I'd send this if I could

Posted by September Blue Saturday, 22 November 2008

Dear Professor So-and-so,

I am writing to apply for the lectureship in something vaguely close to my field, currently advertised on jobs.ac.uk. While I know you’re going to get several hundred applicants for this one alone, you should hire me ahead of all those people, and I’ll tell you why.

First, my research. I don’t exactly have a lot of time to work on this these days, what with the four jobs I’m juggling to pay the rent and the arrival of a computer that can actually play Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, but I’m still fairly good at it. They gave me a PhD and everything. I have some fancy-looking conference presentations on my c.v., and nobody ever falls asleep during mine, I promise you. Also, this really swanky journal just accepted one of my articles. And I have plans! Oh, I have plans. Great plans, wonderful plans, monograph-worthy plans. I can tell you all about them at an interview, or while weeping bitterly into a gin and tonic at closing time, whatever works for you. If you’re at all unsure about my ability to juggle teaching, research and administrative work in a new job, please bear in mind that I mostly finished my PhD thesis on the library circulation desk after teaching to the point of exhaustion all day. Pay me enough to spend all my library time actually reading the books, and I promise you I’ll bring in so many publications that they’ll create a whole new RAE/REF classification of ‘awesome’ just for your department.

Second, my teaching. I’ve taught everything from first-year introductory courses (‘Books and You: Don’t be afraid!’) to final-year honours classes, and everyone from precocious Foucault-reading school-leavers to sullen forty-year-olds with authority issues (and vice versa). I’ve taught tutorials, written lectures, put course handbooks together, refereed student flamewars on WebCT, and right now I’m supervising the dissertation of a student who chose her theoretical approach based on the nifty structure of a course I ran a couple of years ago. I KNOW! Anyway, being a hiring committee you’re no doubt going to hear a lot of bullshit about how people find the huge first-year classes so very rewarding and totally inspiring and not at all below their true station in academic life, so I won’t bore you with the Dead Poets Society spiel, but I will tell you that I mean what I say. If you want to hire someone who’s going to view their career path as one long march towards teaching a single postgraduate class in psychoanalytic representations of the (m)other in illustrated children’s poetry, 1921-1927, then go ahead and hire the twitchy-looking person who just used the word ‘rewarding’; if you want someone who can and will happily teach your first-years, hire me.

Thirdly, my ability to play nicely with other children. Okay, take a look around your department. You have PhD students? You have a PhD student who always turns up to help with all the boring department tasks like clearing up after parties, who’s always there to fill in seats any time the ‘we look bad, get down here now’ mass e-mail goes around about poor staff attendance at department seminars, who will never cause you heartache? That was me. Admittedly, by now I think my department would pay you to take me away, but the fact that I coped so quietly and so sweetly for so long in a department that can simultaneously complain about PhD students not showing any kind of interest in the running of the department and about TAs having the temerity to speak during department meetings remains a mark in my favour, I think. Also, I’ve worked on a bunch of conferences, can make it across a whole building in 1.2 seconds with a data projector under one arm, am adept at the kind of networking that involves juggling comments like “Let me introduce you to someone who might be interested in that project” with comments like “And your wife doesn’t understand you, right?” at the same event, got the administration to Do Something about various things, and resisted the urge to punch someone in the throat for telling me, while I was doing four jobs and a PhD, that these would be the best days of my academic life because all I had to think about was my thesis. Also, I take up very little space and don’t mind having an office without a window.

Yours in begging, pleading, get-me-out-of-this-dysfunctional-snakepit despair,

September Blue.


  1. phd me Says:
  2. I would so write you a reference if you submitted that letter.

  3. post-doc Says:
  4. Too Delightful For Words! I loved so many lines in this post, I almost can't stand it.