[sorry for the inconsistent fonts in this post. I am trying to correct. It’s really hard in the theme that I use, and involves html.]
One of the unexpected pleasures of being The Professor is the opportunity it’s given me to work closely with young scholars from all over the world. This has been illuminating, as I have gained tremendous insight into institutional and cultural practices of the academy in the UK, Canada, Australia, India, Israel, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, Trinidad, and a number of the other countries of Europe, South America, and East Asia. It has also been humbling, as I have learned just how much I don’t know about “how things work” internationally, and how much I have taken for granted, and universalized, the American academic norm.
Now, I make no apology that The Professor Is In is dedicated to success in the American job market and U.S. academic settings. It is the only job market and academic setting I know intimately, from personal experience, and the only one that I am qualified to assist with.
I am always very grateful when clients and readers weigh in, however, to augment posts and advice with the “view from abroad.” I hope, as time goes by, to solicit guest posts on the contrasts and potential pitfalls of different academic job markets and work settings overseas.
For today, however, I want to share what I’ve noticed in recent weeks from working with a number of UK-trained clients. As I find myself identifying the same problems over, and over, and over, with these clients, I have come to recognize that these issues are not individual, but cultural. We’re dealing with a pattern here. And it’s a pattern that is full of danger for unsuspecting UK job candidates on the U.S. Job market.
So, for the benefit of all of you who have done your Ph.D.s in England, Ireland, Wales, and to some extent Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, or who have spent a number of years in these places and are seeking a return to the United States, the following are my observations of what you’re doing wrong, and how you need to fix it.
The main issue is, and I’m sorry to say it, but…..you’re boring. Seriously, you’re killing us over here. Why are you so boring? Is that how you have to be in England, to be an academic?
I mean, let me clarify. You’re not boring, personally. Most of you have been an absolute delight to work with—funny, witty, mordant, devastatingly smart. But your writing? OMG—It is so boring! As I finally burst out to my latest UK-trained client (an American by birth, fyi), in the incident that prompted this blog post:
“Your British training is really, really evident. You need to meditate deeply on being American and banish the dries, the dulls, the passives, the wordy, the telling, and above all, the tendentiousness*.“
Now, let me hasten to add that it’s not unknown for an American, or any nationality, to be dry, dull, wordy, and tendentious*. Heck that universal tendency among academics of all stripes is my bread and butter as Dr. Karen, Coach to the (Academic) Stars! But it’s nowhere so consistent and so PATTERNED as it is among my dear Brits.
And let me also hasten to add that any norm of writing is not bad in and of itself. Certainly not. But to the extent that you are seeking a particular outcome of the writing—ie, success on the U.S. job market—then the writing becomes problematic in its instrumentalizing effects. Fundamentally, the writing that seems to be the default and norm for people coming out of the UK Ph.D. system is at odds with the needs and values of the U.S. academic market. So, it is to that mismatch, and nothing else, that I address myself today.
What follows is a list, in no particular order, of the primary ways that my UK- and Commonwealth-trained clients have consistently gone wrong in their job documents for the U.S. academic market.
1. You overuse, dreadfully, painfully, the passive voice.
If there is one issue that I urge you to correct, immediately, it is your tendency to over-use, indeed to completely rely upon, the passive voice.
Passive voice is the enemy of all job and professional documents in the United States.
It sucks the energy and dynamism out of your writing, obscures your individual writing voice and intellectual impact, and saps the enthusiasm of the reader. Furthermore, it is un-American, and it bugs us. In the United States, for better or worse, we are all about speaking up, and saying your piece, and expressing yourself, and standing up for what you believe in, and anything else that Oprah has enjoined on us recently. None of that is achievable through the passive voice. There may have been a day in American academia decades ago when we too relied on the passive voice as the sign of intellectual seriousness and scholarly sobriety. But that day is long gone, and now the passive voice signals tediousness, tendentiousness, graduate student immaturity, excessive seriousness (and likely lack of a sense of humor), and a profound misunderstanding of what constitutes effective job market communication.
