Job Talks: How Entomology Students, Postdocs Can Prepare
By Sandra R. Schachat
Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series contributed by the ESA Student Affairs Committee. See other posts by and for entomology students here at Entomology Today.
One of the key steps in landing an academic job, and certain postdoctoral fellowships, is giving a 45-minute “job talk.” It’s essentially a presentation of your research and experience to your prospective employers, and it can be very different from the 8–15 minute talk at an academic conference. A presentation of this length comes with its own unique set of opportunities and challenges.
As is the case for all other academic skills, practice is the key to improving your job talk. Here are some tips for students and postdocs who want to hone their longform presentations.
1. Take Advantage of New Opportunities at the ESA Annual Meeting
The Entomological Society of America has two exciting new opportunities coming up for this year’s Annual Meeting: the Rising Stars of Entomology Award Symposium for student members of ESA and the Early Career Professional Recognition Symposium for early career professional members of ESA. The application deadline is June 1, and you can submit your application directly through the Entomology 2021 submission site.
The applicants selected for both symposia will have the opportunity to give a 30-minute talk at the 2021 ESA Annual Meeting, which is a fantastic opportunity to practice giving longer presentations. (As if that was not enough, student winners will enjoy free registration for the conference and a free ESA membership for 2022, and early career professional winners will enjoy a $500 travel stipend.)
The application process for these symposia requires a bit more material than a usual abstract submission for ESA, so be sure to get going quickly. Don’t miss out on your chance to gain a wide audience and practice giving a job talk! (And be on the lookout for this opportunity in future years, as well.)
2. Organize a Practice Group With Your Peers
The first time I needed to practice a longer presentation I bought $10 worth of candy to use as a bribe so my friends would show up. Now that we’re social distancing due to the pandemic, bribing friends with small amounts of junk food requires a lot more planning than it used to—so much planning that it may not be worth it.
With that in mind, another great option for practicing job talks is to organize a group via Zoom. You and your friends can meet monthly and take turns giving presentations. When it comes to learning new strategies for giving successful presentations, there’s no substitute for seeing what your peers have come up with.
3. Join Search Committees in Your Department
More and more academic departments are allowing students and postdocs to serve as representatives on search committees for new faculty hires. If your department is going to hire a new professor, consider asking your faculty advisor whether you might be able to serve on the search committee. This will give you the opportunity to sit in on meetings where professors in your department discuss the job talks they’ve seen from the search candidates.
4. Seek Out Professional Development Opportunities
The internet abounds with professional development opportunities that will help you to give great presentations before, during, and after your time on the academic job market. Many of these opportunities are affordable and some are even free. Here are some great places to start:
- This open-access article provides “Ten simple rules for giving an effective academic job talk.”
- This guide from the American Psychological Association provides great advice that applies far beyond the discipline of psychology.
- This guide from the University of California, Davis contains lots of tips, plus links to additional advice.
- And, last but most certainly not least, Dr. Echo Rivera at Creative Research Communications provides a glorious wealth of information that will be invaluable for academics of all ages—and especially for anyone who will be on the job market in the next few years. If you register for her mailing list you’ll be the first to know about the free training sessions she provides throughout the year.
Perfecting your academic job talk is just like anything else: It’s best to get started as early as you can. Juggling immediate responsibilities while planning out a career was exhausting even before the pandemic hit. But one nice thing about preparing to give job talks is that the skills you pick up will be useful immediately—even if you’re years away from entering the job market—and will remain useful throughout your career.
The new symposia at the upcoming ESA Annual Meeting will make all of your hard work more immediately rewarding, so be sure to use this as an opportunity to motivate yourself and hone your communication skills!
Entomology 2021, October 31–November 3, In-Person + Virtual, Denver, Colorado
Sandra R. Schachat is a Ph.D. candidate in geology at Stanford University and is a member of the ESA Student Affairs Committee and the ESA Committee on Diversity and Inclusion. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.