Post Academic

Interviews You Don’t Want to Have #4: The One I Didn’t Want to Have

Posted in First Person by Arnold Pan on December 9, 2010
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You know the trainwreck I hinted to last time?  I’m gonna get to that for our series finale, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have more to write about.  The one I’m describing today was an interview I felt totally ambivalent about, not because the job, the school, and the people there weren’t fine, but because of a confluence of circumstances.  To blow the ending in advance — as if you didn’t know already — I didn’t get the job.  What’s different, though, was that I basically gave up on it before the interview, which I more or less tried to pull the plug on by asking the search committee to reschedule my MLA tête-à-tête as a videoconference.   The crazy thing was they agreed to it, which was very nice of them, although I almost think that I ended up just going through the motions anyway.

"Gesto Communications Videoconference Room" by Gesto Communications (Creative Commons license)

Here’s what went into my kamikaze mission decision…

Cost-Benefit Analysis: The main reason I begged off the convention interview was that I didn’t have any others lined up, so I couldn’t justify the $1000+ expense, multiple connecting flights, and days cooped up at a hotel for a single 45-minute meet-up for — let’s be real — a job that I wasn’t super-psyched about .   I know, I know, beggars shouldn’t be choosers, but still.  So when December 20-ish rolled around, I called an audible and emailed to ask if I could do a phoner instead, because there was really no reason to keep hope alive that a bunch more interviews were going to come through.  I guess the moral of the story here is that search committees are more humane and more accommodating than you’d expect, so you might as well tactfully ask for you’d like if you don’t really mind totally blowing it.

More factors below…


Interviews You Don’t Want to Have #3: You Need an Entrance Strategy

Posted in First Person by Arnold Pan on November 30, 2010
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This installment of “Interviews You Don’t Want to Have” actually recalls one of the best interviews I’ve had at MLA.  I thought I hit my marks, got my dissertation spiel off as cleanly as possible, and received compliments on the nice bright pink tie I wore.  I really did my best, but, contrary to what they say, my best just wasn’t good enough.

So why am I writing up this relatively positive experience as an “Interview You Don’t Want to Have”?  Well, it began as a comedy of errors which may have thrown me off my game without me even knowing it — after all, I couldn’t exactly judge how well I did, could I?  Take it from me, you need an entrance strategy to your MLA interview.

You can kinda see the Philadelphia Museum of Art from the Embassy Suites, aka the site of the IYDWTH #3 ("Philadelphia Museum of Art" by su1droot, Creative Commons license)

Don’t get there too late — or too early: I’m chronic worrier about time, especially when it comes to making it to appointments.  First, I worry about whether I actually got the date, time, and place right, after one of my friends from grad school actually missed one of her MLA interviews because she missed transcribed the info.  Second, I hate uncertainty when it comes to directions, so going to a city I don’t know and having to be at a place I’ve never been always puts me on edge.  As a result, I tend to overestimate how much time it takes to get to the hotel where an interview is taking place.  The one thing I’m not is cheap about these things, so I always take a cab to get me where I’m going — which also means there’s less of a chance that the nice bright pink tie will be bird-pooped on or my suit will get messed up by whatever.

The problem is that getting to the MLA interview hotel early isn’t exactly the most relaxing thing in the world.  While you might think that having a little extra time before the interview to unwind might help, it doesn’t when it comes to any MLA hotel lobby, since there’s a bunch more more nervous people stressing themselves — and you — out.  What’s even more nervewracking is running into people you know, either the dept gossip who wants quid pro quo about interviews or someone in your field who may or may not be interviewing for the same positions.  At this particular MLA, 2006 in Philly, the situation was particularly bad, because the Embassy Suites was pretty much the only hotel with suites and was housing most of the interviews.  So the concentration of nervous nerds was even denser than typical.

More about the structural problems of the Philly Embassy Suites, after the jump…


Interviews You Don’t Want to Have #2

Posted in First Person by Arnold Pan on November 23, 2010
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The site of my first (bad) MLA job interview, D.C.'s Mayflower Hotel ("Mayflower" by D.F. Shapinsky, Creative Commons license)

This post goes out to all you bright-eyed, bushy-tailed dissertators who are full of hope and, probably for good reason, looking forward to a bright future in academia.  Of course, I’m not entirely sure why you’d be reading this blog if that describes you, unless you’re just wasting time on the Academic Jobs Wiki and you unknowingly stray here from there.  In any case, maybe you can learn something about what NOT to do when you land your first MLA interview, from what happened to me five years ago in DC.

Here’s the backstory: In my first real go-round, I got one interview request from a pretty elite SLAC (Small Liberal Arts College, if you’re not in the know) for a job in what’s now my area of specialization — except that it wasn’t my field of expertise then, unless 40% of my diss counts as “expertise.”  Suffice it to say that I didn’t get the position, though I didn’t actually think I had much of a chance to begin with and looked at the whole thing as a learning experience.  Which leads me to my first piece of advice for first-time jobseekers…

Don’t waste opportunities: Only in academia do you tell yourself that it’s okay to spend about a thousand dollars and waste the days off between Christmas and New Year’s just to make yourself a better job candidate *next* time — or the next time or the next or the next.  That’s the attitude I had going in, which I suppose might’ve been a defense mechanism for my self-esteem or a not-so-great way to try to take the pressure off myself.  But it’s a bad gameplan to go into something thinking that you’re going to lose.  So even though I had better possibilities and fits later on, there are never enough opportunities for you to just to write one off.

