Every year graduate students are confronted with dismal statistics about the job market, and this past year was no different. However, I want to infuse a bit of optimism amongst all the doom and gloom, especially for students affiliated with the Program in Jewish Culture and Society and the Initiative in Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies. Many of you have worked tirelessly to organize conferences, film screenings, and visiting speakers and I want to tell you that these experiences matter and they will make you a strong candidate when you go on the market. As the professorate shrinks, schools are looking for scholar-teachers who can cover a broad range of material. While you may not get this training from your home department, the Program in Jewish Culture and Society will help expand your disciplinary and theoretical horizons, giving you the tools necessary to communicate the importance of your research and teaching to a variety of programs and schools.
While the job market generally heats up in the fall, your preparations will actually begin before you craft your cover letter, research statement, teaching philosophy, and the ever-more prominent diversity statement the summer before you “go on the market.” Throughout your graduate career, your participation in the Program’s rich interdisciplinary events, workshops, and lectures will help you hone your professional profile. Beyond adding lines to your curriculum vitae, these opportunities will teach you how to network with faculty and visiting scholars, make your work legible to multiple audiences, and give you a broad foundation in fields adjacent to your own. All these experiences will shape your application materials for the better.
Having learned how to interact professionally with faculty members as a researcher in your own right will help alleviate the nerves of MLA and Skype interviews come winter. My interviews were generally with smaller schools, which meant that I was interacting with search committees comprised of faculty members from across the humanities. The time I spent discussing research with people outside my field thus became an asset. Later, during my campus visit, I met with professors and students from the German, Chinese, Slavic, French, Religion, and Art History departments, to name a few, and knowing a little about each of their fields from my interaction with the Program’s affiliated faculty and graduate students helped me translate my dissertation and future research plans across disciplines and ask pertinent questions. Most importantly, my work as a research assistant and reading group organizer demonstrated my dedication to program building, of bringing something beyond teaching and research to a school looking to increase its national profile and community outreach.
This was all made possible through the professionalization opportunities afforded to me by the Program in Jewish Culture and Society and the Initiative in Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies. The job market may be dispiriting, but the work you put in now will help you make the most of any opportunity that comes your way.
Starting this fall, Jessica Young will be an Assistant Professor of Global English at New College of Florida. At Illinois, she was the co-founder of the Future of Trauma and Memory Studies Reading group and co-edited Days and Memory, the blog of the Initiative in Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies. She has left a copy of her job application materials in the Jewish Studies office for future students navigating the job market.