Post Academic

Learning to Let Go of Your Publications

Posted in Housekeeping,Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on May 11, 2010
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Over at Inside Higher Ed, Jerry Jellison provides advice for academics who are putting together their first Hamster World resumes. He reminds readers that the resume’s goal is to answer one question: “What can you do for us?”

Along those lines, he advises that former academics (or soon-to-be former academics) skip listing publications. That can be painful since the whole point of being in grad school and academia is to rack up publications.

The issue here is not that your publications aren’t important to businesspeople. They are, but not in the same way they’re important to you. In the Hamster World, it’s less about prestige and more about your actions. Jellison suggests re-framing your academic work: “Instead of listing academic publications, describe the skills and traits that enabled you to write the articles or to conduct the research.”

Conducting research, staying organized, and forming a coherent argument are all talents that will appeal to employers. The fact that you had the tenacity to get published is more important than where you got published. So, instead of listing the papers themselves, say that you did research, conducted interviews, and crunched data.

Jellison has many more tips for translating your academic skills into business lingo. Don’t be afraid. By the time you’re done, you’ll realize that this process is way easier than an MLA interview. For more tips, check out my advice on turning your CV into a resume.

Establishing an Emergency Fund for Grad School or Changing Careers

Posted in Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on May 10, 2010
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionDeveloping a back-up plan has been a recurring theme on Post Academic. Thanks to the shrinking job market, both grad students and even full-fledged professors must continue to build new skills over time. That way, “post academics” can make a graceful transition into a new profession.

Part of making that graceful transition, however, is having enough money during that scary “in-between jobs” phase. An emergency savings fund can help you breathe easy and make the right job decisions. A career change is scary enough without worrying about how you’re going to put food on the table. But how do you build an emergency fund when you are an underfunded academic?

Figure out how long your emergency fund should cover. Financial experts can’t seem to agree on how many months of unemployment you should cover. Some say three, some say six. In this economy, set a base goal of three, especially if you are on grad student wages, but try to aim for six before you either graduate or leave your program.

Determine how much you spend a month. Tracking spending and budgeting can be overwhelming, especially if you read the tips on decluttering and unhoarding. Yet knowing your monthly needs is also empowering because, if you don’t get that postdoc, you can look at your bank account and know exactly how long your money is going to last. Then multiply how much you spend a month by the number of months your emergency fund should cover, and you have your target amount.

More after the jump! Image by ADwarf, public domain, Wikimedia Commons.


Broke-Ass Schools: University of Maine Follow-Up

Looks like the University of Maine will follow through on many of its proposed budget cuts. The school plans to suspend the following majors: German, Latin, theatre and women’s studies.

On the bright side, French and Spanish will not be suspended. Someone must have come to their senses on that one … Maine does border Canada. Of course, if liberal arts education vanishes, people might forget that important fact.

Another interesting note in the announcement:

Hiring lecturers in liberal arts disciplines of high student interest, with the understanding that those professors will be exemplary educators free from research expectations who will also teach in the Honors College …

So, “lecturers in the liberal arts.” No boost in tenure-track faculty, eh?

Kennedy Announces UMaine Academic Reorganization [University of Maine]

UMaine president approves cuts, revenue plan to close $25 million gap [Bangor Daily News]

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…


* 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)


* 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…


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…


Accepting the Unholy Alliance Between Marketing and Academia

Posted in The Education Industry by Caroline Roberts on April 28, 2010
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionIn a post called “Lies I Was Told in Grad School,” the blog Some Notes Toward an Investigation lists the following at #2:

Don’t market yourself to fit academic fads.

If this is a lie, then the truth is that you should market yourself to fit academic fads.

To anyone who has been through academia, the concept of marketing one’s self and establishing a brand sounds gross. Marketing is the science of selling more stuff to more people, and academia exists to protect useful knowledge from market whimsy, right? The free market brought us Pet Rocks, Bumpits, vampire fiction, and Fall Out Boy, so why should academics or aspiring academics trust the free market for anything? Then again, a little marketing savvy might help you become a professor. Let’s consider the pros and cons of mixing marketing and academia:

Pros: Marketers find a need, and they fill it as quickly and easily as possible. Any good marketer can sum up what a product can do for you. And that’s exactly what you need to do as an academic. You don’t have to sell yourself as the Pet Rock of Professors, but you will not get a job if you do not specialize in a subject that a university needs. For that reason, you need to research the academic market just as much as you need to research your subject of choice.

Cons: Fads don’t last. Consider the Pet Rock. Choosing a hot field of study is smart, but it takes a long time to earn a degree in the humanities. A grad student runs the risk of graduating right when an academic fad starts to cool off, which means all the slots are filled. Aspiring professors with student loans can’t exactly sit around until the next fad begins. On the bright side, this problem could be solved if grad programs admitted fewer students and offered more funding so students could finish their degrees faster.

Conclusion: Fads may be short, but the number of academic jobs is dwindling so much that the pros might outweigh the cons. Furthermore, approaching your career with a little marketing in mind might help you build a side skill that you can use if you don’t wind up in academia.

