Tag Archives: job market

What Do the Interfolio Fee Changes Mean For You? (A Rundown)

On July 10 Interfolio announced changes to its fee structure for job applicants.

 

  • Accounts are now free (note: through institutional memberships like MLA job applicants were previously able to make free Interfolio accounts)
  • Delivery prices are no longer for individual letters or applications. In a new system called Dossier Deliver they are now charging a flat $48 (USD) for 50 electronic and mail deliveries

At first glance these changes look beneficial. Interfolio costs for sending out applications and letters were always one of the factors that compounded the many structural stresses of the academic job market. Delivery costs for applications could vary wildly.

Still, a number of issues emerged that are not addressed in the FAQ about the new Dossier Delivery system. Here, we will walk through some of our questions and concerns along with the responses we received from Interfolio:

Q: If we have the Dossier Deliver package, what is the cost for deliveries beyond those 50?

A: Interfolio will have an option for individuals to buy tiered (5, 10, and 15 deliveries) packs if they exhaust the original 50 deliveries allotted for the year

Q: How long will the $48 flat fee for Deliver be good for? Is it annual?

A: The flat fee is annual. The 50 delivery credits last for the one year before expiring.

Q: Does “deliverable” mean that each individual Interfolio letter counts toward the 50, or would a cluster of letters for a single position be just 1 toward the 50?

A: A cluster of letters delivered to one application or email would count as 1 delivery. Interfolio has eliminated the cost difference between deliveries

Q: Is there any way to have a cheaper rate for delivery if someone only wants to apply for any number of positions less than 50?

A: No, because Interfolio is eliminating individual costs for deliveries

In short, many of these changes benefit job applicants. 

The major remaining criticism: If there will be a tiered service system, why not make it available not just after the original 50 credits allotted for a Dossier Deliver account? After all, for reasons ranging from temporary but renewable jobs, to smaller disciplines to the unpredictable number of job postings each year, many Interfolio users may send out far fewer than 50 applications a year, but they would be doing so for several years. For these users the annual flat rate model would not have the same benefit.

(Thanks to everyone who shared their concerns with me on social media about the Interfolio changes! If there any points I may have missed, please contact me at christine.yao@gmail.com or  @yao_christine)

Grad School Summers: How Going “Off Track” Showed Me the Way

by Geffrey Davis, University of Arkansas

Hear me out. I want to suggest that, if you can afford it, if you can gain your advisor’s approval, if you can set the appropriate academic smokescreens, consider going “off track” this summer. I can’t emphasize enough my abiding sense that, by allowing myself to go “off track” during my summers, I left grad school with a greater level of institutional literacy, a more robust network, a more diverse set of professional skills and experience, and a healthier survey of my post-graduation horizons.

By “off track,” I mean to invoke paid (or unpaid, if you can swing it and it’s worth your time) positions that are neither required nor provided by your graduate program. More specifically, however, I’m recommending (especially if you teach throughout the 9-month academic year) that you change things up and gain some alt-ac experience by committing your summer to something(s) beyond the sanctioned scope of your advanced degree program.

In many ways, for academics, mid-May to mid-August are our cruelest months. We pick up as many sections of composition or language courses as necessary to float us financially until the fall paychecks return. Or we relish (mistakenly) in the theoretical abundance of “free” time we have to solve the critical problems threatening what’s viable (or feasible) about our thesis/dissertation projects. And yet, here’s the harsh reality: we rarely get as much work done over the summer as we imagine and/or need. And so, adding insult to injury, we often enter fall semesters feeling both inadequately recharged and rottenly weighted down by all the work we have failed to complete—sometimes quite literally, if we have also tried to fit in a family visit with book-packed suitcases.

Even if we must work during summers, summers don’t have to work like this. I learned this by accident. My first summer as a graduate student—both to sharpen my understanding of grad school (as a first generation student) and to strengthen my pedagogical chops—I stayed in-town and taught composition, and I have no regrets about that decision. My second summer, however, an alternative opportunity came across my desk when our Director of Graduate Studies recommended that I apply for an open position with the Summer Institute for Literary and Cultural Studies (SILCS). Still drawn to the idea of evolving my teaching strengths, I nearly ignored the call. But when I looked more carefully into SILCS—and, especially, when I realized its commitment to addressing a history of ethnic/racial underrepresentation by providing a cohort of minority undergraduate students with vital academic resources and training in literary and cultural theory—I scrambled to gather the necessary job materials, applied, and was offered a residency position as a graduate mentor.

That summer, rather than double down on the valuable training (as a teacher and a scholar) that my grad program was already providing, I spent the month of June engaging a diverse group of undergrad students in a new capacity, working alongside programmers and administrators, and networking with a range of academics from across the country. Furthermore, that experience gave me alt-ac skills and insight that simultaneously broadened my professional vision and yet deepened my sense of the academic structure to which I was committed as a graduate student. I never used my summers the same.

After returning from SILCS, I began realizing year-round “off track” opportunities that were lower commitment but similarly rewarding: I said yes to formal on-campus mentoring of underrepresented undergraduates, to outreach work within my local community, to summer creative writing retreats, and to less traditional summer teaching positions (for graduate students). For starters, I recommend that you visit your home institution’s Career Services to learn about all the summer jobs, fellowships, and internships offered on your campus. You should find out whether your university or college participates in the Upward Bound/Migrant Program. It’s also worth considering residency positions offered at other institutions, such as Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth. If your institution offers graduate level internships (such as Penn State University’s GRIP program), you might consider that option. Finally, I’d keep an eye out for freelance gigs or positions with short-term funding via supplemental pay at your home institution.

