Academics, teaching, books, technology, and fighting introversion one post at a time.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
A different PSA about the MLA Job List
Flavia posted a PSA the other day announcing that the MLA Job Information List is now online. Like Flavia, I kept up a sporting interest in looking at the list even after I had a job (and tenure), but that changed after serving on (and on occasion chairing) search committees.
I have a PSA of my own; it's basically a few pleas for job seekers based on experiences past and current. (BTW, this post is a snark-free zone, unlike some others I've posted.)
Please do think about whether you're really interested in the institution and the general area of the country before you apply. If you're not really interested, don't apply. For example, if you get an interview and end up asking questions that basically ask how often/how much you can stay away from the institution/the area, we know that we've pretty much wasted our time and interview money on someone who doesn't want to be there.
Ditto if you tell us that your advisor thinks this would be a good "first job."
If the ad specifies a specialist in Subject Y, and you taught one course in Subject Y back in grad school but your major area and dissertation are in another field, please think twice before applying and trying to spin this into a major area for you. We'll figure this out in any case when we read your materials.
Proofread your cover letters carefully. Concluding with some variation of "and that's why I'm a perfect candidate for [Not Your Institution]" doesn't inspire much confidence.
If your research is exciting to you, and teaching is exciting to you, make sure that that comes across. You don't have to jump on a couch, but if you want to spend your life doing these two things (teaching and research), the search committee, and later the interviewers from the committee, ought to be able to figure out why it's exciting, what the possible research implications might be for the field, and so on.
This gets said over and over again, but try to personalize your letter for the institution to which you're applying. Printing out a boilerplate letter is faster than tailoring one to the job, but reading the same phrases in densely printed boilerplate about dissertation, teaching philosophy, and so on, especially in the increasingly long letters that we get, is a MEGO moment (my eyes glaze over).