Lies I Was Told in Grad School [Some Notes Toward an Investigation]

Image of a pet rock by CarolSpears, under a Creative Commons license.

Challenges for Beginning Scholars: Breaking Into the Fellowship Cycle

Posted in Ask an Academic,Surviving Grad School by doctoreclair on April 13, 2010
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We’re “post academic,” but what about people who are actually academic? Well, Dr. E. Clair is the first poster to share his front-line academic perspective. He also has a sweet tooth, hence the image.

In the July 2008 Harper’s Index, I came across a statistic that stopped me in my tracks:

Ratio in 1980 of the number of NIH grants given scientists under age 30 to the number given over age 70:  17:1

Ratio in 2006:  1:13

Is it possible that senior scientists are so much at the cutting edge of their disciplines that thirteen septuagenarians deserve grant funding for every one in his or her twenties? Thirty years ago, the NIH certainly didn’t think so, when things were at the opposite extreme.

It turns out that these numbers aren’t anomalous, and have been a subject of intense debate in scientific circles in recent years. While in 1980 “researchers between the ages of 31 and 33 received nearly 10% of all grants, by 2006 they accounted for approximately 1%.” And a chart in an article with the provocative title “Are There Too Many PhDs?” would suggest that the age distribution of NIH fellowships has climbed steadily upward over the past thirty years.

These numbers got me to wonder about whether something similar is happening in the humanities, though I haven’t been able to find any studies that would confirm my suspicion. Are senior scholars gobbling up all of the fellowships? It sounds counter-intuitive: American culture is obsessed with youthfulness. Yet an ideal of youthfulness doesn’t necessarily translate into supporting the young, and in a culture where “ageism” is much more likely to be used to describe discrimination against the old than discrimination against the young, a pattern of underfunding academic researchers at the beginning of their careers might easily pass under the radar.

More after the jump! Those older profs are gonna take all the eclairs! Image by Tamorlan, posted to Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.

Transfer Your Skills: Interviews in the Hamster World

Posted in Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on April 13, 2010
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionAfter turning your CV into a resume, you need to prepare for potential interviews. Most interview advice is universal. Preparing for an academic job interview is brutal because you have to sum up your whole grad-school career in a matter of minutes. The hamster world interview will probably seem like a breeze in comparison, but you still need to accomplish a few tasks if you want to get hired:

Write Answers for the Standard Interview Questions: All interviewers will ask some variation of the following questions:
1. What are your strengths?
2. What are your weaknesses?
3. How have you overcome a challenge at work?

Write out honest, succinct answers, and practice delivering them before you go into the interview. Be warned: The second question is tricky, as you want to choose a weakness that might actually be a strength depending on the job. Being “too much of a perfectionist” might work well if you’d like to be an editor.

More after the jump! Image of office in 1710 public domain, Wikimedia Commons.

The Latest Academic Salary Info: It’s All About Context

Posted in The Education Industry by Caroline Roberts on April 12, 2010
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Curious about salaries for academics? The American Association of University Professors just released some fascinating data, including average faculty salaries by rank and sector.

For salaries at doctoral universities, professors make an average of $125, 300, and associates make an average of $83,511. Of course, there’s going to be a big difference between professors at public and private schools ($80,463 for associates at publics versus $96,472 for associates at private schools, for example), and humanities professors will be paid far lower than the average.

The context is everything. Your pay will depend on the state, and it will depend on whether or not you are tenured faculty. The article also makes a point that this year’s salaries didn’t keep up with inflation and advises faculty members to “increase their knowledge of higher education finance so that they can better influence decision making.”

Translation: Don’t bury your head in the sand when it comes to budget talks and administrative moves because it will all wind up affecting you–and your salary–in the end.

News: The Worst Salary Year [Inside Higher Ed]

What Disco and Academia Have in Common

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionThe article “A Letter From a Graduate Student in the Humanities” over at the Chronicle of Higher Ed provoked a comment frenzy. The article, by Katharine Polak, rightly calls for academics to stop panicking and start thinking of solutions to the glut of PhDs and humanities adjuncts.*

Some of the comments stirred the pot, but one commenter offered a simple suggestion that might help academics shift gears:

The secret? Always be on the lookout for work, always say yes — to any work for which you are arguably qualified. Don’t hold back for that good fit job, or that academically rewarding job. Hustle. If you are not smug, do not have a sense of entitlement to a tenure track job, if you are willing, available, and present, you will likely work.

I don’t agree that all academics who are out of work harbor a “sense of entitlement” and are turning down jobs because they’re not tenure-track. Entitlement really doesn’t matter when the economy is in the toilet. However, the commenter’s advice to “always say yes” and “hustle” is completely on target.

In a tough situation, the survivors are always the ones who are willing to “do the hustle,” so to speak. Having an open mind, learning new skills, and taking on jobs outside academia could open up some wonderful career opportunities. Administrators and tenured faculty could also learn from this advice and think of new ways to market the humanities in an era of budget cuts.

*Though there’s nothing this Post Academic enjoys more than the occasional freak-out over a broke-ass school.

A Letter From a Graduate Student in the Humanities [Chronicle of Higher Ed]

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