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I’m on the train returning from Qualitative Health Research 2012 (#QHR2012). I’m feeling inspired watching the beautiful Fall colours of rural Quebec pass by my window. Perfect time to write.

Many moons ago I started a series of blog posts on a concept I termed Academic PR. My first post in this series was me waxing poetic about my observation that academic programs don’t teach students how to network, disseminate research, and discover funding opportunities, especially using the web and new media. My second post in this series was about the academic social networking website academia.edu (a site that I think has been largely subsumed by LinkedIn, but I’ll write about that another day).

BirdThis post has taken me months to write. My excuse has to do with my previous conception of what I am calling academic PR, a set of strategies for academic professionals seeking to network, disseminate research, and discover funding opportunities. I was stuck believing that academic PR has to be an individual endeavour. Yet I realized successful professionals in every field need to engage in an ongoing dialogue with others – whether that dialogue is an argument, an agreement, or, more likely, a little of both. Rather than finding ways to output your ideas to the world, successful professionals in many contexts must listen as much, if not more, than they speak. And it’s this dialogic nature of networking that makes Twitter an essential tool for academic PR.

So with those reflections in mind, I give you the five key concepts that researchers ought to know about Twitter.

Five key concepts for academic PR using Twitter:

1. I know many academics who are apprehensive about joining social networking websites. Unlike sites like Facebook and Academia.edu, Twitter content is largely public. You don’t need to create a Twitter account to know what’s happening on Twitter.

2. Twitter is searchable. Twitter stores information in a database each time a user posts content. Keywords and proper names can be used as Twitter search terms any time by any user.

3. Twitter users use hashtags (keywords followed by #) to create communities and streamline searching. For academics, the most apparent use of hashtags is to follow conversations at academic conferences (e.g., this week’s conference hashtag was #QHR2012). Learning about relevant hashtags can be a powerful way for users to plug themselves into relevant community dialogs (e.g., #cdnpse is a hashtag used for academics interested in discussing Canadian post-secondary education.)

4. Twitter data often contains hyperlinks to blogs, news stories, academic articles, or online photos and videos. Further, Twitter users often link one another’s usernames to create connections and conversations between users.

5. Twitter is a venue for enhancing the discoverability of you work or the work of others in a community that is meaningful to you. You can link your work, join meaningful conversations, and meet other users who are interested in the same things you are.

Please feel free to leave feedback, comments or concerns.

This is my second post about Academic PR, the practice of PR by academic professionals seeking to network, disseminate research, and discover funding opportunities. Today’s post is about Academia.edu, a social networking website for academics. I love the site because it leverages powerful techniques from the social networking web in a way that is easy and accessible for academics. But I hate the site because it overlooks some the most fundamental social networking techniques as well. Before I get into the details, first let me begin with the caveat that I’ve been in touch with the developers of Academia.edu about my concerns, and I was told that they are working them out. So by the time you’re reading this, things might be all better, in which case I’ll edit this post or write a new one. But for now, it’s a love-hate relationship.

Why I love Academia.edu

The reasons I love this website far outnumber the reasons I hate it. Most importantly, Academia.edu has an obvious understanding of their audience: academics. When you want to communicate with academics, you really need to cut the flack. Academics want simplicity and efficiency, not flash and complexity. So I love academia.edu because they’ve succeeded in appealing to their audience. And they’ve done so in three primary ways: the functionality, the database, and the interface.

Functionality

Academia.edu is a free and easy way for academics to publish their bios, publications, contact information, and Twitter-like status updates for the entire world to see. Further to that, users can use specialized search terms like research interests and departmental affiliations to find like-minded individuals and forge potential connections. I briefly mentioned that users can post publications, but I want to emphasize what an easy way this is for academics to highlight the work they feel best represents what they’re currently interested in. Furthermore, the Academia.edu site allows users to easily write blog posts that become part of their online profile.

Database

The information about thousands of post-secondary institutions has been populated into the Academia.edu database. So when a new academic user first registers, the site intuitively auto-populates the information about their academic institution and department. A simple example of this is the fact a PhD candidate from, say, the University of Waterloo’s English department (my alma mater), can choose the appropriate departmental title, the “Department of English Language and Literature,” instead of simply a generic title like the “Department of English.” Academia.edu achieves this by allowing users to populate the database as they register. So the first registrant of a given department paves the way for subsequent registrants to easily select their department from a list of options.

