Saturday, October 27, 2007

A Dollar When I'm Hard Up II

The first wave of applications is out. Good. But just now at the post office, I found out my regular application package--weighed down with a long writing sample and a teaching portfolio that's somewhat expanded from last year--is too heavy for regular first-class mail. The cheapest it could be would be a dime--a dime--less than priority mail. So I just sent the whole batch by priority, at $4.60 an envelope. Fuck.

So between envelopes, the cost of express-posting my last, late application for an exotic, international postdoc I'm not going to get, and a baker's dozen of regular applications, I dropped $88.80 today. That brings my total for the year to $221.02. It's starting to hurt.


Anonymous said...

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Unknown said...

There is so much of an "I feel your pain" reaction when I read your blog. It is really tough to get stuff out on time and do so in an affordable way when the rest of your life just goes on.

My first impression when reading this post was--WOW!?! Really, your app is too heavy to mail first class?

I suspect there might be something going on here that, if corrected, might make you life much easier.

What in the world are you sending out? My worry is related to an earlier post one of you wrote bitching about having to write a short statement of research interests/dissertation etc.. I made the same complaint about having to do this before I finished my dissertation, and I can't stress enough how hard, damaging, depressing it can be to go on the market before this sort of task seems easy. It never is easy, and your advisors and colleagues will always give you way too much advice about how to do this sort of thing, but really, this sort of thing is something you need to be able to do ASAP--think about it in line at Starbucks, while watching commercials, while on your flight to the APA--talk to yourself (inner voice, hopefully). Trust me, this will make interviews and apps, as well as the way you view your dissertation more productive. The same logic should go for your materials--what's fluff and what's going to be impressive? You need to know this stuff now.

But, before you tell me to fuck off, here's some practical advice about how to save some money on apps.

(1) Are you making double-sided copies of your writing sample(s)? I wouldn't do this for most things you submit, esp. your cv, but I can't imagine folks getting upset about this (thought I'd like to hear contrary opinions).

(2) Is your writing sample more than 25 pages? You have to be realistic about what they are willing to read. If you can't find a bit of your work that makes a cool argument in fewer than 25 pages, then I'd worry about my comments earlier in my post--are your thoughts up for the market yet? You should be able to get across a good argument in 25 pages or fewer.

(3) What are you including in your teaching materials? It's not necessary to include every copy of every evaluation your students have given, esp. with no supporting material from some professor who knows how to interpret the data. If you haven't taught outside your institution, you should do so asap and get the appropriate official (chair, usually) to look at your evals and summarize them, based on the school, their faculty, etc.. Then get her to write a letter saying what she thinks about your teaching. Almost any prof will understand the need for such things. In my experience, these letters along with some minimal quantitative data are far better than loads of pages.

This process is grueling. Best of luck.

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

Robert --

For pseudonymity reasons, I can't get into too much detail about why my applications have so much crap in them. But I can say that, yeah, I have a writing sample that's way, way longer than 25 pages. I had concerns about it's length, but my supervisor, another member of committee and a member of my placement committee all gave the same advice: send the paper as is, because it's forthcoming, but not in print yet, and (they all said) people are going to want to look at the finished product. I have no idea if that's sound reasoning. As usual, I take my cues about this process from my betters. . . .

That said, double siding the writing sample is a great suggestion. My only concern is annoying people on the other end.

Anonymous said...

I double-sided everything upon the advice of previous job-marketers and local junior faculty. I was told that the bulk would be an annoying factor.

They get 100+ of these things, so if they're all double-sided rather than single-sided, that makes a difference. But I don't know if it really makes a difference for each invdividual packet.

I'm finding from asking around and from reading comments here that everyone has different ideas about every single question. It all depends on the pet peeves of the actual decision makers on the other end and that's very nearly impossible to ascertain.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, PGS, I'm also Priority Mailing all my apps this year -- though like you I'd like to keep my anonymity so I won't say why.

My attitude on writing samples is that people will stop reading when they're bored, so if your sample is too long, they'll read as much as they need to. And if they read 50 pp because they can't put it down, that's gotta be good, right? In my case, I've one thing in print so I send it. Simple decision process.

Anonymous said...

A) Regarding "Priority Mail" -- One good thing about Priority Mail is the free flat rate mailers you get at the US Post office. They cannot charge more than $4.60 each so long as it all fits in the mailer (besides the free mailers offset the cost of manila mailing clasp envelopes.
B) Good luck!

- On the market for life....