Sunday, September 29, 2013

'Tis the season! A series of posts on the job market

First of all, thanks to my dozen remaining readers who have been checking in even after my long fallow period. Part of the issue is that, as my anonymity thins out, the interesting things that happen to and around me are not things I should be broadcasting. Department dust-ups, inappropriate advances, and all the other things that color our academic lives and are great blog fodder are suddenly inappropriate if a critical mass of people know who you (and by extension, your colleagues) are. And this will not become a blog where I just complain about students. Too damn boring. Historiann and Tenured Radical have crafted online identities for themselves, so I know it can be done. But right now, I write if I'm inspired, and I haven't been for a while.

But this morning I realized that we're in the beginnings of job search season. That whole thing has been rather bleak of the past few years, but this year's job listings (as well as anecdotal evidence) suggest that we may be coming out of it. With that in mind, I thought I'd do a series of posts on the job search in history. There may be some tips, or dos and don'ts, or just stories from my own long-ago search history... and I'd be really interested in hearing from the young academics on the market for the first time, since the past ten years has completely changed things in some ways. I'm envisioning a bit of a generational culture clash as a new orthodoxy (online materials submissions, Skype interviews, googling candidates) runs headlong into search committee members who don't see the reason for all this techy stuff (or vice-versa).

So maybe that'll be the next post on this topic. But the first post here asks a simple question for job searchers (don't worry, search committees: you'll get your turn): How are you doing? Are you optimistic? What do the offerings in your field look like this year compared to previous years? Do you feel prepared? Are you crafting a plan B? Paralyzed by fraud complex? Worried that your writing sample sucks? Feel like you could be a contender for the big time but the jobs this year are disappointing? Pick a pseudonym and get it all out here. My department is running no searches this year and I promise not to out you. I'll put on a pot of coffee and bake some cookies. You take some deep breaths and relax:

18 comments:

droyles said...

Hey Notorious,

I get your posts through NewsBlur (RIP Google Reader) and I've really enjoyed your blog over my years in grad school (I'll be done in a month!) because of your honesty about the perils and pleasures of academic life. In short, you make me feel better about my own misgivings and doubts, and help me realize that they're not evidence that I've made bad choices or am doing everything wrong.

Since I'll be done soon, I'm going on the post-doc/job market this year. I feel pretty good about the number of jobs in my field, and I'm very confident in my dissertation and the other projects (oral and digital history) that I've undertaken as part of my research. My one fear is that, because I don't have an article out, some search committees will dismiss my application out of hand. I'm curious to hear what others think.

Anonymous said...

I'm on the job market for the third time (first time was a true test run for my job market materials, applying to only 15 or so jobs, and last year I did a full search and landed a post-doc). But this is the first time I'm trying to do the job market while working a full time teaching position, so I'm nervous about having the time to put into even the limited search I'm planning (only 5-10 jobs).

So far, I'm optimistic about my field; there are more jobs at this point than there were at this time last year, and more of them seem like potentially good fits. And it's nice to have the safety net of a longer-term post-doc (3 years) so if I don't land anything this year, I'll be just fine.

My only other concern is that my publication record, while good for a recent PhD, is going to go stale quickly unless I can get some more materials out very soon, which is also going to be difficult given that I want to turn the dissertation into a book instead of a series of articles, and I don't have a lot of new things in the pipeline.

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

I'm keeping my eyes open on the market this year, but am feeling like I am going to uproot and upset my family if I get something that means a move. We bought a house, after all, and the kids love their school. There's one job within an hour of me, and it would be a better job. There's another job that's way far away that sounds like the perfect job. But I don't know if I should apply. I'm having mixed feelings. Part of me thinks I should wait for this one (nearby) job to open up before I apply to anything. But then, it could be years...

So I'm in a shit-or-get-off-the-pot situation right now. On the other hand, I have a good idea for a book, and I'm going to be cobbling together a proposal over the next couple of months. So yay!

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Hi Droyles & Anon, good to hear that optimism when so many of the last years have been unrelenting gloom & doom. Droyles, from what I understand, a postdoc is a great place to get some writing done to really impress the search committees -- I've seen a lot of people use them to get a draft of the book finished as well as a couple of articles. So, as you say, you've got the luxury of time. It is interesting how having an article or two is sort of an unspoken requirement for several (though not all!) of the jobs out there. This was just starting to be the case when I went on the market; now it seems all-pervasive. But I say "seems" -- the truth is that it depends on where you're applying. There are still colleges and universities out there for whom publications are only a tiny part of the expectations; for them, experience and innovation in teaching will be the key. If you apply to an R1, they want to see a potential publishing powerhouse. Keep that in mind: ALL UNIVERSITIES ARE DIFFERENT.

