Fancy Flight: the fledgling’s Vade Mecum

Carin M. Green (University of Iowa)

Getting ready for the job market is a complex task, quite different from everything else that one has learned to do in graduate school. This presentation will be an opportunity to discuss the issues important for anyone applying for an academic job, with particular focus on the role the dissertation plays.  I will suggest a calendar and check-list for graduate students who are in the final year of study, and who are receiving signs from their faculty that it is time to leave the nest. 

October 15 is the date when positions begin to be posted on the APA job list in substantial numbers.  The APA hiring cycle goes from mid-October through the middle of March, by which time offers have been made, and positions have been filled, or they have been postponed for CAMWS or put off to the next year. There are, then, five months, between October 15 and March 15, during which the job hunt is the primary concern.   It is important for candidates to be aware that, because of the nature of the tasks involved, as well as the emotionally stressful nature of job hunting, it is very difficult to do any sustained new work on a dissertation during this period.  The primary message of the first part of this presentation, then, is that October 15 begins the closing of graduate study, and the transition to a professional, academic, position.

Flight practice.  So preparation for the job hunt must begin long before October 15 of the last year of study.  I will first discuss what to do before the dissertation begins, and then review the dissertation’s function in terms of preparing a candidate for getting and keeping a job.  There are three aspects to every academic position: teaching; service; scholarship.  The dissertation is the primary, but not the only, evidence for scholarship potential. However, it is also much more.  When the dissertation is begun, it should be recognized that it is a masterwork, not in the romantic sense of ktema es aiei, but in the older sense of a journeyman’s demonstration of his or her mastery of the trade. A dissertation will show that a candidate has the skills to be in control of his or her work (or the opposite).  A good dissertation will give clear evidence of the candidate’s potential for teaching, service, and scholarship in an academic appointment.   

The eaglet is launched.  Candidates who have a good understanding of the place of the dissertation in the three-fold tasks of academia will make themselves viable prospects for a wider range of positions and will be able to present their work more persuasively to hiring committees.  This is no guarantee of a job—there are no guarantees—but candidates with  practical preparation will be more able to make something happen, to take advantage of circumstances, and to take wing on an unexpected opportunity. 

Last will come a review of the Vade Mecum (handout) which will list the tasks and dates for the job hunting process. The hiring cycles of the APA, CAMWS and the summer season will be covered as well.   I will conclude with advice for those whose first flight will need to be repeated. 

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