November 25, 2005
Job Search Woes
As I mentioned previously, I've cautiously set out on the job market, only to be met with loads of insecurity and self-doubt. There's probably no reason for all of this self-doubt--I have more than one publication in a peer-reviewed journal, I have multiple lines on my CV related to conference presentations, and my teaching record is long and outstanding. Nonetheless, I'm suddenly in a panic: Why did I get my degree in ed policy when I really want to be a teacher educator? Shouldn't I have done the program in C & I? Why didn't I at least minor in C & I? Why wasn't I more involved in X? Why didn't I get more involved in Y professional organization? Why can't I be more like Recent PhD Graduate, who seems destined for a fabulous career? Not to mention Soon-to-be Recent PhD Graduate, who is likely applying for the same jobs I am.
So, I'm freaking out. My research suddenly seems too risky. Maybe I should just do a traditional study, to show people I know how to be traditional. Save the visionary stuff for later. Maybe that visionary stuff is just overconfident anyway.
If my own internal stuff isn't enough, there's the job application process itself. I don't understand why most jobs want actual letters of recommendation along with the application. As someone said to me recently, "Don't they know that nearly everyone is going to have outstanding letters?" Wouldn't it be better to wait until further along in the process? Needless to say, with as busy as some of my recommenders are, I have actually found myself tempted to not apply, simply because I'm nervous to ask for a letter for a job I might not get.
So, nothing seems easy these days. I suppose a day WILL come when I'll have the degree, a fabulous job somewhere, and another baby on the way. None of that has happened yet, but I'm making slow progress. And, I'm trying to remind myself not to get too stressed about the big picture. Right now, I just have to get that prospectus finished.
Since I'm slowly emerging on the job market, I've been thinking a bit about academic blogging and Tribblegate. Although I might not blog as much as I'd like to, I nonetheless find blogging an important part of being a doctoral student, and I really appreciate the community of dissertating bloggers out there.
So, where do I stand as far as outing myself as a blogger on the job search?
1. I make no mention of my blogs in my CV or in my job letters. While blogging is certainly a potential selling-point, it seems to me to be something I can wait to bring up in an interview, should there be one. I'm not convinced I won't make the cut based on my blog omission.
2. I googled my name recently, only to find that because my name isn't associated with this, or any of my other blogs, the only things that show up are things I would want any potential employers to see without a doubt: my name in conference programs, online professional articles, my listing in the General College directory. Of course, one of my blogs is listed there because my name was included as part of the postings, but that is for my online symposium blog, and quite frankly, it's also listed on my CV.
Am I ashamed to be a blogger? No way! But, I do think that on the job hunt, it's important to be in control of how much I reveal to potential employers. For this reason, I'll probably make little mention of this blog, although I may mention a couple of my academic and teaching-oriented blogs.
In a job interview last spring, it was important to me to mention my identity as a blogger, but for some reason, I wasn't fully prepared for the question, "So, what blogs do you read regularly??" At that moment, I realized that the vast majority of blogs I read would likely define me politically, and I wasn't sure how that would influence my job prospects. I'm all for the "if they had a problem with it, they're not the job for you" rhetoric, but I'm also pragmatic. If there's anything my time in Minnesota has taught me, it's that pragmatism does have some advantages over youthful idealism. So, blogging goes on, and so does the job search...we'll see how they intersect over time.
(Re)Discovering my voice
It's been a crazy couple of weeks in the mad rush to write my prospectus--my first three chapters of my dissertation--so that my committee can give me the go-ahead to do my research. I've spent the last two weeks having meetings with my individual committee members, a time-consuming task that has been remarkably productive.
In one of the early meetings with Minor Area Committee Member (MACM), I decided to change my data collection procedures somewhat. MACM really helped me see that my method wasn't entirely lined up to answer my research question, and while the method itself wasn't problematic, some things about how I wanted to approach my study were questionable. So, I immediately recognized that MACM was right, and we set about to a more qualitative approach.
This led me to an interesting phone call with Retired Big Name Professor (RBNP), who invented a certain research method. Now, I have met RBNP before, and I first emailed, then called on the suggestion of RBNP. This conversation did not go as I expected. In fact, after the first few minutes of the call, I had a strong sense that I was not communicating clearly what I intend with my study, and RBNP had no real idea of what I really plan to do. Thus, RBNP's suggestions were mostly not that helpful. At the risk of offending RBNP again, I won't devulge the details, but I think that during the conversation we both felt quite offended, and I was surprised the conversation was able to continue amicably to the end, whereupon RBNP explained once again the purpose of the method we were discussing, and I simply said I needed to think about how, and if, this method was really what I was looking for. RBNP told me I could call again anytime, which was much to my relief because even though I probably won't, I still know we moved past the earler moment in which I was reminded that RBNP had advised many dissertations during an illustrious career at Prestigious Private University, and as a result, knew a thing or two about what was expected of a doctoral student such as myself. Well. THAT didn't go as planned!
