A reader wrote to share a case of useless department head job market advice. I pass it on with his/her full permission,* in the hopes that those of you who are advisers will reflect on your own practices, and do better.
The department head response below ignores the very targeted, excellent questions the Ph.D. student poses about phone interviews, teaching demos, and negotiating, and instead proffers nothing but lazy, shallow, anodyne generalizations that frankly insult the student’s intelligence. There is nothing in the response that actually TRAINS the job seeker in how to manage the specific pressures of an academic search.
Advisors, you need to do better. This is no time, no time at all, for complacent, tone-deaf, philosophical musings on the “beauty and challenge of human interactions.” DO BETTER. #dobetter.
Dear Dr. Karen,
I have to thank you again for all of the support and advice you have given me via your blogs, book, and website. I am one of those that you write about – one who has been truly left alone to figure out the tenure-track job search with no help from my department (my chair retired and moved right after defense – so that was a double blow). Thanks to you, I have already made the short list twice and am optimistic there are more to come!
But that is not why I am really writing. You rage against the Academy for falling down on the job of preparing grad students for the academic job search (rightly so) and I love your courage for speaking out and bringing this issue out of the closet. I have forwarded many articles written by you to my department head and doctoral coordinator and have gotten absolutely no response. I have enjoyed needling them, however, and calling into the light some things they need to be doing that they are not. It has not won me any friends, needless to say.
So, I decided – despite the history of nothingness – to ask for help once again as I prepare for interviews – just to see what the response would be- because I am following the advice in your book very closely. What follows below is first my email, and then the response of my department chair. I am sending it to you asking that if you use this in a blog (and I hope you will) that I remain anonymous. I just wanted to join you in the raging against the machine of indifference and provide you with a real-life example of just how bad it can be out here. (I will NOT replicate this pattern when I am a professor, I swear to you!)
I am wondering if you all have anything from past or upcoming searches you could share with me to help me prepare for interviews and campus visits. If possible, I would love to see:
1) questions you ask on phone interviews
2) questions asked at committee interviews on site
3) schedule of a campus visit
4) requirements for the teaching demo – how does a stranger just show up in class and teach??
Anything else you can give me? I have a 2 hour skype presentation and interview coming up in January. They will send me info on what they are looking for but the above will help me prepare for this and others.
I appreciate your help. I really need to not go into this cold. Tips for negotiating salary would also be great!! Thanks.
DEPARTMENT CHAIR RESPONSE:
I’ve been on lots of interviews and every one has been different. That’s the beauty and challenge of human interaction, and one reason social science is so difficult. The best preparation you can do is to really know your own work. You should be able to articulate what you’ve done at the Ph.D. level and where your research and scholarship is headed. Additionally, you should know something about where you’re interviewed. This means researching the department, college and university in question. The search committee wants to know that you really want to come to university “x” and that it’s not just a job. Even learning something about the community is always a positive. What everyone wants more than anything is someone who will be a good colleague, so think about collaborative opportunities in the department, and how you might contribute to service responsibilities. Sometimes all it takes is being in the right place at the right time. Good luck!
By the way, a new junior faculty person hired two years ago forwarded my email to another junior faculty member asking if she had anything that could help me. God bless the young professors.
*Reader says: “Ah jeez. Well. We know he doesn’t read you LOL.”