Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Blog CLXIX (169): Job Hunting Tips: Know Yourself

What "dos" and "don'ts" would you pass on to a new scholar going out on the job market.  That is a question I asked a number of friends and colleagues.  The response was overwhelming.  Dozens and dozens of people replied.  These comments come from scholars working at community colleges (Lorain County Community College), small liberal arts colleges (Concordia University Wisconsin), regional state schools (Humboldt State University and Texas A&M University—Commerce), and research universities both public (Ohio State and North Carolina) and private (Brigham Young and Vanderbilt).  They are mostly historians working in academic departments, but some teach in professional programs (U.S. Naval War College and the Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University).   Click here to see Part 1 entitled "Before Hand."  Click here to see Part 2 entitled: "The Application."  Here is part 3 entitled: "Know Yourself":
  • DO: Think broadly about your dissertation project and its relevance for many sub-fields and conceptual approaches to history. Show that you are interested in reaching out substantively to other sub-fields and conceptualizations.—Jeremi Suri, Department of History, University of Texas
  • Do give some thought to teaching philosophy and what courses you would like to teach. Make mock syllabi to show that you are serious.—Hal Brands, Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University
  • DON’T: Think narrowly or defensively. Don’t let others define you or miss the excitement in your work.—Jeremi Suri, Department of History, University of Texas
  • Don't attempt to figure out what's going on within a search committee—its goals, politics, prejudices, preferences, etc. You just can't know from the outside. The good news is that you might be a better fit for a job than you'd think given a job listing.—Mark Lawrence, Department of History, University of Texas
  • Be able to summarize the theme and point of one's dissertation into 50 words or less.—Steven Reiss, Department of History, Northeastern Illinois University
  • Know your own research. This sounds way easier than it is. Candidates have been working on their topic for YEARS and so often get bogged down in it. You have to be ready to present your topic to a bunch of folks who don't know it well (the person who knows it well just left or there wouldn't be a job opening). You have to be ready to explain it (without getting lost in the weeds), to make it accessible, and to make its importance clear in a number of settings. Explain it in a letter—not a seven page letter, you will lose the reader. Explain it in a job talk (maybe 15 minutes at the AHA, or say 40 minutes in a campus interview). Explain it in 3 minutes. Some of the folks who you meet who will vote on your candidacy you might only speak to over dinner, or in an elevator, or on a campus tour. So be ready with a short and sweet explanation of your topic. The top candidates are ready for all of these eventualities in explaining their research.—Andrew Wiest, Department of History, University of Southern Mississippi
  • DO: Be honest about the state of your work (especially your dissertation) and realistic dates of completion.—Mark Lawrence, Department of History, University of Texas

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