Post Academic


Be prepared!: After you send in your job application…

Maybe I shouldn’t be the one to be offering this advice, since I’m probably not sending any job applications in and still haven’t logged into the MLA JIL even for curiosity’s sake.  But if you’re doing some kind of endzone celebration after sending in your first batch of  job applications, we should  flag you for excessive celebration.  First, there’s probably still a bunch more applications to send in, which you would know if you made a handy spreadsheet like we suggested awhile ago.  Second, it seems like no two applications on your spreadsheet list are the same, from those requiring the bare minimum of cover letter and CV to those asking for everything and the kitchen-sink.  If you’ve already dealt with the latter, you’re probably golden for what’s yet to come.

"Emergency Preparedness 'Ready to Go' Kit" by Red Cross (Public Domain)

But if you’ve only been turning in the standard letter-CV variety up to now, you better be ready when you get the email you’re hoping to get for a secondary application or even a pre-convention interview request.  It might seem like it’s too early to stress about it now, but don’t wait to sweat it when you get your golden ticket, but aren’t ready to promptly reply to it.  In addition to the basics of the cover letter and CV, you can pretty much get any variations of the following at any time, so get your ducks in a row.

Writing Sample(s): I’ve been asked for samples of various lengths from 15 to 30 pages, including or excluding footnotes. Unlike some folks who just send in whatever they have at hand no matter the length, I follow instructions in fear of inflexible, dictatorial search committees looking for any reason to disqualify me, and will cut my default 30-ish pager down to 15 or 20 or 25, depending on what they’re are asking for. Use it as a good exercise in editing and not being too precious with your writing, since slicing and dicing your papers can actually make them better and more streamlined.

More about writing sample(s) below the fold…

Here’s where it gets even trickier: There have been a few occasions where I’ve been asked for multiple writing samples.  Luckily for me, I apply for a wide enough range of jobs and have sent in enough essays for review that I had a few sample-length pieces ready.  But let me tell you, you don’t want to be editing down the last 10 pages of an essay for the job of your dreams when you find out that your childcare plans have fallen through at the last minute.  So if you have the time and your shit together enough,  just have as many samples ready to print as you can, even if it seems crazy and confusing to have multiple versions of the same essay.

Dissertation/Abstract: I was told to always send in a diss abstract even though it’s rarely specified in job calls, so that’s what I do.  It’s no biggie since it’s only one single-spaced page, and the logic is that it’s brief enough not to be an imposition on a search committee.  But why the slash?  That’s because there’s the urban legend of being asked for your entire diss at some inconvenient time in the application process, which is backed up by some calls I’ve seen that note this possibility.  This never happened to me, because I was never a really serious contenda before I was finished with my dissertation, but I’m thinking you can’t bluff how much of it is done if not much of it is done.  Just have your dissertation in good shape in case you’re asked for it, which isn’t a bad idea for your own sake anyway.

Letters of Rec: We’ve told you to start shepherding your recs, which you probably have if you’ve taken the first step by sending in your initial app.  Since the recs usually don’t come with your own snail-mail or email package, they’ll probably — hopefully? –come in a little after your first materials are filed.  Just be ready to send in anywhere from three to five, with at least one from your advisor and a teaching-oriented one.  And also get prepared to feel nervous when you keep waiting for the recs to get where they’re supposed to go and you’re just one day away from having to nag your letter writers.  Cause it’s gonna happen…

Teaching Documents: I don’t know, “Get through class” probably doesn’t qualify as a teaching philosophy, even if I think that’s totally valid.  But for a number of jobs, you might get barraged with demands for ridiculous amounts of teaching materials for a secondary request, if you weren’t in the first round.  So prepare a teaching philosophy (even if it’s based on something half-assed you turned in for a pedagogy/teacher training course), track down teaching evals (though not the crappy ones), and print up some syllabi (preferably real ones).  I don’t have a ton of advice here, because I tended to avoid teaching-intensive jobs because that’s just not what I was very good at or had much of a chance at, honestly.  But everyone probably has evals they can cast in a good light and have some kind of syllabi they’ve taught.  You might even start the exercise of making up syllabi, which you might well need if you advance to a conference interview — we’ll talk more about that the closer we get to MLA.

Official Transcript: I usually draw the line here, because I find it creepy that any school which will probably reject me anyway wants to have so much info about me at this stage.  (Then again, they probably have my letters of rec, which say stuff about me that I’ll never know about.)  The transcript can include personal info like date of birth and place of birth that shouldn’t matter to anyone else, though I’m pretty sure they x-out your Social Security Number now; still, you should check if it’s on there.  And in any case, just ask to send a photocopy of the transcript, because they can get expensive at $10 or so a pop — and because they really don’t need to know that much.  The thing is, the jobs that ask for so much stuff early on like transcripts and evals tend to be the least appealing ones, at least in my experience.

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