Special Post: So you’re going on the academic job market

This post is just for those of you in grad school or who are going on the academic job market this year. (If you are a fellow academic or a grad student, please share this widely. This advice is important.)

(For the rest of you, academia has a “job season” and it’s right now through May of 2016. For academic professionals in English Studies, Writing, Rhetoric, Literacy Studies and the like, job ads went out in early September, application deadlines loom around November, and in-person interviews will be held at the MLA Conference in Austin in January. Oh and by the way, if you are lucky enough to score one of these interviews, you’ll have to get yourself to Austin on your own dime – no reimbursement from any source. Assuming you make it through the MLA interview gauntlet, then you wait to find out if you’ve made the top three list – those get on-campus interviews between Feb and April. And then you wait to find out if you got a job offer. You might not know this until mid-May. No stress in this process at all. Nope. None. *sarcasm*)

So…you’re going on the academic job market. You seek a tenure-track position at either a research university or a teaching university. Great.

You’ve likely got some killer teaching experience and great student evaluations and solid faculty observations.

I bet you’ve also got some kick-ass administrative and committee service, too.

And, of course, you’ve either written and defended your dissertation or you will have this done by next fall in time to begin a job.

Great.

What’s missing from this picture?

Any guesses?

I’ll wait.

Give up?

Here’s the answer to the missing piece of this applicant picture: Publications.

How many encyclopedia entries and book reviews have you written and published in scholarly outlets? You should probably have at least one of each by now.

Do you have an article under review at a scholarly peer-reviewed journal? No?

If you are like some of my friends, you are scared. You are afraid of pulling the trigger on your own publication path because you feel like a student and not a professor.

But you’re at the jumping off point. It’s time to put that fear aside. That fear of looking foolish, not being accepted, being laughed at, being rejected – it’s time to ignore it. Fear is the ultimate enemy of success and if your objective is to land a tenure-track job at ANY university or college in this job climate? You damn well better have an academic article in the publishing pipeline somewhere. Under review is good. Getting a “revise and resubmit” request is better. Actually revising and resubmitting that piece is better still. And accepted for publication is the best yet.

If you are going on the job market and don’t have any of these essentials, take a breath.

Breathe. I can see you hyperventilating. Breathe.

Find a journal in your field. Now go to Amazon and find a book in your field that was JUST published (filter by publication date – most recent). Now email the journal editor and ask to write a review of that book. Tell the editor that you will submit that review by November 1. Chances are good the editor will agree. Once she does, you add that line to your CV – book review in process, due Nov. 1. You’ll have to buy the book because it takes too long to get the review copy from the publisher (but keep this in mind for next time). When you get the book, read the intro, the first two chapters, the final chapter, and one more chapter that is most interesting to you. Write the book review and submit it on time. Now you can change the CV line to “under review” at that specific journal. That counts.

At the same time you are doing the above, pick a chapter from your diss that can easily be re-worked into a shorter article. Find a journal in your field. Revise that chapter into article form and length according to that journal’s guidelines. Compose a cover email and submit your chapter-turned-article ASAP. You will get a confirmation email that the editor received it and will get back to you. Now you can add a line on your CV with the title of the article and the journal with that lovely parenthetical (under review).

(I can hear the complaints. But I have classes! But I have to teach! But I have to finish my diss! Yes. And you want a job, correct? Well then. Get on it.)

If you’re still feeling saucy and ambitious, find a web site, blog, or zine – write and submit a guest post on a subject related to your field but also applicable for the audience of said online outlet. Once it is published (and this will happen quickly), add that as a publication credit on your CV. It’s not as impressive as the scholarly stuff, but it shows you are writing and contributing to the broader conversation and are committed to such conversations. That counts.

Without at least one significant scholarly publication (in progress), you are not competitive in this job market. I would give you a hug of consolation if I could. I’ve seen too many good, smart, and talented people lose out on jobs and interviews because they didn’t have any publishing agenda or record. Please believe me, I speak the truth. If your committee did not push you to publish, shame on them. You need to show you are an active new scholar committed to your field and the only way to do that is through publications.

Best of luck in this journey and feel free to share your stories in the comments. You will find me a very sympathetic audience.

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