Academic Jobs Wiki

2010-12-27 Asian University for Women stole my stuff. They terminated my contract while I was on vacation - they actually waited until I left Bangladesh to notify me. If they had sent notice even 36 hours earlier, I could have packed up all my belongings and taken them with me. Instead, I had to have a colleague pack my stuff. She had it all ready to ship, but the university stalled, and she left the country. The administrators falsely claimed that the company she had used for the estimate would not ship door-to-door (they had agreed to do so, and their website clearly states that they ship door-to-door), so they took my stuff to DHL, where staff members went through it, without my permission, and removed items they did not want to ship. They claimed that DHL would not ship these items - this was also proven false by a colleague who went to the DHL office and was told that DHL certainly would ship electronics, DVDs, knives, etc. Our guess is that AUW did not want to pay the high customs duties on these items (though one colleague reports that she was offered 6 months salary in addition to the 6 months termination pay to sign a confidentiality agreement, so they were prepared to pay a full year salary per person but not the additional $4-6K to ship our stuff back). After several people wrote to the Board - some more than once, they eventually returned most of the former faculty's property - most of it arrived in North America mildewed from sitting in boxes through the rainy season. But they continue to refuse to return or reimburse me for several thousand dollars worth of property.
  • That is terrible, I'm sorry that happened to you. I hope you will also post this on the "universities to fear" page.
  • Thanks for the info about AUW. The university mission sounds very attractive and I'd considered applying there. So I'm glad to receive this "inside" information. AUW has some major funding from visible donors and prestigious institutions so how long will they get away with this?
  • Those of us who have left (whether by choice or not) wonder the same thing. Word has gotten around to many people connected with the Seven Sisters colleges, who had been supporters. AUW has not been making its fundraising goals for some time, but they do continue to get good press. The founder is very persuasive and has a lot of good connections, but the longer people are connected, the more they see bits from behind the curtain. The students are wonderful and have learned a lot, so there is some benefit. But there are a lot of issues.
  • Update: After more than 5 months and numerous letters to the board, AUW reimbursed me for my lost belongings. I would rather have had my stuff back and have been able to deal with my personal belongings myself, but I appreciate that someone has seen to it that they reimburse me.
2010-12-20 All of my colleagues in the field have advised me to "out" the school that rescinded their job offer so I've done so on the "universities to fear" page and will repeat my rant here. Here is exactly what happened. I'm still in shock so forgive me in advance if my account of the experience is a bit incoherent. I have been on three search committees myself and have never heard of anything like this happening...Last Wednesday, December 15th I had a job offer from Eckerd College, in Florida. I thought it strange to get an offer before many other schools had even called to schedule interviews, but I planned to accept the offer: I loved the school and the faculty--who were genuinely lovely to me during my three day campus visit. The Dean of Faculty (whom I had NOT met) who called on Wednesday with the offer gave me 2 days to accept or decline it--she wanted a response by Friday the 17th. Thursday was completely lost when the dean emailed her response to my request to negotiate a higher salary to the wrong address. On day 2, Friday, the dean made it clear (via email) that salary was non-negotiable. But when I asked (again via email because she wanted an answer immediately but was tied up in meetings and could not speak on the phone) about other considerations to offset what would have been a 10% paycut from my present salary, the dean rescinded the offer. By email. And then refused to take my calls. This is exactly what she wrote: "After having read your stated requests, specifically the number of years to tenure and the MWF teaching schedule, I am sorry to say that we are not able to sustain our job offer to you. At this time I am rescinding the job offer." I am still reeling.
  • I am SO SORRY that this happened to you! I, too, have never before heard of something like this happening in academia. The fact that the dean was only giving you 2 days to decline/accept was a red flag, as the norm is 2 weeks. Also, I find it strange that all of this happened via e-mail. Now it's documented in print and could be brought up in a lawsuit about unfair employment practices. I actually think you dodged a bullet!!
  • Something very similar happened to me last year at a different college. They gave me the weekend to decide, and all I asked for was a little more time (I believe I asked for two weeks, which as noted above is standard). The provost called that Sunday night and rescinded the offer.
  • I don't know...this is unfortunate but it doesn't seem that sinister to me.
  • I think it's kind of sketchy, I was under the impression that it was pretty standard to give people a week to consider the offer. If you are their top choice, their's no reason to not allow some time to think things over.
  • Okay, so I posted that I didn't think it was sinister. I agree that it's sketchy but there might be reasons not to wait a week or more to fill the position, especially if it seems already that the school isn't going to be able to meet the candidate's demands. You never know what's going on with the search on their side of things. And I've had a job offer and they gave me two days to consider it--and I was told to say yes or no (provisionally) before we could even begin the process of negotiation. I think what everyone should learn from this is that you are never holding all the cards, even after you have an offer. I do feel for the original poster. I'm sorry this happened to you, if you're reading this.
2010-15-10 How does one tell the "truth" about an institution without being outed? Are these wikis truly anonymous?
  • If you don't have a Wiki account they can find you via IP address, but I don't think the people who edit the Wikis are that devoted. Go to the Universities to Fear page and vent. Almost every school is represented with almost every type of outing imaginable from treating candidates poorly, to gross misconduct, to blatant lying, to horrible infighting, it's all there.
  • Plus the IP address really only gives your general location.
  • Do post it. This is completely unethical. It sounds like a job nobody should take, and you'd be doing your colleagues a favor.
2010-12-10 It seems that search committee members are reading/posting to this Wiki, so here's a plea to anyone on an English or Comp Lit search committee that's interviewing at MLA: *please* contact your interviewees by December 17. After that, we can't cancel our hotel rooms without paying stiff penalties. And while it could be argued that we shouldn't make reservations until we know we have an interview, that's not workable in practice; the hotels fill up too quickly. Thanks for listening.
  • I second this, though my advisor says she expects schools will take their time scheduling MLA interviews because of the convention's later date this year.
  • Just changed my hotel reservation to avoid the penalty, but had to pay a ridiculous amount of money to change my plane ticket.
2010-12-9 I'm going to throw this question out into the wiki universe and simply hope for the best... I've been through 5 application cycles with no luck at landing a full-time job. I should note that I'm not expecting a dream job, but I'd like a full-time job. Beyond basic stuff like medical insurance and an income that allows me to upgrade past my Top Ramen diet, I'll basically go anywhere and do anything. I recently accepted a pay cut at my current gig to adjunct 8 classes for 20% less the pay this semester and a 25% cut for teaching 9 classes next semester. It was accepting those terms to keep my job or unemployment (budget cuts). Meanwhile, I'm struggling to pay bills, student loans, etc. Consequently, unless something good happens real soon, I'm seriously considering abandoning ship. Incidentally, does anyone have any experiences and insights that they would care to share about their post-academic life when the application process didn't go as planned? For instance, if academia didn't work out, what alternatives worked out well for you?
  • A friend of mine gave up on the academic grind and accepted a job as a writer/outreach person for a non-profit/political action organization. It doesn't pay great, but it's better than teaching 17 sections (yikes!) a year. Now that I think about it, most of my friends who were disillusioned with academia have gone into working for non-profits, political action groups, or even academic think-tanks. Not just in DC, but all over the country. The ones who didn't go that route picked up technical writing certificates and are doing that. But we were all English PhD's and I don't know what your field is. Tech writing, however, is a growing field and sometimes I wish I'd done that. I'd be making more than I am as an assistant prof.
  • No personal anecdotes yet, but I find the Versatile PhD website (link on main wiki page) helpful in thinking about possible "plan Bs" and a lot of PhD holders working outside of academia post there. I think the reality is that most Humanities PhDs who finished in the last few years (or will finish in the next couple, if not the foreseeable future) will not find jobs in academia through no fault of their own. My frustration is with grad programs who continue to willfully refuse to recognize this and are either unable or unwilling to provide career services for grads who want or need (gotta eat!) to pursue careers outside academia.
2010-01-30 Going along with the post below, has anyone been pregnant (or better yet, pregnant *and* unmarried!) on the job market? I am in this situation, and somewhat resigned to automatically being rejected after the revealing campus visit for the next few months.
  • Well, I was pregnant (and married) on the market last year. I had 6 conventions interviews and did not get any campus interviews (the pregnancy was visible but not obvious at that point). Then I had a phone interview in the Spring which resulted in a campus interview. At that point, I was 8 months pregnant and I did not get the job. It's difficult to say if the pregnancy had anything to do with it or if it was just me sucking (my confidence is way out there these days...) but I often wonder. Good luck to you!
  • I'm a feminist scholar who even studies pregnancy, and I would still suggest hiding your pregnancy as best as you can. Relatedly, I know some people who have not worn wedding rings on interviews. Specifically, I've heard from friends who were in your situation who bought and wore suits at least one size too big for that reason. That said, on-campus interviews usually include a meeting with someone in HR who is legally not allowed to tell the search committee anything that you ask/say to them, unless it pertained to how the search was illegal. If for any reason you were concerned that you were being judged unfairly because of your pregnant condition, I would bring it up in that meeting with HR.
  • sort of along these lines... I was raised in Europe and I have difficulty in grasping some of these issues. I have a 10 month old and I candidly mentioned him when scheduling an interview. The time slot they proposed me could not work because I had no way for him to be taken care of. Now my advisors are telling me that is not information you want to bring up. Can anybody give me some insight as for how this could hurt me? Thank you!
  • To the poster above, welcome to gender bias in academia! Women who are pregnant or have small children are seen as risky potential employees because they will be missing work due to their children. Pregnant women are especially unfairly judged because of maternity leave. As a matter of fact, my advisors warned me that women of child-bearing age in general are often seen as risky because schools fear hiring a woman and having her immediately get pregnant and request maternity leave. For some reason, men are less hampered by having children because in men it's seen as "stability." And obviously this is not the uniform practice or belief, but children and pregnancy go into the same category as marital status, religious status, sexual orientation---don't bring it up because if you do, it might be used against you. 12/11
  • I've read several posts both here and on the Chronicle fora that discuss job seekers' difficulties related to pregnancy, gender, sexual orientation, disability, etc. during the academic job search. The general pattern seems to be Q: I have "X" condition or I am "Y"///A: Hide "X," cover up "Y," don't let them know "Z." I find it genuinely troubling and actually a bit despicable that 21st-century American higher education actively discriminates against candidates based on anything, much less a pregnancy or how someone is dressed. I get it--TT gigs are hard to come by. This truism hardly needs repeating. But is that reason to completely abandon civil rights?

