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Tips for the ThM – Part 13 Writing the perfect resume(s)

Most of us will at some point need to find a job. Sad, but true. In academic circles, there is no doubt that the best way to land the right job is to know someone involved in the process. (That’s how I got mine.) Lacking that, you need a good resume. Actually, as this post points out, you’ll probably need a couple. The market for academic positions is so competitive that you really need to be able to present yourself as a viable candidate for various kinds of positions (i.e. don’t focus exclusively on positions for specialists on the book of 3 John). But, to do that effectively, you need to tailor your resume to highlight your qualifications for different kinds of positions.

Suppose that you’ve done extensive work in both Old and New Testament studies, but your preferred job would be in New Testament. There’s nothing wrong with that. But, unless you don’t mind waiting a while to find a job, you probably won’t want to exclude Old Testament positions (or multi-disciplinary positions) as well. However, you don’t want to distribute a resume focusing on your New Testament skills if the school is looking for an Old Testament professor. So, you will need different resumes that will highlight different areas of your background.

And, that’s what the author of the above post wants you to do. She argues that you need to balance the need for multiple resumes tailored to highlight the most important aspects for your academic (and ministerial) preparation with the limited amount of time you have available. So, she recommends that you approach the job hunt with at least two active resumes. If you try to create too many, you’ll burn yourself out. Approach the process with just one, and you’ll limit your opportunities.

But, to go back to what I said at the beginning, you are your best resume. If you are hoping to find a job at the end of your academic journey, get out there and meet people. Attend conferences, present papers, kiss babies, hand out candy, and buy advertising space on billboards in Times Square. Or, just make sure that you are networking effectively. The more people you know, the better your chances of finding the job at the end of the rainbow.

Advice for applying to doctoral progams

For those of you interested in pursuing a doctoral degree eventually, Allen Yeh has offered some Advice for Applying for Grad School. I’d encourage you to take a look at it, but I would like to offer an alternate perspective on a couple of things.

First, I’d preface everything that Allen says by arguing that who you know is even more important than where you went to school. (I’ll be blogging on this again soon.) The name of your school is helpful if you’re having to cold sell yourself to a school. But, if you’ve networked effectively, your best job opportunities will come through the grapevine, where the name of your school is not as much of an issue. That doesn’t mean you can ignore this consideration, but it does mean you should pay attention to your networking opportunities now.

Second, much of what Allen says applies more to those who want to keep the possibility of teaching at a state school on the table. Let me be honest with you. If you are doing MA/MDiv/ThM work at a private Christian school, you are probably not going to be hired at a state school no matter where you do your doctoral work. There are a few exceptions to this, but that’s generally true. And, be honest with yourself, if you are the kind of person who is attracted to studying at a private Christian school, do you really want to teach at a state school? Do you want to operate in a context where your evangelical convictions will routinely be marginalized, your objectivity challenged, and your research plans questioned? If you are an evangelical, why not simply embrace that fact and teach at a school where you will be free to present and pursue your evangelical research? That doesn’t mean I think we should abandon the state schools. There are many evangelicals who are gifted and called to just that kind of environment. The question is, are you one of them? If not, don’t arrange your doctoral plans around the idea of keeping something on the table that maybe shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

Third, Allen talks quite a bit about the academic superiority of the American Ph.D. over the British Ph.D. And basically he’s right. But, what he doesn’t take into account is the kind of work that a person may have done before their doctoral program. If you already have multiple degrees in your field, I would not hesitate for a second to encourage you toward a British program. You’ve probably had enough time already to get prepared in your field and you’re ready to work independently for a while. And, as Allen mentions, a British Ph.D. is not going to set you back at all with American seminaries. But, if you have not yet done enough coursework in your other programs, by all means go the American route.

Finally, his point about which subfield to specialize in is well worth considering. The statistics on applicants-per-position in New Testament and Systematic Theology are not good; Old Testament is not far behind. If those are your passions and you want to pursue those fields despite the odds, go for it. But, if you are open to pursuing a subfield of practical theology, that might set you up better for the future.