Interface

In terms of user interface, Academia.edu has done everything right. The layout is clean and clear with solid web architecture. And one of the most noticeable aspects of the site is the visual layout of academic departments. Once a user has chosen their institution and department, they can see the other faculty members, graduate students, and staff who are also Academia.edu users (see my screen shot).

Academia.edu screen shot

I think this is a neat way to visualize the hierarchy of a given academic department, although I have to admit it’s rather unremarkable if a department only has four Academia.edu users. The site uses a similar visual approach for laying out users according to their research interests.

The is also comprised of four primary feeds: News, Papers, People, and Status Updates. Which leads me to the next part of my post . . .

What I hate about Academia.edu

In its current iteration, I despise Academia.edu because users can’t filter the site’s feeds. The feeds are scrolling updates about users posting papers, status updates, profile changes, etc. You’ll be most familiar with this user interface from Facebook (and I can only assume you’re familiar with Facebook if you’ve read this far.) Academia.edu claims . . . CLAIMS that the site uses your reported research interests to populate your feed with information you’ll find relevant. Well this is just not true.

Like many others, I’m an interdisciplinary researcher with interests reaching from Linguistics to Medical Education. Perhaps this diversity is the reason my feed is constantly clogged with information about academics who I am not interested in and papers that I don’t want to read. Although the site allows you to “Follow” the work of some academics, this doesn’t occlude the work of academics you’ve never heard of from appearing in your newsfeed.

Everytime I log into Academia.edu I find myself having to sort through a wealth of unnecessary information. While I can perhaps see the logic insofar as the site’s organizers hoped to foster previously unknown research connections, it’s completely unacceptable that I my Papers feed contains a graduate student research paper about Islamic poetry when the closest Research Interest that may link me to this topic is “Illness in Literature.” This site desperately needs filters for their feeds and right now they don’t.

So maybe I was a little off when I said the site’s designers fully understood their audience. After all, while academics are particularly good at cutting the chaff from the wheat, we need to be in control of WHO’S work we want to follow, and WHICH papers we want to read. Anyone who understands academics knows that while we appreciate recommendations, we don’t want them forced on us.

This is the first of a series of posts I’ll be writing on Academic Public Relations (PR). The thrust of these posts is to talk about Academic PR as a set of strategies for academics, young (graduate student, PhD candidates, etc.) and old (ABDs, post-docs, sessionals, etc.), who are looking to get their work noticed. All major post-secondary institutions will have PR departments, but this isn’t Academic PR. A university’s PR team governs their institution’s image in order to recruit students and increase public awareness, but Academic PR is the practice of PR by academic professionals seeking to network, disseminate research, and discover funding opportunities.

A teachable topicAcademia

The job placement rate of a given graduate program directly relates to that program’s prestige. And more prestige leads to more funding, more industry partnerships, and more growth in the form of course offerings, faculty specializations, and scholarships. So it behooves academic institutions to teach career strategies, doesn’t it?

You’ll recall an earlier post where I interviewed Carleton University’s Dr. Lara Varpio and she outlined the importance of networking for PhD students nearing the end of their studies. Dr Varpio told me that effective networking helped her land her a job, and that effective networking leads PhD students and post-docs to the coveted markers of academic success: publications, fellowships, scholarships, and, most importantly, jobs.

Graduate students are told to disseminate their work at conferences and to network; but they aren’t taught to put themselves on the radar of potential venues for their work. And while Dr Varpio had in mind the more traditional form of networking (face to face at academic conferences), it is my contention that graduate programs and graduate students fail to teach the networking possibilities afforded by the internet, i.e., Academic PR.

Hidden curriculum

So in this sense, Academic PR remains the hidden curriculum of graduate studies: there aren’t any courses taught on this subject, but you need to understand it if you hope to get a job. Why is this?

It could be that the practice of Academic PR is distinctly unacademic. The academy is about pure objectivity while PR is about overt and covert persuasion; the academy is about meritorious knowledge dissemination while PR is about strategic knowledge dissemination; the academy is about research and reporting while PR is about pragmatic, human connections. But the fact remains that many successful academics are practicing Academic PR, and the next generation of academics should learn to do the same.

What do you think? I can see this post generating a lot of disagreement, and that’s great! I’d love to hear your feedback in the form of a comment below.

Whether for essays or emails, I’ve always been the designated editor for my friends and family. But my favourite genre to edit has always been the resume. I think I enjoy editing resumes because they are such highly persuasive documents, hence the title of this blog post. But most of us have some very common misconceptions about resumes—and here I’m speaking from experience, not just as an editor.

