wear. You can ask her anything, and if she doesn’t know? She’ll find out.
LESS STRESS. Karen will tell you, straight-up, what you should be working on and what isn’t worth your time. Even better, she’ll help you figure out what action you can take to deal with the stressful parts of this process, instead of getting stuck in an endless cycle of worry. She’s the perfect balance of “tough” and “love.”
WIDE APPLICABILITY. Karen doesn’t just help you prepare materials and understand the interview process; she teaches you the underlying concepts, so you can start to apply the same ideas on your own. Even as you hone a specific document together, she’ll keep working to show you the principles involved.” Ph.D. Candidate in Cognitive Psychology
“Your advice during our Interview Intervention session was extremely valuable, and went a long way towards helping me prepare for what was ultimately a successful campus interview for my top tenure track job. I think there are some key differences between the interview process in the sciences versus the humanities but the core of the process remains the same and I found myself recalling your advice many times during the two day interview. I was thrilled to get the offer, and can’t wait to get started! Thanks again.” 2009 Ph.D., Biology, now Asst. Prof at major SLAC
“Your advice has been absolutely invaluable to me on the job market this year. I eagerly read every word of your blog, re-wrote my statements to be more assertive and clear (my teaching statement was literally filled with the classic mistakes), and followed your interviewing recommendations religiously. And… I got the offer for MY DREAM JOB at a small liberal arts college! I am overwhelmed to know that the job search process is actually over.” 2012 Ph.D., Psychology, now Asst. Prof
“Last year, with an MA in Cultural Anthropology and over a decade of experience in the business world, I decided to return to academic life. The application process for any university job — faculty, research or administrative — can be rigorous and sometimes ridiculous. Karen’s insightful coaching and editing skills helped me land a fabulous new role. We worked together closely to weed through the verbiage of job postings, interpret what kind of skills institutions actually needed and then build an application packet that would strategically position me to make an unforgettable impression on the wide variety of individuals (from tenured professors to administrators of international programs) who were a part of the decision-making. Just two months later, I became the Director of Marketing and Alumni Relations for a world-renowned intercultural program at a major state university. My responsibilities include building stronger international ties for our local campus and traveling the globe to promote and improve upon higher education opportunities for international students wishing to study in the United States. Thanks to Karen’s expertise in navigating the university job search, I quickly found the perfect work for me.” 1997 MA, Director of Marketing and Alumni Relations at R1 University
“A grant proposal succeeds not just on the merit of the project itself, but also on the applicant’s grasp of cultural capital and mobilization of R1 institutional norms. This was not clear to me until I started working with Dr. Karen. She makes these invisible norms visible to her clients— something which is absolutely invaluable.” 2008 Ph.D., Tenure-track Asst Prof, English”
The Interview Intervention session certainly helped me to become more aware of how to structure my answers to basic questions. I knew that I had to be concise, specific, and to the point. Your tips gave me concrete ways to reach those goals. I especially appreciated your advice on how to answer the ‘what do you expect to do after the Ph.D.’ question, which I would have botched if we hadn’t talked! ” ABD, History, on the 2012 job market
“I am a PhD student in the United Kingdom applying to academic jobs in the United States. Karen helped me revise my cover letter in an intense one-day session, and for the very first job I applied to I was invited to a conference interview! Many thanks, Karen!” 2012 Ph.D., Asian Studies
“After our conference call, I hit the day running– jazzed and motivated for a great day of work and newly committed to getting my next article out the door by the end of the month!” 2010 Ph.D., English
“I’ve been offered about $152,000 in grants since I’ve been working with Karen. In terms of the most useful things I’ve gotten from her, certainly the grant-writing workshop is big. The template she gave us for grants really worked! But really just getting us to focus our grad experience on getting the job, and being very strategic about it — conveying the point that the dissertation is only one of many factors that are necessary for getting a job. Basically, she just gave me the faculty perspective — both in terms of how faculty evaluate job candidates, as well as the faculty experience. In conversations with grad students from other schools, I feel like I have a much better understanding of how the job market works than they do.” 2009 Ph.D., R1 Research University, History
“Karen helped me in five distinct areas:
GRANT WRITING: Although I had successfully applied to grants before, I learned how to really market my work and to be conscious of the importance of how to frame my arguments. For example, I learned to accept the reality that committee members are busily plowing through stacks of applications and have no time to search for crucial components. State these major issues clearly, avoiding unnecessary jargon, and be aware of the layout of the essay, allowing certain key ideas to pop and grab the readers’ attention before they turn the first page. Also, I learned how to sell my project to a broader audience, humanities people must also be able to appeal to the science community and other scholars who want to see you connecting to ‘real world’ problems.
CONFERENCES AND NETWORKING: I am still learning to navigate this circuit, but through her training I have successfully participated in and at times organized panels at all of the major national annual conferences in my field. In addition to meeting other scholars and being aware of the major trends in the field, this process has also helped me to create an impressive list of presentations on my CV, which helped me to secure a faculty position before I was even officially on the job market.
