Over Summer 2016 I’ll be introducing the wonderful members of the Professor Is In staff (previous one here), who assist me in editing client academic job and grant documents and welcoming and directing old and new clients to the best range of services available for them suited to their particular needs. We work side by side (in a virtual sense–since we’re scattered across the country), corresponding by email and text throughout the day, every day, on client documents, evaluating not just the writing, but also the fit of the documents for the particular job or grant, and beyond that, tracking new and emergent trends in the job market to constantly adapt and update the editing and advising help we provide. We pool our years of experience with different disciplines, campuses, departments, jobs, and grants, and departmental politics in a kind of continual, ongoing daily training in all elements of the academic (and postacademic) experience. I constantly learn from my staff, and the expertise they bring from their respective fields (as a social scientist I’m particularly grateful for their expertise coming from the humanities and sciences). The Professor Is In is what it is because of them! Feel free to say hello in the comments, or ask them any questions you might have for them!
Dr. Petra Shenk
Petra completed a B.A. in linguistics in 2001 from the University of Oregon and with an interest in documenting endangered languages went on to complete an M.A. and PhD in linguistics from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2008. During her time as a graduate student, she cultivated a parallel career track as an academic editor and student advisor and mentor, focusing on nontraditional and international college students. She is an editor for The Professor Is In and The Doc Doc and identifies as an educator and writing/language specialist who uses a specific skill-set to assist people with their academic and professional goals.
What do you do for TPII?
The majority of the editing work consists of job documents, grant proposals, and book proposals, but I also work on course syllabuses, dissertation abstracts, and the occasional article and book chapter. I work with clients via Skype to prepare them for job interviews, including conference interviewing, the campus visit, and the job talk.
What did you do before TPII? Tell us about your background and career path to this point.
I completed a PhD in Linguistics from UC Santa Barbara in 2008 at which point I went on the academic job market and applied for exactly one position at the University of Oregon. I recall only four openings that year in my area of specialization that I would consider a “good fit.” Nevertheless, three of those I had no interest in applying to for a variety of reasons, not the least of which I was a new mom with a 3 month old baby, which I’m not ashamed to say blew my ever-loving mind. I didn’t get the one job but was offered an adjunct position. Then, I transitioned into a student services position where I worked as the writing and foreign language specialist and advisor/mentor for a specific group of underrepresented students. While I grieved the loss of the “professor of linguistics” dream (it was much like a grieving process), I was grateful to enjoy the work I was doing.
Also, I met you (Karen) there! You were working in the same department and we instantly got on like a house on fire. As your business rapidly grew, I began working for TPII and then started my own side business “The Doc Doc” where I get to work on bigger projects with people: book manuscripts diss -> mss, dissertations, journal articles, and book chapters. As of 2013, it is my sole source of income and work.
What was the biggest surprise for you about working for TPII?
Hmmm. I guess it’s how very much alike we academics are. In fact, I often feel a sense of camaraderie with clients from vastly different disciplines and faraway places. Much of what we do at TPII can be described as mentorship, and regardless of whether you feel like you have a supportive chair/committee or are abundantly aware that you do not, we all either *want* or *need* to be told what we’re doing wrong and what we’re doing right without mincing words.
How do you like being an academic job market editor?
I get to work with language and people, the two things a functional linguist needs! More specifically, because so many newly minted PhDs did not get the mentoring and professionalization skills they need to be competitive, we are doing what I think is crucial work. As more former clients become faculty, more graduate students will get the advising they need. We’re playing the long game at TPII.
What do you wish clients knew about applying for jobs or grants?
That it’s not a solely meritorious system and excellent candidates are rejected time and again and marvelous proposals are too. I used to think, “If I just win this prestigious award, get accepted to that summer workshop, work better, harder, faster, and more productively than all my peers, I will succeed.” That is just not accurate. Yes, absolutely do all these things because you’re driven and ambitious and curious, but know that the resulting success in the form of a dream job and the admiration of your peers is not a foregone conclusion. And remember that if you haven’t had a grant proposal rejected, you haven’t applied for enough of them.
What’s your big picture plan for yourself, now and moving forward?
For the immediate future, I plan on continuing to do exactly what I’m doing now. I like my job, my community, my family, and the stability that comes with that sense of contentedness. At some point, I will write something of my own again. I still don’t know what it will be, though. Maybe something with dragons.