Careers: "Areas of interest" bloat

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In the last few months, I've now gotten letters from prospective graduate students with CVs  that suffer from what I would call "Areas of Interest" bloat.   One had twenty-five (25!) areas of interest and the other was also well over a dozen.

This is just too much. Yes, you are young and the whole world looks like a giant oyster -- but too many raw oyster can give you really bad indigestion.

As a general rule, try to keep your areas of interest to less than six or so.   Since I (rarely) try to practice what I preach, here are my "Areas of Interest:"

  • Region 1 (general world region): East Asia
  • Sub-region (country or local area): Japan
  • Topic 1: Disability Studies
  • Topic 2: Politics of Identity and social movements
  • Sub-discipline: Sociocultural and Visual Anthropology

OK, I cheated on the last two bullet points...... anyway, you get my point.

Try to go through your areas of interest with a very fine tooth comb and make sure it's as concise and focused as possible.  Use it as a way to find out which departments might be interested in what you study and vice versa.

I also tell my graduate students to perfect their elevator speech, but that's a topic for an entirely new blog entry.


Good advice that plays well outside of academics. I interview a lot of recent college graduates who think that telling me that they, "are willing to do anything." This does not help an interviewer at all. While all new college hires need to be flexible, recruiters (and academics) need to know how a new team member is going to contribute. The more targeted and focussed a candidate is, the easier to figure out if there is a fit.

Even if there is not a perfect fit,, if I like a candidate I may either refer him or her to a colleague with a better fit, or if I really like the candidate, I may try to see if we can build a fit. I have never done that with anyone who is not focussed.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Karen Nakamura published on July 19, 2010 4:13 PM.

Info: Cheap places to crash for the night in Japan was the previous entry in this blog.

Top 40 anthro blog -- or spam? is the next entry in this blog.

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