Sunday, December 23, 2007

Sunday Comics

--By Soon-to-be-Jaded-Disstertator

(Click o see a bigger version.)


James said...

The bottle of alcohol seems to be trying to tell us something...trying to spell something out.. What is it alcohol? Please tell me! Must drink more to get the alcohol's magic advice...

Great comic!!!

barfing before stressful situations said...

Speaking of bottles of alcohol...

One thing that I have done in certain situations–conference talks, fellowship interviews, etc.–is to make a joke in the beginning that indicates that I am nervous. So, if I have a laser pointer, the first time I use it I say “This is an anxiety indicator” as I grip the thing with both hands. If it is an informal gathering, I say something like “The vodka must have calmed me down.” In more formal talks, I have other ways to joke about my anxiety. I have found that it puts me at ease and humanizes the situation.

I am trying to figure out what might work at these conference interviews. I have thought about saying, after shaking hands, “Well my palms aren’t all sweaty after all.” But I am afraid this sounds gross. Or how about, “When I was nervous at my wedding, they kept saying bend your knees so you don’t pass out. No one gave me similar advice for this situation, so I hope I don’t pass out on you.”

How does such a strategy sound? I posted this at the AHA site, but figured, since I am a so-called philosopher, I would stick with my peeps.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't do any of those. Don't draw attention to your nervousness. Exude confidence even if you have to fake it.

VAP said...

Xanax, that is the key my friend. Immediate anxiety relief.

matt w said...

Don't draw attention to your nervousness. Exude confidence even if you have to fake it.

Absolutely. It sucks that even though you're in a situation that would make any sane person nervous, signs of nerves will be held against you. But that's the way it is.

Don't make any self-deprecating jokes either -- you shouldn't come across as a blowhard or egotist, but you don't need to put yourself down -- that's their job.

Mr. Zero said...

I'd like to ring in and concur with the other people: Do not call attention to your nervousness. Find a way to hide it at all costs. No self-deprecation; no jokes. I was told, by a junior faculty member in his second year out of grad school, that you really shouldn't even do anything that acknowledges or implies that you realize you're being interviewed. You should come off as though you are having an interesting discussion about your work or your teaching, not that you're being interviewed, even though you are and they know it. Your behavior should indicate confidence, that you know what you are talking about, and not that you are nervous or funny.

That's what I heard, anyway.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone tell me about the Regis University job. The wiki said that the semi-finalists were contacted via snail mail. However, I am out-of-town until after the APA. Is their next move going to be after the APA?

Anonymous said...

Could someone address the issue about whether it is better to read your research talk or just talk through the main points? Is one better than the other?

Anonymous said...

Do you mean actually read a piece of paper in front of you while being interviewed? Never do that. In any interview, whether academic or otherwise, it's never good to be referring to bits of paper, nevermind reading from them. They have your CV, so they can read it themselves. What they're looking to do is engage you in a conversation about it.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:24,

I didn't mean the interview, but at the oncampus research talk. Any ideas about whether one should read a paper or just talk through points?

tt assprof said...

Anon 1:52 asked:

"Any ideas about whether one should read a paper or just talk through points?"

What I've always done is wire, as an attachment, a copy of my paper to the dept. in advance, then read the paper with them reading along. This is the safest way of doing it, in my opinion.

But strictly as a way of presenting, it's probably the least impressive.

I myself find impressive those people who, it seems, must have memorized the entire paper and deliver cold a thirty to forty minute presentation. I could never do that, but if you can without a lot of "umm's", go for it. Definitely.

The other attractive way of presenting is the power-point presentation. Alas, I have no idea how to do power-point, but I've recently seen a couple done really well. Very clearly organized, I even think that, in lieu of an actual copy of the paper, the content may be best conveyed in this way.

But do keep in mind that there are different kinds of job-talks; and, should you be lucky enough to get an on-campus, make sure to ask what the format's going to be like. There are at least three different kinds.

(1) Primarily for faculty: 40-50 minute lecture, read from a paper, power-point or delivered cold. The question and answer period can last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. It can be as technical, without being alienating, as you want it.