2010-12-09 More of a query than a vent, but I didn't know where else to put it: Does anyone know what the trends are regarding the politics of securing a partner hire for unmarried heterosexual couples? I have heard through the gossip mill that securing a partner hire is much more difficult for unmarried couples versus married ones, and that it can even be hard to get a spousal hire if you are married but do not wear a ring. The rumors seems to be that institutions are wary of hiring an unmarried partner out of concern that the relationship is not secure, and they might get stuck with someone they would not have otherwise hired if/when the couple breaks up. Can anyone speak to this matter, either to affirm or refute its validity? Thanks!
  • Don't know about hiring, but there are other considerations here too. Was recently speaking with a senior scholar in my field who has been together with the same partner for decades, but not married. He was outraged to learn that his partner has no claim to his university pension, in case something ever happens to him after retirement (this is in Europe). So they might get married soon just to ensure this financial security--though they have been vocal opponents of marriage for years for political reasons. Even if you think the institution of marriage is rotten to the core, or that it's not for you, in the end you might still recognize its utility. It's about ALL kinds of security--financial and legal, among others, in addition to emotional--and not just about being "tied down" or having a "meaningless" piece of paper validating your relationship when you're a healthy young thirtysomething on the job market.
  • Pity that there are so many tax-paying upstanding adult citizens that can't take advantage of marriage's utility and "ALL kinds of security." Yes, I mean people with same-sex partners in the United States, explicitly. But I also mean that relationships are changing on a huge scale, and a significant portion of the population--straight, gay, and otherwise--just does not want to get "married." And then there are lots of people who will not compromise their ideals for a sweeter deal. On principle, though, why should the State be able to override one's right to designate any person as a recipient of what one has already worked hard for? Why such greed on the part of government? To the OP's question, several universities (not nearly enough) recognize domestic partners for benefits; I would think these are your best bets regarding partner hires. //end of rant.
2010-01-30 The practice of forcing referees to write and send recommendation letters needs to become obsolete. Reference letters are almost always generic and/or inflated, place a huge burden on the job applicant's writers, and often hold up the process. I have lost count of how many times I have had to nag and remind my writers to send their letters, and how much time SCs have wasted sending me email and paper reminders to have so-and-so send their letter. SCs should simply ask for the contact info for references, and call or email them if they want to know about the candidate and/or are seriously interested in them. This way, the process becomes less burdensome for everyone. Plus, it's greener!
2010-12-08 Could everyone please stop whining about internal candidates and hires? If you want the chance to be an internal candidate, adjunct or take a VAP but please, please let's quit assuming that an inside candidate is a shoo-in and every search where there's an internal person is a total sham. It isn't reality. It's also not terribly flattering to searching institutions. And while we're at it, do you want a colleague who thinks s/he is so without fault that it would a great wrong to pass her or him over? I have been much better off and a good deal happier once I accepted that no, I am not a perfect candidate and yes, there are good reasons to reject me. That doesn't mean I'm lousy or unhireable. It just means that losing out on a job is an unfortunate circumstance, not a cosmic injustice.
  • Take it from me -- internal candidates are not always hired.
2010-12-04 Re EEO forms. At my university these go to the EEO office which is required by federal law to collect them. The search committees have no access to them in any way and never see the results even after the search is over.
2010-01-30 The wiki can be such a curse! I hate seeing that people have gotten interview invites for my dream job, while my inbox remains empty. I suppose I'm glad to lose out earlier rather than later, if I can't have said dream job . . . * I agree, I get so anxious every time I go to check and have to repeat to myself that it is better to know and move on then to live in the dark (like I do with the jobs that there is never any information on).
2010-12-02 I want to bitch about equal opportunity employment forms and affirmative action efforts alike. I can't begin to count how many schools have solicited me to fill out their forms to indicate my genital status, country and/or culture of affiliation (as if I couldn't be indifferent or composed of numerous identities), and any other traditionally underrepresented demographic characteristic that I might belong to. "These are completely anonymous" the emails and letters not-so-convincingly read; "only for record keeping," among other ambiguous explanations given. Perhaps these serve a positive good. Perhaps these REALLY are to track progress with diversity representations in the academy, at least as far as self-reporting goes. Are these even reliable or relevant though? Who looks at this and how does it impact future policy/hiring/promotion/etc. considerations? I'm often inclined to make something outrageous up just to see what, if anything, ever happens with this data. Still, these forms and how the schools are going about having applicants fill them out irk me.

First, it's depressing enough to be upbeat when some colleagues receive interview invites when I don't. I don't want to be unhappy for them (I'm slightly jealous, but mostly happy for them), but it's SUCH a let down to get a letter/email from a school thinking you might hear some something encouraging or at least some indication of where you stand in the application process and this is all they give you: "Yeah, sorry. We're sending you some unrelated form we'd like you to fill out for potential future opportunities that you won't likely benefit from and we were too incompetent to actually ask you any of this stuff when you first applied. No need to get your hopes up." Second, if they really want/need these things filled out, they should ask applicants upfront to voluntarily submit this data (some schools do, but many don't). When the schools ask for this information in lieu of an application for employment being considered, anonymous or not, it sends off the wrong vibe that this information might actually influence the decision(s) of who is interviewed, hired, rejected, etc. Blah, I'm done.

2010-11-30 I just want to vent some spleen at those institutions with speshul-weshul application portals requiring individual uploads for recommendation letters. The stupid e-mail reminders land in the spam box or don't even make it out of the server to my e-mail program, or they pile up under hundreds of other e-mails, or they don't take the file your letter's in, or whatever. And then take my 15 recommendees times 15-30 jobs apiece and it is more than likely that one of them will somehow get screwed by me accidentally. No, I'm not on the market any more, but it seems like every year hiring institutions make it harder, and this year it's the "our own precious application portal" that is putting me over the edge. The End.
  • From the side of someone on the market: While I love the online apps (no postage, no printing, no need to go the post office, etc.), this is a HUGE drawback of them (though some online apps are reasonable and don't make us enter the names/emails of our recommenders). Each time I have to do this, I feel so, so, so guilty as my recommenders/committee members already do so much work for me!
  • From the original poster: do NOT worry about the work for us. It's our job. If we're tt'd or tenured, it's the least we can do in this horrible market. I'm pissed at the schools, not at my students!

  • In addition to the letter of recommendations, I have mixed feelings about the online applications in general. On the one hand, as previously reiterated, I love that it helps save me some money, especially around this time of the year when I'm counting the pennies to live off of my financial aid and student stipend. On the other hand, it's such a time-consuming waste of time to re-enter information ad infinitum on top of coordinating my letter writers to ensure they receive/send the necessary documents on my behalf. Throw in the frustration of having to literally re-type your resume, CV, cover letter, teaching philosophy, etc. for almost every online application (since not all of them will let you copy and paste or upload documents) and I've spent exponentially more time on the online applications, which was supposed to be easier, than printing and mailing hard copies. If this whole process isn't intended to weed out or otherwise dis-encourage potential applicants from applying, it's baffling why an online application (and the process of filling one out) should be so f!@#$% tedious.
  • How about the extra special materials some schools want at the first round of the application process? FIVE References? A new syllabus on an advanced topic? Undergraduate transcripts? Do they really need to know that I failed Algebra in undergrad? (English major here).
  • What about the limit on upload sizes? This creates a problem for us art historians who have lots of images in our writing samples. One school had a 2 MB limit on writing samples, while my SHORTEST published article is 2.2 MB as a PDF (and this wasn't the one I wanted to use). I spent two hours one evening fooling around with dubious programs downloaded from the web, all of which purported to reduce the size of PDF files. But once the size was reduced enough, the type and images had been compromised so much that the document was no longer presentable as a writing sample. So I turned to Plan B, uploading Word files of my writing samples. Unfortunately, the online system did not allow upload of Word files which include images. Plan C, Word documents with lists of images--they can't see what I'm writing about, but at least have the captions as descriptions. This worked, but in the shuffle I ended up using a (slightly) uncorrected version of one Word file, with one of the typos (five in twenty pages) smack dab in the middle of the first page. And now I'm totally screwed.
  • Now this is a vent I can get behind - and I'm glad it was started by a letter-writer instead of an applicant. I have wasted enough hours this application cycle dealing with un-user-friendly web interfaces that I could have written another paper with that time. Are you reading this universities? Your web systems suck. They all suck. They're the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked. (In all fairness, some do suck more than others.)
  • Interfolio will upload individual letters to university HR sites. Instead of entering your adviser's email address, the interfolio site will generate a "" email address to put in. When the HR site autorequests the letters, you go to your Interfolio cart and pay, then the letters are sent. That said, these website applications are pretty irritating. I agree that it's much better for the environment/wallet than the paper route, though.
2010-10-28 If I see one more person link to that xtranormal "So you want a PhD in the humanities..." video, I am going to punch my computer. The content is stale, the concept has been done enough times that it's not remotely funny anymore, and those computerized voices make my ears bleed. I realize this is an unpopular view given that everyone seems to find it hi-larious -- but hey, venting. More to the point, I feel like every humanities academic who spends any time online has been on an anhedonic treadmill for about five years running, constantly seeking new ways to feel bad about their careers and their professions. Fuck that. Read a fucking book if you need to decompress. Or do you not like to read anymore? (And yes, you do have time. You have time to read a poem. You have time to read ten pages. You have two minutes to sit still with the computer off.)

