Post Academic


Your Recs Dream Team

Posted in Absurdities,First Person by Arnold Pan on September 9, 2010
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So it’s not quite like LeBron’s “The Decision”, but I finally wussed out and played it safe by setting up an Interfolio account for my moldy academic letters of rec.  Hey, maybe my decision was a little LeBron-like in the end, since I decided to take the easy route–holding onto the dossier would be like playing with Wade and Bosh in Miami–instead of sucking it up and doing the harder thing–letting academia go, in my case, staying in Cleveland for King James.  I hemmed and hawed a bit about it on the blog here, but I decided to take my talents, er, recs, to Interfolio, mostly for sentimental reasons because I have an irreplaceable rec from my advisor that I’m not ready to send to the digital dustbin of history just quite yet.

"Beijing Olympics Men's Semifinal Basketball USA huddle" by Richard Giles (Creative Commons license)

To stretch the LeBron analogy a lot further, I started imagining how creating a (non-existent, in my case) dossier might be like putting together the perfect “starting five” on the court.  My latest daydreamy musings on letters of rec is all about composing your very own dossier dream team.  Here’s how you might think about filling out your references roster.

1. The Team Leader, Your Advisor: Nope, we’re not necessarily talking about your LeBron megastar here, but your D-Wade, who’s the inspirational force and guiding light of your job application team.  Your advisor knows you the best and will direct you–and maybe the other recommenders–to the best gameplan.  That means playing the game the right way, which, in this case, might include showing you the ropes, reading between the lines of the job ads, and networking with colleagues.  But it’s the intangibles that make for a great advisor and team captain, like giving you a pep talk when you’re about to throw in the towel, while kicking you in the pants and pushing you when you get too caught up in things and take your eyes off the prize.

See who else rounds out the roster, below the fold…

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The etiquette of cat herding: More on getting recs

Posted in First Person,Process Stories by Arnold Pan on August 23, 2010
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So we’ve been spending some time on recs, particularly how it never too early to start the ball rolling with the process of contacting your letter writers.  Like I mentioned last time, it’s obviously more important to you than it is to them, so show ’em you mean business and set the right tone for everyone involved in the process.  That means you should appear business-like and have your act together, even if you normally don’t.  Below are a few tips on some basic details you should take care of, so that you don’t have to worry about any mixed messages or crossed signals or lost mail.

Sign off on your recs: By the time you’re applying for tenure-track jobs, you should know well enough to waive your rights to read the recs.  I mean, undergrads applying to grad school might not know better, though those who don’t just seem like suspicious grade-grubbing control freaks when they don’t.  But I’ve even heard of Ph.D.-types who mull over not signing off on their recs, just to reserve the possibility of reading ’em, whether because they’re paranoid or overly curious.  I’m actually surprised that you have a choice, beyond the formal legalese, since there’s really no point not to waive your rights if you think about it…

Why to waive your rights, after the jump…

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Time to herd the cats! Don’t get wrecked by your recs…

Posted in Process Stories,The Education Industry by Arnold Pan on August 19, 2010
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"Herd of Cats" by Boksi (Public Domain)

I’m not sure I’m the person who should be giving this advice, seeing as I can’t even decide whether to save the dossier I currently have or just let it be sent to the paper shredder, where it probably belongs at this point.  But if I were to, say, start planning for the academic job market, which is closer to starting up than you think, I would probably at least start thinking about the most excruciating part of getting your application together: herding the cats–er, contacting your recommenders–so that you can have your dossier ready to go.  You know you’re gonna procrastinate when it comes to actually carrying out the palm-sweating task of asking your mentors to write your recs, so at least put yourself into that mindset now.  That way, you’ll actually be right on time after you keep putting it off–call it time doping!

What makes getting recs so stress-inducing is that it’s the only part of your application profile you really have zero control over.  If your CV is either too weak or really straining the limits of credulity, that’s on you for doing too little and/or embellishing too much.  If your cover letter is a mess and the job you’re applying for is a real stretch, that’s your responsibility.  But you have almost no hand in your letters of rec, short of deciding whom you ask to advocate for you.

What’s out of your control–and what you can try to do about it–below the jump…

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A Post Academic and his academic dossier

Posted in First Person,The Education Industry by Arnold Pan on August 12, 2010
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So this week, I’ve been putting off setting up an Interfolio account and transferring my recs to it, which I need to do because the UCI Career Center is discontinuing its dossier service this month.  There’s really no psychological block keeping me from doing so–it’s just that I’m lazy and I don’t feel like dropping off the forms on campus to start the process.  The more I think about it, the less I know why I would continue to store my (old) letters of rec, since it’s not like I’m in much of a position–mental or professional–at this point to ever use them again.  Besides, with this blog, I’m imagining I’ve burned bridges I never had in the first place.  Here’s what I’m thinking about with my letters of rec, both in practical terms and more intangible ones.

Practical concerns: The practical reasons for keeping my dossier could go either way, really.  The obvious choice would be to just take the minimal effort and do the paperwork, since the letters are there and it wouldn’t hurt having them safely tucked away.  But just because that might be the obvious choice for an academic clinging on to the possibility of staying in the profession doesn’t mean it’s the right one for the post academic…

More about my decision below the jump…

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