THE CAROLINA HISTORY PLACEMENT PROGRAM
Director of Graduate Placement
Welcome to the job search! Do you want a great job? Do you want to develop career that puts your years of hard work in graduate school to good use? That pays the bills? That allows you to develop professionally? Do you know what a “great job” for you would look like? If so, there remains another basic question: How do you land it? The job search is the process by which you identify what opportunities are out there in the world, decide which ones you want to pursue, and figure out how best to represent yourself to potential employers.
Few of us who decided to pursue graduate education in history approach the necessity of “marketing” ourselves with much relish. But like it or not, the job market is just that: a market. It is up to you to identify positions you want to explore—and to convince the people filling those positions to focus on your candidacy. Fortunately, the job search involves two basic skills we historians tend to be very good at: research and teaching. Research because you need to find out what kinds of jobs are out there, how specific search committees are thinking about their needs, and whether a particular position seems like a good fit for you. Teaching because you need to make strategic decisions about what information and ideas you want to convey, what you want to emphasize, and how to do that in way that your target audience will find easy to grasp and exciting.
The History Placement Program is here to help you take control of this process. The series of workshops below are designed to introduce the basic structure and demands of the job market and to suggest some strategies you can use to strengthen your applications. Be advised: the job search can be a long process and it can require a substantial investment of time and energy. But such investments can reap handsome rewards. You can’t control how search committees make their decisions. But you can control which committees see your application and how effectively your application communicates your abilities, accomplishments, and interests.
See below for a schedule of Placement Program events this fall and for links to a variety of potentially useful resources. A final note: I’m always happy to consult with individuals about the job market and applications. In addition to my regular office hours, I will post special office hours this fall for people looking for feedback on drafts of cover letters, c.v.s, etc. And you can always make a specific appointment with me via email: email@example.com
John Wood Sweet, Director of Graduate Placement
MEETINGS AND WORKSHOPS, FALL 2013
THE JOB SEARCH: GETTING READY. Wednesday, August 21, 5:30-7:30 pm, Hamilton 569.
This meeting is designed for everyone embarking upon the job search. Those just curious or planning ahead are also welcome. We’ll begin with an overview of the hiring year: What happens when? And what will I need to do to be prepared for it? We’ll discuss how to find advertisements for various kinds of jobs—and consider what we can do to discern “what they’re really looking for.” We’ll hear from veterans of the job market about what they wish they knew before they began this process. And we’ll end with some practical advice about how to set up your placement file and what to keep in mind as you begin drafting the basic components your application documents.
EFFECTIVE TEACHING PORTFOLIOS. Wed., August 28, 5:30-7:00 pm. 569 Hamilton.
If you don’t already have a teaching portfolio in development, you very likely should. In recent years, the teaching portfolio has become an important document for many professional historians—and a crucial component of most job applications. The teaching portfolio allows you to showcase your experience, strengths, and interest. And it allows you to do so in some depth—and to back up your self-representations with actual evidence. This is a terrific opportunity, particularly for those of you who have accumulated a lot of teaching experience here at Carolina and elsewhere. We’ll consider the basic components of a conventional teaching portfolio and discuss some basic strategies for presenting your track record effectively. Even if you are a year or two from the job market, beginning a teaching portfolio now can be very useful.
CRAFTING COVER LETTERS. Wednesday, September 4, 5:30-7:00 pm. Hamilton 569.
When search committees meet to make their “first cut”—taking a pile of applications and winnowing it down to the dozen or so candidates that seem most promising—they have to make their decisions based on very imperfect information. They don’t know you. All they have is a very slim paper representation of you—a few pages of cover letter, c.v., and letters of reference. The good news is that you can do a lot to control how effective your cover letters and c.v. are. In this workshop, we’ll consider some basic strategies for conveying your qualifications and interests. As with any important writing project, it helps to get started early so you have time to experiment a bit, solicit feedback, and refine your drafts.
COVER LETTER WORKSHOP. Wednesday, September 18, 5:30-7:00 pm. Hamilton 569.
To prepare for this workshop, take a draft of your cover letter and CV and get specific written comments on them from your adviser. Bring to the workshop a) these marked up drafts and b) three clean copies of your revised application materials. Be prepared to share and receive constructive feedback.
PREPARING TO INTERVIEW. Wednesday, October 16, 5:30-7:00 pm. 569 Hamilton Hall.
The further you go in the job search, the more interactive and in-person it typically becomes. In most cases, when search committees like to briefly meet with or at least speak to a dozen or so leading candidates before the commit themselves to a handful of finalists. Sometimes, these interviews take the form of face-to-face meetings at the AHA convention; sometimes they take the form of conference calls over the telephone. Whatever the format, search committees generally look for pretty much the same kinds of information. In this workshop, we’ll consider the kinds of questions interviewers are likely to ask, the components of effective responses, and some practical strategies you can use to prepare.
