On Selling Yourself… Oneself… Myself?

Hunting season for academics begins in the middle of September.  Universities post their requirements for what kind of meat they need to fill their seats, and said meat, in a stark reversal of normal hunting policies, shotguns applications at the universities, hoping that one or more of them stick.

Perhaps that’s a little depressing.  A little cynical.  A little richard.

On September 15th, the postings are made public.  As a prospective, hopeful candidate, one searches through the job listings with a fine-toothed comb.  The listings are specific, stopping just short of giving particular physical requirements.

1. One must be a poet with a secondary emphasis in writing for the small screen and experience teaching classes via the small screen.
2. For this position, the right honorable candidate will be a generalist with expertise in Restoration drama, American Poetry after 1945, and the literature of a small Eastern European country still yet to be determined.
3. We need a non-starter Assistant Professor in Oh Don’t Even Bother to Apply, as we’ve already got a candidate picked out to hire and you don’t stand a chance, really, we just have to post this job listing for legal and governmental and bureaucratic reasons.

Of course, if one does choose to apply to a posting like that last one, you run the risk – as a friend of mine did – that you’ll beat out the hand-picked candidate and be hired in his/her stead and therefore develop enemies amongst your colleagues before you’ve even set foot in your office.

By which I mean, there’s no reason not to apply.  For me.

It’s true that I’ve become more picky in the six years (this being the sixth) that I’ve been applying.  Being out of school for a few years reassured me that if I never get a university teaching job, I’ll be okay.  I’ll still be able to write, I’ll still be able to take part in the greater academic and creative community, I’ll still be able to survive.

But assuming that I want a university teaching job (and I do) then how do I go about it?  Selling oneself, of course.

That the main timesuck in applying for jobs.  Each letter needs to be personalized to the university/college/fellowship you are applying for.  In some ways, this is easy.  Most schools are asking for essentially the same thing.  There’s a standard format for these kinds of letters (including two main sections: one about your research/writing & one about your teaching).

My solution has been to write a basic job letter for each year I’ve been applying.  Then, when setting the letter up for a particular school, I cut and paste until the final product looks like what they’re asking for in their job posting.  I Frankenstein.  I Mad Scientist.  I mutate.  I evolve.

Still, the difficulty comes in when specific job postings as for very specific elements – either in a job letter or as part of your ancillary material – that one… you… I have never heard of before.

For example, What exactly is a research agenda?  Granted, this is a job posting that’s asking for academics as well as writers, but how does one shoehorn creative projects into a research agenda?  Assuming that it is a list of what I’m working on at the moment and planning on writing in the near future, the question remains how such a thing is organizes.  The very fact that they list it as a “research agenda” without any explanation means that it’s an accepted and understood term in some part of the country.

Just not the part of the country I’m living in.

This is Not Me

NOTE: This is not me.

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