I was turned down by six companies in a row before I was finally hired at a marketing company as part of the co-op program I enrolled in during grad school. With schoolwork mounting, I was very frustrated that six potential employers turned me down. So I booked an appointment with a co-op advisor, I attended a practice interview session, and I had my resume edited by a professional. Along the way, I asked a lot of questions and received a lot of helpful advice. I changed my resume to fit the advice of the experts and I was hired after my next interview. I realize now I wasn’t hired at those first six jobs because editorial hubris got the better of me. I couldn’t get a job because I didn’t realize the potential power of my resume.

What you’re probably doing right

Most of the resumes I edit have the header nearly perfect. Everyone understands that your name should be the central focus of your resume. Under their names, everyone understands that your contact information (street address, phone number, email address, and website) is also included in the header. (Don’t have a website? The least you can do is list your linkedin profile. Don’t have a linkedin profile? Go create a linkedin profile right now—and don’t forget to add me to your network.)

Everyone also understands the general structure of the resume. First you list your job objective, then you list your education (by the way, don’t list your high school education—it’s a given), next you list a summary of your qualifications, followed by work experience. This is the structure of a resume at its most general. But this structure on its own won’t lead to many recruitment calls.

What you’re probably doing wrong

The history lessonresume_stack

Misunderstanding a resume’s purpose is the first major resume misconception. When composing a resume, people tend to write a historical document. Their resume tells their education history, their employment history, and perhaps a bit of their personal history. But resumes aren’t historical documents; resumes are persuasive documents. The purpose of a resume isn’t to tell your life story. The purpose of a resume is to persuade a recruiter that you deserve an interview—and remember the recruiter has a stack of other resumes to choose from.

In order to earn you a job interview, your resume needs to focus on three main things: accomplishments, skills, and attributes. Every single sentence of your resume needs to be an accomplishment, an attribute, or a skill. If information isn’t an accomplishment, attribute, or skill, then it doesn’t belong in your resume.

Erase the irrelevant

Now the question is, can you distinguish irrelevant information from accomplishments, skills, and attributes? Try this quick test:

Which of these pieces of information are irrelevant?

  • Consulted with management daily to update website information
  • Provided outstanding guest service to hotel guests
  • Created weekly schedule for 63 employees

I guess it was a trick question: all three of these are irrelevant because they aren’t accomplishments, skills or attributes. While they each certainly provide relevant information about a job description, they’re nothing more than historical information about your past work. This information does not demonstrate what makes you special, what makes you necessary, or what makes you valuable.

Accomplishments, attributes, and skills

Your resume should at all times aim to detail unique actions and benefits that you offered your former organization. Here’s how I would reframe the above list to highlight accomplishments, skills, and attributes:

  • Created daily website update system to relay current information from management to clients
  • Consistently earned 5 out of 5 stars for outstanding guest services
  • Generated $1500 per week in additional revenue by eliminating unnecessary shifts.

For some reason, people reflect on their past work experience in generalities. But you need to be specific. Before writing your resume, sit down and make a list of all of the special things you did at your past jobs. At first you may find this exercise difficult, but the longer you think about it, the easier it gets. Were you ever recognized for a special achievement? Was one of your suggestions ever enacted upon? Were you promoted? Did you somehow save the company money (actual statistics and figures are VERY persuasive)? What skills did you use regularly or acquire?

Activities and Interests

Finally, for some reason nobody ever includes an “Activities and Interests” section in their resume. Yet three bullet points about your life outside of work can so much to set you apart from other applicants. Employers ARE interested in your experiences with music, drama, dance, sports, and any other type of collaborative enterprise that demonstrates teamwork, creativity, or coordination abilities. You might also want to tweak this section of your resume depending on the job for which you’re applying. For example: demonstrate an interest in technology if you’re applying for a job as a technical writer.

So, friends, will I edit your resume? With pleasure! But now that I’ve written this piece I’m sending you to read it first. I hope you’ll also read the other article I wrote on more general job hunting advice. Good luck in your search!

The following set of blog posts summarizes the work I have done with an organization called Changing Lives Through Literature (CLTL). My first post described CLTL, next were two interviews with former CLTL students, Ken, Sheila, and Veronica. This final post of the series, “Can literature change lives?” provides several empirical studies that appear to validate the ability of humanities education to assist individuals struggling through poverty and drug addiction—two major, interrelated factors in most crimes. Overall, these studies bolster the eponymous tenant of CLTL: that reading literature changes lives for the better.