But if you plan to deliver cold, make sure you're good at it. I mean, you don't want to go blank and have nothing on hand to fall back on. Also unattractive is if you go blank in the middle of the paper, and have to spend a long pause rummaging through the original. It'll look like someone trying to make a dramatic entrance then falling on their face.

So, you know, if you're gonna do it like that, make sure you can. I've personally never had the confidence.

(2) For both students and faculty. Same format, less technical. The difference here is that, they also want to see how you're like as a teacher. So, for instance, if you have teaching experience, and you generally use power-point, and feel comfortable about it--use power-point.

(3) Primarily for students. Often, teaching places just want you to take over someone's class for a session, more or less keeping to their syllabus. You don't want to read a paper in this kind of situation.

By no means, however, does this mean you can afford to be any less prepared. For such talks, I not only rehearsed the whole 50 or 1:15 minute lecture, but usually had something to hand out as well.

The key in such talks is to be as clear and cogent as possible, stripped of technical jargon. You want to use a lot of illustrative metaphors and examples, maybe one or two funny anecdotes, etc. And you want to come off as a real nice, approachable, friendly person.

Also, make sure about the length of the session assigned: i.e., is it 50 minutes long or 1:15 minutes long? Or, if on a quarter system, 1:40 minutes long? You do not want to break earlier than alloted.

(4) A lot, if not most, if not all, places that want you to do (3), also want you to do a separate research presentation. This is either a Q and A about one of your writing samples, or a fresh presentation on your current research plans. These usually last about an hour.

For such a research discussion, don't bother reading a paper. But it would be nice to either have an outline to hand out or a power-point presentation.

Finally, some research places either combine (1) and (3) or (1) and (4), so make sure about that as well.

Anonymous said...

I read my job talk. Philosophy is unusual in the degree to which this is acceptable practice in the discipline; even people who prefer that you not read your paper will not generally freak out if you read it. They've seen it plenty of times before.

I do think that if you're going to read your paper, you need to practice reading it *many* times (at least ten) slowly, loudly and with plenty of inflection, so that you read it very smoothly and can comfortably depart at least a little from what's written on the page. You might even plan parts of the paper you're going to ad lib (or appear to ad lib). The loudness and slowness will (if you're like me) help to mitigate a natural tendency to read quickly and quietly. But as with all advice about such matters, a lot depends on what method of presentation you find most comfortable and what bad natural inclinations you need to counteract.

--Yet Another Search Committee Member

Anonymous said...

Anon. 9:11 am: The Regis short-list folks are asked to write a short essay about how they see themselves fitting into the mission, the school identity, and so forth. That essay is due January 11. So I would assume from that deadline that their next move will be well after the APA.

Anonymous said...

A few pieces of advice for those who want to try giving their job talks cold (I've given four different job talks this way, and I've always gotten the offer in the end).

1. Make your talk modular. You should be able to break the talk up into 5-7 minute pieces. Your notes should give you the beginning of each of these pieces. That way you can use your notes to get back on track if you start to lose your way.

2. Practice. I usually go over each part of a talk *at least* 40-50 times before I give the talk "live." Of course, you can't go over the whole talk 40-50 times. But each of those five minute pieces can be gone over repeatedly in the gaps in your day -- e.g., sub-vocalize a piece on your way to class, do one piece after each paper when you're grading, do a piece or two in the shower, etc. Then do the talk as a whole 5-10 times (including 1 in your hotel room the night before you really give it).

Of course, this is a lot of work, but it can be quite effective if you can get it down.

matt w said...

On the reading vs. powerpoint vs. whatever question, you might want to look at this thread, where some people discuss the pros and cons of different approaches. You can consider the comments there both as arguments concerning the best way to deliver a philosophy talk, and also as indications of what some folks on the committee might think about how you should deliver your talk. Also keep in mind that the opinions expressed there aren't necessarily representative.

I don't remember exactly what was said there, but my advice is: don't do anything that's uncomfortable for you. If you think you might goof up trying to talk through your talk, then read it. If reading feels horribly artificial to you, maybe talk through it. But sending a paper in advance is probably a good idea no matter what.