Job documents in the United States must be written (almost) entirely in the active voice, with an occasional passive voice sentence thrown in merely for rhythm and variety. Active voice communicates that you are a self-starter, resourceful, and confident, all qualities that are necessary to get a tenure track job in the United States. It suggests you will be an effective and engaging teacher. And it communicates that you are interested in dialogue and collegial exchange, rather than being in a self-absorbed monologue.
You probably don’t even recognize all the passive voice sentences you use, so please have a trusted advisor or colleague read for you and point them out.
(Note: Replacing the passive voice does not mean you turn to an endless stream of “I statements”: “Last year I taught xxxx….and in that class I assigned xxxx….and I had the students work on xxxx….and I was careful to encourage xxxxx…..and I got excellent evaluations.” The I statement narrative is equally deadly, as I describe here. and here. But it is quite possible to write in the active voice without falling prey to an unimaginative I narrative).
2. You are boring.
This follows on point #1. Your sharp wit and killer sense of comedic timing is not making it on to the page. You consistently bury your leads in quantities and quantities of verbiage. The sheer number of words you use to articulate simple ideas is mind-boggling. You sidle in to your main point in a barrage of caveats and subordinate and dependent clauses that addle and defeat your readers. You undersell, and you KNOW that’s never going to work in the States. You have an aversion to specificity and examples, and stay stubbornly at the level of generalization and abstraction, which operates as a giant snooze-fest in a job document.
Job documents in the United States work best when they move quickly and in linear fashion through ideas in relatively short and (my favorite word) punchy sentences with clear and specific examples. This is not because American academics have short attention spans, but because we like, and respond positively to, energy and dynamism. You want to give the sense that you are resourceful, dynamic, responsive, alert, energetic, and poised for the next big thing. While no search committee member would ever articulate those as qualities that they are consciously prioritizing, nevertheless, those ARE the qualities that characterize the most successful job candidates. In a drastically shrinking economy, even more so. You have to show you can do more with less, not by telling them so, but by demonstrating it in the economy and vibrancy of your prose.
3. You are, sometimes, tendentious*.
While it is true that we all need to sound smart in our job documents, there is a good way and a bad way to sound smart. The bad way is to sound tendentious. What I mean by that is verbiage that has a hectoring tone, or, more commonly, verbiage that proudly states scholarly sentiments and observations that are hackneyed, dated, or obvious, as if they were brilliantly original contributions.
I have no idea why this would be more common among British Ph.D.s, but it is. I suspect that it derives from the massive neglect by advisors that I have come to understand is the modus operandi of the Ph.D. system in England. While I rail against the systemic neglect and indifference of American Ph.D. advisors vis-a-vis their advisees in the United States, frankly they could all win humanitarian awards compared to what apparently goes on in the U.K.. I have it on excellent authority that the norm is: no professional, or job related, advising whatsoever and a general abandonment in terms of anything beyond the narrowest possible dissertation work. This includes, I understand, advising related to encouraging conference participation or publishing or networking. Consequently, it is likely, it seems, for Ph.D. students there to complete their Ph.D.s with no or few opportunities for the kind of intense and hard-hitting intellectual and scholarly challenges that come from being pushed and pressured by colleagues and peers and intimidating senior people. I speculate that this may be a reason behind the tendentiousness that I’ve seen.
Whatever the reason, it needs to stop. It’s very difficult to identify tendentiousness in your own writing, because it tends to crop up in the scholarly claims and arguments that you fondly believe are the most brilliant and original. So identifying tendentiousness in writing often requires identifying flabby and lazy argumentation in your work itself, and that’s painful. This is where you have to “kill your darlings” and really listen when a sharp critical reader tells you that your dearly beloved scholarly claim is dull, circular, ineffective, or, frankly, obvious. The trick is finding the sharp critical reader who will tell you that. But find that reader you must.
