Post Academic


How to Sniff Out a Workplace Lie

Posted in Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on February 5, 2011
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionAfter all the bankers told the masses everything was okay and then proceeded to drive the economy into the dirt, you might be wondering how to protect yourself from corporate (or academic) liars. Knowing when someone is lying might give you a hint about whether or not you should spruce up your resume and look for a job before you get laid off.

NPR did a fantastic feature on busting corporate liars, and the info might protect you from a nasty surprise. While I’m not all that impressed by body language analysis, some of the article’s tips on corporate fake-speak are useful. Here’s what you should watch out for during quarterly corporate pep rallies:

Saying nothing will change after a big change. I’ve seen this a little too often. Here’s the scenario: A management shakeup occurs, and all of a sudden you have a new boss or your boss has a new boss. The second a higher-up tells you “Nothing’s going to change,” they might be fibbing. They might not be malicious, as they may want to believe what they’re saying, but you still need to polish up your resume.

More after the jump! Image of polygraph results by DENKernel from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
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The Wild World of Student Loans: What to Do If You’re in Trouble

Posted in The Wild World of Student Loans by Caroline Roberts on February 4, 2011
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionWarnings about student loans mean nothing if you’re drowning in debt. Anyone at that point shouldn’t be fretting about how they got there. The dream of education is sold harder than a Ronco product, and a bunch of people spent a lot of money for an education that isn’t paying off. What’s important is figuring out

Talk to your lender before you default. By talking to your lender, you might be able to create a payment plan or find a compromise that will keep your loan from defaulting. Once you default, there’s no going back. A deferment might give you some breathing room, but don’t forget that, depending on your situation, the interest will keep on growing.

Do your best to avoid default. If you stop paying, you won’t get to know the lender. You’ll get to know the debt collector, and you’ll face wage garnishment, not to mention a host of other unpleasantries, such as constant phone calls asking you why you haven’t paid up.

More after the jump! William Hogarth: A Rake’s Progress, Plate 4: Arrested For Debt. From Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
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The Wild World of Student Loans: Knowing How Much You’ll Need

Posted in The Wild World of Student Loans by Caroline Roberts on February 2, 2011
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionWhen you receive your financial aid package, you might not be able to determine whether or not it will be enough. So many factors are involved, with cost of living being at the top of the list. Before you sign on the dotted line, you must be sure that you can live on a low, low salary for a long, long time:

Have a rough idea of your budget first. Eh. Why lie? No one ever really sticks to your budget, but you should take a look at your bank statements to find out where your money goes and how much money leaves per month.

Cut out the fun stuff. Hey, you wanted the life of the mind, right? The life of the mind comes with used clothes and the dollar-value menu. Unless …

Get a roommate. I knew very few people who managed to live alone during grad school. Nearly everyone had a roommate. My roommate and I agreed to split utilities and had enough left over for basic cable.

More after the jump! Image of a storefront by Kenneth Allen from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.
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Footnotes, with Our Standard Stuff

Posted in Absurdities by Arnold Pan on February 1, 2011
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Your latest Footnotes covers the stuff we usually blurb about, like indie rock and, of course, James Franco.  And, oh yeah, vindictive peeing-in-public profs…

Marking Your Math Dept Territory: Apparently, the way you settle a mathlete geek off is by peeing in front of your nemesis’s office door.  Last December, Cal State Northridge math prof Tihomir Petrov was caught in the act by a camera set up after “puddles” of urine were found in the hall.  According the CSUN Math Dept website, Petrov is an Asst Prof, so here’s hoping for he’s not pissing his career away!

Iron and Wine, Post Academic: So who knew that Iron and Wine’s Sam Beam was a kind of a postacademic?  (Not me, at least, though I’m not a huge fan or anything.)  That’s right, the indie troubadour actually taught film and cinematography at the University of Miami and Miami International University of Art and Design. I guess that adds some backstory that helps Beam stand out from all the bearded neo-folkies in the indie-verse — you know who you are — these days.  Check out his top ten films list from a guest post he did for the Criterion Collection, which is definitely chin-strokingly auteurish enough.

