I've done my time as job placement officer here at UCD, and I have lots of experience failing to get jobs. So I know what I'm saying here is valid.
You are in an elevator. Someone asks you about your diss. You have three floors in which to tell them. What do you say?
This sort of thing actually happens at conferences very frequently. So what do you say?
I figured out that if you could turn your diss. into three sentences—three statements, more accurately—you could rehearse and learn and digest them, and then forget the words and just have the meaning, so you can expand, vary, say it upside down, falling off a cliff, sitting in front of Fred Jameson, whatever.
NOW is a good time to start that. You'll find the three sentences stand you in good stead in your job letter, your statement of purpose—even in pitching your book idea. But for sure they will help in the elevator, and more importantly, at your interview.
The point is writing a diss. is a very introspective thing. Getting a job is turning all that inside out. It's a nasty ugly painful paranoia inducing process. If you're not feeling something like that there may be something wrong.
You need to get into the mind state of CURATING yourself. Imagine that “John Smith” happens to be someone who has your name but who does these things like teaching and writing dissertations. Little you is going to take John Smith for a walk. What's he going to do today? How is he going to present his work?
Job applications are an AESTHETIC event. They are PERFORMANCE ART. They are NOT about proving you are smart—well maybe your writing sample does that, but even then, the main point is to GET AN INTERVIEW.
How do you do that? You have to magnetize. How do you do that? You have to produce something that cathects people. What would that be? Something like an artwork.
So think of your three sentences as an IKEBANA FLOWER ARRANGEMENT.
3) Child. (What happens when heaven and earth have sex)
2) Methods, archives.
3) ONE highlight.
1) Main dish.
2) Side dish.