Reflections on the Job Market, 2012

It’s been a long while since I’ve posted here, and that’s mostly because I’ve been in over my head with teaching three classes and applying for jobs — over thirty positions this year, plus a handful of postdocs.  With the semester (but not grading!) done and my applications long since released into the wild, I thought I’d come up for air and offer some unsolicited reflections:

  1. I’m trying something novel this year: being myself.  Rather than dumping a lot of time into carefully individualizing my letter, CV, and teaching/philosophy statements for every single job, I’m presenting myself for what I am and what I do, and then letting the schools decide if they are interesting in me and my work.  This decision came partly from lack of time — who can afford eight hours each on thirty applications? — but mostly out of a realization that I can’t bend myself and my work into all that many different shapes.  I study a particular time and a particular place in a particular way, and no amount of contortion is going to change that or fool anyone otherwise.  So I change the addresses and add a few lines here and there about “thrilled to teach at a liberal arts/R-1/hell-hole school,” but that’s pretty much it.
  2. That said, I dumped a crapload of time into two particular jobs that I really, really, really want — and which, I should note, I have a fair chance of getting, as long as there’s not an inside candidate.  And I’ve been torturing myself over those jobs, even though I won’t even know if I made the first cut until January.
  3. To the schools that inform candidates promptly about receipt of applications: Hooray!  To the schools that inform candidates promptly that they will not be interviewed: Hip-hip, hooray!  To the schools that do neither: fuck you, too.
  4. The AHA interview system is busted-ass broken.  Half the schools are doing phone or Skype interviews, and I think it’s a great thing.  End the AHA cattle-call job system.  Given the opportunity, I sure as hell will.
  5. Employers, you really all ought to stick to the same schedule and timeline.  Early and late application due dates and hiring decisions are just plain mean: making candidates decide on their future — long term future — without knowing about other options is  so transparently manipulative that it calls into question the integrity of your department.
  6. Allow me to suggest a timeline.  Applications due November 1st.  First-round decisions December 1st.  Phone/internet interviews December 15th.  Second-round decisions December 20th.  Campus interviews late-January.  Offers beginning of February.  Is this really all that hard?
  7. It’s a continual struggle to believe that I’m good enough and smart enough for any of these jobs.  I’ve had three interviews so far, and each time, I am painfully aware of the limits of my expertise and talents.  I tried a long walk before an interview, doing some Jack Handy-style self-affirmation, but it didn’t really help.  It’s a Catch-22: I need to convey confidence in order to get a job, but I need to get a job to build my confidence.
  8. At the end of the day, applying and interviewing for an academic job is just like applying and interviewing for a real job: it sucks.  No one likes it.  So I should quit my whining and get on with it.
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