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Late Spring To-Do List

  • Read scholarly book #1
  • Read scholarly book #2
  • Catch up on professional journals
  • Administer evaluations
  • Grade seminar research papers
  • Write two final exams
  • Grade final exams
  • Compute final grades
  • Order books for fall
  • Find apartment in New City
  • Attend INRU Commencement!

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Thursday, December 22, 2005


Always Be Closing.

That's the most valuable lesson that I hope to take with me to the MLA. Although I AM thinking about answers to specific questions & I've done reseach on my various schools so that I'm prepared for unique pedagogical situations ("we have an interdisciplinary course requirement. . . what departments would you feel most comfortable working with, and what kinds of courses could you imagine devising and team-teaching?"), I think that the key to my success, ultimately, will come down to self-presentation.

1) I need to project self-confidence. Luckily, I have several kick-ass suits, and I look good and feel comfortable in them. I figure that if I look like a corporate lawyer, I'm conveying the right combination of seriousness and professionalism.

2) I need not to be reactive, but proactive. I don't want to be dreading certain questions or to be thrown for a loop when I get one that I wasn't expecting--I need to turn the questions around and make the interview my show: explaining why my work is totally interesting and important to the field and also immediately relevant to undergraduate teaching.

3) I need to be at ease. I think I'm a pretty funny person (no: actually I think I'm fucking hilarious), and I'd like to be able to communicate some small part of that in my interviews. It's not a comedy hour, obviously, but I'd like to be relaxed enough that I could joke around once or twice with my interviewers and convey some of what I bring to a classroom and what I'd bring to departmental life.

4) Ultimately, I need not to feel like a suppliant. I need to believe that I'm the best possible person for each job (nevermind, for the moment, all the other equally talented and desperate applicants out there), and I need to sell that impression for every one of the 30 or 45 minutes that I'm in each hotel room.

In other words, I need to be a closer.

link | posted by La Lecturess at 10:44 PM |


Blogger lucyrain commented at 7:27 AM~  

Excellent outlook, LL. And, yes, be the funny person you are! I think conference interviewers so appreciate the chance to smile and laugh during their marathon interviewing sessions. At least, I know I would.

Blogger timna commented at 9:11 AM~  

good luck.

Blogger jo(e) commented at 9:28 AM~  

You've given yourself some excellent advice.

And hey, find time to have fun at the MLA too.

Blogger academic coach commented at 9:28 AM~  

Great post. I think I will pass some of your tips along to my e-newsletter readers.

As for the "corporate lawyer" look. For the MLA I think it is appropriate to put a wee bit of funk or humor in the outfit. Fun earings, stylin' shoes, artsy pin on the lapel. Something non-corporate but subtle to add a bit of spice to the slickness.

I think that humor is VERY tough when we're nervous and VERY hard to pull off during a group interview. Much easier to slip the humor into a one-on-one situation where you can gage the individual receptiveness and reactions.

I think that the operational way to not be a supplicant is to ask really smart, well-informed questions about the job, the dept. the university, etc.,. Showing that you've done your homework and know who the students are, who the president, provost, and any big u. politics, that you know who is in the dept and what they're publishing on... ie that you are checking out Whether It Is A Good Match. Because that's what they are looking for as well -- they already know that you're good or you wouldn't have gotten the interview ;)

Blogger Bardiac commented at 9:36 AM~  

Good luck!

And I'm with Academic Coach on asking good questions, too. Just make sure they're aimed at the right place for the question.

Blogger What Now? commented at 10:48 AM~  

I agree with Academic Coach; the interview team already knows you're qualified, or you wouldn't have gotten the interview in the first place. And everyone who's being interviewed will be smarter than hell, so I don't think one needs to try to sound smart in the interview; that ground is already covered. I think that the question in the back of the interviewers' minds is if they and their students will want to work with you for the next many years. So the more natural you can be (hard in stressful situations, I know full well), the more they'll have a sense of who you really are, and -- importantly -- the more you'll have a sense of who they really are, and if you want to work with them for the next many years.

I agree with you about not feeling like a suppliant, but I also think it's important to convey enthusiasm for the school and the position. That can be a difficult line to walk, I know, but for small schools like mine, at least, one of the things we're wondering in interviews is whether the candidate would actually be interested in taking the job if offered it. That may be different for big, swanky schools, of course.

Blogger La Lecturess commented at 12:51 PM~  

Good advice, all. I guess I should say that I'm not really concerned about being enthusiastic and warm and all that--that part is easy for me, and even in my Fairly Bad interview last year (I had one great one, at a teaching oriented school, and one not-so-hot-one at a flagship state school), I felt that strangely, even though I flubbed two big field-specific questions, my interviewers were really loving me as a person and potential colleague (even if they weren't so sure about my field competency. . . )*.

What I'm worried about is having my shit together, and not being tentative about the nature/value of my work, its place in the field, and speaking in broad confident terms about the shape OF that field. Perhaps this is atypical for academics, but I'm really uneasy making bold pronouncements or broad syntheses (not always a bad thing, I realize! but there are ways in which it's important), so I may be overemphasizing the be-super-confident-powerful stuff becuase I feel that I need to talk myself up in that area more than in others.

(Oh, and re: the funk: don't worry, AC! I've got a rockin' 1950s necklace and earrings all picked out.)

But, thanks again. Useful stuff to think about.

*Obviously, I didn't get either job. The teaching school cancelled their search (they were supposed to do it again this year, but didn't), and the flagship school decided to bring to campus only people who work on the first half of my period, whereas I work on the second half.

Blogger What Now? commented at 10:37 PM~  

Totally makes sense; I'm not so good at making the big, sweeping pronouncements about my field either, although I've gotten a bit better at it from teaching now. I once confessed to a colleague that I had a much easier time in the first half of our American Gen. Ed. survey course, which I thought was strange since the second half was my research period; he said that it wasn't strange at all, since we all find it easier to lie about things less close to our hearts. In other words, we all know that those bold pronouncements aren't exactly true, or at least need a healthy dose of nuance, which is at least one reason why some of us find it difficult to make them. (I have a similar problem writing thesis-oriented work, by the way, which is a much bigger problem.)

Anyway, sounds like you're in good shape for those interviews. Have a merry Christmas in the meantime!

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