Post Academic


The Post Academic CV series: Finishing touches

Posted in Process Stories,The Education Industry by Arnold Pan on June 3, 2010
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So while Caroline has been helping you get in the right mindset to compose a resume, I’ve been running on a parallel track, offering some tips on finetuning your CV.  I’m not sure I’m really an expert on the matter beyond having some hands-on experience with my own CV, but I have seen a lot of CVs and figured bringing together all that I’ve learned about ’em might be helpful for folks trying to seek out some starting points on putting one together.

Now that our hypothetical CV has incorporated all the basic elements and has been given a little dork bling to help it stand out, here are some final tips to help you maximize the utility of the CV you’ve come up with.  A lot of what I discuss today has to do with editing, although, if you followed the earlier steps, you hopefully already have a clean, crisp CV to work with.

"Shoulder Pads" by TimmyTruck (Creative Commons license)

To Pad or Not to Pad: I’ve mentioned this before, and the decision you make on what and how much to put on your CV depends a lot on what you have to work with.  If you’re, say, a younger grad student and you just haven’t had the experience and time to accrue many achievements, go for broke and include whatever you have.  Think of the CV as a learning experience that’s end in itself, rather than means to something else.

If you’re not, I’d suggest erring on the side of concision and discretion–but that might be because I didn’t have a lot of things to pad with and I’m of a mind that winning some undergrad award doesn’t really matter in the larger scheme of things.  To put it another way, if you’ve made it to a grad program and are ABD, your CV audience can take it for granted that you’re reasonably smart, so that best-paper-written-by-a-sophomore award is probably overkill.  Here’s another blunter way to put it: If you don’t have the goods after just starting the first chapter of your diss to be a competitive candidate for a tenure-track position against someone who’s almost done and has publications, there’s no amount of embellishing your CV that’s going to give you a realistic shot at things–unless there are somehow more jobs than people who work in that field or you don’t mind flat-out lying!

More “padding” below the fold…

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The Post Academic CV series: How to stand out

Posted in Process Stories,The Education Industry by Arnold Pan on June 2, 2010
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"Stand Out Fit In" by The Basics (Public Domain)

Yesterday, we discussed the basics that every CV should include, mostly as a service to younger academics who haven’t put one together yet, but also as a refresher course for any folks who might be looking to give the one they already have a makeover.  This time, I’ll discuss what it takes to package up the info you have to help it stand out a little more in a stack of a couple hundred CVs.  Again, the best thing to make a CV a great one is, of course, awesome content, like lots of publications, awards, and conference papers.  But that doesn’t mean folks with fewer achievements can’t come up with a strong CV that can stand out, whether that’s in form or content or–hopefully–both.

Highlight Your Strengths: I mentioned this yesterday when discussing how to organize the basic sections of your CV, suggesting that there’s no set-in-stone way put it all together.  Another way to think about the order of things on your CV is to foreground your best assets, while not completely doing away with those elements of your background you might not consider as strong.  For, say, a relatively new grad student who hasn’t had a chance to publish a lot, that means placing your “Awards and Fellowships” first, especially if you have some swanky sounding titles.  Just be sure to put *something* down for “Publications”, if for no other reason than to show whoever’s looking at the document that you are aware of their importance and that you are functioning, working academic–even when you yourself don’t feel that way!

More ways to stand out below the fold…

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The Post Academic CV series: Getting started

Posted in Process Stories,The Education Industry by Arnold Pan on June 1, 2010
Tags: ,

"Delphi Stadium Starting Line" by David Monniaux (Creative Commons license)

Caroline is offering great advice for Post Academics trying to convert their CVs into resumes, but I thought it might also be helpful to provide some tips on how to put together a CV, especially for younger scholars who don’t have one yet and need one to apply for fellowships and/or are about to venture onto the job market for the first time.  Or also, if you’re not quite ready to let go of the psychological baggage of your CV and, particularly your publications.  Just think of the blog like that Gwyneth Paltrow movie I never saw, which follows her character on 2 different life paths, signified by her having different hair styles–except in our cases, it’s with resumes and CVs!

