Seems to be the time of year when folks post their advice for aspiring professors on how to succeed at the job talk. While there are other parts of the process–being interviewed one on one by various members of the department or getting grilled by a committee (something that happens far more in Canada than in the US), the most important (and probably not deservedly so)* part of the “fly-out” is giving a talk based on one’s research and responding in the Q&A.
My “Death to Job Talks!” provocation has produced some longer-form responses at other Political Science blogs. Jeremy Wallace defends the institution. Tom Pepinsky goes further and argues that “there is no alternative to the academic job talk.” Nate Jensen gets to the heat of the matter by asking if the “academic hiring process [is] broken.”
I was part of a short conversation last night about the standard job-search process in political science. For those of you who aren’t political scientists, but nonetheless feel compelled to read this, the process for junior candidates looks something like this:
- Starting in the late summer, political-science departments post position announcements with the American Political Science Association. Most job hunters read those announcements on e-jobs and decide whether or not to apply.
- Prospective hires send in materials to institutions. These typically include: (1) at least one writing sample — sometimes a published article, sometimes an article-in-process, and sometimes dissertation or book materials; (2) three letters of recommendation; (3) an application letter detailing why the committee should hire you; (4) a curriculum vitate [CV]; and sometimes (5) a graduate transcript. Some institutions will also ask for an undergraduate transcript, and some will only ask for contacts should they seek letters of recommendation.
- Committees, often composed of 3-5 faculty members, read [the meaning of “read” may vary] those applications and winnow the field down. They may produce a “long short list” of, typically, 6-10 candidates who they are interested in. They may jump directly to the “short list” of, in general, 3-5 candidates who they want to bring in for interviews. Some kind of oversight may or may not follow. Prospective Interviewees are contacted and asked to visit campus.
- The campus visit takes place over 1-2 days. The candidate meets with various faculty, administrators, and graduate students. Meals, including a dinner, take place. Candidate gives ~45 minute job talk with a question-and-answer period.
At liberal arts colleges, of course, (1) the meeting with graduate students is replaced by (often multiple) meetings with undergraduates and (2) the research presentation is either supplemented or substituted with a teaching presentation to undergraduates. Telecommunications interviews may occur at any stage of the winnowing process. Some schools also conduct interviews at APSA. I don’t know much about the two-year college process. Otherwise, YMMV.
This topic came up on twitter–how do we get our friends and relatives to understand the academic job market? My first take: don’t bother. It can get really confusing really fast. I consider my family well-educated, yet deep into my career, my mother thought that my appearances on TV and radio would help me get another job. Nope. Given that job market season is approaching (sorry!),* here’s my listicle of things you have to explain:
There have been some high profile deaths in the profession among younger scholars, not just in IR but also comparative/American politics. Two notable examples of late include Will Moore and Mark Sawyer. I did not know either of them personally but through friends and social media, I was aware of them in life and death.
Moore’s death struck many in the IR community especially hard, as he was known to be a dedicated mentor to others, particularly junior scholars, in ways that go above and beyond just befriending and reading someone’s work. His loss has shaken many of them profoundly, and I think many of us on social media feel the loss in ways that are deeper than we care to realize. Continue reading
In my previous post, I started a discussion about full-time contingent faculty in the profession. Given that contingent faculty work is very much gendered, I wanted to continue that discussion today with a focus on how the discipline at large can better serve the growing ranks of faculty working off the tenure track.
Contingent Faculty: Always on the move
Ah, the spring semester: When the thoughts of many turn to the promise of summer, while the thoughts of panicked ABDs turn to the question of what they’re going to be doing beyond the end of this academic year.
Right on schedule, the jobs boards are filling up with this year’s crop of “visiting” professor positions–inviting young (and not-so-young) ABDs and early-career faculty to gamble on a choice that will uproot their lives without any promise of permanent or even long-term employment. Having spent my early career off the tenure track, I wanted to take this opportunity to make a couple of posts that highlight the issues contingent faculty are facing in the profession. Continue reading
I remember laughing about an article in The Medium about a TV Sitcom that triggered the downfall of Western Civilization. In case you were wondering, it’s Friends with its “tragic hero” Ross Geller. The author lamented the awful mistreatment of the most cerebral character on the show that signified the harsh embrace of anti-intellectualism in America in the early 2000s. For instance, most of Ross’s academic stories were cut off by his bored friends and audience laughter. Why? Maybe some people would like to know more about sediment flow rate?!