The Clemente Course and Hope House

Reader Social issues such as crime and poverty go hand in hand, yet individuals affected by both are unique personalities. CLTL uses literature and writing to stimulate students’ minds and reduce their chances of reoffending. The overall goal is to use literature for social change. Beyond work with criminal populations, Earl Shorris’ Clemente Course in the Humanities has taken a similar approach to humanities education as CLTL. The Clemente course focuses on all urban poor rather than just criminal offenders. Instead of literature, the eight-month Clemente course teaches logic, art, history, and moral philosophy. According to Shorris, the intensive study of the humanities is an effective way to move people out of poverty and into community engagement and meaningful work.

Similarly, at Hope House, a California rehabilitation centre utilizes volunteer, female Stanford professors to teach classes in philosophy and the humanities to groups of fifteen to twenty female addicts and ex-convicts who have been placed in a residential drug and alcohol treatment program (The Hope House Scholars Program). This Clemente-derived course focuses on classic texts with an emphasis on political and social issues, borrowing much from the successful Clemente model. A study done by program founders Debra Satz and Rob Reich revealed that approximately seventy percent of the women who participated in this program remained drug free and out of prison, far better than the national average for rehabilitation programs.

Humanities in Perspective

In Portland, the Humanities In Perspective (HIP) Program has been offered to impoverished individuals for the past five years by the Oregon Council of Humanities in collaboration with Reed College. As a comparison group for the course, HIP was also introduced to a group of incarcerated inmates at a nearby medium-security correctional facility. Like Hope House, the HIP program follows the Clemente Course paradigm—in this case, a progression from ancient classics to twentieth century American literature.

In the Fall semester students read key ancient Greek works drawn from texts in history (Thucydides), philosophy (Aristotle & Plato), poetry (Tyrtaeus & Sappho), and drama (Sophocles & Euripides). In the Spring Semester readings are drawn from more contemporary texts including Emerson, Thoreau, Mark Twain, Flannery O’Connor, Tennessee Williams, Martin Luther King, and Toni Morrison, exploring four central themes: knowledge and virtue, power and justice, love and desire, and social responsibility.

In 2005, the Portland group of urban poor and the incarcerated inmates completed pre-course and post-course surveys. The Portland group reported increased self-esteem, verbal abilities, and open-mindedness, while the incarcerated group reported increased desire for civic involvement, literary reading, and goal setting.

Can literature change Lives?

Changing Lives Through Literature was also the subject of an empirical research study (Jarjoura and Krumholz, 1998). This study compared a group of 32 former CLTL participants with a control group of 40 regular probationers. A follow-up analysis indicated that only 6 of the 32 men in the reading group (18.8%) were convicted of crimes after their experience in CLTL. In the control group, 18 of the 40 men (45%) had reoffended. According to these results, CLTL graduates were three times less likely to reoffend.

Currently, new versions of CLTL are being adopted by academic programs such as the English department at Curry College and the English department at the University of Rhode Island. Curry College is considering having their English majors intern with CLTL as a unique educational experience.

Further psychological Evidence

Research from the cognitive science of reading literature (alternatively called Cognitive Poetics or Empirical Studies of Literature) provides the important theoretical and empirical backdrop against which to set the effectiveness of programs of CLTL and the Clemente Program, potentially explaining why CLTL works.

Probably the most persuasive studies come from Professors David Miall (English) and Don Kuiken (Psychology) at the University of Alberta and Keith Oatley (Psychology) at the University of Toronto. Their collective research outlines how reading fiction allows us to script, or rehearse, scenarios that we do not normally encounter in our day to day lives. In doing so, reading allows for inner speculation about how we ourselves would react in the fictional situations characters face, causing readers to empathize with characters. Furthermore, the plot structure of fiction involves a surplus of cognitive activities like planning and imagining. All of these simultaneous cognitive activities lead to, as Miall and Kuiken state, “larger implications for the self”—which means that characters and plotlines transcend the experience of reading itself and simulate experiences that motivate readers towards self-change.

Oatley’s studies further this argument, his work demonstrates that engaging in fictional worlds improves our empathic abilities—that is, fiction reading was positively correlated with the ability to empathize with others. Fiction reading thus increases understanding of the necessary and appropriate social interactions of everyday life.

