Karen Kelsky

academic career coach at The Professor Is In

The Professor Is In: Here’s My Application, Take Two

Full 02102014 taketwo

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I applied for a job last year, and they ended up not hiring anybody. The search is reopened this year. Should I apply again?

My advice is: Yes, you should apply, as long as a) your record is significantly better, and b) your materials are significantly better. These are two separate things.

If you had planned to submit just the same basic package of materials, then don’t bother. If those were going to work, they would have worked last year.

No, this year you need something different. I would hope that, in the space of one year on the job market, you’ve added at least six new things to your CV—one or two new peer-reviewed publications, one or two national conference presentations (or better yet, panels organized), one or two new grants, perhaps a new letter-writer from outside your dissertation committee, a new course or two, a book proposal in submission to presses (if you’re in a book field, of course).

Beyond that, I would hope that you’ve improved your application materials. All of you know that I run a business helping academic job seekers correct and refine those documents. In that capacity, I suppose I’ve seen about 2,500 sets of application materials, and I can tell you that they are, by and large, awful.

Really, stunningly awful: Cover letters that are vague, muddled, desperate, and caught in a painful dual vortex of grandiosity and hysterical humility. Disorganized, mystifying CVs that show not the foggiest familiarity with this most basic element of the academic record. Cringeworthy teaching statements filled with the same weepy, saccharine sentiments as hundreds of others.

Those of you who follow me on my blog know that I put the blame for this sad state of affairs mostly on faculty advisors. I consider it an abnegation of professional responsibility, not to mention ethics, to neglect the basic duty to help graduate students prepare for gainful employment.

However, advisors still get to eat even while their advisees starve. In other words, it’s job seekers who suffer when the application is bad. Of course, it goes without saying that in an era of 75 percent adjunctification, even sterling records and materials don’t guarantee anyone a job. But still: Do better.

Get all the help you can from your advisors, then move on, and get all the help you can from everyone and anyone else. Seek out other professors and contacts within your field. Look at books and websites. Individual disciplinary associations as well as various departments and career centers around the country maintain websites filled with information on effective job documents. The Chronicle of Higher Education, as well as this site, is also a rich mine of information. I have loads of free advice available on my blog. I’ve had more readers than I can count write to tell me that they completely overhauled their job documents just by following the advice on my blog, and came out the other end with their first campus visits—and their first tenure-track offers—after years of trying. You don’t have to pay money for this help! (Although I’m available if you want to.)

But get help. If your job documents didn’t work for you last year, then improve them, and improve the record that they are meant to share.

Dear Readers: Have a question about the academic job market and/or professionalization? Send it to me! I welcome any and all questions related to the job market, preparing for the job market while in graduate school, coping with the adjunct struggle, and assistant professorhood. Send questions to me at gettenure@gmail.com.

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3 Comments
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  • "I would hope that, in the space of one year on the job market, you’ve added at least six new things to your CV—one or two new peer-reviewed publications, one or two national conference presentations (or better yet, panels organized), one or two new grants, perhaps a new letter-writer from outside your dissertation committee, a new course or two, a book proposal in submission to presses (if you’re in a book field, of course)."

    I understand you are trying to be funny, but then how do you expect people taking your advice seriously?

    David Minne
    David Minne
     
  • Searches collapse or fail all the time for all sorts of rational and irrational reasons, that is why appointments by nomination are common. Probably no harm in applying again and you probably have something to add.
    It would be worthwhile to try and find out how far your application got. If it did not get out of the HR office first time then it might be a waste of time. Be very wary of bothering with re-advertised jobs where the terms of reference are very narrow and you are not a perfect and explicit fit.
    One thing I was told last week by a Chronicle commenter - about 25 years too late for it to be of use to me. I had spent years applying for US academic positions as a young man.
    I am Australian with an PhD from The University of Sydney (a top world 100 university). Our PhD programs are thesis only with no coursework - just like Oxford or Cambridge D Phils. The commenter told me as if it was perfectly natural and reasonable that US and Canadian universities did not consider "thesis only" PhDs for academic positions. In other words they did not acredit my PhD. At 59y it was all news to me. No-one had ever told me that when I was a post-doc in North America for over 6 years. Then had the temerity to point out that Australian universities were quite happy to appoint graduates of American universities. I wonder if any of them tell their Australian students about acreditation problems for their PhDs in america. As far as I know none ever did because I had not heard of PhD coursework as an acreditation problem before.
    Who needs enemies when you have the yanks as allies?

    Raymond Ritchie
    Raymond Ritchie
     
  • I have a question about re-applying for a job that was re-posted within the same year. I applied for a job, got a phone interview, have not been rejected officially via any communication by the search committee or HR of the institution, but just saw that the position was re-posted. I believe I am a very good fit for the position, but the only new thing I could add to my CV between February when I had the interview and now (April) is that I have taught 2 online courses for a second time. Although they didn't leave me much time to ask them questions and the interview felt a little rushed,  I thought the interview went well overall (i.e. I had good or decent responses to all of their questions). I would very much like to re-apply, but I have been told by others, "Don't bother since they haven't contacted you." I have not been rejected, yet, however. Any advice would be appreciated.


    Kristen Ross
    Kristen Ross