In the age of an amazing accessibility of knowledge, America was conned by a man who disregards the value of science and whose surrogates do not see the difference between facts and feelings. Richard Hofstadter warned about the tendency for anti-intellectualism in the US back in the 60-s, but things seem to have gotten much worse. These days, there is a whole field and a term for deliberate politics of ignorance – agnotology. It was already obvious on presidential campaign trail: Hillary Clinton was made fun of because she was preparing for debates instead of “winging” them. Academics and professional journalists were scolded (says who?) and college students were derided as snowflakes out of touch with real America. Gagging of scientists and professionals has followed: yes, lock them up in their ivory towers. Agnotology has even born its long-awaited fruit — the by now infamous “alternative facts” euphemism (or is it “euphenism”?). As one of American bookstores has put it:
Mid-October is a beautiful time of year – leaves are changing, the air is getting crisp, and there are a variety of outdoor activities to partake in. All of the wonderfulness of October is meaningless, however, to a special group of individuals: those on the academic job market that are worried about employment in the next academic year. For this group, mid-October is typically the beginning of the horrible downward spiral of (a) hitting refresh on your inbox, (b) double checking that your phone is on and charged, (c) trying to have the willpower to avoid checking job rumor websites, (d) reassuring yourself that Manuscript Central still says your manuscript is “under review” instead of “awaiting decision.” In other words, October is a time of worry.
For many, however, October is also a magical time when the unthinkable happens: you get THE CALL. THE CALL can be defined as the awkward 5-10 minute conversation scheduling an in-person interview with a potential academic employer. THE CALL can sometimes come out of the blue, from a school that you sent a packet of information to months before. THE CALL can also be somewhat anticipated, coming after an email inquiry for more information, a Skype interview, or a rumor you hear from your advisor. Most definitely, though, THE CALL is reason to celebrate. And, it’s reason to get to work. Here is a smattering of advice on what to do during and after THE CALL.
So, in another installment on the job market front, I thought I’d weigh in with some thoughts on possible differences of job postings and hiring processes at policy schools. Admittedly, this is an idiosyncratic take having just worked at one of them, but I think there may be some generalizable aspects from my own experience. I have also passed through two others as a post-doc. If my institution is any indication, policy schools tend to be heterogeneous interdisciplinary places which can make faculty coordination and hiring processes even more fraught than in a disciplinary department. So, here are some thoughts on what to look out for if you are aiming for a job at a policy school. Continue reading
In our last installment, I indicated that this edition of Gearing Yourself Up would include a discussion of how to put together your job market packet. I think I jumped-the-gun a bit, however. Before putting together your packet, before trying to log on to APSA and navigate eJobs, before telling your family/friends that you are looking for jobs in academia, you need to do one crucial thing:
Amanda in her inimitable style has written some very persuasive guidance about the job market. Let me add a few thoughts about what else you can do to prepare. If you’ve already been socialized to want an academic job, then you better be ready for a rough slog. Unless you happen to be among the handful of students who get all the attention and plum interviews this job market season, you are likely to get a couple of interviews and at worst none at all. As Amanda said, most of this is out of your control. The job market sucks. There are thousands of people chasing too few jobs.
Imagine you are on the other side of the job application process and you receive several hundred applications for one job. The reality is that the committee will use some heuristics to sort through which applicants are likely to get the most attention. This may not be fair, but these criteria include (1) fit with the job (2) where the candidates went to school 3) who they studied with and (4) where they have published. You have limited control over most of these, but you should be aware that this is a reality.
Still, there are some other things you can do to prepare for your dream job, and it’s never too early to think about how to position yourself to be an attractive candidate.
I never thought that when I started grad school I’d be relocating to another country. Then again, when I got the job in Canada, it did not really occur to me that I was “really” leaving the US – on my previous visits to Toronto, everything felt pretty familiar. Plus, as a scholar of transnational activism, borders were supposed to be made increasingly irrelevant. I still remember the moment the border agent stamped my passport and glued the work permit into its folds. I had actually crossed a border for my job – politically, socially, and culturally.
