Professor, isn't it time for your nap?
October 14, 2012 3:15 PM   Subscribe

You’re an academic, and every now and then, often on short notice, you’ve got to put together an application which includes your papers, your grants, your service (and so on) and it’s in a different format and order to the last time. Would you pay someone to keep track of this stuff AND format your application/review? What do you need them to keep track of? Tell me more. What do you want?
posted by b33j to Work & Money (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think I'd pay someone to do this. Mainly because it's not really that much work. I update my CV every time I get a new publication (and that reminds me to update the service, teaching and awards parts). It takes me about 10-15 minutes to put together that part of an application (as opposed to the cover letter, which takes forever).

Secondly, I'm not sure I'd trust someone else with something this important. I'd have to look over it very carefully before submitting anyway, and that would take at least as long as it would to update in the first place.
posted by lollusc at 3:20 PM on October 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

Agreeing with lollusc. I have all this stuff on the ready and I wouldn't trust someone else to put it together.
posted by k8t at 3:31 PM on October 14, 2012

I'm a professional grantwriter, so I feel there's a lot of overlap.

What I want from my clients (at first) is a bunch of programmatic boilerplate. I incorporate this into proposals and constantly refine it. I also want every important document that will get included, and I want a new one every time it's updated. 501(c)3 letter, annual budget, staff lists, board lists, audit, and so on.

I also want somebody whose job it is to answer my questions asap. Questions come up. I need information. A point person at any client organization who knows who to ask for that information.

Basically, if you're thinking of this, provide all the old applications to the person you pay. It's their job to take all the old information, figure out where new information is necessary, request it from you, and fit it all into the new application's format.

And, you also need to be on hand to answer questions, fast.
posted by entropone at 3:31 PM on October 14, 2012

If there were some kind of free software option that did a good job of allowing one to manage the various elements of one's CV and then slot them into a finished document in a modular fashion, that might be interesting. I don't know that I'd pay for such a thing but I might try it out if I found myself having to put together a lot of custom-tailored CVs or resumes. Then again, even the individual items often need to be customized to match the particular requirements of whatever one is applying for so it might not actually be less work to use such a system.
posted by Scientist at 3:33 PM on October 14, 2012

Lollusc makes good points. Also, when I put together an application I work to orient it to the specific needs of the organization I'm applying to - something that most likely only you can do in a meaningful way. I see this as part of the creative process and, in fact, part of what you are being judged on.
posted by tidecat at 3:34 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far. I do some work for a Dean who gets frustrated with this stuff, she is very busy and her CV is over 50 pages long, but I wanted to see if it was worthwhile putting together an option for other academics, to make it worth my while. Looks like it's not. If you have any more advice / ideas, please add.
posted by b33j at 3:49 PM on October 14, 2012

Maybe at the dean/high admin level--they have a lot more to deal with, I expect, plus a lot more income to throw around. My husband's and my applications are a pain in the neck to manage, because they're all different, but it's not something that someone else could help with. Plus, the reason we're still applying for jobs, instead of resting on our full-time laurels, is that we earn very little as adjuncts. So we wouldn't be paying anyone. Maybe you want to look at the dean/president/"star professor" level...
posted by wintersweet at 4:23 PM on October 14, 2012

Probably in the future, most institutions will have a solution akin to VIVO or Drupal Biblio where faculty just keep this up to date as a routine and save selected details from a central repository as needed. Quite a few have home-grown junk to do something like it. But I don't know of a current solution that's really perfect.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 4:24 PM on October 14, 2012

If there were some kind of free software option that did a good job of allowing one to manage the various elements of one's CV and then slot them into a finished document in a modular fashion, that might be interesting.

So, uh, some people do this using LaTeX and bibtex. That guy seems to have gotten things to actually look quite neat; a lot of people leave the references numbered in bibtex's default style and it's ugly. If you really wanted, you could get bibtex to handle educational and work history, but you might have to write the bibtex styles yourself. (I haven't seen anyone do that, but it's doable if you wanted to spent that much time with bibtex.)

Rather than a bibtex extravaganza, another option would be keeping all the non-publication parts in separate files and using LaTeX to combine the relevant bits in the appropriate order and just use bibtex for publications and the like.
posted by hoyland at 4:24 PM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

If there were some kind of free software option that did a good job of allowing one to manage the various elements of one's CV and then slot them into a finished document in a modular fashion

You mean if only LaTeX had a resume class? But it does!
posted by fatllama at 4:24 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks again! I appreciate not building a useless unique selling point :)
posted by b33j at 4:27 PM on October 14, 2012

Yeah, in my discipline, for really mindless tasks (e.g "list every single thing you've ever published") people use BibTeX and it's basically automatic, and for less mindless tasks (e.g. "list five representative publications in the same subfield as this grant app") people want to be fully in control of the result and not delegate it out.

There are probably people who would pay you to give good insightful feedback on their grant apps. (I'd pay for this if I had the money!) But just for formatting, no, I don't think there's a market.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:47 PM on October 14, 2012

You might want to look at the Professor Is In. She's made a great business out of helping academics with job applications in terms of cover letters, resumes, interviews, grant writing, and yes, regular academic writing. It's not exactly what you're asking but it might be a helpful resource to see a niche market in academic job application land.
posted by barnone at 6:34 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I get these sorts of requests roughly once a week, and it drives me crazy, but I would never ask anyone to do it for me. But if there was a software based solution, I would be very interested.
posted by dhruva at 6:40 PM on October 14, 2012

Quite a few have home-grown junk to do something like it.

My institution has one of these. It's universally hated because it is, in fact, junk; I dread every time I am forced to use it (we're made to do so for some internal reasons). I think most academics would be more interested in a second pair of eyes for shaming typos than someone to format and gather documents. But I could be wrong.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 8:27 PM on October 14, 2012

Actually something that occurs to me is that the sorts of people who might use a service like this are EXACTLY the sort of people who will not be on metafilter. I know several academics who barely know how to open MS Word or boot up their computer, and certainly haven't got a clue about file management, version control, or reformatting things. They are also the older time-poor people who probably apply for grants and awards now and again. So maybe the idea isn't worth throwing out before shopping it around a bit in person.
posted by lollusc at 12:51 AM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

The hard part of grant writing, and the part I do want help with is the integration on multi-partner grants and overall editing and layout of the grant itself. As others have said, I keep the CV part and even some boilerplate around ready to go. It's pulling it all together, making it cohesive and making the points we want to convey in a clear, understandable fashion that are the hard parts. Mostly editing, a little bit of illustration, some layout.

One of the best services a second pair of eyes brings is making certain that what the writing is clear and comprehensible. The worst problem I face as a writer and reviewer is the assumption of expert knowledge, where a bit more detail in the problem statement and the research questions would help the application a great deal in front of smart, but not specialist reviewers.
posted by bonehead at 5:31 AM on October 15, 2012

It sounds like what you're looking for is a proofreader, and maybe a small bit of copyediting if you're also looking for help in getting the right words. They're the person who would go through your application and resume with a fine toothcomb, making sure that everything is spelled correctly and all the references are correctly set out in whatever style you're meant to be using. And you would almost certainly be able to negotiate with them so they'd format it for you as well if you give them instructions on what styles to use.
posted by talitha_kumi at 1:28 PM on October 15, 2012

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