REALITIES OF ACADEMIC LIFE: Coming down from the ivory tower, I watched how she worked to push students to make themselves an integral, visible part of important actions on campus and beyond. She encouraged us not to be wall flowers, to get our stuff out there, to be known, to speak up, and not to allow other departments to dismiss us as insignificant ‘area studies’ folk. She taught us to resist this marginalization, and to take the center space that we deserve.
JOB INTERVIEWING SKILLS: I am already employing her suggestions for how female scholars should conduct themselves in an interview, paying particular attention to power dynamics of gender and the body. For instance, I have successfully utilized the technique of ‘taking up space,’ reflecting the notion that men are trained to sit, stand, talk, self-present in bigger, bolder, space sucking ways, and women have been socialized to cross their legs, sit daintily, speak softly, melt into the background, etc. I find that this technique helps me to feel more secure, more inside myself, more in a position of agency instead of a passive state of ‘being interviewed.’ I can start to transform the power dynamics in the room to a conversation or even a reverse interview situation where I am asking critical questions.
OVERALL CONFIDENCE AND PREPARATION: Despite any lingering personal insecurities or fears about the job market, I feel that her professionalization training has already given me an edge over my colleagues from other, even more ‘prestigious’ universities. In my conversations with graduate students from other places, I realize how much they tend to miss the big picture, how their in-class “book larnin’ has not prepared them one bit for what they will face on the job market or in the real world on the job. In general, I feel better equipped, more prepared, and ready to actively prove my value, not only assume people will hire me because I have a Ph.D.” — Former Ph.D. student of Dr. Karen’s, now a tenure track assistant professor, Social Sciences
“I am a first generation student who never understood college as an opportunity, let alone graduate school as a reality. I have been blessed to have Karen as a mentor and advisor. She has helped me learn how to write strong grant applications by asserting myself in my own writing. She has supported me during my uncertainty and confusion with my own research and has helped me clarify the questions I wanted to ask and the methods I could use to answer them. Most importantly, she has shown me what it means to be a woman navigating academia. I start graduate school in the fall and I am certain that my acceptance is, in part, due to Karen’s advice and support during the application process. Karen truly comes with my highest recommendation; her expectations are high, but her advice is worth its weight in gold.” Entering Ph.D. student, R1 research institution, Sociology
“I highly recommend Karen! I wish I had met with her earlier. There was very little professional development in my department. I was having some success on the market–meaning, people were interested– but I was having a hard time getting an offer. Karen helped me to recognize some of the traps I was falling into (e.g., presenting myself as a graduate student and not a colleague, talking too fast, sending a 3-page boring cover letter) and gave me the insider’s view of what the job search is all about. After talking with her I aced my next telephone interview and was invited for an interview. I was offered 2 post-docs at a VERY prestigious university. Thank you Karen!”– 2009 Ph.D., Social Sciences
“The most important advice I have received from Karen is to have a long-term vision and situate my current work within the framework so that I can move toward the goal(s). I think that I have learned from her not only verbally but also from her attitude and entrepreneurial spirit. Beside the future vision, I also learned how to be strategic to best market myself and my work by paying attention to the current trend of academic discussions, keeping eyesopen to possible opportunities in and outside the box, and doing what I strongly believe as I enjoy myself.” — Ph.D. student of Dr. Karen, 2010 Ph.D., current tenure track Assistant Professor at an R1 Research University
“I have never been so greatly challenged as an academic as I was by Karen. She encouraged me to aim high and pushed me to follow through and achieve the results that I wanted (sometimes I am a procrastinator!). My department was almost completely lacking in professional development before Karen began making changes after she arrived. (Sadly, it returned to that state again after she left!) She absolutely made a critical difference in my graduate school career by helping me to more sharply define my research interests and learn to articulate them in a concise, professional, and confident manner. I received a competitive $12,000 fellowship thanks mainly in part to her mentorship. She understands the rules of the academic game and the politics that shape them.She is deeply committed to the success of those with whom she works and I can say with all sincerity that if you hire her, you will see results!” — 2009 Ph.D., former graduate student of Dr. Karen’s, Social Sciences
“I found most useful her pithy sayings. For example, I remember her saying that I should be like a ‘runaway train’ in pursuing my own project. That came at the precise time that I was struggling to articulate my project. And we also discussed the various professors on campus. for example, I remember she describing one professor as an “old lefty.” These discussions gave me perspective on other faculty as ‘personalities’ involved in campus/academic politics and my own relation to them.” — Ph.D. candidate, R1 Research institution, Anthropology
“As an international student, I found the professionalization workshop organized by Dr. Karen Kelsky very useful. It provided me with rich and practical knowledge about how to write CV and cover letter, how to give a job talk, how to dress and behave professionally and so on. One of my interviewers said: ‘Obviously your Department has not only taught you how to do research but also how to present yourself professionally!'” — Ph. D. Candidate, R1 Research University, Humanities