While many things are the same, functionally, between the US and Canada in terms of academic life, here are a few things that I’ve noticed in my time in Toronto, some of which perhaps resonate with other abroad-Americans here and elsewhere. Continue reading
Many graduate students are expanding their job searches outside the academy. As an advisor, I’m horribly underprepared at offering job advice outside of the academic job market – besides work you can get off of Craigslist, I’ve never held a real job. Recently, I had a student come to me with questions about finding a job in the DC policy world. I asked my great friend (and former student) Kate Kidder for her thoughts, which she agreed to allow me to post at the Duck.
For academic jobs, I really like Michael Flynn‘s thoughts at The Quantitative Peace.
Today, I fly to give a talk at my alma-mater. As my advisor told me, it’s a victory lap. It feels good – 5 years post PhD, great job, excitement about the future, and my family still intact. However, the thought of going back also has me a little anxious: you see, I don’t have good memories about life in grad school. My university was great, my advisors were fantastic, and my colleagues were super smart. However, the whole experience was wrought with periods of anxiety, stress, and depression. In short, my mental health really sucked in grad school.
Disclaimer: This is not an official response from the Duck collective, but my reaction.
For those of you who have spent any time with me at conferences over the last year, I feel like I have been a little bit of a broken record with this as an academic message – let’s talk about sex. By that I mean sex as an act and sexuality as context for that act, and sexualized power. I’ve seen so many discussions of things that cannot possibly be understood without sex (the act) being taken account of nonetheless explained without it. Want to know who controlled what territory when in early modern Europe? Often, it depended on who was having sex with (/marrying) who. The story of the Reformation? Cannot be told without a story of the meeting of sexual desire and power. Military deployments have often relied on (or believed they relied on) the provision of sexual services in “the war zone.” G. H. W. Bush “penetrated Saddam Hussein’s inner sanctum,” and “it was dirty in there” – perhaps (and hopefully) only metaphorically. It is not unreasonable to posit a link between Bill Clinton getting a blow job from Monica Lewinsky and the United States’ bombings in Kenya and Sudan (or at least the timing of them). Who you have sex with (and their sex/gender) can lead to a long laundry list of categorizations, inclusions, and exclusions, socially and legally, in global politics. There is an international politics of fucking, and fucking in international politics that is substantively meaningful. While some queer and feminist work has touched on some of this, often the act of sex remains taboo in studying the politics of global politics.
“Out there” in IR is not the only place that there is a sexual politics. I have argued before that there is a gender politics to the field – by “gender politics” I mean a power politics of masculinities and femininities, masculinization and feminization. Here, I argue that there is a sexual politics to the field, which, while always, cannot be reduced to or held equivalent to gender politics. Sex (the act) substantively impacts the structure, content, and function of the field.
M. David Forrest, a soon-to-be-assistant-professor of American politics, forwarded the following letter to the “interpretation and methods” listserv. He agreed to let me post it at the Duck. Given the methodological heterogeneity of our readership, I thought it would be of interest. It reads: Continue reading
Traveling home today from a great conference with some awesome Ducks and non-Ducks. The conference, hosted by Debbi Avant (U of Denver) and Oliver Westerwinter (EUI) at the University of Denver, was on the topic of networks, governance, and security. I learned a lot and will hopefully write a nice, normal research -related post sometime soon.
At the conference, one of the dinner conversations that kept popping up was the academic job market. In general, the consensus – across age and rank divides – was that the job market is a very difficult, dehumanizing experience for the candidate.
No, not conscription (see what I did there), but sports drafts where teams take turns picking the next generation of superstars/busts.
I am inspired to think about this as October is when anxiety of academic job aspirants begins to spiral. The thread du jour is whether the job market is “fair.” As some get heaps of love and attention, others do not, leading them to ponder their fate. But if we think about the job market as a draft* (despite the fact that there really is no set order of who goes first), then some stuff makes sense:
* Am focusing on NFL and NBA as they are better known (well, Canadians obsess about the NHL but who else, am I right?)