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On January 18, 2014, the Department of Communication hosted the Midwest Winter Workshop. Over 75 graduate students and faculty in rhetorical studies joined us in Lincoln Hall for a day of professional development panels and paper workshop sessions. Over the next several days, we will be posting notes from our panels.

First, we have some thoughts from our panel “Navigating the Job Market.” Thanks to Jon Stone for compiling these notes!

Panel Title: Navigating the rhetoric job market

Isaac West, Karma Chávez

This hour-long session was conducted as a round-table discussion. It began with a survey of possible questions from those in attendance, after which Professors West and Chávez did their best to touch on as many as possible. Below you’ll find truncated renderings of the questions discussed.

How should I approach the Cover letter and other documents in the application packet?

– The language of a job ad is really important when the university ranks potential candidates. When qualifications are listed as  “required” or  “desirable” in a job ad, they are important cues for the kind of person that the institution is looking for. You need to speak to those in your cover letter. Take it seriously—it’s worth investing the time.

– There are a couple of problems that come up frequently. The generic letter is one—speaking to the specifics of the job ad shows that you’re serious about the job. Tailor the letter to the institution, don’t just send a generic letter and hope to have success getting the job.

– You CAN have a basic template to start with a job letter that can be tailored: Have a different letter/CV for both teaching schools and research schools. It’s about audience—it’s rhetoric!

On the status of your dissertation when you apply for jobs [in Communication]: 

– Your dissertation should be almost done when you’re on the market.

– It’s increasingly futile to go out on the job market when you are not almost or completely done with the dissertation.

– Plan on a month of your summer to get stuff together. It takes a LONG time to get all of the documents together for the job application panel.

– Look at the courses that an institution needs taught and prepare syllabi for those classes. Be ready to show that you know what’s going on at the institution and that you are ready to fill the needs there.

– It’s all about controlling the narrative and being flexible if that narrative begins to shift as you interact with the institution. Be willing to adapt, but know when that adaptation is too much. Don’t over claim who you are and what you are capable of.

Looking for Jobs across disciplines: 

– CRT-NET is a good place to start. For those with interdisciplinary qualifications—it’s a good idea to get on the listservs connected to the other disciplines. The Chronicle.

– The job wiki can be useful if you use it smartly.

Job Talks: 

– Job talks are peculiar to each place—ask for clarification about what a job talk looks like at the institution you’re applying for. Then, follow those guidelines—only speak for 30 minutes if that is the amount of time they give you. You can lose the job if you go long in a situation like that.

– Take the process as seriously as possible. This is a job interview—something that will affect you for many years in the future. 

– You have to recognize that when you are on a campus visit, you are always being interviewed (unless you are in a room all by yourselves). Always be on.

– During the Q & A, don’t assume that it’s adversarial! But, show the group that you’re thinking. You can take a moment to process—but taking offense to a sharp question will shut that whole process down.

-Yes, it is about showing that you can be a good, thoughtful colleague. Someone that you might not team teach a class with, but someone with whom you will share the labor of a department with.

– Job talks are speeches. Don’t forget what you know about speeches. Hourglass structure: how you got interested in it, center in on a case study, then show where you’re going with it.

– The best job talks are the ones that take their topic and make it legible for the audience in all of its potential diversity.

Stay tuned for more from the Midwest Winter Workshop!


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