Monday, October 29, 2007

The rich get richer.

Like PGS, I spent the weekend barfing out applications. Unlike PGS, I spent some time before grad school doing admin work in the special circle of hell that is temp work. So I've got the mindless busywork thing down cold. I make one hell of a fine secretary. And I actually find the work relaxing, in its way. "Take a break today, brain. Won't be needing you for this one. Here, have some schlocky pop music to drool to. You like the new Iron & Wine album? Sure. Perhaps a beer and some salty snacks? I'll let you know if we need you for anything."

While I don't mind the work itself, I do mind the obscene amount of time it seems to take. I really do have better things to spend my time on. (Like, oh, say, finishing the dissertation. Fuuuuuuck. The dissertation.) Which is why I kind of threw up in my mouth a little bit when a friend of mine told me that his dept's secretaries take care of all their mailing for them. Now, said friend's dept is admittedly a lot more Leiterrific than mine. But I'd thought the perks of coming from a fancypants program were supposed to be limited to things like name-brand recognition and big-name letter-writers and posh funding and non-exploitative teaching responsibilities. Now I find out these fuckers get all their secretarial work taken care of too? WTF? How common is this?

No wonder they're getting all the fucking jobs.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

I benefited from the largesse of a top-20 department: our hyper-efficient student affairs officer took care of all the mailings; all we had to do was provide a copy of the dossier, a list of schools and deadlines, and a stack of cover letters. (I sent out two versions of my dossier -- one for liberal arts colleges, the other not. This was no problem.) Grad students could avail themselves of this benefit until they got jobs. (I tried to avail myself of it after I got a job. I was politely rebuked. Man, was I spoiled.) I don't know how common the practice is. But I do know how common hyper-efficient office staff are: they're not. I wouldn't advise students in my current department to let important things like whether their application gets in on time depend on the workings of our staff.

-- A Guy with Tenure who is also on Hiring Committees

Anonymous said...

I'm from a 20-50 department, and we didn't have such a service. I good friend of mine from a top-20 department did have such a service. Unfortunately, I also heard stories about the department staff in her department dropping the ball on applications. I'm with 'Guy on Tenure' here--even if you have such a service available to you, it's probably not worth the risk to use it.

Greg said...

Tiny sample: Both the HPS and philosophy departments at Pitt take care of this.

Anonymous said...

In my department the office staff will do the mailings for us - we just need to provide them with the dossier and list of jobs from the JFP, and then send out the cover letters ourselves. Anything that we want different versions of for different schools we also have to send out ourselves.

This seems like something that every department willing to invest in a PhD program should invest in.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth: when I visited (25-40 Leiter-ranked) schools a few years back, most seemed to have in place a mailing service like this.

Anonymous said...

To second 12:21.
Our set-up was exactly like this. Provide the dossier and job-list, send out your cover letters yourself, and the rest is taken care of by the department. One can avail oneself of this service up to 5 years after graduation.

I have never heard of them screwing it up. They can see how stressed we are about it and act accordingly.

Sorry to spread the unwelcome and unfair news! Go get 'em!

Anonymous said...

My department (which is not a top 25) has a mailing service; applicants just need to send out a cover letter and any particulars a school might want that aren't included in the dossier, like a writing sample, research statement, teaching statement, etc.

Anonymous said...

below top 50 here (though ranked in my AOS). Department sends out reference letters only. Rest is up to us. On the other hand, there is no micromanaging our application process. Anyone can apply to anywhere w/o any grief.

John Turri said...

Even if the department doesn't have a dossier service, the university should. I can understand individual departments not having it, so long as the university does.

girl friday said...

I too spent my weekend barfing out applications with my favorite right hand men, Ricky Martin and Doritos. It's oddly comforting to know I'm not the only one out there in that (miserable, miserable) boat.

