I am always telling clients to stop “sounding like a grad student.” But the trouble is, clients don’t understand all the ways that they do this.
Some are obvious. “While a grad student in the English Ph.D. program, I…..” is a sure giveaway. Delete any language that depicts you AS a student–either grad student, or, god forbid, undergraduate (see this column I wrote for Vitae for more on that particular misstep).
However, most cases are more subtle. Today, I highlight one common one: the constant reference to grad school process/status.
Language like the following:
- After my defense I will develop a book proposal…
- I have am writing an article based on chapter two of my dissertation…
- I am giving two conference papers derived from this dissertation research…
- After receiving feedback from my dissertation committee, I will incorporate revisions into the book manuscript…
- As a graduate student teaching assistant, I taught a course on….
- I have six terms of experience as a TA in the xxx course, and in that course I focus on
- I not only autonomously taught these three courses, but I was also responsible for creating the syllabi and lesson content
The second example – “I am writing an article based on chapter xx of my dissertation” — is the most common case. Check your letter and research statement now for this modifying clause, and remove it.
All of the final three examples are rampant in teaching paragraphs. The final example is a case of over-explaining information in a way that inadvertantly makes you look less experienced, rather than more. If you simply explain how you taught the class, you look like a faculty member. If you laboriously articulate that you were “responsible for creating the syllabi…” etc., you look like a grad student.
In a similar vein, nobody but you actually cares what chapter your article derives from. They care that you WROTE an article, and that that article is published, in a high ranking journal. Period. To anxiously look backward to the chapter it once was is to rehearse your grad student anxieties in public.
Because you have already devoted one or two complete paragraphs to describing the dissertation, its topic, methods, theories, conclusions, and contribution in the cover letter and research statement, there is no reason to keep referring back to it as the context for other professional accomplishments.
Your book proposal, articles, conference papers, and book manuscript are stand-alone achievements that signify your status as a professional in the field. They do not, in any way, shape, or form, need to be tethered to an old and outdated graduate school identity, or graduate school requirements. To continually do so is to reveal yourself to be over-invested in that past graduate student identity, and unclear on the nature of an autonomous, fully independent, scholarly identity.
It’s subtle, but it’s telling.
Explain your dissertation, yes. And then move on.