Beyond these three writing problems is another problem related to the c.v. This is one that truly mystifies me. U.K.-trained people routinely submit dreadfully cramped and squashed and over-crowded c.v.s. Is this related to frugality and a desire to not waste paper? If so, that is admirable, and I respect it. Nevertheless, for the U.S. job market, it has to stop. There are conventions for U.S. c.v.s, which your c.v.s (unintentionally) ignore. Your c.v.s make us want to cry. Be aware that there is almost never a length limit for c.v.s on the U.S. job market. For postdocs, yes, sometimes they will specify a maximum length for the version to be submitted. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO GAME THIS LIMIT by manipulating margins and fonts! The margins must remain wide, and the font legible.
U.K.-trained people, please listen to me carefully. Your c.v. must:
Have full one inch/2.5 cm margins on all sides!!!!!
Be in 12 point font throughout, without exception
Have your name in larger font, possibly all caps, at the top, centered
Have the words “curriculum vitae” underneath your name, centered, in 12 pt font, with one space between name and these words
Have your personal and institutional addresses underneath, on parallel lines, right and left justified
Make use of abundant white space between Headings
Have a space between each Heading title and the first entry under that Heading
List your publications first, after Education and Professional Appointments
Not include narrative verbiage under Research or Teaching or Professional Experience or Grants
Not include the monetary amount for grants received, unless they were institutional grants above $75,000//£50,000
Finally, in terms of interviewing: Brits, please do whatever you have to to cultivate what will undoubtedly feel like an overweening sense of your own importance and excessive and unwarranted self-confidence. By doing this, you will over-correct for your training in excessive and unwarranted humility and self-abnegation, and probably land just where you need to for the U.S. job market, where confidence sells. Also, please, get to the point. We don’t have all day.
*2020 update: a commenter just today pointed out that “tendentious” doesn’t mean what i thought it meant! I thought it meant, droning on and on obsessively about a minor point. It actually means, arguing from a biased or partisan viewpoint. So please note my use of the word is incorrect.
There you go, all gaming the system again…. Seriously, though, holy crap. Some context: I’m currently a Ph.D. student at an American institution, but received all my previous schooling in the British tradition once removed (Canada, eh?). All that you say is both a) true (!!!!) and b) I will need to address it well, well before I’m on the job market. Like, how about now? (Passive voice removed twice from this post so far; it’s beaten into us. There it is again.) The c.v. tips are also very helpful; apparently I was also doing that culturally wrong!
LOL! Any theories about how and why these practices prevail would be appreciated (omg, i caught the bug!).
As part of a larger effort to highlight the “differentness” of Canada from America, Canadians are expected to despise American exceptionalism. Therefore, we passive-aggressively find and highlight all the ways the we (a) could be wrong, and (b) could be seen as a leader who sees themselves as meriting that respectable role. Passive voice defers attention away from the actions a leader could take, which is a move to direct the spotlight away from ourselves because, hey, we could be wrong and everyone’s equal and we aren’t exceptional.
I’d say part of it is that arrogance is strongly frowned upon and is seen as detracting from your credibility. So it is important to appear professional, but not to appear to be too self-promoting (as the facts should speak for themselves and it is for the reader to assess your worth, sort of).
Also, sometimes we are discouraged from using “I” which lends itself to more passive voice.
Generally though we are encouraged to use active language and to appear confident, the scale of these is just likely more muted than in the U.S.
I’ve been on committees in Canada where several of us thought a reference letter was faked because it was so over the top (to us). Fortunately we had an American who translated it for us! On the other hand, UK letters are very very understated.
Canada tends to be a bit of a hybrid between the US and UK (English Canada that is, I’m less familiar with what letters in French Canada look like).
Well. I think these practices prevail because we (I count myself as UK, here) are fundamentally and culturally different from US Americans, even though we ostensibly speak the same language (which we don’t).
For example, what I have noticed in the academic context is that US Americans at my current institution (Large State University) talk a lot about “collegiality” and “professionalism”. I had never heard these words before in the UK academic context. People just are collegial and professional, they don’t talk about it.
I think there’s also a difference in the way people are taught at school, at least to some extent. There is a much earlier need to decide what you are going to study, so by the time students get to university, they are committed to a major/degree, thus no longer exploring. This, in turn, makes it possible for their studies to be a lot more independent than they are here in the US (once more generalizing from my current institution): students are expected to turn up for lectures and then go away and read, read, and read.