(This advice is also directed at myself, and I am now going to take it.)

(couldn't help being a smarta**, sorry . . . actually agree with your sentiments).

  • I liked the video, but I agree with your sentiments about the "anhedonic treadmill" that has been permeating my Facebook feed and other social interactions. I have been trying to avoid people who are on the job market because I simply can't take the misery anymore. I'm reasonably happy and peaceful but it's only because I make a great effort to compartmentalize the market difficulties I've been having and focus on other things. Otherwise, I'd never sleep a wink and I would be miserable. I have things to do, I have some income, and I have my Ph.D. It could be a lot worse.
  • This video can also be considered "gallows humor." Some scholars have even theorized the (socio-political) productivity of such dark/tragic comedy. In other words, this video does not have to be read as the demise of the humanities...
  • (11-2-2010) I'm amazed at the response this video has received. There seems to be a plethora of critics pontificating with their psycho-babble and plenty more bemoaning the video as if it embodies their every fear, insecurity and reason for second-guessing their career choice(s). It's just a video that many folks can identify with. As a student, many of us have been "that student," too naive to realize our shortcomings. As an aspiring scholar, many of us have also been some variation of "that professor," way too cynical of the whole academic process to ever have any sense of hope or idealism left. At the end of the day, however, for anyone who complains about the humanities shrinking on them or their opportunities being next to nothing, that kind of self-loathing and misery reflects more on the person than of the actual job market, as bad as it is right now. There are plenty of other fields and opportunities to pursue; maybe not "perfect" opportunities, but if you refuse to consider anything other than an academic career you're simply deluding yourself if/when that opportunity does not happen. The fact that some people have their precious expectations crushed because they can't imagine a world that doesn't celebrate their self-proclaimed brilliance or offer them a career for having a terminal degree, they need to re-evaluate what else they can make a living doing. Because for anyone who thought an MA, a PhD or some other terminal degree was a magical golden ticket to economic security, that kind of fantasy has been eroding away at lightning speed for the greater part of 15-20 years.
    • OP here... oh good, 11-2! Thanks for bringing the anhedonia. We were running low. It was especially thoughtful of you to pick up the ritual professional self-castigation while you were at the store too, but be sure to give us your receipt so you can get reimbursed.

2010-10-22 OK, so I'm new here and could use a little perspective. I finished my PhD in a humanities field last year (graduated Dec '09). The job market in my field is abysmal, and has been for a while (esp. since the recession), so I've been applying for pretty much any academic job I find for which I MIGHT fit, figuring it's obvious that I can't hold my breath and wait for the perfect fit. A little while ago, my adviser (who just retired) let me know, in an annoyed e-mail, that he was tired of sending out letters for me. He actually ignored my request for one letter, which was for the one job this year for which I was actually well-suited. I won't go through the emotions I've been feeling b/c of this (or the frustration at not being able to express them). Anyone else have issues like this? And how bad is it to have to rely on general rec letters from Interfolio, rather than letters customized for particular jobs?
    • I used Interfolio both years I was on the job market and it worked out just fine. I have a PhD in English and I applied for over 200 jobs in two years. There was no way I could have nor would have asked my committee to customize that many letters. J
      • "just fine" meaning you found a job? That would be the sort of encouraging news I'm looking for. I've no problem with using Interfolio, it's just frustrating getting blowback from my adviser in addition to dealing with a crummy job market, which I suspect he understands very little. I've probably asked him for about 15 letters between last year and this.
          • Yes, I did get a job, a job that I love. It took a lot of time and effort, but it worked out. And never once was there an issue about the letters I provided. J
        • 15 letters since last year?!? Are you high? I'd be getting pretty grumpy with you, too. Get one LAST "teaching" letter and a "research" letter, and put 'em up on Interfolio... It's quite acceptable these days. Or else risk your advisor privately badmouthing you for being too obsessive and needy.
          • How it is obsessive and needy to ask your advisor to do his or her job??


              • It is not an advisor's job to tailor multiple letters for multiple graduate students on multiple markets. If a prof is writing for 7-8 graduate students, and each graduate student is applying to at least 20 jobs (let alone over 50, which is often the case in my field), can you imagine the hours upon hours upon hours the advisor would spend tailoring each letter? And if, as noted above (by the OP?) tailoring a letter means only changing an address and the school's name, these changes are not going to land anyone a job. A good, solid letter that speaks specifically and highly about the capacities of a candidate should be applicable to all jobs, whether those be applied for via a campus letter reference service or Interfolio.
                      • Listen, if an advisor has a preference, he or she can state it. Making students figure this stuff out and/or guess expectations is just punitive bullshit. There is no reason an advisor can't write a standard letter, print it out and hand it to the department admin to photocopy and mail. Failure to use interfolio is not a demand for a hand-tailored letter. If there is a fault here, it is the OPs advisor who communicated so poorly.
                • My advisor and committee made it clear to me that they would not write individual job letters. Maybe it was because I was marketing myself as a Generalist in English, but individual letters were not going to happen. J
                    • People who make their expectations clear earn the right to be grumpy when students don't do what they want. Those who don't...don't.

      • I don't think 15 is that bad. The letter is already written and it doesn't take much to add the school's name, hit print, and hand it to the department secretary. C'mon this is part of the advisor's job. That being said if he appears annoyed I'd get a letter from someone else because his recommendation could start showing the annoyance.
        • How is "add[ing] the school's name" customizing a rec letter, I'd like to know? A customized rec letter takes time and effort, just as does a customized cover letter (which is where the real emphasis belongs). Expecting an advisor to write a customized rec letter for every job is outrageous. I'm surprised that the original poster's advisor waited until 15 letters to complain. He was likely annoyed long before that, unless he's a saint.
          • Surely it's obvious from the replies here that this is very much person, field and department specific? Expecting customized rec letters is not in any sense 'outrageous' in my experience; it may be in yours, but generalizing seems misleading! (This from someone who is in the rather odd position of both writing and requesting recs. in a rather shitty market, knowing that a properly personalised letter can make all the difference). It's something you just have to negotiate with your referees - doing all you can to ease the burden, e.g. trying to cultivate a pool to choose from, and giving them plenty of warning and concise information that they can use (or, er, cut and paste!) into their letters. FWIW, taking on a PhD student means that you accept at least some responsibility for their future career prospects, and, again talking only personally asking for 15 short, largely similar letters is really not a great deal to request. 200 letters might be pushing it...

~(10/23/2010) I specifically asked my committee members to only write one stock letter a piece to avoid burdening them. I'm sure a customized letter appears more professional, but realistically, most faculty don't have the time to individualize each letter on top of everything else they already do. Plus interested programs/schools can just as well personally contact your references for additional information. Anyways, I also asked all my committee members "permission" 2-3 months in advance for their help, attempting to give them a heads up well before I would ever need any of these letters. Instead, many of my committee members insisted on, literally demanded, writing me personalized letters. The trade-off, however, was that I needed to provide an abstract for each job description, program contact details, addressed stamped envelopes to each school, etc. I figure these folks are helping me out, I'm not going to complain if I have to satiate their quirks in exchange for them going the extra mile on my behalf. Interestingly, though, I also experienced blowback from some of my committee members when I indicated interest in programs slightly out of my area of expertise. It's a tough job market and sometimes a stretch application works out. So I've opted for the "casting-a-wide-net" approach to avoid homelessness. I also articulated this concern in my first request, months in advance, asking for permission before I ever requested anyone's help. I figured my committee would understand this concern and would appreciate my request in keeping the letters stock. Instead, however, one committee member proceeded to chastise me, despite initially INSISTING the most on personalizing my letters. Unfortunately, the lesson to learn from all of this is that you have to deal with difficult personalities at time and just accept that you're at the mercy of some of these folks who, while it is their job to write you these letters, are better connected and influential in deciding your fate.

