Let’s Talk About the Job Interview: Part 1

I am so excited to finally be able to share the news with y’all…I have accepted a new position! Yep. I’m moving, and this will be my last semester at the Univ. of North Carolina. I am headed to the University of Wyoming where I am taking the position of Wyoming Excellence Chair in Adolescent Literacy. It’s an endowed chair!

Given the above, I thought I’d use today’s post to share my job interview experience. Interviewing for an endowed chair was a little different than interviewing for a straight-up professor gig. Considering I have interviewed for exactly one endowed chair position, and have never been on any endowed chair search committees, take my experience and lessons for what they are worth. Despite my lack of endowed chair interviewing experience, the story is worth telling as it absolutely has its moments.

Let’s Just Get to the Point

I’m skipping all the preliminary stuff where I had to write an application, speak to a lot of people, had a phone interview, and reference checks. I can discuss that in a separate post if it warrants it. Let’s get into what the actual interview encompassed.

I Have No Clothes

What do you where on an endowed chair interview? Should I even be allowed to interview considering I keep misspelling the word endowed? Probably not, but I am going anyways.

I was given a range of dates to select from for my interview. I decided to go sooner rather than later. This was a good idea/bad idea thing that I ultimately decided was a good idea. I chose a date that gave me exactly 10 days to prepare before my plane took off. This was good because I was terrified/excited and didn’t want to become too obsessive over my job talk. Let’s do this! But it was a bad idea because….

Seriously, what do I wear?

I took the Friday before my interview (I flew out on a Wednesday) to go shopping. I had wanted to do a curated trunk through Trunk Club, but my deadline was tight so I decided to pass. I went to the mall thinking I had an outfit for the plane ride, which would also work for dinner with just a change of shirt, something for Thursday, and I needed something for Friday.

I spent a god-awful three hours at the mall because malls are awful. But I ended up with a gray wool skirt and cashmere sweater. Because I was going to Wyoming, I bought some new gloves (needed them anyways) and tights to wear on two of the days. Because I was thrilled with the fact that I landed the interview, and had not blown my clothing budget, I went ahead and bought myself a nice new pair of black boots to wear as well.

I was supposed to get my interview schedule on Friday, but I didn’t get it until Monday. When I got it on Monday I realized I would need additional clothes. I had a meeting with people from the Provost’s office Wednesday evening followed by a reception. Crap. I need more clothes!

Cue me frantically running around trying to buy more clothes.

A realistic interpretation of my shopping experience.
A realistic interpretation of my shopping experience.

See, the issue was I was trying to do some sort of dressy casual on the plane that I thought would carry over to a dinner. I was also balancing this with the fact that I was going to Wyoming and probably didn’t need to get super dressed up for dinner Wednesday night. However, my outfit was jeans with boots/shirt/blazer. Fine if the schedule looked like I had made it up in my head. Not fine if I am meeting with people from the Provost’s office and attending my own reception. This is where I decided that I wished I had more time so I wasn’t flying out of house and down the road looking for more clothes at a frantic pace.

It worked out. Black dress pants and grey shirt purchased (I could use my own blazer). Clothing budget blown (but those boots are awesome, and I do not care).

So, what did I decide to wear on my interview? I think this is important to share because it matters.

It broke down like this:

(a) Plane Ride: Black jeans/black boots/sleeveless sweater/cardigan

  • Verdict: This was very comfy for the ride out there – four hour plane ride and two or so hours to drive from Denver to Laramie. The search committee chair and her husband picked me up at the airport. This outfit was fine for all that.

(b) Wednesday Night: Black Pants/Grey Top/Black Blazer/Different Black Boots

  • Verdict: It worked. I hated that I had to bring two pairs of shoes. I was trying to just wear one and have that be it. But I needed shorter boots for this outfit.

(c) Thursday: Black Dress/Black Boots/Burgundy Tights/cardigan

  • Verdict: A couple of months ago I bought a little black dress through MM.LaFleur. I don’t see my exact one on their site, but it came to me through a Bento Box. I am so glad I bought it because it was perfect. Stretchy material, packs without wrinkling (or the wrinkles disappear when you put it on) and professional. Plus, the cardigan I had picked up and worn on my way in matched so that was a plus. I gave my job talk in this outfit. These dresses might seem pricey, but they are worth every penny plus you can put them in the washer!!!

(d) Friday: Gray Skirt/Black Sweater/Black Boots/Grey Tights

  • Verdict: I had to meet with the Dean and do a teaching demo in this outfit. I also flew home in it. Super comfy but I was a bit warm when I got back to North Carolina.

Did you sense a theme here? Yes…lots of black and grey going on, but that’s fine. I wanted to do one carry on with clothes that would pack well, be comfortable, and not require a lot of shoes. Goal achieved!

Let’s Get on a Plane!

Now the fun really starts. I head off to the airport for my 8:00 am flight to Denver Wednesday morning. All is well. Plane is there, and flight is marked as being on time. But then….it’s not. There was a mechanical issue. Luckily it was fixed and we left only an hour later.

Remember…always have a phone number of someone where you are going. I needed to alert that I was coming in an hour late.

Because we were an hour late arriving into Denver they had no gate for us. It happens. The normal procedure would be to wait around a bit and then pull up to an open gate. The abnormal procedure, which is what I got, was to drop everyone off on the tarmac.

Yes. I got dropped off on the tarmac in Denver.

I also received instructions that basically went like this:

When you get off the plane, walk into the building that will be in front of you. Walk down a hall. Keep walking and you will hit an elevator. Or go left and walk up the stairs.

Me arriving in Denver
Me arriving in Denver

I thought that when they said there would be stairs that there would also be an escalator. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I hung a left and was in a stairwell hauling my luggage up it with all my fellow passengers. When I got to the top I was spit out into the airport, and I swear, I was at the farthest point possible from the pick-up.

Where Are You?

At this point the search committee chair is calling me to wonder where I am and why she can’t find me. Probably because we didn’t factor in a hike across the tarmac or the fact that I’m at the farthest end of the airport.

This is going to take awhile.

I keep making my way toward the pick-up zone and on the way realize I had to get on a tram. You really have no idea how happy this made me. For real. As soon as I saw the tram I decided it counted as a train. See where I’m going with this?

First, I took a plane. Now I’m getting on a train, and in a minute, I’ll be in an automobile.

Seriously, you couldn’t find a happier person once I brought all this together.

And yes, eventually I found the chair and we hopped right into her car and headed off on our way to Laramie. The journey was beginning!

Stay tuned! In future posts I’ll be answering such questions as:

  • what happens at your own reception?
  • how do you prep a job talk for an endowed chair position?
  • what does an endowed chair interview look like?
  • what happened that resulted in me getting to tour the Laramie medical facilities?

This is not a typical tale. But it might be the best one you’ll hear for awhile.

Check Out:

How to Make Your Job Talk Not Suck

Tips for the Job Interview





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