In our newest “how can we help you?” thread, a reader writes:
One piece of advice I often see for job seekers is to “get to know the department to which you are applying.” This is great advice! I’d love to know how other people go about researching a department, its needs, its interests, and its preferences. It would be great if at least some of this advice did not involve tapping one’s personal network, as many grad students/job seekers may not have networks that are similarly robust or knowledgeable about the ins and outs of other departments.
Interesting query. I’m not sure I think it is a great idea to try to research a department’s “needs”, “interests”, and “preferences”, as in my experience different members of the same department may have very different (and often deeply incompatible) visions about what these things should be. My sense instead is the “get to know the department to which you are applying” advice is to research and develop familiarity with what the people in the department work on and teach, features of the program (e.g. major coursework and minors offered), and features of the college or university (e.g., new initiatives, etc.). And I’m not inclined to think that one need tap one’s personal network to get know these kinds of things.
Basically, my sense is that when people say, “get to know the department to which you are applying”, they are saying this because it can be important to search committees to come across like you’ve at least done some research on the place you’re applying to and the people who work there. For example, if you’re on a campus visit, it surely looks far better to say to a member of a department, “I checked out your paper on X and thought it is interesting” rather than “What do you work on?”, or “I know your department offers a minor in Y” rather than “What minors does your department offer?”
Anyway, these are just my thoughts. It would be great to hear from search committee members what they think about these matters, as well as from anyone else who may be in the know and have any helpful advice for the OP!
Originally appeared on The Philosophers’ Cocoon Read More