Sunday, December 06, 2009

A job interview walks into a bar. . .

Just as I've been ready to throw in the tenure-track towel, a search committee has decided to give me a chance. I have a videoconference interview in a little over a week.

And it's in a history department.

Let me repeat that: a history department.

The competition for history jobs is, even in this cutthroat market, exceptionally insane. Over my three years of academic job searching, because my CV doesn't bear a Ph.D. in history, I suspect many copies of it have met recycling bins tout de suite.

Which renders this opportunity particularly extraordinary. I'm trying to walk the line between getting my hopes up too high and being self-defeating. For me, that's a very fine line.

But let's be optimistic for a moment, shall we? The position is tenure-track, and it is in public history and gender history. The institution offers a really distinctive M.A. that overlaps with museum studies—which is just about perfect, both in terms of what I do and where I want to go with my teaching, research, and practice.

The department seems to really value teaching, too, which is fabulous.

Of course, as is always the case in an academic job search, there's the matter of where. It's in a state where I may have camped once as a child, but beyond that I've never visited, and it's definitely a place that, while beautiful, many people would consider flyover territory. But so is my beloved Iowa, so color me intrigued. Politically, it's a staunchly red state, with Republicans holding every major office at state and federal levels, with the exception of one Democratic congressperson in the district where the hiring institution sits. (But that same district voted 69% for GWB in 2004.) The politics wouldn't be a deal-killer, actually--I learned a few years back while living in the Young Women's Christian Home in D.C. that I very much enjoy talking to, and learning from, people who hold beliefs very different from mine.

But I get ahead of myself. For the present I have a stack of a dozen books about public history next to me because while I certainly understand the issues facing museums of history and culture and I am familiar with the kinds of natural and social history interpretation that happen at, say, national parks, and while I have kept abreast of developments in digital history, the finer points of, for example, historical reenactment, genealogy, corporate histories, battlefields, and video games/simulations may be lost on me.

I also have a smaller stack of books relating to the subfield of gender history into which I've been wanting to dive headfirst, but into which I have instead been wading very slowly. I need to outline my next project, even as I must refocus on revising and shopping around my diss.

And of course I have a dissertation to reread. A dissertation elevator speech to revise. Answers to draft to typical first-round job search questions. Syllabi to dream up. Nervous breakdowns to experience.

And the biggie: I need to articulate why a Ph.D. in cultural studies—or maybe especially my degree in cultural studies—prepares me to "do" history and to prepare grad students for jobs in public history.

Any tips you want to give on interviewing via videoconference, or references to books, articles, and other resources I absolutely must not miss on teaching public or gender history, etc. would be most appreciated.

15 comments:

Rob MacD said...

Congratulations! Just getting an interview is an accomplishment these days. And good luck.

The History Enthusiast said...

Congrats! I applied for this one as well, but no interview for me :(

That's okay, though, because if I can't get it I would love for a bloggy friend to have the chance!

Did you notice the inconsistencies in the job ad? There were two slightly different versions which I only found out after I'd submitted my application. That makes me think they might be a bit disorganized, but other than that, it looks like a great department.

The History Enthusiast said...

P.S. Video interviews are probably much easier than phone interviews. I had a phone interview not long ago, and it was awkward because I couldn't hear the committee clearly and it was difficult to distinguish who was talking when. Those sorts of problems shouldn't be an issue for you, I'd think, so I guess you should treat it just like a face-to-face interview.

Leslie M-B (trillwing) said...

History Enthusiast, I'm sorry you didn't make it to the interview stage. Maybe you'll still get a call?

I only saw one job ad, a tiny little paragraph. I guess I should look for the other one. . .

And you're right--it does look like a great department!

Someone posted a rumor on the academic jobs wiki that there may be an inside candidate.

The History Enthusiast said...

No, you looked at the correct one. One of the ads said "gender and public history," and the other said open specialization (or maybe it didn't specify, I forget). Check the academic job wiki and you'll see what I mean; apparently others were confused.

Unfortunately, I didn't see the "gender and public history" version (which, ironically enough, I was qualified for). So, the cover letter I sent didn't speak directly to those needs.

No worries, though. I have an AHA interview scheduled and maybe another position will come through.

Suzanne said...

Congrats, Leslie!

susan said...

THat's great news!

Do you read Tenured Radical? She has a blog category of "the job market" and has generally sensible advice about interviewing--might be worth a skim if you've not already read them.

ArticulateDad said...

For reasons that shall remain well, obvious, I have no advice for you on conducting an interview, videoconferencing or otherwise (at least, none that comes from someone who's ever succeeded at it). But... enjoy it. And good luck.

feMOMhist said...

congratulations. No help on video interview as that predates my time on the job market. See if you can track down this book Gender, Sexuality and Museums: A Routledge Reader Edited by Amy Levin. It comes out right at the first of the year, but someone might have an exam copy you could skim. Very au courant.

What Now? said...

No tips to offer, but definitely best wishes and good luck!

New Kid on the Hallway said...

Belated congratulations again!

just wanted to address your wiki comment: wiki commenters ALWAYS think there is an inside candidate. What this invariably means is that there is currently an adjunct/VAP in the position in question. The commenters then decide that because the VAP has fields similar to the advertised job, that person is an inside candidate. When in fact, having someone with those fields just means that these are fields the school wants covered and they haven't had a TT line before this! Schools also vary wildly in their willingness to hire people who've been VAP/adjuncting for them (some love the known quantity, others always think the grass is greener elsewhere). So just because there is someone currently teaching at a school doesn't mean the school wants to keep that person (nor that the person in question necessarily wants to stay). Plus, people who have actually been on the inside of job searches have said that the speculation they've seen on the wikis has been wildly inaccurate - these people are just making stuff up, basically.

I think the wikis are useful for finding out what stage a search has reached, but I'd basically ignore any other information unless it has some really strong indicator of reliability!

mebrett said...

Probably obvious, but I assume you've scoped out the websites of the National Council on Public History and the American Association of State and Local Historians?

Laurie said...

Congratulations, Leslie!

I don't know enough about your field to offer advice but I surely wish you well. :)

Leslie M-B (trillwing) said...

Thanks to everyone for your well wishes and your tips! I'm studying up. . .

Lilian said...

Wow, that's pretty far away. :-)

(I just went looking and found the job in the wiki site)

I think I may have driven through this state once, yeah. After visiting that oldest National Park. The day I go back there we can plan a blogger meet up -- sorry, I'm pushy like that. It's just that I know a kindred spirit when I see one. :-)


And, gender history? I think we should talk. Only you don't list an email in your profile. hmmm...