New! Hey Jane Column: Preparing for a Job Talk

July 26, 2009 at 4:09 pm | Posted in Hey Jane Column, Job Market | Leave a comment


I am currently on the market and preparing for my first campus interview. What advice can you offer as I prepare my job talk?


The job talk is one of the most significant phases of the campus interview process. While a good job talk will not ensure that you will be offered the position, a bad job talk may very well disqualify you from further consideration by the search committee. In addition, your handling of the Q&A is an important piece of the job talk. Delivering a solid, well-organized job talk and Q&A session is thus essential to performing well during the campus interview process.


A good talk is a clear talk. You should organize your job talk around a clear question, a clear argument, and a clear conclusion. It’s a good idea to simplify your basic argument (summed up in a sentence or two), state it explicitly both at the beginning and the end of the talk, elaborating on the simplified argument throughout the rest of the talk. In order to construct a well-organized presentation, the substance of the talk should be clearly framed around your argument. You want to make sure you don’t draw the audience into a thicket of other issues. Structure the talk like a story. Make clear what you are asking, why your research question matters and how you have answered your research question. It is also vital that you clearly address the “so, what?” question! Be certain that the title of your talk reflects the argument you’ll be making as well.

A good talk is on something you know well. Resist the urge to develop a talk around something new, a line of inquiry that you have not yet fully fleshed out or examined in the work you’ve completed thus far. Choose a dissertation chapter with which you’ve developed a good bit of familiarity, even one you have already published or submitted for publication. It will take a lot of the stress out of the preparation of the talk, and you will look a lot more knowledgeable and smooth. There are times to take risks; this is not one of them.

A good talk is interesting to the broad range of sociologists or interdisciplinary scholars that will be listening to the talk. The job talk differs from the presentation of a conference paper in that it is more an introduction to your intellectual biography and research agenda, not a talk geared specifically toward subfield specialists. So don’t write a talk that is focused for a specialty audience or journal. Write a talk that has clear relevance outside of your subfield, one that will allow the audience to connect with your arguments.  Don’t use highly technical or specialized terms, and if you are presenting sophisticated statistical analyses that some may not be familiar with, present them as simply as possible, but offer to answer any additional questions during the Q&A portion of the talk. In the same vein, rather than focusing narrowly on the significance of your work within your subfield (or within your discipline, for those interviewing for positions in multidisciplinary departments), make clear the broader context of your work and its implications in the wider world. Continue Reading New! Hey Jane Column: Preparing for a Job Talk…


Hey Jane says: Back up your work!

July 16, 2009 at 3:40 pm | Posted in Technology, Writing | Leave a comment

Do you regularly back up your work? Your data? Your photographs and videos?

Most people would probably answer no to that question.

But hard drives die. Everyone knows someone who has had a hard drive die beyond retrieving anything from it. Don’t let it happen to you!

I didn’t used to back up my computer’s contents regularly, and I’m still guilty of not regularly backing up photographs. But, about a year ago I started using’s free back up service, and now every single morning at 8am, a complete back up is made of my most important folders– i.e. my dissertation folder, job market folder, and teaching folder. I don’t have to even think about the back up or remember to do it. It just happens. To back up my entire hard drive I have to plug it into an external drive, so that happens less often. Even so, I know that everything has been backed up at least once a month. And the important stuff, once a day. And that’s peace of mind!

Here’s some links to advice on how to keep regular back ups:

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