Fie! Good to hear from you! Oh yes, I plan to do a post or two on the midcareer search. I've got a friend who jumped just as s/he was up for tenure, so I'm going to see if s/he won't be willing to jump in with some insights.

Contingent Cassandra said...

Count me in as another person interested in perspectives on the midcareer search. Based on my limited recent searching experience (applying to a position that opened up at my own institution a few years ago, with -- not surprising -- no luck), my main concern (other than publishing, which I know I can do, though it will require some dealing with other things now, and some reordering of time/priorities soon) is finding referees. My dissertation advisers are both retired, and I never had much of relationship with them anyway, so they're out. I've made a few professional connections with slightly-more-advanced compatriots, but few with more senior scholars. Some present colleagues (including former or current chairs) are probably possibilities (and I have no fear of backlash for being on the market; it would probably salve some consciences if someone moved from our long-time contingent ranks to a tenure-track job), but I suspect I shouldn't rely too much on my present department, either (and I worry a little bit about what some TT colleagues might say about collegiality, since I've tended to speak up on contingent issues, which is uncomfortable for everyone involved. It's hard to be collegial while speaking up about inequities.) I've done a few professional-association activities (in addition to conferences) that have my name mildly recognizable/out there, but I still need to make some closer connections, I think. This definitely strikes me as the most difficulty/awkward part of potential search, perhaps because it's not something I can just buckle down and do myself. And I wonder about things like total numbers of reccs needed, best distribution of things like junior vs. senior scholars, my own institution vs. people from elsewhere, teaching vs. research (assuming I want to move into a more research-oriented position), etc.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Hrm. Okay, so so far we've got technology, midcareer searches, contacts, and (thanks to a post over at Belle's) the tricky issue of deadlines (seriously: this appears to be more complex than one might think!).

J. Otto Pohl said...

My best advice for job searchers is to forget about getting a job in the US, Canada, Europe, or Australia. Except for a small group of well networked people those jobs are almost impossible to get. The good news is that the rest of the world is a possibility. I wish somebody had told me in 2004 to apply to Africa and to completely forget about the US.

Historiann said...

There's more hope than Otto suggests for Anglophone scholars looking for jobs in North America, Europe, and Australia, but he's right that one must apply for everything if one's goal is to secure academic employment. Don't write any job or anyplace off until they've had the opportunity to review your application.

Thanks for doing this series, Notorious. I'd especially like to hear from people who have recently been successful on the market: what do you think worked for you? What have your new colleagues told you about their searches lately?

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Ooh! And Historiann provides me with two more great topics!

First-time job-seeker said...

Because I'm approaching the job market with a hefty dose of magical thinking, I'm taking it as an auspicious sign that one of my favorite bloggers is starting a job market series during my first year trying for an academic job.

Like some of the other commenters above, I'm feeling cautiously optimistic about the number of jobs already posted (I'm in history). I'm also extremely lucky to have kind, generous people in my corner when it comes to giving advice/reading drafts/writing recommendations, etc.

But I don't like how high-strung this whole process is already making me around my friends, my family, and my poor suffering roommate. So thank you very much for the virtual cookies and breathing!

One challenge I've been wrestling with might be too idiosyncratic to be worthy of a comment, but I'll post it here anyway for any sage advice you might have, Notorious, or other blog readers: I love teaching and it's one of the main reasons I decided to pursue graduate school. I went to a SLAC for undergrad and I think I would be very happy to work at a small, teaching-focused school. But I've also been lucky with fellowships, and I haven't taught in the past three years. Mentors have told me not to worry about having enough experience (4x TA, 1x instructor of record). But I've found the teaching components of job applications really difficult to write (teaching statement, cover letter paragraphs, invented syllabi). This is all a very long-winded way of saying: do you have any advice on how to talk about your teaching persuasively for search committees? Or more generally, I guess I'm saying I would be very interested to see a post on the teaching aspects of job searches from a faculty perspective.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Awww.... thanks! Okay, I think that that's a good topic. We can also address the dreaded "Statement of Teaching Philosophy."

Belle said...