Last but not Least…Your Latest James Franco Update: So you’ve probably been seeing Ph.D. poster child James Franco a lot recently, what with all the awards shows and Sundance going on.  And you’ll be seeing even more of him once the Oscars come around, since he’s not only nominated for Best Actor, but he’s also hosting the thing.  Still, he doesn’t seem to be sweating it too much, since he told the AP (check out the vid on Yahoo!) that he wasn’t going to miss class at Yale in order to do PR for his likely Oscar nom.  But just as you start thinking Franco was earnest and not getting a big head, the latest, most-up-to-datest news search on Google unearths that he’ll be teaching a course about…himself!  That’s right, “Master Class: Editing James Franco…With James Franco” will be offered at something called Columbia College Hollywood, not connected to either Columbias in NYC or Chicago.  We knew Franco wanted to teach, but this seems like he’s just trying too hard!

The Wild World of Student Loans: Before You Take the Loan

Posted in The Wild World of Student Loans by Caroline Roberts on January 31, 2011
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionAround this time, some of you might be receiving letters of acceptance from grad programs. If you made it in, congratulations! Pop out some cheap bubbly. Then, when you’re done imbibing, start thinking about borrowing some money so you can stay clothed and fed while pursuing your dream.

Unfortunately, the same student loans that seem like a godsend one moment can turn into concrete boots the next. You do not want to be the grad student trying to pay off ridiculous loans when some academic jobs have a starting salary of … wait for it … $28,000. These tips might keep you from feeling trapped in a Dickensian debtor’s prison:

The Big Rule: Don’t go if you aren’t paid for it … at least partially. There’s no reason to get in the way of anyone’s dream, but the school you attend should give you an incentive for working for them. They need to provide a fellowship or a TA-ship. Take moving expenses and cost of living into account as well.

More after the jump! Barney’s Loans sign in Seattle taken by Joe Mabel from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.
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Why Do So Many People Assume They Can Write?

Posted in Absurdities by Caroline Roberts on January 29, 2011
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionWhen people start questioning funding for higher education, they often take dead aim at the humanities, assuming that the humanities aren’t as useful as, say, marketing. What makes the humanities such an easy target?

I think much of it stems from arrogance, in that so many people think they can write. Stringing words together seems easy, and companies don’t always invest in skilled writers because they think they can do the writing themselves.

That’s not always the case. How many times have you seen a company brochure that goes on and on without any awareness of who the audience is? Or blatant grammatical errors? Or misapplied sales-speak? Or blatant logical fallacies? (Campaign brochures whose arguments rest on the slippery slope fallacy, I am talking to you!)

I’m not a master writer, but writing calls for a base level of competence, one that goes beyond the ability to spell words correctly. A writer needs to know spelling, grammar, history, logic and even psychology. Companies wouldn’t dare attempt to tackle computer programming themselves, but they’ll change the words of a writer with the utmost confidence that “anyone can do it.” The words of a writer aren’t sacred–far from it–but writers do not pull stuff out of their butt. In order to write well, a person must also be able to read critically to find evidence and assemble an argument. Writing may not be as difficult as being a doctor or a physicist, but it isn’t a place where you can cut corners or offer low wages.

Image of typing in water from 1926, Bundesarchiv from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.

Why Quitting Might Not Be As Bad As You Think

Posted in Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on January 28, 2011
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Is quitting really that bad? In a guest post I did for Worst Professor Ever a few months ago, I fessed up to quitting a PhD program after the MA. I wrote the following:

Yes. I’m a quitter who makes more money and has better job opportunities precisely because I quit.

That’s all true. I do make more money, and I do have better job opportunities, but I realize that I sound, well, prickly and defensive. The subject of quitting brings out that feeling in me.

What’s so bad about quitting? For starters, “quitter” is one of the first insults hurled when a person abandons a challenge. “Quitting” is synonymous with weakness and whining. It’s the low point in any movie, the moment when the protagonist hits rock-bottom. Even in comedies, someone must protect the protagonist from being a quitter, like when Leslie Nielsen rallies Robert Hays into landing that hot-mess airplane and proving he’s a real pilot after all.

Okay, you might not want to quit your job in this fashion, but this is a pretty good “I quit” monologue. Apologies for anyone who have issues with potty mouths.