    • Thanks, all - this is helpful. I guess it's a balancing act. The frustrating part is, I think, largely encapsulated by that final sentiment: you want to attack the job market with all you've got (esp. given the market), but you're beholden to the opinions and pecadillos of people who may have very little idea what the market is like. I've taken a "wide net" strategy, as well, and it's resulted in blowback from my adviser. What to do, eh? Apply for only a narrow range of jobs (and perhaps feel like you should be doing more for your career), or cast a wide net, and risk getting resistance or criticism from the people whom you need to say good things about you. I suppose using Interfolio more strategically is the way to balance this. Thanks for letting me know that using letters from Interfolio isn't a serious blemish for my job app.
2010-10-18 Looks like SUNY-Albany will soon be following in the footsteps of the University of Southern Mississippi noted in a vent below by canceling academic programs (in this case, French, Classics, etc.) and hence firing faculty, tenured and other: . So sad for higher education.
2010-10-02 I appreciate this "venting" section. I have a non-academic spouse who has followed and sacrificed for my career for years. I am ready to turn down a potential position and follow his lead for awhile. It will mean perhaps looking for VAP/Adjunct in a different place (perhaps back to our home state). I will first look at my Alum schools to see if they have any scraps to throw my way. This feels like the right thing to do. Having a non-academic spouse is HARD. UGGGGH
2010-09-30 Question: Does anyone have a pointer to the distinction between a course proposal and a syllabus? Some apps ask for proposals and some for syllabi? Do the syllabi ones really mean they want a week by week assignment list? Do the proposals just want a few sentences? A few paragraphs? Any thoughts?? Help? And to make it clearly a vent: Why don't they tell us what they want in their apps??? WHY? (Or was that my advisor's job... 'cause I'm happy to be mad in that direction as well...)
  • definitely part of your advisor's job. I always interpret 'syllabus' to mean exactly that. If your syllabus would include a week by week breakdown, then that should be part of your syllabus. To me, proposal means something like 'state the course objectives, the required reading list, and time frame outline.' but, hey, I have yet to land a TT job, so 'grain of salt' and all that....
2010-09-22 I'm freaking out just a little because I swear that last year there were nearly 50 jobs posted in my field around this time and currently there are 12. Anyone else in this predicament? Am I remembering wrong?
  • I don't think you are probably remembering wrong. It is pretty dismal this year in my field, too.
  • I've been wondering the same thing--it sure seems like there were a lot more jobs last year by now. Maybe some schools are more hesitant to post this year before they get the final funding o.k.?? Maybe there will be more late postings this year??

2010-09-21 AAHHH job season yet again! seriously, didn't i just finish applying for jobs and postdocs from last year?
2010-09-17 I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has posted here in the last few years while I've been on the job market; I've appreciated the wit, wisdom, occasional snarkiness, and general goodwill that I've encountered on this wiki. I've finally had enough of trying to find a tt job that I once thought would give me the kind of professional happiness that everyone seeks, and I'm going to stop coming around to this wiki anymore. Most of my encounters with university life - apart from the moments when I've loved my reading, my research and those rare (increasingly rarer) students who shared my passion for a subject - have left me wanting for more. It's a strange thing to have your heart set on something for so long and to then one day realize (in my case, while I was stuck in afternoon traffic) that it isn't anything like you thought it was going to be. I'm done. Again, thanks to all of you good souls who are out there looking for jobs. I wish you every success and happiness.
2010-08-31 Wow, did anyone see this horrible news? The University of Southern Mississippi is laying off a handful of tenure-track AND TENURED professors. Wow.
  • Okay: for everyone with the dilemma "short-term job at great school in great location vs. tenure-track offer at remote, less-great school", this year's answer is "take the short-term job." I'm only being half facetious, and I feel awful for the Mississippians who have lost their jobs (tenured and otherwise). But I wish there were some way for people to know whether a job is actually tenure-track or just on track for Ten-Yer[TM] Tenure Substitute.
2010-08-26 Seeing as this is the venting page I just have to say that jobs keep getting posted that look very good for me and I go to the school sites and everything still looks good until I see a VAP that fits the description of the job precisely. Clearly written for them. Ugh. This drives me crazy. If a departments want to hire a specific person I wish they would just hire them instead of teasing the rest of us. Last year, this happened at UNCW where they hired the husband of a TT faculty member in the same department, same specialties. I still applied thinking there was no way HR would let this happen, but they did. I think this is the worst part of this whole job search system.
  • don't know why someone deleted my post but I was trying to be helpful in point out this common misconception. Rarely are jobs written for a VAP. What is more likely is that a department got authorization to conduct a permanent search for the following academic year and in the interim was allowed to hire a temp.
    • sure **
  • As someone who is a VAP who was hired with the promise that there's the potential for the position to open up as a tenure-track one, I see this issue in another light. If a VAP has committed time and energy to the department and has proven him/herself to be a good member of that community, then why would you begrudge them that tenure-track position? I agree that it's a waste of time to have to open a nationwide search when the tenure line is opened if the VAP is the preferred candidate, but just remember that the VAPs in those situations are being teased and tortured just as much as you and they probably ALREADY went through a rigorous hiring process with that institution just to get the position they currently have. The spousal hire you refer to sounds like an entirely different issue, though perhaps not as indefensible as you make it sound...
    • not to undermine your enthusiasm, but the thing to think about is.... why would they hire you? they can get you for cheap again as a vap, and hire someone else for the full position. That's what I've seen happen many times. The other thing that I've seen is that people don't hire vaps because... they've had the opportunity to work with them as a VAP for a year, and no longer see them as a possible hire for the department. VAP work can undermine as much as strengthen the candidacy of a person. Generally, if you VAP for more than a few years, here and there, you won't land T-T, but I've only been watching this for 15 years, i could be wrong.
  • I don't think just because there is a VAP that the position is automatically being written for them. But, some of the time this does appear to be the case. What is tough for everyone is when positions are highly promoted when they already have someone in mind for the job (be it VAP, spouse, adjunct). They still put it out there for all of us to think we have a shot, to start wondering what it may be like to live in such and such city. I'll put a lot of time and work into an application and when I find out a spouse or VAP got the position it makes me feel like I am just wasting my time. To contrast, when I see that someone receives a position I applied for and they are truly more qualified or a better fit it only makes me want to step up my game.
  • My university just hired a signficant number of tenure-track faculty and I know for a fact that several of those searches were specifically written for VAPs, so it's not that rare an occurence.
  • Trust me, being a VAP does not guarantee that you will get the permanent job. I speak from bitter experience. Also, even in cases where an inside hire is desired, institutions are still generally required (from a legal standpoint) to conduct a search.
  • it depends on the circumstances under which a VAP came in and who it is. I've personally never seen it, but others here can attest to the occurrence of ads being written for VAPs. In one case at in my department, a VAP was a finalist for a permanent position and lost narrowly in the vote, much to the chagrin of his supporters who I suspect whispered to him that the job was his. Unfortunately the whole department didn't feel that way. In another case, a VAP did get the tt job, but she had to compete for the job. She was certainly helped by the fact that the department already knew and liked her, but a legit search was conducted.

