A Comment from the Phone Interview

There was a comment/question that I did not put into the list, because it was not a generic question.  It was specifically about my work.

The committee member said, “We see that you have lots of presentations in diverse areas.  What exactly are your areas of interest?”

And I said… all of them.

If you are new to academia and are beginning a career, pick a single area of interest and work in it.  It makes more sense to people and they can see the connections better when the lines are not a dot-to-dot.

They don’t like it if your list of conferences are on the following topics:

  • science fiction
  • Christianity
  • Gilman
  • Shakespeare
  • Judith
  • fairy tales
  • gothic
  • poetry
  • Civil War holidays
  • post-1960s South
  • business writing
  • technology in the classroom
  • trauma
  • gender differences in composition
  • etc

They want something a bit cleaner.  If I’d done all my work on Shakespeare or Gulliver’s Travels or poetry, that would have been better.  But I didn’t.  

I was told that I needed to have more conferences, so I got more conferences.  I worked hard to figure out what I already knew/had researched that I could talk about and then I wrote conference papers on them.

In the last year, as a matter of fact, I’ve had papers accepted at twelve conferences.  I’ve written five papers, though I’ve only gotten one published so far, and one of them was turned down, which leaves three still out there.

I didn’t go randomly picking topics.  There’s nothing on WWI or food consumption or Islam or circuses.  I don’t know anything about those.  I haven’t studied them.  The presentations I have done (and am going to be doing) are all on areas of interest to me.

The problem, of course, is that they aren’t on a single narrow research topic.  I can’t become the expert on one thing if I am doing lots of different things.  But I like doing lots of different things.  I’d like to become an expert in several areas.

However, it would, in fact, be easier for everyone if I had picked a single area of expertise.  Too bad I can’t do that.

One thought on “A Comment from the Phone Interview”

  1. I like the fact that you have several interests and are brave enough to be true to those interests, even in the face of how things are defined in higher ed. I have had multiple interests also and was rather stumped once when a well-meaning promotion and tenure professor told me to stick to my dissertation research as my area of expertise and interest because it would look better to the p and t committee. My thought was, oh, if I remain mired in one way of looking at the world then my colleagues will think I’m more interesting to have around until retirement? bleh

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