I can think of many more things – the above is what came to mind immediately.
You are situated to write a wonderful post on this matter, Dr. TC!
Leslie M-B says
A friend who is American but received her Ph.D. in England was shocked when I asked her if she negotiated a higher salary than she was offered. She had no idea she had that option. Is that the case in England, I wonder, or was it just bad advising in her case?
It’s not an option in England, I’ve been told in no uncertain terms! I heard that some American candidates have had offers taken away from them when they started trying to negotiate terms!
I don’t believe it’s common in Canada, either. Haggling is rude; it implies that the person setting the price is trying to screw you, and therefore they are being impolite.
Yep. In the UK, you usually get a call from the Head of Department a day or two after the interview, offering you the job. At that point, you either say yes or no, maybe (if you truly have another offer on the table) you can ask for a day to think about it. End of. Unless you are being appointed to a Chair or are higher up the ladder, in which case it might be possible to negotiate for something higher than what you currently earn.
The reason for this is that there is a uniform pay-scale in the UK, i.e. you get appointed as a Lecturer, which puts you in a certain bracket on that scale. All universities in the UK comply with this scale, but it depends on the particular university and your credentials where in that particular bracket you land (and what bracket you land in).
Leslie M-B says
Thanks, TC. Good to know these cultural differences! (I should clarify that my friend was offered a position in the U.S., and likely could have negotiated upwards.)
We musn’t be impolite!!!
Cressida Heyes says
I’m a Brit who’s worked in both the US and Canada. I can ASSURE you, Digger, that negotiation of terms of employment (including salary) is quite normal in Canadian academia, including for Assistant jobs, and anyone who tells you otherwise probably doesn’t have a very good deal!
Thanks, Cressida! Good to know.
I’ve been told there is usually is little room for salary negotiations coming in (and pushing in this regard may be seen as rude), but some research start up money negotiation or moving allowance negotiation may be okay.
As a Canadian working in the US, there is definitely a cultural difference in terms of how we publicize ourselves. That being said, I know a few female academics who had no problem negotiating their salaries at large Canadian universities. One is Spanish, who was educated in the US and the other is Canadian. It’s very possible, you just have to do it. I followed Dr. Karen’s advice on this website and I was successful at getting a higher salary than that which was offered to me. (passive voice yet again).
As a Canadian trained in a British/Irish institution, does that mean I am doubly screwed? I can certainly attest to the passive voice, difficulty making direct, explicit claims, and levels of humility instilled by periodic flogging. It’s actually kind of a relief to know that I am merely the product of a flawed system, rather than a flawed individual. Thanks, Karen – as ever – for the insight!
thanks for this post! i did all my studies in the commonwealth prior to my phd, and can completely identify with the use of the passive voice and the difficulty of learning american standards. like the commenter above, i’m glad it’s not just me…
Mark R. Cheathem says
My British genes must be dominant, because I am an American who suffers from some of these same maladies!
It’s rare to find courses in academic writing in Britain or Ireland at undergraduate or postgraduate level, and in my experience it’s rare for professors to give much feedback on writing. (This is something I try to do for my students now.) Also, some British and Irish universities explicitly bar thesis writers from working with an editor so there is no opportunity at that stage either. My current US host institution has loads of ads on official departmental noticeboards placed by editors who want to work at UG or PG level, and many US unis seem to offer writing courses. In Britain, it’s rare to get beyond the rudiments–my only English grammar lesson (age 9 or 10) consisted of learning about nouns, verbs, and adjectives. I didn’t learn about passive voice until I was a TA for a US-trained scholar. No grammar ed makes learning languages quite a challenge!
One wee thought unrelated to your main point: England is not synonymous with Britain. England, Scotland and Wales together form Britain. (Northern Ireland is not part of Britain; it’s part of the United Kingdom.) FWIW, I think your topic applies to both education systems in Britain (Scotland has a different system from England & Wales) and so perhaps it’s best to use Britain rather than England.
thanks for this clarification, Melanie. Sorry for my slips in usage. I suspected I was making them, but wasn’t sure, and plowed ahead to get the post out, late as it was.