Now, I have to start with a disclaimer that my CV never garnered me a tenure-track position, but I can say this for myself: It probably did play a role in getting some plum interviews and, if nothing else, it looked good.  While, of course, the actual qualifications matter the most, how you organize the CV and how you highlight your strengths do make a difference.  This is especially true when you don’t have a lot of material to work with, mostly because you just haven’t been in academia for a long time.  Here are some tips on how to get started

The Basics: There are some categories that every CV needs, even if you aren’t quite able to fill something in under every heading.  We can discuss how you can do that later, but here are the basics that you should cover…

Education: This should be an easy way to start, listing your degrees and potential degrees, starting with the most current one first.  It gets tricky if you have to include a proposed date for finishing your Ph.D.: Just be realistic about it, in case you’re asked to talk about it in an interview or if your recommenders have to vouch for you.

Publications: I list publications next, because I now have some.  If you don’t, try to get that essay you’ve been working on forever out to a journal, so you can list something as “under review”.  I’ve been told that’s a little bit important, if for no other reason than it shows you are productive, even when no decision on it has been made.

Awards and Fellowships: For younger scholars who have won awards and have a fellowship, you could place this category ahead of publications, especially if you have some impressive lines here.  Again, reverse chronological order here.

More basics below the fold…

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A publishing how-to: Tips from Stacey Pierson, Ph.D. (Part 2)

"Chinese Ceramics book cover" (Courtesy of Stacey Pierson)

Yesterday, Stacey Pierson–Lecturer (= Asst Prof in the U.S.) at SOAS in London, eminent researcher in Chinese ceramics, and the author of 2 books–described her experiences of getting her books in print, from pitching a project to drafting and editing a manuscript to the overlooked aspects of promoting the final product.  For part 2, we continue discussing what it takes to get published and ask her to don her editor’s hat to explain to us the other side of the publishing enterprise.

Post Academic: What are some tips you can give young scholars trying to get past the mental block of transforming a dissertation manuscript into a book, as someone who’s done this before?

Stacey Pierson: Beyond my personal experience, I think new writers working on their first academic book might find the actual writing process difficult because with your dissertation (if you are lucky as I was) you generally receive a lot of feedback and guidance along the way and it is sometimes quite difficult to do this on your own for the first time. At least the dissertation comes with a readymade topic, so the next difficult hurdle is, of course, coming up with a fresh idea that will be publishable and substantial enough to enhance your CV or, if you are lucky enough to get such a job, your tenure dossier. One way forward is to read as much as possible in your area to keep up with what work is already in progress and to mine your dissertation research for areas which you had to put aside but thought at the time had potential.

The interview continues below the fold…

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A publishing how-to: Tips from Stacey Pierson, Ph.D. (Part 1)

Stacey Pierson is Lecturer (which translates to Assistant Professor here in the States) at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, specializing in Chinese Ceramics and Museum Studies.  She is also the one-time curator of the prestigious Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, and I imagine she could also probably work as a junior archeologist, ace appraiser, and Chinese translator, if she wanted to!

"Chinese Ceramics book cover" (Courtesy of Stacey Pierson)

But, for our purposes here at Post Academic, it’s her experiences as a published author of two books–Chinese Ceramics: A Design History (V&A, 2009) and Collectors, Collections and Museums: the Field of Chinese Ceramics in Britain, 1560-1960 (Peter Lang, 2007)–and her current post as the Editor of the journal Transactions of the Oriental Ceramics Society that we’re most interested in.  Over the next few days, Dr. Pierson will be sharing her insights on academic publishing from her multiple perspectives as a scholar, writer, and editor.  Today, she tells us about the process of pitching a book proposal, converting a diss manuscript into a book, and writing for multiple audiences–all of which she juggled at the same time.

Post Academic: Can you tell us about the process you went through in publishing your books, from the initial drafting of the manuscript to pitching it to publishers to the production of the book?

Stacey Pierson: My first book was essentially my dissertation, which was already written, so I initially researched academic publishers who include my subject area in their list, Chinese art history. After doing this, and discovering that most have detailed instructions on how to approach them and write a proposal, I sent out an initial proposal to a very prestigious publisher, for the experience mainly.