Ultimately, I believe Oatley and Miall’s work provides the psychological backdrop explaining how CLTL works: it offers disenfranchised readers the opportunity to enjoy and reflect on the emotional benefits of the reading experience, while also choosing to make more socially appropriate decisions in regarding their futures and their interactions with others.

In conclusion, I’d like to recognize an excellent new essay by CLTL facilitator, Dr Erin Battat, a postdoctoral fellow in Harvard’s American Studies program. Please leave comments or read there other posts I’ve written for the CLTL blog, Changing Lives Changing Minds:

Book Review: “Missing Sarah” by Maggie de Vries

Has the Torch Been Passed? A Review of the 2008 Annual Conference

A Different Light: Report from the 2009 Changing Lives Through Literature Conference

Starting and Maintaining a CLTL Juvenile Program: An Interview with Michael Habib

The following set of blog posts summarizes the work I have done with an organization called Changing Lives Through Literature (CLTL). My first post described CLTL, next were two interviews with former CLTL student, Ken and Sheila. This fourth post, “Interview with Veronica,” discusses the importance of writing in the CLTL classroom and highlights the last of three interviews I conducted during a February trip to Boston.

Writing and CLTL

Writing is used in many ways in the Changing Lives Through Literature classroom. Some facilitators begin a class with writing, while others schedule writing periods in the middle or at the end. But, according to long-time CLTL facilitator Tamlin Neville, feedback is of central importance for CLTL writing assignments:

Students write more easily than they speak.  A quiet student may shed her reserve when she takes up her pen.  One who speaks distractedly may become a different person on the page, composed and able to organize his thoughts. . . . with writing, teachers enter into a one-to-one relationship with a student.  This is a place where a teacher can really listen and attend.

Professor Taylor Stoehr, Ken’s facilitator, has his students begin and end the class by writing for ten minutes on a question raised by the text.  Stoehr collects the work, adds his comments, and returns it, typed and printed, to the students. In this way, each student’s work is “published” once Stoehr distributes copies. At graduation, students receive a booklet of their own writing plus an anthology of class writings.

CLTL allows students to see reflect on their lives through novels, short stories, memoirs, poems, discussion, and writing. According to Stoehr:

These students have been told they are incompetent readers and writers, and this tends to make them so. But the incompetence is superficial in most cases. Their speech skills are usually more than adequate and often superb . . . A student’s own writing helps them objectify their experiences, and this, in turn, opens the way for change.

Veronica

The West Roxbury courthouse women’s CLTL program is specialized for women suffering from mental illness, drug addiction or both. Veronica, a single mother, was more reserved than my previous interview subjects, Ken and Sheila. Yet Veronica’s shyness is nothing compared to her crippling inability to communicate before taking CLTL. Veronica told me, “I would never talk to nobody before; I never got along with nobody.” She continued:

In front of the class everyone would get a chance to talk about their problems. I have never opened up to people like I did with Adita, the people In my class, and Leigh, the teacher. I got to learn a lot and become closer with people. Now I’m very open.

The opportunity to share her thoughts and feelings in reading/writing group environment changed Veronica’s ability to communicate with others. But she also told me about some other positive benefits of CLTL, specifically benefits for her daughter:

I never used to read before, now I read, I have a library card for the first time ever. I write more, read more, talk more. Reading keeps you out of trouble. I even read more to my daughter now. She loves animal books!

Volunteers like Adita Velasquez, Veronica’s probation officer, and Leigh, the Boston English professor who facilitates Veronica’s course, used a structured program of reading and writing to effect the positive changes for students in the West Roxbury program. But, as Veronica puts it, “we’re finished but we’re still not finished.” Each year, Leigh collects and publishes the best writings from the CLTL group. As in the men’s Dorchester programs, this is the first time Veronica have ever seen their writing in print.

GirlReadingIn conclusion, I’d like to recognize an excellent new essay by CLTL facilitator, Dr Erin Battat, a postdoctoral fellow in Harvard’s American Studies program. My next post will align the insights I’ve gathered from my work with CLTL with several similar projects that seek to use humanities education to help impoverished or disenfranchised populations. Please leave comments or check other posts I’ve written for the CLTL blog, Changing Lives Changing Minds:

Book Review: “Missing Sarah” by Maggie de Vries

Has the Torch Been Passed? A Review of the 2008 Annual Conference

A Different Light: Report from the 2009 Changing Lives Through Literature Conference

Starting and Maintaining a CLTL Juvenile Program: An Interview with Michael Habib

Picture Varpio

This is the second post in my Great Minds series, a set of interviews with writers and thinkers who have inspired me. My academic work has introduced me to numerous professors doing fascinating work on literature, cognition, and social action. Lara Varpio is my second great mind.

