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On Not Squandering the Summer

When I began attending the department’s monthly professional-development seminars at the outset of my doctoral program, the job search seemed a long way off. To be honest, it still seemed distant this time last year when all my attention was focused on exams and my dissertation. I knew I would be on the market in the fall, but, until the MLA released the Job Information List (JIL) in mid-September, I figured I could put off the labor of preparing my application materials. After all, I kept my CV up-to-date and I had drafted a statement of teaching philosophy as part of that professional-development series.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. When the list appeared I found that several of the jobs I was interested in wanted their applications completed by the second week in October. Predictably, the teaching statement I wrote two years before no longer fit me, and then there were requests for other documents I hadn’t necessarily anticipated: dossiers providing “evidence of teaching effectiveness,” sample syllabi, etc. In many cases I already had the contents of these portfolios drafted, but they needed serious sprucing up before I showcased them to a search committee. I had my recommenders squared away, but I hadn’t held on to my teaching evaluations from the courses I taught as an M.A. student or from my time as an adjunct. I would need to track those down. With the dissertation still demanding the bulk of my attention, I suddenly found myself at least a month behind.

As a result, time that should have been spent researching the individual job offerings had to be dedicated to parts of the application process that could have been done in advance. This was precisely what the professional-development seminars were intended to help me avoid, but my ignorance of everything that goes into an application kept me from recognizing that earlier.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be writing about the various components of application packets in more detail, but, other than gathering those documents, what else should applicants be doing now to prepare for a fall job search? How helpful is it to review previous JILs to get a sense of the materials requested? Besides asking for letters of recommendation, what conversations should applicants be having with their advisers and mentors at this early stage of the process?

[Creative Commons-licensed photo by Flickr user Natesh Ramasamy.]

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