Thoughts on our Graduate Colloquium: Applying for Conferences and for Jobs.
Larissa Knopp and Richard Taylor
Here at St. John’s History Department, the first graduate colloquium of the spring semester, which took place on March 1, focused on two topics that leave many students quite fearful: presenting at conferences and finding a job. By the end of the night, the professors leading the colloquium, and special guest-star our own returning D.A. alumnus Christopher Ferraro, had greatly alleviated many of those fears.
Long before our dreams of defending our dissertations can be achieved, doctoral students face the hard fact that presenting at conferences is necessary to success in the field of history. The problem, from our perspective, is we lack knowledge of the process which leads to fear and anxiety because the audience will be filled with respected scholars. This fear is largely based on our own self-doubt; as Dr. Rustomji pointed out, when presenting a thoroughly researched paper, the expert in the room is the author. As graduate students the key is to start at small conferences. Stay local and look for those conferences geared towards graduate students, ones that will help you grow as a presenter and researcher.
Another daunting endeavor that each student must face is the job search. A particularly helpful piece of advice that was offered was to know the trends of the field before we graduate. See what potential employers are looking for, which topics or subtopics they want to hire in. Do not wait until you are graduating or it might be too late. Dr. Szylvian pointed out the necessity to diversify. Do not put all of our focus into one area. The more well rounded we are, the more attractive we look to employers. Lastly, know the location you want to be hired in. Some students have a more flexible lifestyle and are free to move, which can be an advantage. If a student does not have the freedom to move, she may need to start small, such as in a private high school.