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Saturday, December 03, 2005

How blogging helps the job candidate

Okay. So, I'm on the job market this year. And although I'm pseudonymous (and probably unidentifiable except by someone who knows me really well and who stumbles upon this blog), I've read with some anxiety the Tribble & Sons brouhaha about how blogging is Death! To! Job Candidates!

Many other academic bloggers have answered Tribble convincingly, giving reasons why blogging is academically useful and arguing that most younger academics don't have such a suspicious or misguided notion of what blogging entails. What I want to do here is outline three ways in which I think blogging is useful specifically for candidates on the job market, especially those who are still in or just out of grad school.

Now, I admit this is somewhat premature of me, since a) I wasn't blogging when I went on the job market last year, and b) I have no guarantees that I'll wind up with a t-t job this year, when I am blogging. Nevertheless, my Ph.D. is in the humanities: lack of solid proof has never stopped me from forging ahead on a hunch and a promising idea before--and there's no reason why it should do so now, either.

So, herewith my evidence for the defense:

1. Blogging has helped me to articulate and make sense of my first semester as a full-time teacher. When I started teaching my own classes at INRU, an experienced instructor suggested that I keep a "teaching journal"--just a document on my home computer that I'd freewrite into after each class, recording the things I did in that class period and what went well and not so well. He recommended this not only as a great resource for my future classes, but also for the job market: it would provide a trove of examples and anecdotes to draw upon in discussing my work in the classroom.

My blog is, for obvious reasons, less full of specifics than that teaching journal was, but it serves some of the same purpose. It reminds me of what I've done this semester and some of the larger issues I'm dealing with and will probably continue to deal with as I teach texts that are unfamiliar in many ways to most students. Working through some of these issues on my blog means that I'm better prepared to discuss them or to give detailed, thoughtful answers to certain questions in a job interview (such as the ever-popular, "how will you teach Pretty Darn Famous Author to our students? They're not like INRU students. How can you get them interested in this dead white male most of them have never heard of?").

As I've established, I'm an introvert, and although I'm also a chatty and enthusiastic personality, when I'm put on the spot--particularly when there's an audience, and particularly when the situation feels high-stakes--my brain sometimes freezes up and refuses to process even a fairly easy question if it's one I really haven't anticipated. So I figure that the more thinking I've done about my teaching, my scholarship, and the profession before my interviews, the better.

2. Reading and commenting on other academic blogs has helped me with the nuts and bolts of teaching--I've gotten ideas for lesson plans and syllabi policies, I've encountered other people's teaching philosophies, and I've learned just how many of my struggles and frustrations are widely-shared. I can speak much more intelligently about what it is (or might be like) to teach at different kinds of institutions and how I could adapt the teaching I've done in the past to that new environment.

3. Those other academic blogs have also given me a fuller sense of the profession--what life looks like after getting a tenure-track job. This has given me a better idea of what to expect (and what questions to ask) when it comes to tenure requirements, professional development, service expectations, and/or involvement in undergraduate or graduate life. (And sometimes those blogs even provide insight into the minds of the hiring committee itself.)

Those last two benefits could certainly be gained by a job candidate who doesn't have her own blog but reads others assiduously--but I believe that the three points I've outlined interact with each other in important ways; it's by participating in this community directly, and forming relationships with other bloggers, that I've really come to a full understanding of myself as a member of this profession.

We'll see what the job market says, but I'm convinced that keeping a blog has made me a stronger job candidate--even without the members of the relevant hiring committees knowing as much.


link | posted by La Lecturess at 11:54 AM |


5 Comments:

Blogger Bardiac commented at 12:16 PM~  

Great points, La Lecturess!

I wish someone had advised me early on to freewrite or keep a journal about my teaching experiences when I was just starting; it took me longer than it should have to put two and two together sometimes.

I found the links you gave to letter writing advice interesting and useful, too.

And your comment about having a PhD in the humanities and so not needing real evidence cracked me up!

Good luck on the market!

Blogger meg commented at 12:33 AM~  

More and more, I see it as merely generational. I just got a long SCREEd (which SCREEched and SCREAmed)from my mother about how I will never get tenure if I keep blogging. Despite the fact that a colleague of mine put her blog on her CV and got the Tenure Badge of Approval in one hot minute.

All of which is a way of saying "Darn tootin'!"

Blogger Wanna Be PhD commented at 8:59 AM~  

Blogging has been extremely useful for me. Maybe I would have given up my PhD without it, or maybe not, but I would have felt much more desperate.

Blogger BrightStar commented at 9:17 AM~  

These insights are great! I'm glad you feel positively about blogging while in this process.

Blogger timna commented at 9:10 PM~  

good luck with the search. I think you're right -- the more you can review and articulate the many teaching experiences, the better you will do in an interview situation.

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