The interview continues below the fold

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Or maybe you should/could hang in there: “10th Time’s the Charm”

US 10th Mountain Division Distinctive Unit Insignia (Public Domain)

Something happened on the way off the hamster wheel of the academic job market: I came across this column in the Chronicle titled “10th Time’s the Charm” written pseudonymously by Thomas Cranly, who finally landed a job kinda on his own terms after 4 years, 16 interviews, 10 campus visits.  Though Cranly claims his story is most valuable for “its entertainment value”, he is probably being too modest for persevering through the absurdities of the job search and getting some of the things he wanted out of the whole thing–not just a hard-to-get tenure-track position, but also in a place he wanted to live (Florida, in Cranly’s case).

The first-person piece gives a good peek into the rollercoaster that is the academic job search, especially the non-intellectual parts of an endurance test that takes at least as much good humor, physical strength, and socializing skills as obvious smarts.  Actually, you’re probably better equipped to get the job if you possess the former skills, since it’s likely that you’re pretty bright if you’ve gotten this far.  Some highlights from Cranly’s column include:

* Second thoughts over pressing a “Submit” button to apply to law school, which he didn’t, despite his better, practical judgment, because he received a notice that his book had been accepted by a press

* Overhearing a job search committee member saying to himself, “We really need a black man in the department”

* Navigating the different ways one is asked about her/his relationship status, which is at least verboten by the unofficial rules of interviewing (if not the official ones)

* Being urged to buy a rare edition of a book by the search committee

So what if the column turns a little maudlin at the end, as Cranly explains that he *probably* wouldn’t have done it any other way, even if the 10th time wasn’t the charm?

“With each rejection that arrived through e-mail, letter, or just plain silence, my disappointment was mitigated by my appreciation for the temporary jobs I held at the time. I value the 10 years I have spent as a graduate student and as a non-tenure-track faculty member. And I like to tell myself that I would feel the same way, even if I hadn’t been fortunate enough to get a job I desired.”

Though Cranly himself more or less acknowledges that it’s easier to say so when the outcome is a good one, he definitely seems sincere and the way he explains his experiences shows it.  And in light of all the bad news about the job market and the still-abstract idea that only radically reimagining the humanities Ph.D. can save it, it’s good to know that old-fashioned hard work and stick-to-it-iveness can still pay off.

And that’s a wrap–at least for this year (Part 2)

So I left off yesterday with a decision looming before me about whether to attend MLA in Philly.  Here’s what I was weighing…

Pros

* Actually having a job interview

* Seeing some friends I haven’t caught up with in a while

* Eating an authentic Philly cheesesteak, which I missed the last time MLA was in the City of Brotherly Love because I didn’t want to emit an oniony smell during my interviews

Philly cheesesteak by Cessator (Creative Commons)

Cons

* Paying over $1000 for airline tix and a hotel and spending parts of 5 days in Philly for basically a 30-min interview

* Packing during Christmas for my flight early on 12/26

* Not being able to do family stuff before and after Christmas because I’d be stressing out prepping for my interview and getting ready to travel

When you put it like that, the decision was a lot easier to make: I cancelled my hotel reservations, took the $150 penalty on my plane tix, and stayed home.  Pretty much none of my academic friends thought this was a shrewd decision, but I really couldn’t stomach spending the money and the time for a single half-hour interview, even if my career hung in the balance.  Moreover, I’m pretty sure the interview request was made on the strength of a single tout by a very supportive, very helpful faculty friend, so I didn’t know if the whole thing was a courtesy deal or if I was blowing a really golden opportunity.  After all, I was offered an interview before they even *asked* for a writing sample or official recs, so it was a situation that was hard to read.

Once I settled on my decision, though, I was more than happy to be watching The Princess and the Frog with my family peeps the day after Christmas, instead of worrying about whether I’d be snowed in making a connection in Denver.

