Productivity

A Job Market Wrap-Up

I didn’t blog much about the job market process while I was in the midst of it for a few different reasons, including but not limited to: I was tired, I was busy, and it’s a really, REALLY long process. I do, however, want to do a little reflecting on my experience with this fairly unpredictable behemoth known as the academic job market.

This was my first year on this particular market. I had a somewhat similar experience applying for secondary education jobs years ago, but that process was not as complex. I sought advice from all sorts of resources, particularly friends who’d been on the market for multiple years as well as friends who’d already secured jobs. The thing is that the one bit of advice I heard regularly, which I think is really the most true, is also the thing that you really can’t calibrate for:

A lot of it is about luck.

That being said, one tip I received that I could work with was to draft and peer review basic job market documents over the summer before you start applying. So last summer, I worked with a group of folks who were also preparing materials, and for about 6 weeks we drafted, shared, and gave feedback on each others’ materials. I found this really helpful because it allowed me to get a headstart on apps, it allowed me to talk to the process with other folks and get multiple perspectives of feedback, and it provided me with materials to give my letter writers very early on in the process, which turned out to be pretty clutch because my first apps were due in…mid-September.

I turned in my last app on March 21st, and I submitted apps every month from September through March.

So.

Anyway, because the dates are all over the place and because different apps ask for different things, organization was crucial. I maintained a spreadsheet that included info about all of the prospective jobs I was considering applying to, including the job title, job description, docs required, due dates, etc. I checked job sites at least a few times a week and added new postings I found to the spreadsheet accordingly. Eventually, the spreadsheet would also have tabs for interview requests and rejections as well.

I applied to 56 jobs.

Map of application locations

I think I forgot a few toward the end, but that’s most of them.

Now how many jobs a person is able to apply for is wildly variable. I was able to apply for those jobs because I have a mix of research interests and teaching experiences that cover both English and Media Studies. I also applied to digital media positions (including a few non-teaching staff positions) because I have both work and teaching experience with digital media. I believe I may have also applied to a couple Teaching and Learning Center positions because, as y’all know, I’m a nerd for all things pedagogy. I say all this to say that I cast a wide net.

This was aided by the fact that I was not locked into a particular U.S. region. I would say that I certainly have some location preferences, but ultimately, that didn’t make a huge impact on the application process for me. For other people, it definitely does, and I think that’s totally valid. I think the idea that you should apply any and everywhere just because you can is not great, especially when these applications are so taxing and time-consuming. While I did apply to 50+ jobs, there were positions that I either didn’t add to my list or ultimately cut from my list because I decided, for one reason or another, it probably would not work out. I did apply to a couple of Canadian jobs, but mostly stuck within the U.S., mostly for economic reasons. Though I was extremely tempted by a few posts in the Caribbean…

So how’d it go? Out of 56 completed apps, I had 7 first round skype/zoom/phone interviews, 3 campus visits, and one job offer. I also had another campus visit invite by an institution that doesn’t pay for visits, which is a thing that I could not personally afford, and another invite for a first round interview (that I declined) after I’d accepted a job offer. The three campus visits that I did go on were institutions that were completely dissimilar from one another. I would not have been able to predict those three collectively inviting me at all. It was really great to get to experience different campuses in that way.

And then I also got lots and lots and LOTS of rejections. Almost 30 thus far with the oldest being in October and the most recent being 4 days ago. They’re still rolling in, and while I definitely am on the side of “it’s better to know that not know,” I won’t pretend that receiving a stream of rejections isn’t tough. It’s a tiny pinprick every time.

I’ve alluded to this already, but the hardest part of this process for me (besides the uncertainty) was time. It takes so much time, not just in a linear calendar sort of way, but also in the time you have to devote to the apps. Because the thing is that even though you have baseline docs, you have to (or at least should) tailor to each app. If you’re doing other things at the same time like I was (teaching, dissertating, etc), that means you have to find time in what’s probably an already fairly stacked schedule. For me, that meant that nearly every weekend was spent on apps, and the only break I took was when I was home for the holidays. There’s also time that has to be devoted to preparing for interviews, having interviews, traveling to visits, etc. My campus visits pretty much all occurred in a one month span that also included a conference presentation. I have never spent so much time in airports in my entire life.