More things not to do, below the fold…


Conference Etiquette: The Post-Interview Run-In

Posted in First Person by Arnold Pan on November 21, 2010
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So here’s yet another reason why you should bolt from the conference site as soon as you can: What do you do when you run into your interviewers outside the headquarters hotel or on an escalator or at a restaurant?  Most people would say you should just act normally, like you would with any acquaintance.  OK, I think I can do that.  But I always end up feeling compelled to stretch out the small talk, which then gets me into trouble because I wonder whether this goes into the interview file or if I’m expected to show how much I want the job at every turn.  In the end, I imagine search committee folks would be even less psyched to be caught in these situations, having to be reminded of job interviews after doing a few whole days of them.

Here’s what runs through my mind when I see one of my interviewers coming right towards me when it’s too late to do anything about it…

"Bus Emergency Exit" by Sushiflinger (Creative Commons license)

No, I’m not a stalker: Rather than just assume that an interviewer would see a chance run-in for what it really is, a mere coincidence, I get too caught up in my own head and start to worry s/he might get the wrong idea.  One time, I found myself walking right behind the search committee directly after an interview, which definitely might’ve seem stalker-ish.  On a few occasions, I averted my eyes or dart off in another direction, hoping to avoid eye contact — I don’t know if this strategy works, since I’ve never looked back for fear of getting caught.  My own neuroses capture the mood swings of the job search process, which go from feeling completely miniscule to megalomaniacal, thinking that I matter *that* much to search committee folks who’ve probably set aside my file and put me out of their minds the instant I’ve walked out of that hotel suite.

More after the jump…


Interviews You Don’t Want to Have #1

Posted in First Person by Arnold Pan on November 18, 2010
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The scene of "Inappropriate Academic Interview#1" -- "The Grand Hyatt San Francisco" by Eric in SF (Creative Commons license)

I know, it’s a little early to start thinking about MLA interviews, especially since the first notifications probably aren’t happening for  almost a month.  And who knows how things are gonna work this year, when MLA is a few weeks later — or, at least, I don’t know, because I didn’t go on the market?  What, could they be notifying you after New Year’s this go-round?

Anyhow, I’m gonna start strolling down memory lane with a series of posts about my MLA interviews, ranging from mildly annoying to writing’s-on-the-wall uneventful to ego-crushing abysmal.  I figured that the sooner a hypothetical would-be interviewee could learn from my mistakes, the better prepared s/he might be — though I would hardly say that I gained too much from experience, because new problems would pop up the next time.

Before we get going with the first post, here’s a sample of coming attractions…

* See my dream job interview turn into a nightmare when I’m told that I should’ve focused on a different book for a diss chapter and that the premise of another chapter was completely wrong!  And that’s before the search chair got confused about which UC that I came from…

* Then experience how I totally called it in for my next interview, because I didn’t really see the point…

* Watch me climb about 10 stories from lobby to hotel suite for an interview, because all the elevators were jammed up…

* Try and fathom why I decided *not* to go to MLA, just because I had only one interview for a school I didn’t really want to apply to in the first place…

* Feel my jitters as I go into my very first interview, where I’m so tongue-tied I can’t even spit out the formalities without stuttering.

Rather than start chronologically, I’ll begin with the interview I found the most perplexing and inappropriate.  I wrote about this a while back, but what better way to kick off the “Interviews You Don’t Want to Have” series than with “Inappropriate Academic Interview #1”, which I’ve cut-and-pasted in its entirety after the jump…


Last Week on Post Academic (4/11-4/17)

Posted in Housekeeping by Arnold Pan on April 18, 2010
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At the end of one week and the beginning of another, we catch our collective breaths on the blog and gather up links to some of the posts that have either cycled off the home page or might have been lost in the shuffle.  Enjoy the rest of your weekend, and thanks for reading!

* Welcome Dr. E. Clair, our first real-life fully-employed faculty member contributor!  His inaugural post is about the odds younger faculty face in trying to get fellowships and external support and how they and their fresh research are being roadblocked by established scholars.

* We covered the issue of interview protocol this week, outside and inside academia.  Caroline provided some helpful “do’s” that transitioning scholars should think about when they prepare for interviews in the hamster world.  Arnold excavated his personal experiences with academic interviews to offer some “don’t’s” to faculty search committees.

* And we discussed the latest numbers released by the AAUP regarding the lowest pay increase in 50 years.  And here’s more context as to why the reality of the situation is probably even worse than the bad stats already tell us.

* We are always interested in debunking cultural myths about academic personality types and hyping up other unexpected pop culture analogies.  Arnold explains how grad students aren’t hippies and slackers, while Caroline describes what academia and disco share in common.

Inappropriate academic interview #1

Posted in First Person by Arnold Pan on April 13, 2010
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Since Caroline posted the wonderful primer on how to prepare for non-academic job interviews, I can’t help but offer my own experiences with academic job interviews.  As the #1 in the title suggests, I’ve had more than one inappropriate academic interview, though most of them have been thoroughly uneventful.  This story is pretty hilarious in hindsight, but it’s definitely not some kind of academic casting couch scenario that the Wiki photo might imply.  If the experience I’m about to recount in probably less-than-prudent detail inspires you, please email us or contact us in the comments box below with your own wonderfully crazy academic job interview experiences!

I was a bit nervous preparing for this interview, because it was probably the best match (at least for me) of any position I applied to in that year, in terms of area of expertise, location, and the academic quality of the institution.  When I entered the very small hotel room where the interview was held, I was a bit surprised to see how cramped the quarters were–so tight that one of the interviewers was seated in a bed!  That was strange enough, but, as I would learn, it augured even more inappropriateness and dysfunction to come.  Still, I was totally focused and unphased, so the interview started pretty well.  I was able to discuss my teaching experience as well as I ever had, both with my prepared talking points from my sample syllabi as well as a deftly improvised response about teaching writing.

But things were about to take a turn for the inappropriate, below the jump…