2010-08-13 Anyone see, or have responses to, this lovely article? I might go spend some quality time with my Plan B tonight.
  • It is sad that a book, published peer-review articles, and teaching experience no longer help applicants.
2010-07-30 I'm happy to see job ads are starting to trickle in. My self-esteem is getting dangerously close to adequate after some publication successes this summer; nothing another rejection-filled job search can't fix. :)
  • Congrats! I'd like some good news this year, too, preferably a postdoc. But I know I won't be able to choose in the end and I need to be thankful for anything that comes along.
2010-06-13 This isn't so much a vent as it is an observation. Has anyone else out there noticed how since, say, early to mid April this site has been seeing fewer and fewer updates? It's to the point now that they've all but dried up. C'mon folks, we can still talk about the injustices, indignities, and inhumanities of the (humanities) job market! Just because a few of our more prolific posters have possibly landed tenure-track gigs doesn't mean we can't still vent. Vent on!
  • I think everyone is exhausted right now. And I know that my alma mater is taking a huge hit and looking at having to let go 100+ faculty and another 150+ instructors. Most of my friends are jobless and can't even get on a community colleges or as adjuncts. My husband's teaching at the University of Phoenix and getting endless grief from established academics, but we need the money. I have a friend at the University of Puerto Rico which has been on strike for over a month. I have another friend who's supposedly secure position as a faculty member has been cut and reinstated twice only to be cut once again. I have friends who are still working on their PhD's who think they're too good for a job that requires a 4/4 teaching load (and they have no pubs, a few conferences, but nothing to make them special snowflakes). I have a job and I'm grateful for it. I worked my ass off for it. I diversified what I could teach, learned technology, and spent time working with engineers. I really enjoy it. It's not tenure-track (we go up for review every 3 years), but I honestly think tenure is a dying beast and to base your career on a chance at a TT position is setting yourself up for a life of drudgery and ulcers. The landscape of what we do is changing. People are realizing that higher education is a business first and foremost. We in the humanities, need to adapt and figure out how to clearly make what we teach relevant to the real world and drop this self-indulgent bull of teaching only what interests us. I'm not really venting. . .
  • I am too burnt out to vent. I am glad the market season is off for now. The past year has been an emotional nightmare. I felt beat up all the time. The anxiety killed me. Even though I have so-so result and need to be in market again, I am glad to have a few months of break from the market.
  • I, too, am burnt out. I'd love to share my sob story, but I'm tired of replaying it in my brain and tired of feeling like an incredibly successful (on paper) failure. I keep reading this wiki hoping to find some useful, enlightening, or hopeful tidbit of information, but I keep finding more information about internal candidates who got the jobs I would have liked to have gotten. Here are some useful statistics: I sent 14 applications to jobs; 7 jobs went to internal candidates; 3 interviewed me; zero hired me. I'm moving on to plan W or X or Y. I'm running out of plans to move on to.
  • I understand that most people are too exhausted to vent- especially since most have exhausted their hopes rather than their brains. I don't want to step on people's toes, but the last poster really caught my attention. This was my first year on the job market, and I applied to everything that I was remotely qualified for. I applied to 70 academic positions. I got ten interviews, one on campus and one job offer. I was not the inside candidate (I don't know if they had one). I think of myself as lucky, but I also know that I needed to apply to that many positions to get the job. I would still be applying to positions now if I hadn't gotten the job (there's still stuff out there that will offer the opportunity for being the inside candidate next year). I think getting three interviews when only applying to 14 positions is really quite impressive. If each job has over 100 applications, and hires one person. Then we should be applying to a similar number of positions to get the job. Simple math.
  • It's not simple math. There are way too many (controllable and uncontrollable variables), and not all candidates are equal. I watched a search in History fail at my University this year, in a field that has a fair number of opportunities, but is hardly a gold mine. They interviewed 12 or so and brought 4 to campus. 3 of the 4 gave excellent job talks. The 4th was an utter disaster. The first 3 all turned down the position (because of better offers). Since they wouldn't offer it to the 4th candidate, they called the next two down the list to invite them to campus. Both declined. So here we have a field that's in a relatively healthy state at the moment, yet when all is said and done we still have a failed search (which cost thousands), probably several people without tenure track jobs in the field, and a vacant position that will be filled by an adjunct getting paid far less than someone in a TT position.
  • I think the example you provide is not common. Seems more like a case of bad luck. The "simple math" poster has a point: we need to apply to as many positions as possible to enhance our shortlist/campus visit chances.
  • Welcome back to the hell (job market). Now the gates are open and we are thrown back to the pit. I feel terrified at the thought of having to go through this again. Is there a promised land? Do I look forward to one? Oh...the simple math. Or the random game.
  • A search failed in my R-1 department this year, too! I was shocked by this outcome given the oversaturation of excellent job candidates on the market. I'm skeptical that the funding will be available for next year given the economy.
    • R-1's are getting bad reps with newly minted PhD's for not paying well and having ridiculous expectations of what an Assistant Professor should accomplish. It used to be publish or perish, but now due to budget cuts, many R-1's seem to be adding monstrous teaching loads on top of the traditional research demands and not paying near enough. I obviously don't know about your department, but perhaps your search fell victim to this, too?
2010-04-28 Okay, so, does anyone else think that some aspects of the campus interview process-say real estate tours, endless promotion of city X's wonderful nightlife, cultural opportunities, natural wonders, etc. could and should be saved for after the candidate is offered the job? Isn't it kind of cruel to get someone into the headspace of "wow, this place is great! I really want to be here!" if said school has no intention of offering the candidate the position? I am tired of being teased into feeling that I am a perfect fit for the school/job/area through this hard sell, then ignored and treated like garbage after they have offered the job to someone else. This kind of stuff only heightens the pain and heartbreak of the rejection, and perhaps is best left for later in the process.
  • My theory for this is two-fold. One, they need to fill the day in between scheduled meetings since it's virtually impossible to get all of that lined up efficiently. Two, it's part of them feeling us out. They want to see how we react and determine whether or not we might stay for the long term. One one of the interviews I went on, had they not given me the 25 cent tour of the town, I might have accepted a job in a place that would have made me miserable.
  • Don't forget that the search committees are trying to convince candidates to accept their offers. It's not most people's experience, but some candidates especially in hot fields and subfields have multiple offers, and that information about quality of life, etc., can help candidates make their choices in a timely fashion.
  • Two reactions. Unless the position is in a city I already know, I want a tour so I can see how I feel about the place and whether it's a fit for my life (or at least, how I imagine my life). I rejected a postdoc offer last year at a big-name research centre because I could see how painfully tiny and conservative the town was. It would have been a feather in my cap to take this position, but as a never-married, childless woman in my mid-40s who wants to move to a much bigger city than the one I live in now, I had a vision of throwing myself out of the window by the end of my first year, for lack of opportunity to meet folks like myself (or, say, a partner). Now that I've had that experience, I'll never be tempted to apply for other positions there. That information came free for me, thanks to them flying me down and giving me their tour. The other reaction is, the cruelty works both ways. Search committees also run the risk of being rejected by a candidate they're wooing (who they think they like).

2010-04-25 I hate, hate, hate those freaking buggy online application programs! Don't you just love the universities that allow you to e-mail or mail your documents directly, instead of spending hours fiddling with the stupid online applications? How maddening is it when you spend all this time hand-keying in your work history for the past 10 years, only to have no control over what order it appears? Or how difficult it is to work on it a little at a time, when you can't just save anywhere and resume? It drives me crazy having to retype this crap over and over again, when it is there on my CV. ARGH! There must be a better way.
2010-01-30 Here is an awesome story from this job cycle. A job that purported to have "over 150" applicants invites two candidates to campus, myself and my good friend. Not only are we in the same cohort in the same department, but we have two letter writers in common, similar teaching experience, and even some similarity in our research. Friend was offered and accepted job, SC does not bother to inform me of their decision. I am having a bit of a WTF moment here. Is this common practice? Some awful new mutation of academic toxicity? SC all seemed very nice, and this is a good institution, but I really feel the need to call not O.K. on this. Anyone care to weigh in?
  • Well, they should have notified you, whether you knew the other candidate or not. A similar thing happened to me this year, that is, a friend from my department got a job that I also interviewed for, and actually really wanted. For her, it was a "back-up". But, that's life. At least the department did eventually notifiy me.
  • I went up for three jobs this year against people from my department. In one situation, it was a job I really, really wanted, but it went to my classmate. They did notify me, but not until after I heard about it from the person who got the job. In another case (with a different person from my department), neither I nor my friend got the job, but neither of us have ever been officially informed of this. The interview was way back in October and we learned from the wiki. In the third instance, we were both offered the job and turned it down because we had each accepted positions elsewhere. We haven't compared notes to see who got the call first and who was the second choice and I'd prefer to not know. I feel no need to be competitive at this point.
  • The hardest part about this experience for me was the idea of being rejected via hearing about someone else's success, rather than experiencing my rejection privately. I think the kindest thing for departments to do in this situation is to ask the losing candidate's advisor to break the news gently as soon as they know (which is likely to be weeks before the SC gets around to it). It's not in any way their responsibility to do this, but it would feel kinder than finding out via the rumor mill.
  • I don't understand how a search committee can spend $1,000 and countless hours of their time on a job search and then fail to take a couple minutes to send an email or call a candidate about their rejection. I vow to do better when I am on the other side.
2010-04-21 Query: I just lost a job that was advertised as "Ph.D. in hand" to a candidate who is ABD. To what extent do search committees follow the strictures of their job descriptions? When I questioned the process and result, I was told that "Ph.D. in hand" is typically quite loosely understood--and that it means that the person hired should have completed the degree by the first day of class. I am particularly interested to hear from search committee members--and anecdotal information from those who have been likewise burned.
  • I applied for every job in my area of expertise, ignoring all stipulations unless the job specifically requested senior applicants. I figured that if a search committee really wanted me, they would hire me even without the Ph.D. in hand. One post-doc withdrew my application because I did not meet their requirements. Another post-doc offered me the position without the PhD; I chose the TT job instead. We need to be aggressive in today's market.
  • I got a 'PhD required' job while ABD but my contract stipulated a) a special lower salary and b) that I would not be renewed for the subsequent year unless I defended and filed before the start of the academic year. I filed a month before classes started and it all went fine.
  • hmmm, good to know how to read these tea leaves! Thanks!
  • I always took "PhD in hand" to refer to the time of appointment. So the person can be hired if they are ABD, but will be finished by the time they start the job. That seems reasonable to me since hiring occurs so many months before the person starts the job. To expect a completed degree at the time the application is made would eliminate a lot of people from the candidate pool who might be near completion. Where this gets dicey for the hiring department is if the candidates' plans go awry and they don't get finished. On the flip side of that, candidates who are interviewing while ABD really have to convince people that they can get it done. Though I'm not 100% sure, I suspect I was rejected from a job I really wanted because they thought my timeline was too ambitious and they wanted a sure thing. At least, I think that was part of it.What stinks about that is that I'm defending soon and would have had PhD "in hand" before starting, just like they wanted.
2010-04-20 Well, I received my last rejection a couple of days ago. I have no more prospects for the fall. While this hiring season has been full of angst, and increasing despair as the rejections have come in, now I feel a sense of freedom, bordering on elation. I've been an adjunct and a VAP, at good schools, I've got a strong publication records, I've given dozens of conference papers, people in my field know my work and respect me. I just couldn't come up with a TT job in my field, and for next year, there aren't even any prospects for adjuncting. So, I've given it my best shot, and now, finally, I'm free to do something else. I wish the decision wasn't being made for me, but I'm welcoming this new development.
  • I am sorry about the rejections. I've had countless rejections this year and I felt drowned every time. The worst part was probably when my adviser started sending me news about his more successful students, who got tt jobs or great postdocs. I knew he was doing that on purpose to belittle my failure. Now, I don't care. I stopped thinking that this guy mattered in my life. It is liberating (sometimes) not to care about things that supposedly matter a great deal.
  • Maybe he was trying to demonstrate what is possible? Maybe he was trying to be inspirational? If he was truly taking the time to mess with you, then all I can say is, what an asshole. Lord knows there are plenty of them in academia. The hold these people have over our lives is laughable. It IS liberating to break free of this kind of pettiness.
  • To the OP: I'm so sorry about your rejections. I admire your positive attitude. Best wishes! To P2: While a professor can be proud when his students place well especially in this dismal market, he should have been considerate of your situation.
  • My final prospect (campus interview for prestigious postdoc) ended in rejection earlier this week too. I was a finalist for four major research awards. Publications, conferences blah blah blah. Nomination for natuional dissertation award. blah blah blah. Now unemployed and flat broke. Thanks a lot, academe, for taking the best years of my life. Sorry, OP, my attitude is not nearly so rosy, although I DO agree that this small sense of freedom is a silver lining on a very dark cloud. If I can't get a job in what I am trained to do, how the hell is anyone else going to hire me?
  • OP again. Don't let my rosy attitude fool you. I was sobbing about it all last night. But I am determined to make something good come out of all of this. If my career is going to take an unconventional path, well, so be it. But now I want to do things on my own terms -- tired of waiting around for opportunities that aren't coming, and tired of feeling 'judged' by those who are no better than I am. I've got to go out and create my own opportunities and make my own happiness, even if I'm not going to end up on the typical TT path. And after days of grading mediocre papers for my latest adjunct position (excellent school, and all that, but even so), getting out of academe seems like a great move.
2010-04-14 Does anyone have any opinions on taking a VAP at the "perfect" school (one where I really felt strongly about the faculty, students, etc) versus taking a TT position about a less than "perfect" school? Is it weird to take a Visiting appointment if you are offered a TT?
  • I would take a VAP or Postdoc at a perfect school (for me: a combination of great location, i.e close to urban centers and other vital academic community - and good/great program) over a TT track offer at an emotional and intellectual wasteland anytime, especially now. I'm not sure though about your less than perfect school as it depends on the person. I'm speaking of two extremes in my case. I'm single and plan on having a life beyond teaching and research and so I don't think that every tenure track is worth gold just because it's a tenure track. I think that it is one of those fallacies that we perpetuate. yes a tenure track brings stability but if its at a place where you don't plan on staying and will go on the market again immediately, one might as well take the VAP/PostDoc routes straight. I just defended so I'm speaking from this perspective.
  • well, I have a friend who did this last year (took a one-year over a TT), and now this year only found another one-year. So, next year will be her FOURTH year on the market. Yes she's managed to find work, but at what a cost. Remember that with the market this bad, next year there will be even more candidates competing for spots than there are this year, since so few of us actually found jobs this year. If it were me, I'd take the TT, remembering that you can always leave if you hate it. No, it's not worth gold, but it's a job. That is, unless it is just a horrible job that you would never want, in which case, why did you apply?
  • No matter what you do someone will find it weird or think you're making the wrong choice. I would take the VAP at the perfect school because you'll make contacts with people in a place that you ultimately want to be. Good luck!
  • A couple of things to consider. One: can you negotiate with the school that offered you a TT job for the late start (i.e. delay your contract by one year)? This can be done for postdocs and prestigious fellowships; this has been done for really good VAPs as well. It is true that you may have a better chance at getting a pretty good TT job after a really excellent VAP (I did), but you may also find yourself pegged as a "VAP only" sort, who gets really good one-year gigs for many years, but never anything stable (a case with a friend of mine). Sorry, I realize that this is not helpful.
  • OP Here- Thanks all... the variety of responses was actually very helpful. I do not think this could be delayed. I guess I have some thinking to do!