Merry Xmas and good luck to all!

lostmarbles said...

Seriously, this advice seems ridiculous to me. Pretend like neither of you know that you are being interviewed? Don't joke about being nervous? What do I know? This is my first time on the job market, but this advice all seems very extreme to me (maybe this means I won't get a job). Of course, I always think that people who tell me never to admit to my students that I don't know something are also living in a world of denial too.

Aren't SCs also trying to find out what you would be like as a colleague at these things? Wouldn't a self-deprecating joke show that you are not a complete blow-hard in that case? I know that I can be very charming, if I am allowed (or can manage) to show my personality, or so I've been told. Should I not show this off then, even if I think doing so would be to my advantage? Can this be right?

I mean these are *people* that we are trying to impress. I would guess that showing that you are both smart and funny and down to earth would make it more likely that you would get a fly out, not less. Who would make a better impression on you? The perfect bot who did a great job, or the person who did a great job and made you laugh? This is why, at least partly, the one SC I was on did not interview at the APA. They didn't want to get sucked into the "cult of personality" (of course, how they were supposed to avoid this when judging who to hire after flyouts was a mystery to me, but anyhow).

Barfing, for what's it's worth, that's my take (not worth much given that I, unlike others on here, don't have a tt job). Oh, and the joke about the pointer...funny : )

Anonymous said...

On reading vs. not reading your job talk at any place that values research (as many LACs also do):

What's important is the substance of the philosophy that you present. That's really all that matters, together with how you handle the discussion period. If you simplify your paper in order to present it via PP-slides or the like, you risk removing some of the substance -- which, trust me, is not in your interest. Sure, you could present your paper word-for-word by memorizing it, which is in a way impressive. But the question is whether it's impressive in the right way: do you want to present yourself as someone who would devote so much time to mere style (that is, over substance)?

So I say: read the thing. But read it well, referring to a handout and pausing to reexplain the densely argued bits and to elaborate examples. As someone has already noted, lots of practice is required just to read a paper well. And it might also help if your audience already has the paper.

To people in other fields, that seems redundant: your audience reading along with you. But the point in philosophy is that you're giving your audience something substantial to think about and react to, and your should help yourself to whatever enables you to do that effectively. In a philosophy talk, the action is entirely in the question period. That's where you really do have to perform.

(I speak from lots of experience on both sides, at research schools and at research-friendly LACs.)

Anonymous said...

I just want to add to the chorus of people above suggesting that you not make a joke calling attention to your nervousness. It's much better to act confident and focus on what it is that really excites you about your work (or your paper, your teaching--whatever you're talking about). I've found that acting like I'm confident often leads to a genuine feeling of confidence.

Before presenting a conference paper (or job talk), I read it aloud and listen to the sound of my voice. I often find that I sound better aloud than I realize--I actually sound like I know what I'm talking about! (which in fact, I do, but it doesn't always feel that way...) Concentrate on the good--think about the importance of what you're saying, the strengths of your arguments. If you do this, hopefully they will too...

Anonymous said...

It's a matter of pretending to be someone you're not or in some condition you're not. It's called maturity: don't draw unnecessary attention to yourself or circumstances about yourself that are inappropriate for that situation. Confide in your friends; don't bring it up with strangers, search committee included. You certainly wouldn't want to them to humor about how this is their 15th interview, so you better be exciting or else they'll fall asleep. They KNOW you're probably tense, nervous, anxious. They've interviewed countless others who were as well. It really goes without saying. They're also bored out of their mind, tired, and want to go home. That goes without saying. Get down to business. Be friendly, affable, cordial, professional. Those are the qualities they're looking for in a colleague.

Anonymous said...

Edit previous: "It's NOT a matter of pretending . . . "

Philosophy Prof said...