MOCK INTERVIEW DAY Thursday, 5 Dec. (Reading Day)
As of July 2010, Carolina Career Services has moved its Credential File services to the web-based company Interfolio. This allows you to manage a portfolio of confidential documents and have them delivered by mail or electronically: “You can request, upload and store letters of recommendation, your curriculum vitae, writing samples, dissertation abstracts, teaching certifications, student evaluations and more and have them delivered to any school electronically or by mail, with Express and Rush delivery options available.” This does cost some money (as did the service run by the Career Services folks), but in my opinion is well worth the expense. A dossier service like this makes life much easier for your letter-writers. More directly to your benefit, it makes life easier for search committees—since your materials come in one package are therefore less likely to be late, lost, or mis-filed.
Excellent overviews and advice on all aspects of the academic job search can be found on the websites of the University of Chicago and UC Berkeley. Mary Corbin Sies, who teaches American Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park has compiled several resources, including an Academic Job Application Checklist. Some people have found the blog The Professor Is In useful as well.
The Chronicle of Education publishes a wealth of tools, forums about the academic job-market on their website, though sometimes you have to poke around a bit to find stuff—it may help to create a (free) account to organize the sections of the website you’re interested in. Many have found their CV Doctor column interesting. Another place to start is their page for those new to the academic job market, which can be found here. More specifically targeted to historians on various aspects of the job-search process are articles in the American Historical Association’s newsletter, Perspectives, which can be accessed and searched on-line. Examples include an essay by Michael Foley, “Facing the Indignities of the Job Search”. The American Historical Association also produces guidelines for ethical and professional hiring processes—and compiles data on the job market for historians, which may be of interest.
There are a number of books on the job-search process, including those by Richard Bond and Pillarisetti Sudhir, eds., Perspectives on Life after a Ph.D. (Washington, DC: American Historical Association, 2005), which includes a substantial section on public history and other non-academic jobs; and Melanie S. Gustafson, Becoming a Historian: A Survival Manual (Washington, D.C.: American Historical Association, 2003). There is a chapter on “Landing an Academic Job” in John Goldsmith, John Komlos and Penny Schine Gold, The Chicago Guide to Your Academic Career (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2001)—which has some useful suggestions despite the book’s sometimes patronizing tone.
JOB AND FELLOWSHIP ANNOUNCEMENTS:
Of course, one of the first phases of the job search is searching for the jobs themselves.
For most jobs within the United States, the two best places to start are:
—The AHA Perspectives. This publication is available in the History Department office and in other places on campus. For AHA members, these listings are also available on-line.
—The H-Net Job Guide—searchable by field, on-line, open access.
Jobs in other countries are often listed separately. Some places to search include:
The AHA website also includes a very useful database of grants, prizes and fellowships of interest to historians, which is also available only to members.
NOTE: Different kinds of institutions are likely to value different qualities in candidates. Steve Leibo discusses the needs of small liberal arts colleges. So does David Allen Harvey. Emily Sohmer Tai discusses teaching at a community college.
ON PAPER: C.V.’s, COVER LETTERS, RESEARCH STATEMENTS, TEACHING PORTFOLIOS:
In addition the Berkeley and Chicago websites mentioned above, the Duke University Career Center also offers advice on cover letters, c.v.s, etc., for academic job candidates.
The UNC Center for Faculty Excellence has historically offered workshops on teaching portfolios among other aspects of graduate student professional development. At the moment I can’t find anything meaningful on their website, but don’t hesitate to contact Brian Rybarczyk, Director of Graduate Student Academic and Professional Development (919) 962-2505, firstname.lastname@example.org. Betty Dessants introduces the purpose and components of a teaching portfolio.
Several pieces published in the AHA Perspectives give advice on interviewing, including contributions by Lucy Barber and John Sweet, Sandra Gustafson, and Paul Jerome Croce. Linda Gordon <esp. on discrimination issues>.
Sally Hadden offers advice on campus visits.
Also useful, for many people, is the perspective offered by cognitive-behavior psychologist David Burns in his Feeling Good Handbook (Plume, 1999). See chapter 16, “How to Give a Dynamic Interview When You’re Scared Stiff,” and chapter 19, “The Five Secrets of Intimate Communication.”
On job talks, many people have benefited from, Ed Wolmuth, Overnight Guide to Public Speaking (Signet, 1993), particularly chapter 1 “The Six Signals Every Audience Wants to Hear.”
Sound advice on negotiating job offers have been posted on-line by the UNC Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, by Margaret L. Newhouse of the Harvard University of Career Services (1995), and by Chris M. Golde, “After the Offer, Before the Deal: Negotiating a First Academic Job,” Academe: Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors, January/February 1999, Vol. 85, no. 1, 44–49. A frequently recommended book on negotiations is: Roger Fisher and William L. Ury, Getting To Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In (Penguin, 1991).
A useful resource is the the AAUP’s faculty compensation survey, the Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, which is published each year in the March-April issue of Academe, available through the UNC Libraries website.