I know someone who took a two-year VAP position at a “perfect” school hoping to get her foot in the door; two years later, that same school hired someone else for the TT position. My advice: take the TT job. Distinguish yourself in your field through publications, presentations, and making contacts. At least you will have some stability in your life rather than returning to an uncertain job market next year.

  • Take the TT job! If you don't learn to love the job you can publish your way out, but at least you'd have some security while doing so. I accepted a TT position at a less-than-ideal school and felt like an outsider for the first two years, but now I am tenured there and have grown to enjoy my job greatly. And, it beats having to hit the market every single year hands-down.
  • Some schools turn visiting positions into tenure track positions whenever they can, or at least give people who have worked for them previously priority when jobs open up. Other schools actively discriminate against people who have worked for them previously in temporary positions. You should find out which one Dream School is before making your decision. Also, some schools are now only shortlist-interviewing people who are coming from other TT positions (yes, for Assistant jobs. yes, this makes no sense). You might want to find out if Dream School is doing this. But on the other hand, don't be sure you're going to 'publish your way out'. Some people do get other jobs, but most don't, and the job market is unlikely to magically stop sucking before you get tenure. Don't take the TT job unless you think you could be happy there forever, because it it quite realistically possible (depending on your field) that you will never get another offer, or at least not one at a different kind of school, no matter how much you publish.
  • I agree somewhat with the above, and I should have qualified my remark on "publishing your way out." However, I'd still argue the odds of doing so are greater than those of a particular VAP being converted into a TT position. On the TT, you'd have a reliable income (and benefits) and stronger institutional support and the goodies that come from it: certain grants become a possibility; travel funding; more respect (right or wrong) from publishers/editors; and so on. And while you might not be able to leave for a better position right away (or ever), at least you have something to say about your fate--as opposed to hoping/wishing/begging for an administration (or, if at a state school, a state assembly) to approve a new tenure line.
  • OP again: So I actually ended up taking the VAP. I should probably explain that I had not yet been offered the TT, and found out that I wasn't getting an offer for the one I was debating on. I was still waiting to hear back from 2 other schools (for TT positions), but decided that both schools had some major issues. One, I think is super-stingy with tenure and the other was a delightful department... but really the wrong discipline (A dean at this school asked me about theorists I use and when I said I use a lot of Foucault and Althusser in my diss he replied, "Oh... where do they teach?") The VAP is 2 year and it just felt right, so I took it. Hopefully I won't regret it in 2 years!
  • Congratulations! I am in the same position and basically made the same decision. I know that it is a gamble, but I decided to go with my gut feeling. Even under the circumstances, I think it is unwise to make fear-based decisions.
  • Congrats to you too! And good luck! I hope we both end up with the right job in the next few years... :)
2010-04-14 I just found out that my application for a postdoc won't be considered because one of my recommenders emailed his letter in 1 day late. I had in on time all 55 pages of my app (which took around 40 hours to prepare...) and my 2 other recommenders got their letters in on time. The prof was trying to do me a favor by writing the letter to be curtailed to this particular postdoc, which completely fits my project. So frustrating! And, at this point, it's not like there are many other possibilities out there...
  • How incredibly frustrating...and disappointing. Unfortunately, there is almost no way to prevent this from happening, and everyone is vulnerable to snafus from time to time. Not quite the same situation, but maybe this story helps. I work for a researcher who is several years past her postdoc, with a tenure track position, who put in a grant application for a 5-year career award and operating grant from our biggest science funding agency (similar to the NIH). One of her referees was one week late to the agency with her letter because my researcher had mistakenly given her the due date for another major grant and career award she was applying for. Bottom line: the granting agency refused to accept the entire application, even though all the elements were already in, except this one letter. This was a major disaster. Accidents happen. Even if you are on time, you give out the correct dates, and you ride your referees to ensure they get their letters in on time, delays and mistakes occur. I think it's a minor miracle when everything goes perfectly. Consider the glass half full here. I suspect the hours you put in now to produce those 55 pages will come in handy the next time you have to turn something around very quickly. (And I hope you thanked your late referee profusely for supporting you! This is someone who clearly went the extra mile for you, despite being late with the letter. You definitely want him in your court for your other applications.)
  • OP here: Thank you very much for your thoughts and story. This does put things much more into perspective as it's just one post-doc. It's harder for this to happen at the end of the job season with few other prospects... Thanks again for taking the time to write!
  • You're very welcome. Chin up: something better will come along for you. (Yes, I'm one of those.)
2010-04-14 Alfred University is hiring an "Adjunct Assistant Professor" for a one-year full-time teaching position in Art History. PhD required. Involves teaching graduate students. The pay? 30,000!!! Is this a joke? I'll take that entry-level clerk position, thank you very much.
  • If it helps, it is really cheap to live there. "Regular" adjuncts often get $3000/class (sometimes less) at other schools, which would mean you'd have to teach 10 classes to make that much. The real joke is how many of us would rip one another's hair out for that $30k a year job.
  • AND it offers benefits, although maybe w/ the new health care reforms that's not as much of an issue. In general, academic salaries are tawdry things. We truly do it for the love of the field. And if one more person says to me, "But at least you get summers off!" I will scream. My own mother said that to me recently on a bad day, and I just about ripped her head off. I work harder, nights, weekends, summers, than just about anyone I know. And when I'm not actually working, I'm thinking/worrying about work.
  • Well, I sure won't be pulling out anyone's hair. I understand that we arenot in it for the money, but that does not justify blatant exploitation, and lest we forget, a PhD is a professional degree and professors (temporary or no) should make a professional salary.
  • I took a position for 31,000 bucks. It's terrible pay, even for the area, but it's a job. I tried negotiating, but they were in the position of strength - "we have over a dozen people in our pile here who we could offer this job to if you won't take it" (they were a little nicer than that, but that's the gist of it). Actually, though, the job only required a MA. Having the PhD added 2000 a year.