Again, I’m lucky to have a lot of support from friends, my committee, and my family. Folks provided encouragement, answered questions, came to a mock job talk I did, etc. Also, shout out to Hello Fresh for ensuring that I did not have to really think about what to make for a dinner for half the week because I definitely did not have the bandwidth for that during this process.

In the end, everything came together for me in a really fantastic way. This fall, I will begin a position as an Assistant Professor of English at the College of DuPage. COD was actually my first visit, and it quickly felt like a great fit for me. Their investment in teaching corresponds quite well with my own, and everybody I interacted with was super welcoming. The campus has a bunch of cool resources that I’m looking forward to exploring, and in general, I’m just excited to get started!

(Also, I’m extremely happy to be done with all things job market)

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One Last Dispatch from the Dissertation

A week ago today, I (successfully!) defended my dissertation. This means, final bits of paperwork pending, I’m ~*~officially~*~ a doctor.

ER cast photo

Not that kind of doctor

I’ve found many of the steps along the path of grad school somewhat mystifying because you often don’t receive much explicit direction about what they’re supposed to be like, and this was true of the dissertation defense as well. I have often heard that a responsible adviser would not let you go into the defense if you weren’t ready, and knowing that my adviser is indeed a responsible person, hearing this was somewhat helpful. Though it did not completely remove the feelings of stress leading up to the defense. It was helpful to have support though, from people both near and far. I was at a conference a couple of weeks before I defended and got a lot of encouragement from folks there, which is always appreciated.

In practice, I found the defense itself to be very…relaxed? Like now that I’m all the way through everything and can look back at the entirety of my grad school career, I can say with absolute certainty that the most difficult part for me was candidacy exams. In particular, the oral part of the exam (even though my committee folks were great) was just not an enjoyable experience for me. And I think that approaching the defense, that earlier experience was taking up a lot of real estate in my head. But the defense wasn’t really like that at all. I did get a lot of questions, but I was much more certain about my responses at this point. I also got a lot of tips and suggestions for future development of the project, which was great. I already had a few ideas in mind, but now I have even more to work with going forward.

(I feel decently confident about this becoming a book one day, but we shall see. Stay tuned, eh?)

A lot of people have asked me what it feels like to be at this stage, and I know other folks have written about the highs and lows that they’ve experienced post-dissertation, so that’s definitely out there if people want to look for it. But for me, I just feel DONE. And I don’t mean that in a “I’m putting this whole town in my rearview” sort of way. I just mean that I feel appropriately finished with this particular stage. It has been really nice to be able to get more sleep though, haha. I’ll also add that it’s been cool to get kudos from other grad students, especially grad students of color. That pride matters a lot to me and helps to remind me of why I do what I do.

So what comes next? Well, I have a few more weeks left in the semester. So in the immediate future, I’m finishing up this semester’s teaching (I owe the blog a post or two about that as well), getting those last bits of paperwork done, prepping for graduation, and putting some things in motion for future life plans. Mostly, I’m just trying to relax a bit after being turned up to 11 for the past few years. So far, so good.

–Dr. J

Dispatches from the Dissertation (Part 10), the Job Market, and Pedagogical Fun

So I wrote my dissertation Introduction. I purposefully waited until I had the chapters drafted before starting the Intro. I know some people take the opposite approach, and I tend to start with the Intro on shorter pieces of writing. But for my dissertation (Which Is Now Hovering Around The 250 Page Mark OMG What On Earth), I really needed to know what I was saying before I could try to figure out how to introduce it. Out of all of the drafts I’ve written thus far, I think I might feel most confident in the Intro. And that’s not because I’m not also confident in the chapters, but it’s because I think that purely by way of continuous writing practice/feedback/revision in this project, I can see pay offs. The intro draft benefits from all I’ve learned along the way. Plus, the dissertation workshop class I participated in this semester really helped me to get a better sense of how my writing comes across to readers and how I can continue to improve as I make revisions leading up to the defense. If your department and/or university offers a class like this, I would definitely recommend taking it. Admittedly, sending out pieces of your writing to a bunch of people can be stressful, but I think the good outweighs the bad. At least, it did for me. Plus, I got to talk about a topic that I love quite a bit, which was an added bonus.

