We get mail from people who agree with us, disagree with us, share further information, and ask questions. We can't always answer questions individually, but we enjoy this ongoing dialogue. Periodically, we use this space to share some of our responses.
Unfortunately, time constraints never allow us to provide critiques of C.V.'s, Web sites, and other job-hunting materials. For such feedback, call on the resources of your doctoral institutions. Try your department, your campus career center, career centers at institutions where you have received other degrees, and services offered by your professional or scholarly association. Also seek the advice of colleagues whose opinions you respect.
We continue to get responses to our column on landing an academic job after age 50. One woman writes: "I took your advice and dyed my (gray) hair red, and it worked. ... I start a tenure-track job next fall."
Question: I am an assistant professor at a university in a tenure- track position. A better job has opened up at another institution, and I would like to apply for this new opening. Is it OK to leave a tenure-track job for another tenure-track job if you have only been there for two years? Any suggestions on how to approach this situation?
Answer: It's OK to do in the sense that it's ethical and people frequently make such moves. How to do it can be a bit tricky, because typically when you apply for another position, you expect to remain at your current one if you don't get the new job. Often candidates are concerned, with some justification, that if they're seen as having a lack of commitment to their current department, this can impair their chances of getting tenure.
Your approach may vary depending upon how badly you want to leave your present position. If you're determined to leave, you may not even particularly want tenure and have little to lose by aggressively seeking another position. If you're fairly happy in the position, and would move only for a very limited number of positions, you have a considerable amount to lose by souring your relationship with your current department.
If you are applying only very selectively, be discreet about whom you tell about your plans. Make it clear to the head of the search committee when you apply that you are not actively on the market and would appreciate your application's being held in confidence at its early stages. There's a chance, of course, that anything you say to almost anyone will be repeated. You can't totally control that, much less what's said, but at least you can control the message that you put out in the first place.
Question: Now that you have great articles on how to deal with accepting or changing your job, how about addressing the 95 percent of us who DIDN'T get a job at all this season? We may have had lots of interviews, but find ourselves without an academic appointment. Again. We could use a little salve for our rejection wounds, or a pep talk!
Answer: It can feel like no one you know is getting any offers, but it's a rare field in which it's 95 per cent. In some fields it can take two or even three tries on the job market before getting a job. While that's more than some people can stand, others are willing to go through the job hunt for several years. It is frustrating to feel you have done everything you should in the application and interviews and then to receive no offers. It can feel very personal and truly shake one's sense of confidence.
It really does depend on the field. In some fields, the market is so tight that decisions about which well-qualified candidate gets the job aren't much more predictable than who will win the lottery. In occasional other areas, there's a shortage of faculty members. In the tightest fields, we can't just say "Keep trying and do all the right things and you'll eventually get a job," because we know that doing all the right things just won't work when jobs are scarce.
What we can say with absolute confidence is that if you were able to complete a Ph.D., you can find work that uses your brains and your abilities, sometimes in ways you never imagined, at a salary you never imagined, if you are willing to be flexible in looking at new opportunities. Whether it makes sense to hang in for a faculty position, and, if so, for how long, depends on how competitive a candidate you are in your field, and how intensely you prefer a faculty position to other kinds of work.
If you ever find yourself slipping into a spiral of increasing bitterness and doubt, and you sense that it's all unfair, this can be a signal that it's time to think about developing a new set of goals. Life is too short to spend much time in this morass, which sometimes bogs down people and may color every aspect of their lives dull gray.
Once again, we recommend that you talk with a career counselor. A counselor can provide that needed pep talk and help you sort out what your next steps will be. Working with someone who asks you probing questions and points you to helpful resources will both help you feel better and get you to develop a plan that is more than just a reaction to "What now?" In the process, you may discover that you will have to refine or redefine your goals, or that you will try to conduct several kinds of job searches simultaneously.
Question: I am currently writing my C.V. for a faculty position as an assistant professor in the United States. I have trouble understanding the differences between C.V., résumé, and cover letter. Could you help me to sort it out? A C.V. and three letters of reference are required. Do I have to add a cover letter as well?
Answer: "Résumé" is usually the term used outside of academe, and "C.V." is the term used by academics. Résumés have less academic detail and generally do not cite publications. Because of these differences, many good books on résumé writing will recommend formats that are inappropriate for C.V.'s. See "The CV Doctor" for some examples of C.V.'s.
A "cover letter" accompanies either a résumé or a C.V. It's a letter of application summarizing one's interest in and qualifications for the position. While your C.V. may not vary much from one application to the next, a separate cover letter should be written for each application, stressing the fit between your background and the position and institution to which you're applying. Always include a cover letter whether or not an ad requests one. Often none is mentioned in an ad because it's simply assumed it will be included.
You send the cover letter with your C.V. The reference letters come directly from their authors (unless they're forwarded by a third party like your academic department or career center). You can give the people who write for you envelopes addressed to the potential employer to help ease the process.
Question: I am confused and need your guidance. My English-professor colleagues advise me that "vitae" is the plural form of "vita," but I keep noticing that colleagues use the terms "curriculum (singular) vitae (plural)" at the top of their "résumé." Sometimes, The Chronicle's ads tell candidates to send "résumé" or "curriculum vitae." I noticed today that your article starts, "How good is your C.V.? Putting together an effective curriculum vitae ...."
Answer: Curriculum vitae is Latin for "course of life." The -ae ending indicates "of life." In this case it does not indicate singular or plural. It indicates ownership, i.e., literally "life's course." Curriculum is singular. The plural of curriculum vitae would be curricula vitae, sort of similar to the way the plural of mother-in-law is mothers-in-law, not mother-in-laws.
Americans tend to shorten or give nicknames to terms. Hence, the term curriculum vitae is often also called a vita or a C.V. Vita means life in Latin. To confuse matters, the plural of vita is vitae.
We could go on and explain the nominative and genitive cases but that's not necessary. We hope our explanation clears up your confusion. If it doesn't, your C.V./vita/curriculum vitae will be none the worse for it.