2010-04-4 Has anyone who HAS managed to land a tenure-track job ever decided to leave the profession because of wanting to be closer to parents, siblings, etc.? I'm one of the extremely lucky ones who did land a job at a great SLAC in the south. Yet, I have aging parents, etc., back in the west, and, every time I visit them, I find it harder and harder to return back to my life and job in the south. The fact that my husband and I had our first daughter this past year only makes it tougher. I love my job, colleagues, and most of my students, but find myself increasingly depressed that a horrid market means living far, far away from loved ones. I suppose I could go on the market again, but we all know the reality of finding a tenure-track job with the perks of having family near. I love teaching and writing, and yet find myself seriously thinking of leaving the profession in order to find something closer to home. Granted, this something will probably be non-academic, and the Ph.D. may prove a liability. But, in the end, I'm wondering how worth it academia is if one can't even be close to loved ones. Yes, I knew the odds, and knew that I probably wouldn't end up near home. And now that I'm indeed far away, I'm depressed. Anyone else ever go through this?

  • Absolutely moving far away from family and friends is a reality for many academics, but getting a TT job near home is a possibility. I have a decent TT job (3/3 at an open-admission state school, in a beautiful if somewhat remote locale) and was becoming resigned, even after my daughter was born last year, to never spending any time with my siblings and aging parents in my hometown. Lo and behold, a hometown school advertises for a position this year, yes, even in this crappy year, and the fact that I was a local girl was a definite plus for them in hiring me. They knew I was coming to stay. Give it a year or two before you make up your mind, if you can (if you don't have to apply for tenure in the meantime, that is). Of course, if you do give up the job and move home, you can always apply for things that pop up locally. But isn't it better to apply from a position of strength (ie, you already have a position and are looking for one that suits you better)?

  • I know at least two cases of faculty who left jobs AFTER obtaining tenure in order to follow a spouse who moved elsewhere to start a tenure-track job. One of them left an associate professorship in Louisiana and moved to Indiana, where he recently obtained tenure again. The other one gave up tenure and full professorship in an R1 university after his spouse failed to obtain tenure and followed her to another school, where he is now a happy Lecturer. I assume that there are many other cases where people chose their marriage above tenure.
  • I was offered a permanent academic position (in the UK, so equivalent to tenure-track, but more permanent) in a city where most people, especially those in my field, would give their eye-teeth to live and work. I turned it down to leave academia and live near my parents and extended family in a different city far away from Jobville, and take a good job in my "Plan B" field. My partner and I had our first child this year and I have never, ever regretted my decision. Not even for a second. Life's too short to spend it missing the people you love.

2010-03-29 I'm not sure if this question belongs here but...Seriously, how big of a deal is it if your cover letter runs to the top of the third page? Will the search committee simply discard your application?
  • I've heard all sorts of urban legends that say that anything that can be used to discard an applicant before the application is even read will be used. Things like using paper clips instead of staples or having letters that are too long. I don't know how much of that is true, though. The school I'm at right now doesn't throw any applicant out, but we are a very small specialized school and only receive 50 applications for a job as opposed to 300. My advisors in grad school told me to never, ever, ever go over two pages and that's the rule I've followed. Maybe someone here who has experience on a committee can give you a better idea.
  • For an entry level assistant professor job, stick to two pages unless there's a truly compelling reason to do otherwise. Otherwise it says that you can't condense your own work and so how will you be as a grader of papers or writer of memos. I've run five searches and the few extra lines don't help anyone enough not to follow the convention.
  • Decrease the width of your margins by a little bit and you'll make two pages.
  • I think the idea here is simply to be aware of length. No SC worth its salt is going to nix a great candidate because his/her letter goes on to a third page. They might, however, not be able to give a long letter the close read it deserves, simply because of the time it takes to do so. If the goal of the letter is to catch the attention of the reader (who is reading from a stack of a hundred or more) and compel him/her to delve further into a given portfolio, concision and clarity are key.
  • I'm sorry but this urban legend about the 2-page cover letter is poppycock. My cover letter was three pages long and I got my dream job. No one said anything about the length of my letter. It's the quality of the letter that's important. Size doesn't matter in this instance.
  • Not poppycock at all. The career center at my university (R1 or whatever the current Carnegie designation) advises prospective candidates to limit their cover letter to two pages. It demonstrates consideration to the reader as well as the ability to write concisely. Use the CV effectively, since it is easier to scan.
  • Sorry, it is poppycock. Your letter should be as long as it needs to be. But let's be clear here, no specific topic should be more than a paragraph, no one wants 3 pages about your dissertation (well some do, but no one wants to work with those people), mine has varied between 2 and 3 pages, but my c.v. is also 14 pages, and the full package is around 120 pages with teaching and research portfolio. I don't honestly think any reasonable person (discounting people at career centers as reasonable given their expertise and the number of people they consult with that are not employed as they wish) would care about the letter's length. People care about content, the paragraphs, the narrative, etc. Basically you should just have people read it for you, a few people and make corrections, customize it to the job, and send it.
  • Career centers (at fancy R1 institutions or otherwise) have all sorts of advice that is interesting. As the above poster says, your letter truly needs to be as long as it needs to be and there absolutely should be a good reason to go beyond two pages--three pages of BS is not acceptable. In looking at my cohort, those of us who have jobs so far all have letters that were about 2.5-3 pages in length. My point is simply that a longer letter does not prevent candidates from getting great jobs. I am awesome and I require more than two pages to accurately convey the extent of that awesomeness.
  • I received several interviews and campus visits, and multiple tt and postdoc offers. Is it because I kept my cover letter to two pages? Of course not. But Career centers (and their qualified counselors) have sound advice, and I agree with the post above. You can still convey your “awesomeness” in two pages. Don’t duplicate what’s already in your cv and if you need to expound on your dissertation, then attach a separate dissertation summary.
  • I guess what these conflicting opinions show you is that there isn't a consensus--although there seems to be a strong contingent of those who abide by the two-page rule. I would assume that search committees are likewise split on the issue. Will some committees be annoyed that your letter goes over two pages? Maybe. Will anyone be annoyed that it is ONLY two pages? Probably not.
  • Former career counsellor here. The issue isn't so much how long the cover letter is, but whether it's succinct and punchy, or so poorly organized and full of irrelevant detail that no one wants to read it. For academic cover letters, two pages is a guide. For everyone else, it's the absolute limit. However: the longer your cover letter, the most likely it is that you'll use that extra space to repeat yourself and your cover letter will drag or include irrelevant content. So yes, you can go over two pages and you won't be thrown out of a search. But work on bringing it down to two pages for this one reason: you'll be forced to trim and remove anything that doesn't sell you for the position. It's this effort that will produce a good cover letter that committee members might even enjoy reading (and that should be your goal).