Assistant Professor in a Faculty of Medicine is not the first place one would expect to find an English PhD graduate, but that is just where University of Waterloo Department of English Language and Literature PhD alumnus Dr. Lara Varpio finds herself at the University of Ottawa. Lara is a recent PhD graduate with a job, and that should be an inspiration for current and potential PhD students alike. I hope this interview with Lara provides as many valuable insights for my peers as it did for me.

A: How did you end up in the English PhD program at UW?

L: I should start by saying that the work I do now is fairly removed from standard department of English training. I am originally from Sudbury. I did my BA in English at MacMaster. I soon realized that I wouldn’t get too far with a Bachelor of Arts. The Master of Arts professional writing stream at UW interested me. But my work was not related to medicine at all.

A: Could you discuss your experiences as a grad student?

L: After completing my MA, I moved to Sweden for 3 years. I was a professor and I taught Business Communication. After one year, I was bored intellectually. So I contacted Catherine Schryer to find out about doing my PHD from abroad. I talked to the department chair at the time, Neil Randall, and, despite the fact that nobody had ever done a PhD from abroad, the department let me in. So I started my PhD while living in Sweden . . . I remember for a course with Professor Michael MacDonald, I submitted my class presentation on a CD-ROM. I found a video camera and one of my students in Sweden videotape my presentation. I completed two terms of coursework abroad. For the third term I came back to Canada for the residency requirement and then I realized how homesick I was. I completed my work in Canada.

I didn’t want to waste time on a dissertation that didn’t engage me. I approached Catherine Schryer and told her that I probably would not complete a PhD if I didn’t find something intellectually engaging. She introduced me to Lorelei Lingard, who introduced me to the medical education community at the Wilson Centre [for Research in Education] at the University of Toronto. We joke that I went there for a 3 day visit and stayed for 3 years. I brought my experience with Actor Network Theory and Rhetoric to the table, and I was the first PhD student that the Wilson Centre co-sponsored.

A: What advice do you have for current graduate students?

L: It’s so important to find a project that engages you. Aside from that, think outside the box when it comes to funding. So often English graduate students think about OGS and SSHRC. I was the first Arts student at Waterloo to get CIHR funding. So I got medicine to fund me and OGS as well. But I couldn’t get my SSHRC application past the department . . . Also, your supervisors are key. The importance of your supervisor to your later success cannot be underestimated. I am also a big believer in mentorship. You need people to offer guidance. I was lucky to find mentors in Catherine Schryer, Lorelei Lingard, and at the Wilson Centre. Academia is changing and you need mentors and you need people to help you walk down the new academic corridors. Also, complete your PhD studies with the end in mind. Decide on your dream job. It doesn’t have to be tenure-track in a department of English. There are different kinds of PhDs, some are theoretical, some are practical. You can make your PhD the tool you want it to be for where you want to go. You can teach or you can be a researcher.

There will be a dark night of the soul. If you’re doing graduate work, there will be a night where you feel like you can’t do it anymore. It’s important to take those experiences seriously, but it’s also important to look at those moments in the overall picture. Think of those moments in context. Sometimes you will want to give up, and maybe you should; but don’t be too hasty.

A: Do you have any career advice for current PhD candidates?

L: I have found my dream job. I can take all the theories and skills from my graduate work and apply them in a different context. Medical Education is my sandbox and my training in the Humanities is my shovel and pail. Every day I am excited to go to work. I have total control over what I do and how I do it . . . When it comes to finding a job, I can’t stress the importance of networking enough. A lot of jobs will never get posted, and you will never find them if you’re waiting for postings to appear online. I recommend PhD students go to conferences, especially if there is someone giving a talk who they admire. Prepare for the talk by thinking of one good question. One intelligent question—and you can underline intelligent. If you can ask that question, you can start a conversation. If you do it right, you should end up with their business card in you hand. I always did that and I still do. I find the people by attending their presentation, I ask an intelligent question, I ask about a recent article. Build connections with people you want to work with.

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of networking and the importance of being a good networker. You don’t want to be sucking up; you have to look like someone who is interesting and who is doing exciting work.