Really good point -- everyone knows that interviewees are nervous and that this is a stressful time, but there is something to be said for being professional. These folks do want us to be persons and to be colleagues, but in the same way that we don't share intimate details about ourselves when we first meet a person with whom we eventually become friends (though certainly we should do so later), we should start out professionally with our potential future colleagues. So as a practical matter, definitely don't comment on the stress and nervousness, but it's also just appropriate. Perhaps it is possible that one could say something self-deprecating later on in the interview if it happens naturally, but only after laying a foundation.

Remus lupin, abd said...

Does anybody know what we should make of the jobs remaining on the wiki? About a quarter of them are still on there.

My guess is that the interviews went to people who either don't know about the wiki or don't update it. I suppose some places could be waiting till the very last instant, but I'd be surprised if a full quarter of the hiring departments are doing that.

Anonymous said...

The Wiki is head --> world reliable, but not world --> reliable. What the wiki says is so is probably so. But the wiki is silent on many things that are so. My department called a number of its finalist before calling the rest. Nothing showed up on the wiki until a few days after we called the rest of the finalists. I guess those early folks, about whom we were very sure, were not reading the wiki, or at least not helping update it.

Here's one thing that might explain the lack of world-head reliability for the Wiki. We know through the grapevine that are early decision finalists, as it were, are all hot candidates with many interviews. One might conclude that those who started getting lots of interviews early on stopped checking and helping update the wiki regularly at some point. More generally, one might conclude that as even less hot candidates got more and more interviews, they too may have stopped checking and updating regularly.

After all, wiki-obsession is not an entirely healthy phenomenon. Some of our students here were checking it hourly or minute-by-minute, despite their self-professed better judgment that they shouldn't be. So maybe once a person has a decent level of interviews, there's a tendency to check out.

Sisyphus said...

Good luck everyone! Knock 'em dead!

Anonymous said...

Just to add a different view -- having been on 3 APA SCs now, I know that I liked it when someone's personality came through the professional veneer (which needed to be firmly in place, of course).

This didn't have to be in a self-deprecating manner, but when you're first settling in at the table or on the chair or on the bed (eeh gad), I don't think there's anything wrong with making a lighthearted comment or joke. In fact, I remember that our SC chair would often ask, "how are you holding up?" as a casual chitchat opener -- and we certainly didn't want someone to start whining like a ninny or describing how many Xanax they had to take to sleep, but just to show we realize the position interviewees are in, esp. those with lots of interviews. Anyway, if you're naturally charming and/or comfortable with this kind of chitchat, say something that reflects your true personality--like a joke. If not, say something standard, like "I'm doing fine and am really enjoying the conference." Or "I'm fine, thanks for asking. And I'm happy to have the opportunity to talk with you today."

Charm won't get you the flyout, but it might get you remembered as standing out a bit from the robotic others who pass through with "research spiel, press 1", "teaching spiel, press 2" practically written on their foreheads. (and this is no one's fault -- this is how we all have to prepare and present for the interview, esp when ABD and don't have lots of experience.) There was a woman we interviewed who I found really smart and also personally interesting and cool at an interview (we didn't hire her, cause others fit our needs better); she stuck in my mind, so that the next year when I needed someone to do a book review, I remembered this person and tracked her down. I'm not sure I would have remembered her name or anything about her if she had not left a personal impression. Of course, that didn't get her the job, so for what it's worth.

The interview is a strange situation, and it's not like the SC doesn't recognize that, too. I could never pretend we're just having a conversation. Come on -- people on the SC forget they're supposed to ask the next question and there's a weird silence and someone has to elbow the other or say awkward things like, "I think prof. X wanted to ask you about your blahblahblah, right?" Prox X, "Oh yeah, I was curious" This is not a normal conversation. (NOTE: I'm in a very non-pretentious department).

But from the moment you walk in, you should treat it like a chance to be part of the profession in a really cool way (just lie to yourself if you have to). Everyone has been in the interviewee situation, so it's a rite of passage; and this SC chose you out of a stack of probably 100+ apps to find out more about you. Be flattered! It's like one of those reality dating shows and they're here with the 12 or so they've decided are most compatible and interesting for them. Because of your sexy mind, you've made it this far! So, try to calm the nerves-- no one tiny slip is gonna sink you and no one brilliant answer is gonna get you the job.