I’m one of Dr Karen’s clients. I’m British but I have a PhD from a top grad school in the US. From the point of view of a Brit who became Americanized, I would say there is one cultural thing that was beaten into me at USA grad school against my UK instincts, namely:
You should make (what may seem for a Brit) outrageous claims to change the world and the scholarly field, especially at the beginning of a proposal (or a book). These claims don’t *actually* have to be fully substantiated. Dr K says this is because US Americans like “energy and dynamism”. From a UK cultural perspective this may seem like self-promoting froth with no substance. Many many times in graduate seminars we would read stuff where the meat of the book never lived up to the hugely ambitious introduction. And my profs would often say “ah, but it’s the idea that counts” or “it helps us to think better” (rather than, erm, the need for meticulous empirical evidence). Hence get out of “hackneyed, dated and obvious” by stretching the broader application of your stuff to what may seem like ridiculous limits. It’s kind of fun once you get used to it.
Jyoti Mohan says
If I had a penny for every time I was told to correct my passive voice, during my grad school in the US (I did my undergrad and Master’s in India where we firmly tout the Queen’s English with all her passion for passive voice and understated modesty!) I wouldn’t need to be looking for a job now!! That said, I must also confess to intense frustration- I’ve been informed by well intentioned advisors that my attempts to be direct sometimes come off as ‘cocky’. What gives? How can I walk that apparently delicate line?
I read this wonderful blog for some time and it is really interesting, sharp and up to the point. I am not sure is this my post is going to the right direction, but I’d like to say this: I’m 50 y.o. white male, originally from Riga, Latvia, did receive my PhD history in U.S. in 2010, speak three languages, published certain number of works (books and articles), organized international conferences, work as an Adjunct in my alma mater, look for a full-time job for two years and can’t get a simple interview (not even a phone interview). In the meantime, all these young long-legged, blond-blue-eyes girls, with no practical knowledge and/or life experience seem to get it all. I do everything by the book – reply to job adds, send my applications, transcripts, begging professors to write letters of recommendations (another pain on the ….) et al… And still can’t get it. What is wrong with me? Is it age? Or colleges are afraid to accept anyone with foreign, no Anglo-Saxon credentials? Or what???
I am so desperate….
it’s probably your job docs. They probably suck. Most peoples’ do. you should have me take a look at them.
No, they are not. All my docs we looked at by well-accredited and professional proof-readers and they are fine (there is NO such thing as an ideal docs, per se). I can’t help that there is, on average, a 120 candidates per position. Today’s life is not WHAT you know, but mainly WHO you know.
You seem to have made up your mind, but for the sake of other readers who may be asking similar questions: “well-accredited and professional proof-readers” are not necessarily familiar with the conventions of the tenure-track search. Even when they have Ph.D.s and even when they are faculty members themselves, many, indeed most, advisors are criminally unprepared to advise job candidates on the elements and techniques of effective job documents. If you’ve had an unending series of rejections on the job market, then most likely your job docs are not “fine.” I’m not saying anyone has to hire me, but anyone in this position should at minimum submit them to a harsh and unforgiving edit in light of the various posts and models I offer in this blog.
Very interesting post. From the perspective of a Brit trained in the US but who works in the UK, and who has been involved in job searches here, American candidates’ materials look similarly strange. The endless CVs–really, you only just got your PhD, how can you possibly have a 20-page CV? The sending of tons of material that we didn’t ask for. (We don’t have time to read writing samples from all 120 candidates. We’ll ask you for one if we shortlist you.) The ludicrously over-the-top letters of recommendation. (We know that you have to dilute an American reference by about 3/4 to make it actually match up to the candidate.) And what is this ‘teaching philosophy’ statement thing? Can’t you just write about your teaching in your covering letter? Why do I have to scrabble around looking for another document?
Ruth, lol! I’m actually just now soliciting a guest post from someone who can ‘translate’ the UK market for american candidates! Would you like to write one?? Karen
Yes! I’m wondering about this! I’m concerned my cv might look too long and “swollen headed” for UK positions, it would be great to have some feedback on UK dossiers!
