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From Viva to the Job Market


Your examiners: what do you know about their work and their approaches? ... Concentration for long periods, stamina. Motivation, courage, potential leadership skills ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: From Viva to the Job Market

From Viva to the Job Market
  • Katharine Ellis, IMR

1 Preparing for the viva
  • Your examiners what do you know about their work
    and their approaches?
  • New work published on your subject? New
  • Re-acquaintance with your own thesis
  • Re-acquaintance with the degree regulations
  • Errata list
  • Knowing when youll get to know the result, and
  • Accepting that the viva is very rarely the end of
    the thesis process

2 In the viva examiners
  • NB the Americans call it a defense
  • A long viva is not a sure sign of examiner doubt
  • The examiners are there to test you, not to
    compliment you. They want to know
  • a) whether its genuinely your work
  • b) whether you are abreast of and building on the
    most recent thinking
  • c) whether you considered all relevant
  • d) why you made some choices and discarded others
  • e) whether you have the capacity to stretch

3 Types of question
  • Orientation and context what drew you to doing
    what you did?
  • Conception, methods and approaches how else
    might you have done it?
  • Content and structure why is X missing? Why
    discuss Z before Y?
  • Technique how professional a job? How could you
    have communicated your message better?

4 In the viva you
  • Stay calm even if you feel under attack
  • Try to open up answers to any closed questions.
    (Examiners find the situation stressful too.)
  • Take time to clarify a question you dont quite
  • Ask whats behind a question if you think theres
    a subtext but cant work out what it is
  • If you think a question is irrelevant, say so and
    (politely) explain why
  • If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging
  • Answer directly but amplify, exemplify, where you
    can. Dont answer a conceptual question with a
    detailed example until youve addressed the
    conceptual aspect
  • If you need a break, ask
  • If you get the chance, ask examiners to make a
    distinction in their final report between
    amendments that are required, and those that are

5 After the viva
  • Common experiences exhaustion, hurt at hostile
    questioning feeling that examiners read
    superficially and quizzed you about things that
    were self-evident
  • Corrections and revisions can be painful if
    reconceptualisation is required, or cutting of
    favourite passages, or significant further work
    on a project with which you are thoroughly fed up
  • Corrections
  • Be clear about what you need to send to whom, and
  • Dont run late
  • Recording corrections in tabular form helps
    examiners check them off, and makes you look
    (even more) organised

6 Jobs market
  • Academia and PhD oversupply
  • Recession and possible HE cuts / new priorities
  • The PhD as passport?
  • The CV as affirmation of PhD-related skills?
  • Importance of transferable skills

7 Common employment directions
  • Academic
  • Artist in residence
  • Research assistant (becoming more common)
  • Short-term (often replacement) lecturer
  • Funded research fellow
  • Part-time academic posts
  • Casual HE teaching
  • Assistant/adjunct professorships in North America
  • Academic-related (or not)
  • Artist in residence
  • University admin
  • Other management
  • Public service
  • Librarianship / archivist training
  • Arts management
  • Journalism
  • Broadcast media
  • Publishing
  • FE teaching
  • Freelance / portfolio

8 Non-academic desiderata
  • PhD-holders can routinely sell what employers
  • Independent initiative and/or team-working
  • Ability to perform under pressure
  • Critical thinking, lateral thinking, creative
    thinking, logical thinking
  • Planning, organisation and attention to detail
  • Concentration for long periods, stamina
  • Motivation, courage, potential leadership skills
  • Ability to communicate (presentations, written
  • Ability to finish large-scale projects
  • Make sure your CV extrapolates transferable
    skills from academic content. Potential employers
    wont necessarily make the connection.

9 The academic market
  • http//
  • Times Higher Education (THE)
  • Guardian Education Supplement
  • American Musicological Society bulletin board
    (AMS-Announce) http//
  • IMR bulletin board http//
  • Specialist / industry journals
  • Funding body websites (British Academy etc)
  • Internal university publications (often on web)

10 Academic employer desiderata
  • Evidence of
  • Tailored application
  • Research publications potential
  • Teaching experience willingness/ability to
    extend range beyond PhD specialism
  • Administrative/organisational potential

11 Your boundaries
  • Leading questions
  • Are you prepared to go anywhere in the UK?
  • Are you prepared to go anywhere within the
    Anglophone teaching community (inc. Netherlands,
    Scandinavia, Hong Kong)?
  • Can you teach in a second language?
  • Are you prepared to undertake long commutes?
  • How easy would you find it to be the only Xxxxx
    in your new environment?
  • To what extent are you happy to reinvent yourself
    within a first post?

12 Long-term preparation
  • Good things to do
  • Teaching (wherever, including private)
  • Conference presentations / other relevant
  • Reviewing
  • Potential satellite publications to thesis
  • Networking (actual and virtual)
  • Research-related administrative jobs

13 Medium-term preparation
  • Referees (get three on side well in advance)
  • Experts (for research fellowshipsidentify three
    useful and potentially empathetic externals)
  • Academic-tailored CV and / or non-academic CV
  • Understanding of HEI environments, current
    debates etc

14 The CV
  • Weight/relevance, not bulk, is what counts
  • Clarity and flawless presentation are essential
  • Never exaggerate or double-cite
  • Be clear about the status of items pending
    accepted, in preparation, under consideration?
  • Ordering of sections adapt to different jobs.
    Initial default will probably be 1) Education
    Qualifications, 2) Publications, 3) Conference
    papers, 4) Teaching experience, 5) Administrative
  • Present items in each section with the most
    recent first
  • Feel free to add explanatory text to lists of
    achievements, but keep them short

15 Preparation for a specific post
  • The tailored application letter
  • Check the institution website staff, courses,
    feelnot just the further particulars
  • Ask for student handbooks if they are not online
  • What do you think they want? Why?
  • Can you offer it?
  • How can you convince them you are what they need
    without insulting them about their deficiencies?
  • Thinking laterally about your skill-set
  • Extra-curricular things you would want to offer?

16 The selection process
  • Being clear about what is required
  • Teaching presentation (level?)
  • Research presentation (variegated audience?)
  • Interview (cross-faculty representation?)
  • In the U.S. Assistant Professor posts can
    involve three days of interviews, real teaching,
    student/staff socials

17 Presentations
  • Dont underestimate first (average 10-second)
    impressions. Body language, eye-contact, dress,
    are crucial
  • Youre projecting your personality/potential as a
    colleague, not just your expertise
  • Answering the so what? question is the most
    important aspect of a research presentation to a
    general audience
  • Less is more three good, illustrated, points
    might be all you need
  • Get the timing right. Practise
  • A mixed presentation (2 minutes of ad lib
    context, then a more formal presentation) can
    work well

18 Interviews
  • As for vivas, mainly.
  • Additionally
  • Always have a couple of questions of your own. At
    the very least, youre showing curiosity/interest

  • Good luck!
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