As the AHA conference gets closer, it becomes less likely that I’ll receive invitations to interview for the job applications still floating out there. This isn’t too surprising, but it sure does depress the hell out of me. It probably shouldn’t. I think of my neighbor, who returned to school to get a degree in engineering and has been unemployed since graduating…four years ago. He’s sent out countless applications, and he’s basically gotten used to rejection. Me: not so much. And I’d wager the same is true for other ABDs and newly-minted PhDs, most of whom don’t get the real taste of rejection until they go on the market. Graduate school, in my experience, was a series of affirmations — not always enthusiastic and often loaded with qualifications, but affirmations the same. Seminars, graduate student conferences, department research grants: success didn’t necessarily come easy, but it usually did arrive. And certainly at higher percentages than getting interviews on the job market (I’m batting a measly .125 right now!). And so I wonder if graduate programs ought to give their students more opportunities to fail. And I mean really fail: getting an “A-” instead of an “A” in seminar is a rebuke, but it’s not devastating. Graduate students need to find themselves in the situation where they must question whether this is the right path for them. “Am I really cut out for this?” — by which I mean, do you really have the stomach for a life of rejection and failure? I wonder if this approach would (a) help prepare PhDs for the frustrations of the job market and (b) help reduce the ridiculous over-supply of PhDs.