Sunday, November 26, 2006


It is amazing how you can't really see the truth of things until you read them aloud...

I had two friends over today for a run-through of my job talk. I'd thought it was pretty much finished. But as I read, I was stuck by a dozen formulations that were off. Not in terms of content - that felt solid, with the exception of one bit that suffered from trying to smoosh four pages of complex writing into one page. But at the level of sentence structure, word choice...These are easy things to fix - not a problem. It was a reminder of how important it is to read work aloud. I tell my students to do this as a proofreading technique, but I haven't been following the advice myself. And I feel my job talk will be infinitely smoother for having done this.

My friends thought my talk was very good; accessible and yet not dumbed-down, they said. That is encouraging. I actually feel pretty good about it. That is a nice feeling to have.


My other strategy has been to type stream-of-consciousness responses to every interview question I can get my hands on...I have pages and pages of conversational answers. This is so useful for me, as someone who most definitely thinks through writing, and not through talking. And of course it's not that I'm going to memorize answers - I couldn't do that, nor would I want to - but that I can tap into what I've previously worked out through writing - thoughts I wouldn't have had if I hadn't done this exercise. Since it's been actually thought and articulated before, it exists, it'll be accessible...

I realized that I did this before, nearly two years ago, when I interviewed for the job I had last year (though I didn't do it nearly as extensively). What a difference to look at my answers from then; I pulled up that old file. It was helpful - I thought, a number of times, "hey, that's a good idea!"


Flavia said...

Ooh, best of luck--and congrats on what sounds like a very effective prep session!

I did something similar prior to my oral exams (and then prior to my job interviews): practiced riffs on various subjects or in response to imagined questions. Like you, I'm very much a "how do I know what I think until I see what I say?" kind of person, but in this case I practiced my riffs and answers *aloud* (while wandering around the apartment, or in the shower, or sitting in front of a mirror). Hearing myself make connections, and synthesize information (and seeing where I trailed off or found myself at a loss), was incredibly helpful.

Having these practiced (but, of course, *seemingly* off-the-cuff) bits of business is useful in allowing you to showcase your best ideas, but it's also just a good way of buying time while you're thinking through whatever you want to say NEXT.

When is your interview? I'll be sending good wishes your way.

medieval woman said...

That is great to hear, Hilaire! I'm so glad that it went well and that you discovered some things to tweak *before* the job talk proper. And, as I had suspected, you and I (and Flavia!) all prep the same way for interviews, etc. It's all about building up the answer arsenal in written form. Not like they're bullets that you shoot out, but that they are there for you to access at any time.

Good luck!!

Hilaire said...

Flavia, I think you're quite right about saying this stuff aloud...I am having another job talk practice this weekend with another friend, and I think I will have him ask me some interview questions. And I am also supposed to be getting together this weekend with my colleague, Flake, to talk about pedagogy, which will surely allow me to exercise this stuff...But like you did, I should also just talk to *myself*. I don't know why I find that to get over that, and fast!

The interview is December 7-8. Ten days away - but I wanted to get most of this sorted because I have an onslaught of essays coming in this week that need to be marked before I go!!