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Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Practice Job Talk: Check
It's over!

I must say that I really am pleased with how my practice job talk went, despite how negatively I was feeling toward it yesterday. There were some minor glitches, all remediable, but overall my advisors and other audience members were happy with it and seemed engaged in my topic. I got some great questions (and I was able to answer all of them -- bonus!) and excellent advice. Overall, it was a success and I'm so glad that I did it.

There are a few major things I need to work on, however, and they're things I always struggle with. First, I'm a fairly informal person, maybe even a bit theatrical when I'm in front of an audience. I like to suck them in, to captivate, to entertain. While I was up there in front of faculty and graduate students today, I was on a high -- I liked that I was doing all of the talking, I loved it when they laughed a little at my inside jokes, I liked it when they nodded their heads in agreement with me. After the initial nervousness subsided, I enjoyed myself. Prof. G. just laughed with me afterwards, saying that he knew that's how I was going to present, but that he'd still try to be a bit more formal than I was. I'm just not sure if I can do this effectively while still being me.

The other big thing is that I talk waaaaaaaay too fast. I have a lot of say, and I say it all with a lot of emotion. People usually say that they can understand me fine, but that I give them a whole lot of information to process in just a short amount of time. This is strange to me, since I never rush when I'm teaching -- in fact, students have often commented that they like my pace in the classroom, like that I pause for questions, like that I pause for them to digest the material during my lectures. I guess I just get too excited about presenting my research on a topic that's really exciting to me and I can't slow down. Also, I talk very quickly in my normal life -- it's part of who I am, maybe part of the informality I noted above. I know that it will be difficult to slow down when I present my research next week during my real job talk -- hopefully, by that time the faculty there will have a better sense of who I am and will see that this is just me (the job talk occurs on the second day of the interview).

At any rate, it was a good experience. Prof. C. gave me some really excellent tips for improving the talk, cutting some here and adding some there, and I really value his presentation advice (he is one of the most effective teachers and presenters I've ever seen). Funny thing: we realized as we were chatting that as I will be at my interview in Eastern State, he will also be in Eastern State, just about 100 miles north! Crazy coincidence, actually, but it will feel kind of good knowing that he's just an interstate drive away. A little security.


In other news, I decided to start reading The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren. I usually steer clear of NY Times Bestsellers, ever since my days as a bookseller while in undergrad. (I had to read The Bridges of Madison County when I was a bookseller -- we each had to read at least one book from the bestseller list, and Bridges was on the list forever so I chose it. What a mistake. I hated that book with a passion, and I even got into trouble for telling a customer how bad it was. For the record, the customer DID end up buying another book I recommended instead of the trashy Bridges. I also read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, which confirmed my belief that highly effective people don't read these kinds of books.) Anyway, the reason I decided to pick up Warren's book is that my Mom is reading it and working through it, and she and I often have nice discussions about faith and this seemed like a good way for us to enhance our conversations. Oh, that and the fact that it was only $2.49 from one of Amazon's Marketplace sellers.

I'm not sure if I really like the book yet -- I'm only on Day Seven. The book is supposed to lead you to realize what your purpose here on earth is, what God wants you to accomplish here. The questions Warren asks the reader to reflect upon are good, I think. But overall, I'm so far left with the feeling that I'm insignificant, and that all of the work I'm doing is largely insignificant, too. I mean, it would be one thing if my life's work was as a neurosurgeon, or if I saved rainforests and fed hungry children for a living, but I don't. I'm an academic. I think about things. I try to figure out how things work, and why they work the way they do. How is all of that part of God's plan for me, part of the mission I'm supposed to accomplish here? It's all quite disturbing to me. If anyone else has read this book or has thoughts on it, I'd love to hear them.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 10/19/2005 03:10:00 PM  
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