Lamb Chop, Hush Puppy, and Charlie Horse meme with the Song that Never Ends

I’m working on my Conclusion now, and I find something deeply ironic about crafting an ending to a project about remakes, reboots, etc…

In other news, I’ve also spent most of this semester deeply enmeshed in the academic job market. I’m probably not going to post too many specific details at this juncture, but I can say that I’ve applied to a fair amount of jobs, most of which have their own particular requirements for application. What this means, if you intend to go on the market, is that you’ll need a significant amount of time in order to complete applications. For me, this has meant being even for more intentional about keeping my schedule. It has also meant that I have had to work more often on the weekends. I say all of this to say that dissertating, applying for jobs, and teaching simultaneously is a heavy load that will require increased time management, planning, etc. For me, I think it’s worth it. I’m pretty clear about what I want to do (whether it pans out in reality is TBD). For some though, the whole process might not be worthwhile (for a variety of reasons). And I think that’s totally valid and reasonable! I’ve been happy to see more and more programs and professors discussing futures outside the professoriate this year because I think it’s important and necessary. But there’s still a long way to go on that front.

I got to teach Intro to Pop Culture this semester, which is a class that I’ve wanted to teach for most of my PhD career. The relatively open parameters of the class allowed me to incorporate an assortment of my research interests into the class (the syllabus is accessible on the syllabus tab). By the end, most of my students had noted that while they knew about pop culture when the semester started, they’d never thought about it (and its various tentacles) in as much depth as we did in the class. This is the kind of thing that I love about the material I research. I love taking something that is often interpreted as commonplace or irrelevant or unimportant and really digging into what lies beneath the surface. For the final project of the class, we developed a collaborative alphabet of what the students believed to be the most important/influential figures/people/ideas in pop culture. You can check that out here.

In my upcoming final semester at OSU, I’m scheduled to teach Digital Media Composing for the second time. If you’ve been following along here for a while, you might recall that Digital Media Composing was the class I was teaching when I started this site. It remains one of my favorites out of all of the classes I’ve ever taught, and I’m excited to take another swing at it. In terms of digital media itself, so much of it has changed since Fall 2016, and I can’t wait to jump into it with a new group of students.

Dispatches from the Dissertation (Part 9)

When I last updated about my dissertation progress over the summer, I’d just sent the a revised version of my first chapter to my committee. In the nearly 3 months that have passed since then, I’ve been chugging along with revisions based on my own sense of what needs to be changed, feedback from my committee, and feedback from a dissertation workshop class I’m taking. At this point, I feel pretty…decent (?) about the whole thing. I still have more revisions to make, and I need to work on my Introduction and Conclusion, but it feels more manageable on the whole. And that March deadline feels pretty good too :).

I think this is the case for at least a couple different reasons. One reason is that the bulk of the thing is now in existence, so now it doesn’t like as much of an uphill climb as it did last year. Another aspect is that, courtesy of my committee seeing the chapters and the workshop, something like 12 people have now seen at least some portion of my dissertation. This, I think, makes it feel like more of a real, concrete piece of writing than like a weird, solitary endeavor.

One of the main areas I’m focusing on right now with revisions has to do with ensuring the chapters (and their arguments) make sense both individually and as part of a cohesive unit. To me, this is one of the more complex parts of the process. With seminar papers, articles, chapters, and such, I think it’s more obvious to see such connections as a writer (at least for me). But the massiveness of the dissertation makes it trickier (and my dissertation is not really on the longer end of dissertations I’ve heard about haha). However, with continued feedback, revisiting and reconsidering my outlines, examining individual paragraphs, and continuing to think about my writing and writing processes, I think this part is becoming more clear.