Tuppence from this corner: a Teaching Philosophy should be a reflective, philosophical essay about why you teach (vs park cars, or count beans or whatever) and what your philosophy about both teaching and learning is. That then informs why you teach the way you do - your teaching methods. Too many of our applicants simply say they lecture - this tells me that they've simply fallen into that method without really thinking about the larger implications of it.

Scholarly research shows that lecture is one of the least effective methods of transmitting knowledge; deal with that. If the evidence shows that a method isn't effective, and you've not dealt with that, any hiring department that is concerned with teaching (vs research-centered) is going to wonder about it.

If you're just starting out, find a campus with a Teaching Center, and they'll help you suss out the best way to approach The Beast.

Anonymous said...

They will dismiss it, and should. What have you been doing for the last 5 (6? 7?) years that you couldn't publish anything?

Kathleen said...

Thanks for doing this, Notorious. Being on the job market can feel very isolating, and it really helped me to read blog posts like these when I was applying. To add a wrinkle to the "how many articles do you need?" query: I got my TT job at an SLAC without having an article out (although I did have one under review). I was offered a second position that same year, so the article rule is not universal. (Especially as I am not in a growth field.)In some cases, research promise and progress towards publication (even if publication hasn't yet happened) can count for a lot. This has been true of subsequent hiring at my college.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Kathleen makes a good point: every school and school type is different. We should also note that expectations differ by discipline. Droyles' trajectory is an interesting indication of how technology might be changing the job market landscape: digital history and oral history projects might not result in a traditional portfolio of publications, but they are a body of work. My sense is that over the next couple of decades, search committees are going to start seeing some more diversity in the work that an applicant brings to the table.

Anonymous said...

I'm in the social sciences. There are more jobs being advertised this year than in the two years prior--in other words, since I have been paying serious attention.

So far, there are only three positions in the US that seem like a plausible fit given my strengths, expertise, and interests.

I'm not hopeful about my chances. Various family crises and health crises on top of the usual dissertation-writing neuroses have made me take an exceptionally long time to degree. I don't have an article. (Actually I don't think my project lends itself to articles as well as to a book.) I don't think my teaching awards mean cr@p to anyone but me.

That said, I am surprisingly calm. I'm going to give the market my best shot, but I also have begun looking to non-academic employment. I still plan to turn my dissertation into a book manuscript as quickly as possible after I file. Which will be this spring. (Well, maybe I'll give myself two weeks of not touching the diss or thinking about it, first.) But as for beating myself up for not being a more perfect grad student and job market candidate, or trying to guess what else I could possibly do to make search committees pick me out of the slush pile--I don't have it in me. Eff that.

I refuse to go near the job market rumor mills/wiki for my discipline. I glanced at it once, for perhaps five minutes, out of curiosity four years ago. It was toxic. I didn't want to think that some of the people posting there might be people I know, potential future colleagues. No doubt that glimpse of nastiness factors into my willingness to look for non-academic jobs. If I am going to be stressed out, overworked, and surrounded by soul-less vipers, I'd prefer higher pay.

I want to think the kind of people who inspired me as an undergraduate--free-thinking and ethical types--are still the majority in academia. I want to think a lot of TT faculty think the higher ed system as it is, is f*cked, and that they are willing to fight to fix it--and not just concentrate on preserving a comfy niche for themselves.

Laura Struve said...

Having been on 3 search committees (English and History) at a SLAC, I can tell you that the teaching is EVERYTHING for us. I don't care about your dissertation or research at all. A few published articles are nice to see on a CV, but it will be the way you talk about your teaching in the letter and your teaching philosophy. I looked for people who would be vibrant teachers, able to reach our students (average ACT of 20). I was specifically looking for people who could adapt their pedagogical methods when necessary--they could talk about how they reached students at various ability levels.

tenthmedieval said...

I have some (fairly bitter) views about this myself, as you can imagine, mainly about the UK market but of course like everyone I have been applying more widely. I also have a post of my own brewing about this, but for a short version I would say that there have never been as many medieval jobs going in the UK as there were this year while I've been aware, I think about 30, mostly permanent, and almost every one went to someone working on Britain with one or two articles and no book yet. (Two and maybe more went to estabished scholars shifting university.) Only one that I know of went to a woman. And yes, of course it needs admitting, I didn't get any of them and was interviewing for non-academic jobs before getting my current temporary position, which was not advertised. But Britain has been a very weird climate this year just gone, because most big places are recruiting far more students than before, because the government is applying massive pressure to raise performance in student satisfaction surveys and because of the five-yearly research assessment exercise (as it's no longer called), though that last really appears not to have made the difference people expected.