Just a side-note on what is probably a now rather old issue….
It is perfectly legit to negotiate in the British system, as long as you do it within the scale that you are going to be appointed to. For example, “Lecturer A” (i.e. the bottom rung) ranges from about 33k to 43k, or thereabouts. So you can negotiate within that range, but probably only 2-3 pay points above the offer you receive because the department will likely have little leeway to offer more.
I’ve managed to do it twice in the UK and now think of negotiating as a basic step in the whole process (although I’ve since ended up in Canada). It’s important to remember that by the time the selection committee has made you an offer you are in a fairly strong position because they do not want to go through the process all over again and (presumably) you are the best candidate for the job out there. The second thing to remember is that you can’t simply ask for more money – that’d be crass – you have lay out why you think you deserve to be higher up the pay scale, which you can work out from the job description (e.g. you have so many publications that will contribute to the RAE/REF, you have brought in so much external funding, you have taught so many courses, etc.). It’s about convincing the selection committee (or, more accurately, the head of department in the UK) that you are worth it.
As a final point, I’ve now had the chance to experience the UK and the Canadian hiring system. The UK system will appear very strange to North Americans used to a full-day, or even two to three day, interview process; in the UK you pretty much get herded in and out within an hour (and I mean herded as you’ll probably bump into fellow interviewees, and even go for lunch with them). You’ll maybe do a 15-20 minute presentation on your research and teaching (present and future agendas) in front of the department (or whoever bothers to turn up) and then a 30-45 minute interview. That’s pretty much it – maybe some variation but unlikely. You will then be phoned at the end of the day (usually) to be offered the job – no waiting around, the head of department or human resources will call you on the day of the interview and offer you the job (if you don’t get a call that day then you may be a fall-back option). Obviously it’s good form to say something like, “that’s great, thank you so much”, but you don’t have to accept the offer they give you then. It’s only verbal anyway.
I think the reason for this truncated system in Britain is that the selection committee already know who they want to hire (they don’t even want references until after they’ve offered you the job in some cases) and they are just padding out the interview process in case their favourite crashes and burns on the day. This makes the British system very frustrating, if you’re not the favourite at least.
Not at all an old issue—a perennial issue. I just had a query about this very question on FB yesterday. Will alert her to your comment.
Oops … my bad, I noticed I said the scale for Lecturer A was 33k to 43K. That’s wrong, it’s more like 33k-36K. Then Lecturer B is 36K-43K, or similar.
Have you considered including some social bookmarking links to these blogs. At least for myspace.
I believe I just added Facebook add buttons. I’ll explore a wider bookmarking plugin as well.
Claire J says
I enjoyed reading this post a lot (I’m a Brit applying to US grad schools) probably as much as you enjoyed writing it. For your information British CVs are strictly supposed to be 2 pages long, which is why you have seen applicants sacrifice margins & font sizes to keep it so.
I’ll keep a look out for passive voice and other obvious traits of Britishness in my upcoming applications. Thanks!
This is really helpful (and now I’m realised I sent cvs that were too long to UK positions). Is there anywhere that lays out what materials should look like for UK applications? I had a sense they were different (and was sending a shorter, toned-down version of my cv), but I’m sure (as indicated here) there are clear norms, and it would be helpful to know them.
Actually, 2 page CVs are not the norm for UK academic positions. I have worked in 2 UK universities and also recruited people for academic posts and I would say that all CVs I’ve seen have been longer than 2 pages.
Non-academic CVs are meant to be two pages in the UK as opposed to the one page US resume. In academia they can be as long as you want. The word CV, not resume, is used for all such documents.
You seem to have a problem with English people.
Also, are you aware of how it sounds to someone who isn’t American when an American says to them, “You need to meditate deeply on being American”? I can tell you that it doesn’t reflect well on an American to say this to a non-American. In fact, who is anyone to tell anyone else what they “need” to do? Americans “need” to stop using language in that way.