I will say though that I still really enjoy my topic, which is something that I didn’t necessarily expect to be the case at this point. I think the television industry is fostering this to some extent through its continued production of reimaginings, which makes me newly inspired every time another announcement comes across my screen. But also, I really do think this topic is the best encapsulation of my research interests. There are other specific topics I could have written about, but this one crisscrosses pretty much everything for me. It’s a good thing. I like it.

One Day at a Time poster

In which, a series is both part of my dissertation and an apt descriptor of my approach to my dissertation.

Dispatches from the Dissertation (and the Impending Job Market), Part 8

Yesterday, I sent a revised version of my first chapter to my committee for the first time. I made revisions based on feedback I received from my advisor on the first draft, reverse outlining I did at a retreat earlier this year, and a meeting with my advisor a few weeks ago, in which we discussed devoting more attention making sure each chapter’s argument is evident as well as establishing throughlines throughout the four chapters, now that they’ve all been drafted.

I definitely feel more comfortable working from the drafts than I did creating the drafts (surprise!). There was a lot of cutting, a lot of adding, a lot of rewording, a lot of rethinking, etc. And I’m sure there’ll be more in the future once I get feedback from my committee. But it feels like I’m in a good place. Summers can be difficult because the openness of the schedule can make it harder to focus when needed. I try to balance that out my creating a set schedule habit for my work days that I (mostly) stick to. I also started out the summer by setting goals/deadlines for myself to work toward. For example, one of the goals for this month is to revise chapter two and send that to my committee. Part of the bigger picture for me has been trying to have as much done as I possibly can before the fall semester kicks off because life and teaching and writing and the job market is…a hefty load. It’s not that I don’t think I can manage it, but if I can alleviate some of the pressure ahead of time, I definitely want to do so.

Speaking of the job market, I’ve been collaboratively working on the development of job market materials with some colleagues this summer, and I’ve found that to be incredibly useful. This is an idea that I got from Maia L. Butler and Krista Benson, and the idea is pretty straightforward. On a weekly basis, we share job market document drafts and provide feedback to one another. We’ve been at it for about a month now, and we’re almost done with what we’d planned to work on. I now have drafts of the majority of the job market documents I’ll likely need, and instead of creating from scratch, I can focus on revising and retooling as needed this fall. It might seem like we started early, but having already seen some fellowship and job posting with August and September deadlines, I’m actually really happy that we did start early.

I suppose the theme of this post is planning/thinking ahead. I’ve always done a fair amount of that, but going into my final year of grad school (🙏🏾), it’s been on my mind even more than usual. I don’t know what all is going to happen in this next school year, but I’m ready for it.

Title screen from BSG that says "And they have a plan"

My first chapter is about BSG, so this seemed apropos.

(Some of y’all are thinking “WHAT? IT’S JULY! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?” I’m like that sometimes too, but also, I was the kid that was definitely ready to go back to school by a smooth August 1st at the latest. This is all very on brand for me.)

Dispatches From the Dissertation, Part 7 (plus some other stuff)

Today in posts I meant to be able to make approximately 3-4 weeks ago…

Jessie Spano's caffeine pill induced time related panic

I just sent my advisor my fourth chapter draft (it’s actually going to be the third chapter in the diss, but I wrote them slightly out of order). I think that this is maybe the lengthiest one of all four, which is funny because I was (mildly) trying to write less.

Alas.

Now that I have the four chapters drafted, I’m going to be focusing on revision (I’ve already done some revision on two of them, but I need to do more focused overhauls/additions based on some changes I made to my structure after those drafts). I’m still putting off the Introduction and Conclusion for now because I want to make sure the chapters make sense (and make sense together) before I jump into those parts. The goal is to graduate next spring, and so far, so good.

In the last post, I mentioned that I’m teaching a summer class this year. It’s an online class, and we’re still a couple of weeks away from the start date, but I’ve been trying to have everything pretty much ready for it beforehand. Ideally, I’d actually like to make the course site available by the end of next week, so students have some time to get acclimated, peruse the available materials, etc. I think I can probably meet that goal. The main thing I’m working on right now is captioning the videos I’ve recorded, which is both an important and mildly humorous experience. Some of the interpretations of my speech that I end up having to correct are wild. I’m happy to it though, and I’m glad it’s pretty easy to manage with what Youtube has available.