Even though I didn't get a method out of the conversation, I nonetheless learned a lot about myself. I discovered that I am perfectly capable of extracting myself politely from a delicate conversation. This, no doubt, will come in handy for future job interviews, among other things.
November 13, 2005
The Loss of a Legend: Peter Drucker, 1909-2005
It might come as a surprise to learn that I didn't know who Peter Drucker was when I came to Minnesota for grad school. Of course, much of my work before Minnesota was very discipline-based, in spite of my growing interest in interdisciplinary work. But, it wasn't until I took a course, Knowledge Formats and their Applications, that I learned of Peter Drucker and his profound influence. Althouh he's credited as "inventing" management, I'd go so far as to suggest that he was a true interdisciplinarian. Every field in my venn diagram--evaluation, linguistics, education, literature--is touched by his work.
Drucker is true inspiration for me. In a relatively recent interview, he talked about his work habits. I'm not sure if this is fuel for the grad student lifestyle, or guilt for not working hard enough, but he was definitely someone who never quit:
Dr. Drucker: Look, stress is bad for people for whom stress is bad. The rest of us -- and I don't know what the proportion it is, but it is a large proportion -- we thrive. I set my own deadlines. I know they are fictitious, but they still put pressure on me. And I think that is the secret. My wife is 88. She is also a workaholic. But believe me, it is constitution more than anything else.
For more about Peter Drucker, check out the following links:
Perhaps my affinity for Drucker comes from our shared birthday (something I was reminded of in my brief research here). PD, I'll drink a toast in your honor this upcoming Saturday. You truly were a great man.
November 9, 2005
On getting some professional advice
Given my current state of progress toward my degree and such, I have been asking for (and getting) much professional advice from the wise, younger faculty around me. Today, I met with two different people who gave me some advice on job search stuff as well as on my research process. Here's what I learned:
1. Being a faculty person in any department is about "image management." It was suggested that one might think of three kinds of departmental colleagues: (1) the people you have natural affinity with and would talk to anyway; (2) the people who are in positions of power and who have different philosophical orientations from your own; and (3) the people who are not in positions of power and have different philosophical orientations from you. The advice: hang out with the people in (1) because you enjoy them anyway; be mindful of persuading (2) that you're a team player and appreciate their perspective; just ignore (3).
2. Some job talk advice: don't be all things to all people. While it certainly is the case that a new PhD can more easily persuade a committee that we are malleable, adaptable people who can develop a research agenda fitting of a new context, it's also the case that departments are looking for people who are more intrinsically motivated. Grad school is about pleasing your committee, I was reminded, but a faculty job is about defining yourself and bringing some strength to a department. So, I was told, don't sound too diffuse in defining what you can do for them. Give folks a clear vision of a project you can reasonably accomplish in 2-4 years, and that will be something they'll believe.
That's all the advice for now, but I think these two are big ones, and not necessarily things they tell you in some of those grad school support books.
I scheduled my prospectus meeting today so now it's back to work! I have much to do before my mid-December meeting.
November 7, 2005
Another milestone passed
Sunday nights and Wednesdays (all day) are designated "me time." This semester just doesn't seem very conducive to getting much of anything done. However, I think I passed a major PhD milestone this week--I sent in my first job application! I have vowed to apply for a few jobs this year, even if it seems early, just to get the experience and see what happens. Right now, I'm in fear of being hopelessly unemployed and overqualified to work retail. We'll see.
I just got back from a great conference--one of the best I've attended, in my opinion. The American Evaluation Association held its annual conference along with the Canadian Evaluation Society in Toronto, Ontario, and I was even lucky enough to present! I've presented at several conferences, international and regional, and I have to say that this crowd was much more academic than I've experienced in awhile. They asked some good, tough questions and got me thinking in new ways. Success, I'd say.
In addition, I got to meet some big name evaluators/researchers. I think my favorite was meeting David Fetterman, not only because I really do like his work, and I really didn't sound like a complete and bumbling idiot when I was talking to him, but later on, several days later into the conference, he saw me again, and his eyes met mine, and he smiled and nodded in recognition. Ah, academic hero worship! I may not be somebody yet, but David Fetterman knows me. For someone as much into ethnography as I am, that's pretty cool.