And what the hell does “tendentiousness” mean? Who uses this word? I would look it up in a dictionary, but I’m not sure I see the point, since I don’t think I’ll ever hear anyone else ever use it.
And I’m struggling to understand what you do for a living now. You seem immensely proud that you achieved tenure in academia, judging by the number of times you mention this in your webpages. Yet you left academia. And yet, instead of working outside academia, you seem to want to make a living out of the fact that you used to be in academia. I don’t get it. Or perhaps I’m too tendentious to get it…
The client I said it to was American, as I note in the post.
Thanks for this excellent post. A couple of questions. First, is it important to change the document size from A4 to something else (US Letter?). Second, how important is it to include the words curriculum vitae? Here, the author advises to leave it out altogether. Is this another difference between UK and US applications?
A4 paper won’t kill you! but it’s amazing how annoying it is when you’re trying to shuffle a sheaf of papers and a few of them stick out! it’s really a small thing though, and maybe that is just me.
Anyway, including ghe words ‘curric. vitae’ is totally optional.
Plus, US Letter is wider than A4, so if you do format the size while writing, you get more room, which can make a real difference for CVs, both in length and appearance – fewer words tailing onto a second line.
England is in Britain, England is not Britain. Britain is made up of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. You completely forget Scotland! Scotland has it’s own education system and is more closely aligned with the US higher education system. Undergraduate degrees, for example, are more flexible and take 4 years, like in the US.
thanks for this clarification.
No, Great Britain is Scotland (for the moment), Wales, and England. Including Northern Ireland makes it the United Kingdom, or, officially, The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
As a Brit studying in America (my first two degree were in the UK), I’ve often been told that my sentences are rather long in academic papers and that I ought to split them up. I thought this might have been one of my personal quirks until I proof read a paper for my sister (in the UK) and mentioned her longer sentences. We discussed this at length and concluded that the longer sentence in the UK system is expected, but the American system seems to want things a bit simpler.
Regarding the length of CVs, I was always advised in the UK to stick to the two page rule, even in academia. I’ve found in the US that it is more common to include a whole host of information on a CV that wouldn’t be required in the UK.
The idea of negotiating salary surprised me, often in the UK there is little room for negotiation because of the pay scales in place. If you have more experience than they are asking for, it is possible to aim for the higher end of the scale but usually this will be reflected in your offer rather than something that is negotiated. Another quirk in the British system seems to be that the more prestigious the university, the less you can expect to be offered/paid, newer universities with less of a reputation offer more money to attract applicants.
My experiences at interviews here has been rather positive. The first interview I had was with a Canadian so I suppose he was familiar with the British system to a certain degree. His interview style was very informal and throughout I got the impression he was trying to sell the job to me, not the other way around. After the interview he gave me a tour around campus and concluded with ‘if you could let me know if you’d like the job or not within the next day or two that would be great’. I got the impression I had the job before I even came for the interview. The interview seemed like a formality and a chance to meet me in person. Although I must note that I had been recommended to him through someone I know working at that school and was encouraged to apply for the job, so he may have been heavily influenced by the words of his colleague who knew of my teaching methods.
My experiences of interviews in the UK, even for lower level jobs within universities is that they are very formal. I applied for an internal promotion when I worked as a curator within a university museum and was still expected to apply and come to the interview as if the people interviewing me hadn’t been friends and colleagues for the past two years. I was asked questions that they clearly knew the answers to. I get the impression that in the US, the internal candidate isn’t treated as formally, but this is only going off the experience of my partner who recently applied for promotion within the department.
As an American working in Britain, I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of Brits’ overuse of the passive voice.
But I’m not sure what you mean by ‘tendentiousness’. I had to look it up, and the dictionary definitions and examples describe it as, basically, bias, or promoting an unpopular viewpoint. Those definitions don’t fit with your use, though, and because it is such an uncommon word I wonder if some other word might better convey your intended meaning.
Karen Kelsky says
WOW. In all these years you are the first to say this… and you are right! I was wrong! I thought tendentious meant a kind of tedious and repetitive and droning on and on about a minor point. But it does not; it means what you say. I’ll make a note in the post. thank you!