(But our beginnings never know our ends!)

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  • Read scholarly book #2
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Saturday, February 11, 2006

Oh yes: the job market

Some small number of my readers--most likely those who are on the job market themselves or those who know me in real life but who haven't had a personal communication from me in ages (yeah, sorry about that!)--may be wondering what's up with my job search.

Short answer: who knows?

Longer answer: who really cares?

I am, I guess, still waiting. Of the six schools with which I had first-round interviews, I've had, so far, one campus visit and one definite rejection. Of the other four, there are two or maybe three that might plausibly still call me if their top candidates don't work out. (Small College, where I interviewed, is still bringing people out to campus, so I haven't had reason to hear back from them yet.)

And in some ways I don't even care any more about hearing back from those four schools. I'd eagerly take a campus visit from any one of them, don't get me wrong--but they all have their drawbacks (over here we've got a quite good school in a bad location; there an almost-as-good school in an even worse location; and far over on that side an okay school in an okay location--but whose hiring committee I didn't like). It would be a nice ego validation, and it would make me feel as though my odds of getting a tenure-track job somewhere were higher. . . but it's just hard for me to get myself all worked up about what this says about my worth as a scholar, or to go around thinking that I just suck for not being someone's top candidate as opposed to their fourth or fifth.

Maybe it's that I've successfully internalized the message that the job market is a crap-shoot, and that plenty of good candidates don't get jobs their first couple of times out--or maybe it's that I have a good fall-back. I didn't, initially, want to be at Big Urban for more than a year, but all in all I've been fairly happy. Moreover, I already know what my fall schedule would be, and it's pretty sweet: just three classes (freshman composition, Author #2, and Advanced Author #2), two of which I've already taught, for a maximum of 60 total students. With no service expectations and no getting-to-know-the-ropes, I'd probably have quite bit of time to work on my scholarship; I'd be getting a raise; and if I move to be closer to Big Urban, I could participate in the colloquium in my field.

Or maybe it's just that I know that life is very long, and that our beginnings never do know our ends. Most of the faculty I most admired at INRU didn't start out there, or at an equivalent institution--they served long years at West Podunk State or Winding Stream College for Girls until their first--or sometimes second or third--book made them a hot item. You never really know who's got staying power, or who's still developing, or for that matter where you yourself will be most happy: some of the most productive scholars I know, who have published the definitive work on X or Y or Z, are at what most people would consider to be no-name institutions.

That, then, is where my real anxiety resides. I'm not especially worried about whether I land a tenure-track job this year or next year. I AM worried, sometimes very seriously, about whether I'm actually going anywhere as a scholar: whether I'm going to be able to turn this dissertation into a book in a reasonable period of time, whether I have good ideas (and enough of them)--whether *I* have staying power.

But that's not a worry, frankly, that would be eased by getting a fancy research job.

link | posted by La Lecturess at 3:12 PM |


Blogger phd me commented at 4:24 PM~  

I admire you so much. You have the perfect attitude for this whole crap-shoot!

Blogger Ancrene Wiseass commented at 5:47 PM~  

Thank you. Thanks for modeling precisely the kind of attitude I need to adopt in order to maintain sanity.

Anonymous What Now? commented at 5:48 PM~  

I'm glad that you've internalized the sense that this is a crap-shoot that says nothing about your worth as a scholar (or, for God's sake, a human being) -- much healthier than I was on the job market (and it took me three years to get this job).

I sometimes worry along these lines, wondering what my future holds, whether I ultimately have anything to contribute to scholarship, etc. It's good to have a job, and it's good not to have real pressure to publish, but I want to think that I've contributed some actual knowledge to my field.

Blogger Margo, darling commented at 7:51 PM~  

I'm so glad for the update. Every time I see on bloglines that you have a new post I wonder if there will be news. I've even thought about asking, but I figured you'd tell us what you wanted to tell us, when you wanted to tell us. I think you're right on the money about year two at Big Urban. I loved the second year of my postdoc, and that's when I got both of my books (edited collections, not full-on ms., but still way more work than I ever could have imagined)contracted and mostly done. I finished one that year and got enough done on the other one so that I had the momentum I needed to finish it my first year on the tenure track. I never could have pursued these projects my first year in a job. So yes, the job market is a crapshoot, *and* you are in an excellent place with a really safe and solid way to spend this "liminal" time. Cheers!

Blogger Yr. Hmbl. & Obdt. commented at 8:50 PM~  

The second year on the job market is, I find, oddly calmer than the first--I think the first time we all go out, we can't quite believe what everyone tells us--we can't *quite* accept that no matter how brilliant we are--no matter how fabulous everyone tells us we are--no matter how great we are as teachers, according to both students and supervisors--in short, no matter how perfect we are for The Job--It Doesn't Matter. That getting the job depends on a sequence of largely coincidental events that have about as much relation of predictable cause-and-effect as the famous Asian butterfly's wing-flap to the tornado it causes in Tulsa. But the second year--we know. It's a dark knowledge, to be sure, but we recognize that we're walking into a casino, not a sports arena--that being the best or the smartest or the most qualified means nothing, and we're just putting our chips on the table and hoping it comes up Red 32. And when it doesn't--it never does--we can at least know that we're not to blame--that there literally was nothing we could do to have gotten the job beyond showing up. And knowing that we've got a gig to keep body-and-soul together next year...well, it's enough. It's enough.

Blogger La Lecturess commented at 2:03 AM~  

Thanks for the encouragement and the good words, peeps. The most depressing thing I heard this year was that a woman two years ahead of me in grad school, whom I really liked and admired (fucking brilliant, and I mean brilliant--but also wonderful, funny, and warm, with teaching awards and a super-prestigious diss fellowship) had finally given up on the job market after four years out. She'd spent a couple of years on one-years at fancy liberal arts colleges, but otherwise, nada. On what I believe was her last year out, she literally got *one* MLA interview.

She's now in law school.

Blogger Bardiac commented at 8:20 AM~  

I still have my fingers crossed for you.

And I want to assure you, that even though we folks at comprehensives and liberal arts or other colleges might not have the prestige that big research schools offer (or the bucks), and we don't do as much research, we do often have rewarding meaningful jobs. And I find a lot less backstabbing nastiness amongst my colleagues than in the R1 institutions I know well, or have friends in.

Blogger Oso Raro commented at 2:37 AM~  

Love your healthy, introspective attitude! Especially the point about your own research agenda. Doll, keep those eyes on your alimony! Your scholarly and intellectual work outside of the daily rigours of teaching and what not are what will give you the most precious gift of all for egg heads like us: freedom, baby! Either here in Egg Head Land or someplace else. We've all got options, never lose sight of that! Keep on Truckin'!

Blogger Sfrajett commented at 11:41 AM~  

I think you have the perfect attitude. The job market says NOTHING about your worth as a scholar, or the worth of your field, or your credentials. Nothing. I didn't get a job until my fourth year out. I know people on for six years or more who actually got nonacademic jobs, kept writing, and ended up at research one schools. Others have published beautiful books and have nothing. It's not a meritocracy. It's a roll of the dice. Be happy. Do your work and live your life.

Blogger academic coach commented at 9:08 AM~  

definitely the perfect attitude. I need to bookmark it and send it to certain coaching clients...

Blogger metromon commented at 4:38 AM~  

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