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« Syllabus design: an occasional series. Part 2: What Kind of Class? | Main | Is this a (common) problem? »

07/20/2016

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Jerry Green

Here's what my program does (big state school, top-20 FWIW:

1) For the last few years, two faculty have jointly run something like reading group/pseudo-seminar for job marketers. The format has changed a bit, but basically we meet every week early in the semester, and spend each meeting discussing one job market document (so one week on cover letters, one week on teaching statement, etc). We have to submit our materials in advance, and then everyone gives feedback on everyone else's stuff. We do mock interviews with a set of different faculty later on, closer to the real thing. We also have a job market wiki that we've been adding to for the last couple years.

2) Our placement rate has been has been OK, relative to the discipline as a well anyway (3/5 this year, only counting current students). I think we do a good job with document prep, especially when it comes to thinking through the different ways you might approach each part of the application.

3) The main thing I think we're weak about is understanding the different kinds of jobs out there, and what makes you competitive for them. All of faculty went to top research schools, and got hired in top research schools, so that's all they really know. The very things that make you look good to that kind of school can harm you in other contexts. Second, our dissertation committees are too big (5-6 people usually, I've seen as many as 8 on one committee). This means that we have too many letters, and its hard to know which to use which you have to be selective. Finally, with one or two exceptions, my sense is that our faculty are not very proactive after you've applied. It would be a better world if you didn't have famous faculty calling on the search committee independently to sell their students, but it happens, and so I think you have to react in kind.

Anon

My own program did the basic stuff: We have a placement director and mock interviews and they'll keep letters of recommendation on file for us. We don't really go beyond the basics though, or didn't when I was there. That's been a few years so it might have changed.
I think the biggest weakness of my own program is the same one JG highlights. With one or two exceptions all the faculty have elite backgrounds and have little idea what works for those of us with less elite backgrounds or what any schools besides R1s or R2s with R1 aspirations are looking for. The school itself though isn't in the top 20 on the PGR though, so it's rare that anyone there gets a job at an R1 institution straight out of school. In fact, I can't remember that ever happening, though a couple graduates have worked their way up to R1 jobs.

Lauren

Anon's description sounds pretty much like my program, and like both posters so far, all of the faculty only went to elite programs for both undergrad and grad so have the same weaknesses (little knowledge of practices outside of top PhD programs, despite our placement which has nearly always initially been at non-PhD schools, although of the recent grads I know, several have jobs now at grad programs, after stints at prestigious postdocs). We have no job seminar, although the department used to run a 2 hour workshop each year and the placement director arranges for each person to give a job talk and do a practice interview. My committee has been very willing to give feedback with my materials when I've asked (I am going on the market this fall for the first time), but not proactive at all. Our placement has been reasonably good, I think (all but two people I know have been placed in the time I've been here, and in one case, the person was geographically limited to one city and in the other case, the person was in one of the most competitive sub-fields and only applied to R1 programs). One thing I would suggest to fellow grad going on the market: I've taken my materials to our teaching center on campus, and the staff there have a much better sense of what teaching schools are looking for, which helps a lot in preparing my materials for schools other than R1s. This, however, was not a resource that the faculty recommended to me; I found this out on my own.

UK grad student

My program provided no job market preparation at all.

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