Over at The Junto Blog, there is a solid discussion on cover letters and CVs. (Go join the discussion!) Lots of good suggestions about how to prepare oneself for the captivity of the academic job market, which is good because there are a lot of obstacles to hurdle. Beyond the philosophical issues of how to present yourself, there are also lots of technical minutia that seem trivial but maintain a significant role in how you are presented to hiring committees.
(Also, as a graduate student a little over a year away from graduation and terrified of the job market, my entire life—beyond family and dissertation, of course—revolves around firming up my vita, so this topic is always close to my mind.)
But I’m curious on some specific Mormon studies issues related to this topic. Instead of elucidating all the particulars of this tension, I’ll relate my own experience and thoughts in hope that others will do the same and we can tease out some of the universal tensions and provide some practical advice.
Put simply, I am probably going to cut out a majority of my Mormon history content from my CV when I apply for jobs, and my work in LDS studies will probably receive minimal attention in my cover letter and related applicant packaging. This is a tough decision, because it always helps to have publications, and so I am remiss to remove any from my vita. But I am currently leaning this way for at least a few reasons:
- I honestly and sincerely feel myself more interested in, and more likely to do future scholarship related to, early American cultural and religious history more generally. My dissertation (on the cultivations of nationalism) ends in 1832 and has absolutely nothing to do with Mormonism. Likewise, most of my recent and forthcoming articles and side projects (on Theodore Parker, on Emerson, on Atlantic history, on Benjamin Franklin) don’t merge with the Latter-day Saints’ history at all. (Though tensions and questions that prevail in these works also dominate my approach to Mormon history.) So it would make sense that I would emphasize the topics that are at the center of my current and research project; while I plan to continue and interest in Mormon studies, at the moment I don’t plan for that to be a major component of my research and writing agenda.
- Related to the first point: I don’t want to be compartmentalized as a “Mormon studies scholar.” Like I said, I have lots of other things that interest me, and while being a “Mormon studies” person may be “hot” right now (a debatable point), in the long run it might have some limitations. Thus, removing much of the Mormon themed articles and presentations that dominated my academic timeline prior to the last few years would help alleviate that risk.
- Most of my Mormon studies material has appeared in Mormon studies journals, with articles in both Journal of Mormon History and Dialogue. Now, these are great journals with growing respect, but they likely don’t carry much weight with hiring committees. In fact, too many publications in those types of journals may be seen a detriment.
- And finally, and perhaps most importantly, I feel that there still is a risk to go on the market, as a Mormon, who publishes on Mormonism, for the reasons I outlined in a previous post. I have had advisors (both Mormon and non-) who have warned me to take every shred of Mormonism off of my CV.
Now, I am not ashamed of my work in Mormon studies; indeed, it is where I learned the ropes of historical research, and as I have said many times I feel the subfield is poised to make an important contributions to many larger fields. I am also not “hiding” my work, as today’s internet will readily bring up anything from a candidate’s past. (Hi, hiring committee members!) I will be willing and anxious to answer questions on my work in Mormon studies, and explain that Mormons serve as tools in my questions of broader significance, just like the Congregationalist ministers in 1790s Boston that I’m currently looking at. But it will still not be a central focus in my “packaging.”
What do other people think? What are your own experiences/thoughts? How do you package your work for the terror that is the job market?