But surprisingly, the story doesn’t end, quite yet!  Continued, below the fold…

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And that’s a wrap–at least for this year (Part 1)

About a month and half ago, I wrote about the last–maybe the very last–job application that I sent out for a postdoc I had found out about at the last minute.  It was a pretty easy application to put together, since I had applied for so many postdocs this year and had a project proposal more or less ready to go.  Of course, I was as dubious as ever about my odds of actually being selected for the postdoc–actually, more so than usual even, due to the late date and the very short application period, which made me think that an inside candidate must’ve been lined up and the posting must’ve been done for compliance purposes.  Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Or, just nothing gained: It wasn’t much of a shock, but I received my email rejection for the postdoc late last week, which was my first interaction with the institution, since they didn’t bother to send an acknowledgement.  Actually, I had found out at the Academic Job Wiki postdocs page that a decision had been made, so my “personal” rejection–lacking a personal salutation to me and hundreds of other applicants–just confirmed what I already knew.  I know they’re being nice and all, but, c’mon, you don’t need to include platitudes like the committee found your research “original and engaging”, when it’s likely that most of the hundreds of applications aren’t, my own possibly included.  It wasn’t the worst rejection letter, but it wouldn’t have hurt them to read our rejection letter do’s and don’t’s posts, here and here.

Don’t know if I’m ready for a career post-mortem yet, but here’s the post-game analysis on this year’s job cycle for me, since all the results are in.  See it, below the fold…

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Academic publishing: A trickle-down theory and other ways to streamline the process

Posted in Process Stories,Publish and Perish by Arnold Pan on April 27, 2010
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"Water drop animation" by Gmaxwell (licensed by Creative Commons)

We’ve discussed some of the difficulties with getting publishing before, which was mostly me extrapolating from my personal experiences.  An article titled “The Back-Up Plan” from Inside Higher Ed last week proposed an interesting solution to making turnaround in the editorial process quicker, so that you don’t end up in an experience like mine where I had a proposal for a piece going back-and-forth with various editors and project proposers for a year-and-a-half only to end up with nothing.

Enter “The Back-Up Plan”: According to the article, the American Economic Association has set up a process whereby submitters can opt in to a plan where their essays can be automatically submitted to another “back up” journal if it is not accepted by the group’s top publication, American Economic Review.  The idea is that readers’ reports would be passed along to the secondary journal, which is supposed to speed up review of the proposed article.  Now you might argue, as some in the comment threads do, that resubmitting an essay using unfavorable readers’ reports is a kamikaze mission times two, but the choice of doing so is up to the writer.  And apparently, most of the submissions going through this process are borderline cuts that were well-received–just not so much to be included in the assocation’s #1 publication.

More about the “back-up plan”, below the fold…

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Academic publishing: What’s the delay?

Posted in Process Stories,Publish and Perish by Arnold Pan on March 31, 2010
Tags: , ,

One of the more popular topics that we’ve covered so far at Post Academic is academic publishing.  About a month ago, I wrote about what I called the “time lag problem” in academic publishing, and recounted a frustrating experience I had trying to place an article that ended up on the scrap heap after a year-and-a-half in review purgatory.  (Actually, it would be kind of absurdly hilarious, if it hadn’t happened to me!)  As we mentioned in the earlier posting, let us know about what you are curious about with regards to the publishing process, and we’ll try to cover it.  And if anyone who has published any book of any kind wants to share her/his experience, contact us!

What I didn’t write about at the time was that I had an essay that was just about to be published in a good peer-reviewed journal that I like a lot.  I am definitely proud of the final product and had a great experience working with a very professional staff.   The best part of the process for me was the initial step of submission, because I felt that I got a fair shake and an objective blind reading–though, of course, I would think that because the essay was accepted!

But going through the process also revealed some of the same structural issues with academic publishing that I experienced in the 18-month revise-resubmit-rinse-repeat-rejection fiasco, albeit with a much happier ending.  Even with a dedicated, on-the-ball staff, the piece took almost two years between acceptance and publication, plus another 5 months at the front end between initial submission and acceptance.  Again, I hope this doesn’t seem to be a case where I sound ungrateful, because the folks at the journal were great and really took care of me and the essay.  Here’s why, at least in my mind, it takes a relatively long time for an essay to see the light of day, even when everyone is working hard to get things done:

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