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How to (Not) Get Published #1: It’s Funny Because It’s Kinda True

Rejected...by the Prez no less! (Photo courtesy of the Official White House Photostream, Public Domain)

While scrolling through my Facebook feed, I came across a link to the “Journal of Universal Rejection”, which is funny because it’s kinda true.  (h/t Sam.)  No, I promise I’m not this brutal as an editor…really, I’m not!  But you can actually find some kernels of practical usefulness from might seem depressingly absurd.  Below is a description of the “Journal”, along with this editor’s annotations:

About the Journal

The founding principle of the Journal of Universal Rejection (JofUR) is rejection. Universal rejection. That is to say, all submissions, regardless of quality, will be rejected. Despite that apparent drawback, here are a number of reasons you may choose to submit to the JofUR:

•You can send your manuscript here without suffering waves of anxiety regarding the eventual fate of your submission. You know with 100% certainty that it will not be accepted for publication.

Post Academic sez: Lots of academics, especially ones at the early stages of their careers, can relate to this nauseous feeling.  You spent a lot of time polishing and obsessing about a piece, only to have the nagging thought that the product of your blood, sweat, and tears will languish in a stack of papers, real or virtual.  I don’t know if it makes you feel any better, but at least your misery has lots and lots of good company.  But practically speaking, just be sure your submission has multiple use.  Maybe it can be your job talk if you’ve advanced that far in a search, or perhaps you can carve a few lesson plans and a conference paper out of it.  Just don’t sit on your hands waiting on it, because 1. you don’t know when you’ll find out what happens to it and 2. there’s a chance that the news won’t be good anyway.

More helpful tips from ego-crushing guidelines below the fold…

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The Return of Sense & Sangria

Posted in Sense & Sangria by Caroline Roberts on January 26, 2011
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionGrad student advisors, some of you are seriously not stepping up. Most of your students are turning to Cary Tennis for academic advice instead. The latest academic letter to Tennis is a twist on the usual formula, with a student who already has a PhD freaking out about lost opportunities and job prospects.

She’s not alone, and there are probably plenty of others like her, but here’s the situation: The letter-writer, who calls herself “Self-Indulgent Ex-Academic,” wanted to be an actress, but she chose–and was encouraged by her parents to choose–a career as an anthropology professor. Talk about exchanging one dismal job prospect for another. (Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys, actors or anthropology professors. Okay?)

There’s other twists and turns here, including an illness and a dual-career problem in which her husband got a great job and she didn’t. Her Ivory Tower is definitely leaning. I really became worried at this point:

But, on an emotional level, it’s just killing me. I keep telling people that I don’t really want a tenure-track job, for these and so many more reasons. But my heart doesn’t believe it. Sometimes, stuck in this town I don’t much care for, with my once-promising career in shambles, I wonder if it’s even worth getting out of bed. (Self-pity alert: I have suffered from, and been diagnosed with, major depressive disorder; despite the meds, I just don’t have the resiliency that most people enjoy.)

This letter writer needs to schedule an appointment with a professional ASAP. No matter what Cary Tennis or Sense & Sangria says, academia is only part of the problem. In fact, academia may have made a depressive disorder worse.

DUP Advice Centre, Omagh. Image by Kenneth Allen from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.
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“So You Want to Get a Ph.D. in the Humanities,” the Sequel

 

Screenshot from "So You Want to Get a Ph.D. in the Humanities: Nine Years Later"

The feel-bad hit of the academic job application season “So You Want to Get a Ph.D. in the Humanities” has spawned its own subgenre, including the not-as-funny, not-as-well-received, longer-winded retort “Yes, I Want to Get a Ph.D. in the Humanities” as well as other discipline-specific narratives for poli sci, law school, philosophy, and film.  But best yet is the sequel to the original created by none other than the patron saint of sites like ours, Thomas H. Benton/William Pannapacker.  His version revisits the earnest would-be grad student nine years down the line, scraping by as an adjunct and more than willing to do so.  As he describes his clip, “Our intrepid young English major finally completes her doctoral degree, and is appropriately rewarded.”   The scary thing about the humorous video is that grad students of this generation have already internalized much of what seems so horrific about the job market so that very little of it seems over the top.  We can’t embed XtraNormal videos on WordPress, but go over to the Chronicle Brainstorm page to see “So You Want to Get a Ph.D. in the Humanities: 9 Years Later” for yourself.

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