Though I understand the real concerns and risks involved with spreading one’s self in this manner, my “off track” activities did not force me to forfeit the timely completion of my advanced degrees or compromise my ability to become an effective college-level teacher—both of which were extremely important goals of mine. Each experience did, however, help me evolve and advance my post-graduation prospects.

By the time I completed grad school, I had a rich professional network (both inside and outside of academia), a more developed institutional literacy, additional administrative and service skills (as necessary for administration or activism as for successful committee work), an ability to communicate to a broader audience (extremely important for grants, job docs, and interviews), a more informed and nuanced perspective on my professional and personal goals, and a refreshed interest in my academic work—not to mention a counter-force to both the pressures of an advanced degree program and the reality of job market uncertainties. As such, I encourage you to break the cycle as a graduate student by using summers to go “off track” in order to gain unique leadership, service, and communication experience.

What is Connected Academics?

Guest post by Stacy Hartman, coordinator of the Connected Academics Project.

The MLA has received generous support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to undertake a major project, Connected Academics: Preparing Doctoral Students of Language and Literature for a Variety of Careers. Over the next four years, the project will support initiatives aimed at demonstrating how doctoral education can develop students’ capacities to bring the expertise they acquire in advanced humanistic study to a wide range of fulfilling, secure, and well-compensated professional situations. Connected Academics will help prepare students to consider the broad range of occupations available to them, from careers in universities both on and off the tenure track to careers in business, government, and nonprofit organizations.

The project encompasses several major initiatives. Among them are
● Pilot programs at three partner institutions (Arizona State University, Georgetown University, and the University of California Humanities Research Institute) that will implement recommendations of the MLA Task Force on Doctoral Study to support career diversity for language and literature doctoral students and graduates.
● An annual, yearlong proseminar in New York City for doctoral students, recent graduates, and PhD-holding adjuncts from universities in the area that will focus on such issues as career horizons for PhDs in modern languages and literatures, in and outside the academy; long- and short-term prospects for adjunct positions; and the versatility and reach of humanities research.
● The compilation of data and reports on the career paths of graduates with doctorates in language and literature.
● The expansion of mentoring and networking activities at the MLA Annual Convention and at regional MLA meetings.
● A resource kit for doctoral students, directors of graduate studies, placement officers, and curricular reform committees.

At the 2016 MLA convention in Austin, there will be several Connected Academics sessions. Each pilot program has its own session, and there will be two poster sessions highlighting humanities PhDs working outside the academy. In addition, the MLA Job Center will provide individual counseling for job seekers. Job seekers can meet with experienced department chairs, career counselors, or PhDs employed outside the academy for 25-minute one-on-one sessions to discuss their job search and career options, both academic and nonacademic, and to review any application materials they may have. Counseling is offered on 8 and 9 January at the Job Information Center (Governor’s Ballroom, level 4, Hilton Austin). Individuals may sign up in advance for a single meeting. Sign-up sheets will be available at the Job Center.

For more information about the project, we invite you to explore the Connected Academic Web site and follow us on our Twitter, @MLAconnect.

Free job counseling at the annual convention

CSGSP member Shane Peterson has written a helpful guide to using the free job counseling at the MLA convention.

The lack of feedback one receives while “on the market” can be frustrating. Ever wonder what the committees are thinking when they look at your documents? I know I did. Here’s your chance to find out!

The Basics: Bring a copy of your cover letter and/or CV for review by an experienced departmental administrator. Make an appointment in advance at the Job Information Center (located in the Imperial Ballroom, level B2, of the Fairmont). Appointments last 25 minutes and will take place on January 10 and 11 from 10:15 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. And best of all: it’s completely free of charge!

My Experience: During my first job search, I remember wondering whether I was doing something wrong. The longer I waited for interview requests, the more I began to second-guess myself and my application materials. I had received detailed feedback from faculty members and students in my graduate program and read plenty of books and articles on the subject, but were we all overlooking something? Or were other candidates a “better fit” or simply further along in their dissertations or professional careers? For me, the free job advice session provided at least three benefits:

1. Fresh pair of eyes: Having someone who doesn’t already know you look at your CV and cover letter can be enlightening. The advice session helped me be more specific in my cover letter and work on framing my dissertation in a more widely accessible manner.
2. Networking: Don’t miss out on the opportunity to meet a senior professional in your field and enjoy their undivided attention. I chose to meet with a faculty member in a neighboring field to simulate how modern language departments and/or specialists in other fields might react to my application materials. In the end, I made a contact and discovered that we had two professional connections already.
3. Peace of mind: It’s nice to hear “really, your documents look fine” from someone outside your home department and institution. And if there is a problem, it’s better to catch it now when there’s nothing at stake! For me, the reassurance that my letter and CV were generally in good shape was the best part of the job advice session.

And don’t forget: You don’t have to be on the market to use this free service. If I had it to do over again, I would have gone the year before my first job search. It’s never too early to start thinking about how to communicate your academic persona in an effective manner.