As for departmental mailing service, I am at the top 1 program (as of this year) in my field (not philosophy). Mailing service?? No way, man. We do that shit ourselves. For the record, staff time is allocated to helping junior faculty prep grant applications and university start-up funding applications. In the long run, that seems like a better use of time.

In the short-term, I got to bond with my local post man. He waved his hands over my stack of outgoing apps and said a silent prayer on behalf of my career...

Happy collating!

- girl friday

Himself said...

As for top 1 departments – I'm pretty sure guys at Rutgers have to use Interfolio now. That may be because it's not a very prestigious/rich university. OTOH, I think Cornell has replaced its internal service with Interfolio too. Outsourcing. It makes me feel great, because it means I'm using the same dossier service as them.

Anonymous said...

By the way, for us who are going on the market next year can someone make a brief distinction between 1) Interfolio and 2) the department of university mailing system for applications. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Interfolio is a web-based company that manages and sends out your dossier, whereas departments with a mailing service manage and send out your dossier. My department's practices would likely have to change quite a bit if it started using Interfolio, since the placement director, in addition to letters of recommendation, sends out an official "endorsement" for each job on behalf of the department. Interfolio might not be geared for that.

Anonymous said...

PGOAT -- why not use Interfolio.com? Does your department not allow it? It is pretty easy. Upload your stuff, have your recommenders mail in their letters (which get scanned and remain private). You can even upload individual letters and design what packets of information go to what institution. Then, with some easy mouseclicks, you can carpet bomb the job postings with your applications! You can even overnight stuff! I used it last year on the phil market and what a time saver!

Anonymous said...

Not to make this an interfolio thread, but how does this work with letters of application? Do you send in the letter separately and say that the rest of the dossier is forthcoming?

anonymous too said...

I think Interfolio is great.

Letters are submitted by profs - they either upload to the site or send a letter that gets scanned in. They now have an easy program set up to make requesting a letter easy. It is not as cheap as the dept doing it, but it is at least easy and fast.

Anonymous said...

Rutgers guy: Pitt is also a public university (state-related, technically, but they get more state money than Michgigan), and not very wealthy.

Anonymous said...

I've been on both sides of the Interfolio fence. I wrote a letter for a student applying to law school and uploaded it to Interfolio. They recommended that I upload an electronic signature. Let me assure you that what I produced with my trackpad looked so retarded that I had to add an apologetic PS to my letter. (One could also fax them a signature, which might work better, but I am faxless at home and didn't want to wait a couple of days until I went in to the department.) And, as a member of search committees, I have received Interfolio dossiers. At first I thought it was a little weird. For one thing, there's a homogenous look across candidates from different departments. Also, I seem to remember that some of the letters looked crappy: it looked like they had been printed by a fax printer on fax paper. But perhaps I am making that up. And, even if I'm not, perhaps it's worth avoiding the hassle anyway.

-- A Guy with Tenure who is also on Hiring Committees

Anonymous said...

there are obvious disadvantages to having secretaries do all the work for you. e.g., they will get annoyed (or worse, confused!) if you give them five different research statements, four different teaching dossiers, two different writing samples, different combinations of reference letters, and an accompanying excel spreadsheet which helps them puzzle together which combinations of these are supposed to go to which jobs you want to apply for.

in other words, the departmental services seem useful mostly for the 'open' aos/aoc jobs. of course, these tend to be the jobs at the leiterized schools. which is why it makes sense that many of the leiterized schools themselves get the secretaries to send the stuff out for their candidates.

Anonymous said...

Oh, it gets better, some schools even higher full time editors to edit grad student and faculty works before they are submitted for publication...imagine having your own editor.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:02 -- in philosophy? Where?

(I have my own editor: me. I think I'm pretty good. But I'm not basing my opinion on the comments I post.)

Anonymous said...

Why wouldn't you expect to have to take responsibility for your own job search at this stage of your career? The candidate should *want* personal control over as much of the application as possible, i.e. everything but the confidential letters dossier.