The class itself is an Introduction to Fiction class, and I’m looking forward to it, in part, because I’m not typically scheduled to teach literature classes (my MA is in English & American Literature, but I pivoted to Media Studies for the PhD). Since I prefer to teach things I like whenever possible, the class is going to utilize two YA fantasy novels: Sherri L. Smith’s Orleans and Justina Ireland’s Dread Nation. I read and enjoyed both of these books these year, and I think (or hope?) they’ll both do a good job of capturing my students’ attention as well as providing plenty of material that my students can work with to grow as critical readers, thinkers, and writers.

In addition to diss revisions and summer teaching, I’m also working on drafting job market documents this summer. It’s a little bit wild to be at this point actually. I’ve been in grad school since…2012, and while I did graduate from one program and start another, going on the job market will really be the first big professional life change I’ve had in a while. Y’all may recall that I was a secondary teacher in the past, and in both 2010 and 2011, I think I applied to 40+ teaching jobs each year. Those applications also tend to be lengthy, so I have at least some familiarity with the complexity of such a process. I also know that the academic job market is basically in shambles right now, so I’m very much trying to avoid putting my eggs in one basket. That being said, I’m completely clear about what kinds of work I want to do. Now I just need to convince someone to hire me to do it 😛

Dispatches from the Dissertation, Part 6

So the last time I updated y’all on my dissertation progress, I’d met with my advisor a couple of times to talk about my first (extremely long) draft of my first chapter, and I’d started watching Beverly Hills, 90210 because that was originally supposed to be part of my second chapter. This was at the beginning of November.

A few weeks after that post though, I started to see my dissertation a bit differently than I’d originally planned. This makes sense because when you make a dissertation prospectus, you literally have no idea what you’re doing (at least, I didn’t lol), then you start writing the thing, and then it starts to become a different thing entirely.

So my original plan had been three chapters, each of which focused on analysis of a few different shows that shared some sort of structural similarity. That first chapter draft had, for example, focused on three shows that would be classified as remakes (in the most basic sense). But I realized a couple of things through this initial process of drafting. First, I was trying to write about too many shows (#TVScholarStruggles), and while I think my advisor would be totally fine with me writing a 300-page diss, I am not haha. Also though, I started to realize that the structural similarities of the shows wasn’t really an organizing principle that I was interested in.

And so, I needed to rethink my organizational structure. In thinking about what I’d written so far, and based on some of the feedback I’d received from folks who’d seen bits of that, I realized that I’d sort of written myself into focus that I never would have really thought of when I was writing the prospectus. Such is the way, I suppose. Once I figured that out, I realized that the chapters really only needed to focus on single shows because each of those shows (and their associated genres, productions, and networks) approaches the particular problem I’m exploring differently.

So then, I basically tossed the old structure and started to craft a new one. My advisor and I talked about which shows would actually make the cut and which ones I would let go.

(This is when I tell y’all that, sadly, 90210 did not make the cut. Steve Sanders is still the worst though because I didn’t make it to the Ray Pruitt years in this rewatch)

As I waited for some feedback from my advisor, I went on a dissertation writing retreat offered by my university. If you have the chance to do something like that, I highly recommend it. Having dedicated time to focus on your writing without having to worry about anything else can make one quite productive. During the weekend that I was retreating, I went through all of the pages I’d written, made some revisions, wrote out the outline for my new structure, and determined what research I needed to do next. ‘Twas greatly beneficial for me.

My advisor and I met again yesterday to hash out the details of this new structure, and he and I both feel pretty good about where I’m at right now (both with the diss and for going on the job market this fall 😬). There are still some strands that will need to be pulled together more tightly as I progress, but the direction I’m moving toward is much more clear now.

So next steps? I’m (a) revising the chunks I’ve already written, (b) working on various other projects because academia, and (c) in the midst of completing research for the next chapter, which naturally means I’m watching another show.

Which one?

Well…

Season 4 Boy Meets World cast photo

#youths