2010-03-26 AAAaaaaaaaaah! What is taking them so long!? It's April next week and I'm still waiting on 5 apps. How much longer does this go? Will there be MORE job postings for Fall 2010 or are we done? Anyone who has been on the market in the past may be able to answer. Specifically social science jobs. Heaven help us! (End vent)
  • I know. This is horrible. The waiting and the silence. I sometimes forget that I even applied, then suddenly get rejections from unexpected people. Then, I feel depressed for a week or so and go back to work. The cycle repeats over and over again. I hope it's not over.
2010-03-22 I am deeply sympathetic to the postings here, but I do confess that it frustrates me that the conversation about attempting to balance family and career is not more inclusive along gender lines. I am the father of two (on the market with pubs and teaching experience and shit for offers) and face these same dilemmas -- or something like them, anyway. And trust me, being a primary caregiver and having other men look at you as if you've somehow done something wrong (i.e., "is he man enough?") is no fun either. Being a spouse, parent, and worthy academic all at once is tough, regardless of one's gender (even if the nature of how it's "tough" often differs along gendered trajectories).
  • OP, I for one would be pleased as pie to hear what men go through in regards to dual career issues. If it's mostly women discussing this problem, I'm not surprised that people think of it as a women's issue. I mean, look at Mary Ann Mason's does seem to be at least a gender-correlative issue. But I personally am interested in the struggle of all my fellow academics as they manage a dual career couple and/or kids. By all means, vent! It's instructive for the rest of us.
  • OP I think that you have a point about the policing of gender roles and judgment from the outside world. It is also the case, though, that women face a more compressed timeline-if we want to start a family, we realistically have until out mid-thirties to do so, and the tenure/job track frequently does not line up with the "mommy track," which leads to some painful choices. Plus, although there are certainly progressive men such as yourself who are willing to be flexible with the family/life balance issues, many others (such as my partner) have been interpellated by ideologies of hegemonic masculinity, and believe that they will be failures/emasculated if they sacrifice the career, follow the woman somewhere, or settle on being anything less than a kickass super-scholar researching and publishing high theory at an R1. These kinds of issues make compromise difficult for a couple, and lead to situations where the female partner must sacrifice, agree to put his career first, or give up the relationship. I am in this situation-early thirties, some job prospects, desire to start a family, and an uncompromising, ambitious long-term male partner who frets that if he takes lesser-status jobs to "go on tour with me" that his masculinity is somehow dubious.
  • In my case, both my husband and I have tried to play "leading spouse," but so far all the success at bargaining is on his side. Is this because he's awesome, or is gender bias at work? I think there's a feeling that women academics "should" be trailing spouses, and it's easier to get a school to place us in low level admin / adjunct positions because they value the man they hired pretty highly. All of this could be my imagination, but we've been trying to get a partner hire for 3 years now and have finally done it (though my position will be contingent faculty, so it's a temporary solution).
  • OP here: Thank you for the interest in this issue. In particular, to the first response -- I do not mean to imply that it is the fault of women that men fail to open their mouths about this issue. I would point out -- and take a look at Michael Kimmel's research on this -- that our culture does discourage men from talking about this issue. Hence, a more activist role among academics to include men in discussions like these would help (instead of, say, having men go on InsideHigherEd and see the discussion of parenting in academia called "Mama Ph.D."). To the second response -- I am most sorry to hear about your struggle, but I would offer one corrective: I don't want, nor have I ever wanted, to wait until I'm 50 to marry a woman half my age and have kids. I'm tired of hearing about this red herring; the history my wife and I share is our marriage, and vice versa.
  • Previous OP here - I think for me the problem is that I have never felt like I had a CHOICE. I felt coerced at every step. Maybe I'm just weak of will or something but I felt like I was all about trying to compromise - in order to get both - but with the economy the way it is and the two family wage a thing of the past, my partner and I decided to cut our losses and years of love and future planning together and try to move on. I *wish* I felt like any of it was a choice. The last choice I think I made was when I decided to go to fancy R1 PhD program with fancy faculty and a fellowship over fancy R1 PhD program with fantastic faculty and a fellowship when I was in my early 20's. I don't necessarily think it's about being a woman or a man, although I think it has differential outcomes for women and men that are influenced by gender discrimination and the historical oppression of women in the family. Instead I think we've all been poisoned by this ideology that we have CHOICES but really the coercion of the market and capitalism and the family are too much and we can't decide against them. When we "decide to leave" academia we don't really decide, we are often forced out after our degree has gone "stale." When we decide to "choose" work we are actually deciding between crappy location and secure job A and crappy job and great location B often. When we "choose" family we often do so because we lack the economic resources, a real social safety net and the freedom to move. And of course I know we have more choices than many people in the world, more choices than our mothers and fathers had, but I think it's all a trick and a trap. I'm sick of people pretending it's some sort of meritocratic system where cream rises to the top and spousal hires go to worthy couples and marriages and psyches stay intact. I call shenanigans on that. And I'm not pretending we have choices anymore. We can act but those actions are shaped in so many ways we can't control. Good luck to everyone negotiating this dangerous game! I'm hopeful for you but not optimistic.
  • To previous OP: Just so you know, I meant to post my comments in your thread but bungled Wiki procedure. I didn't wish to distract people from your comments and I wish you all the best. Really, I do!
  • I agree with the poster's view on "choice." I think I had a choice very early on in my graduate career, when I left a program after a few months. Then, I entered another program and continued with my studies. That was my last choice and the stupidest one ever. I should have stopped just there. After that, even when I wanted to quit, I was already too far into my research and made too many compromises with life to give up. I also started to realize that I am being used as a research machine for some powerful figures in the field and that there is no way out of this unless I quit academia for good. So, all these years, even when I was working on my own, I felt like I was being dragged around on a short leash, either being tied to some powerful academics or to the limited options within the system. Academia is weirdly totalitarian when it comes to the question of choice.
  • Thank you, previous OP, for the comments on choice. I am one of the respondents here. I realize when I write that I "chose family" it wasn't really a choice--it was the only truly viable option at the time.
  • I think what the conversation highlights is two inter-related issues: (1) Staying home to raise one's kid(s) is not considered a "real" job, or at least not "full time", particularly from the standpoint of profs in R1 programs who either sacrificed this long ago, can afford to hire a nanny, or never had kids and simply cannot comprehend the intensive time and energy it takes to be an effective parent. (2) There are no good outlets for indicating to prospective employers that one is or has been a full or part time caregiver, and that they should take this into consideration when looking at a candidate's profile. For instance, speaking for myself, I was a full time dad for roughly 15 months, and half-time since then (meaning: I was the sole caregiver all day, then half day, five days a week), during which time my kid was aged 3 months to just over 2--meaning pretty much constant supervision. As a result I have been to ZERO conferences. But I feel pretty good about having gotten two refereed articles and an encyclopedia entry published, while working on my dissertation, during this time. If only I could find a way to indicate this on my CV or in my cover letter without it being inappropriate, because what I feel like saying is: "This was me as a full time parent; imagine what I could do if you hired me and we could afford daycare!" I wouldn't trade the time I've had with my kid for anything, but I do occasionally find myself wanting her to nap so I can write just a bit more, and other such guilt-inducing thoughts, ultimately because of the cultural and structural ways in which parenting is to some extent de-valued or at least ignored. I wonder what would happen if I added "Full Time Caregiver" with a date and description on my CV, heh.
  • To the poster above, I added two sentences to my cover letter about leaving a job to be a full-time parent. When I had interviews at MLA this year, one interviewee "thanked" me for writing those sentences, saying that she hated reading between the lines in cover letters. So...there is hope. I think you can indeed briefly explain your situation in your cover letter.
  • I've decided to quit while I'm ahead and never even go on the job market, since I have a spouse with a good job, kids and a house. Why would I give all that up to move somewhere I don't want to be and start over? But I do wonder what effect it would have had on my job chances that it took me ten years to get my Ph.D. I was lucky to have some child care, but the pregnancy and postpartum days really took their toll, and I was unproductive for quite a while. I wish our society valued caregivers more (and this doesn't include just children - some people have to care for their parents or other family). It is a challenging and draining job that doesn't fit on a CV, unfortunately.
  • I, too, would like to hear from more men who have had to make difficult family/career 'choices' because, while I do not intend to diminish the experiences of the fathers posting on this board, it will take much more to convince me that men are routinely having to choose between career and family. On a recent campus visit (that I was incredibly lucky to get as I might now have a real shot at a TT job in the same city as my husband), I met a young faculty member who told me that he had been a spousal hire. He and his wife are divorced, but he also revealed that he would have made some different career decisions had he had a different family situation. This is the first time during my time in academia that I have ever heard this story from a man. I felt sympathetic, and actually a little less bitter for once.
  • To the poster above, the complaint is laid against the structural impediments to anyone who has the bulk of caregiving responsibility, male or female. It's unquestioned that this disproportionately affects women, but this is changing. Beyond strictly biological issues (sickness during pregnancy, 1-3 months maternity leave, having to pump milk at work perhaps) these are issues that can be just as debilitating to a man's career. There's something about the way you've phrased "convince" and "routinely" that comes across as being...well, this needn't be a gender pissing contest. It's a problem that affects any academic with dependents (usually children, but not always) who require significant care.
  • Academics (both men and women) tend to become established in their professions at an older age than other types of workers (assuming they ever do get established), make considerably less than those in most fields who burn up their twenties in grad school, and then have little control over where they have to live. The strain all of this creates on relationships, and the prospect of starting a family, is enormous. I'm not sure how the divorce rate among academics compares to the rest of the population, but my intuition and personal observations suggest that it's much greater. But having stated the obvious, many academics DO have advantages over those in other professions when it comes to raising a family. I know very few professional men and women not in academia who have full-time jobs that allow them to come home at say, 1pm, or which require them to be physically at work 2 or 3 days a week. Keeping up with research, publishing, etc. is a huge burden that takes additional time, and some academics in some fields probably put in more hours than the standard 9-5, but there is still often a flexibility there that other kinds of workers would envy. I know academic couples who schedule their job responsibilities so one of them can nearly always be home with the kids. But I agree that the uncertainty of the job market and the length of time it takes to get established is hardest on women--in general. A man married to an academic, whether he is also an academic or not, doesn't have the same "time pressure" about starting a family--except insofar as he plans to remain with his wife/partner who does. A man who is fully committed to staying with his wife/partner is pretty much at the mercy of the same factors that she is, once the obvious thing that he can't do of carrying and giving birth is over. And if he is the loyal type, let's hope that he'll be sharing the caretaking role to the maximum extent possible. I have noticed a phenomenon, however, of many male academics being a whole lot older than their wives.
  • I figured I would chime in. I am 33, male, and filing my diss. this year. My wife and I had our first child this past December. My wife has a career and experience, while I have professional+academic experience but am looking for an asst. prof. position. Our choice has always been that I find a good academic gig, and she can stop working for a while. Given the dismal academic market, it is increasingly looking like that will just not happen. Therefore, we are both openly pursuing professional jobs and will potentially move in the next 6 months or so from our current large metro. area to another large metro. area. The outcome of this is just as likely that she will find a position as I, meaning the husband (me) will be the caregiver as opposed to the wife. Whatever happens, it is a conscious decision, and I would hope that it does not affect either of our future careers by choosing family over profession. And honestly, if any future potential employer, for either of us, in either the professional or academic world, cannot see the value in that decision, good riddance.

2010-03-22 I'm among the lucky ones and so please please forgive me because this will sound whiny. But this process has destroyed me and my life - and I'm one of the "winners." After ten years, multiple graduate degrees, plenty of publications, so much solo teaching, thousands of dollars, four universities, twenty something interviews, six hell filled call backs, many years of poverty and a dissertation I got a good position at a great school I love where they love me. But I'm in my thirties and I've lost everything else. I'm losing my home, my partner, and the future children and family I've been working toward. I'm moving away from my family and friends to a future unknown to a racist homophobic backward place where I'm completely unintelligible and where I will be alone among a bunch of marrieds with children - I have to start over by myself and I never ever thought I would be this old and in the position I'm in and it's awful. I started doing this because the women academics I knew seemed to have it all - they were lovers, mothers, workers and wives and I thought it was possible. I thought the academic life would facilitate my ability to have a real personal life and not destroy it. I've never felt so empty, sad and lost and yet so thankful and lucky as I do now. I don't know how I'm going to do this. I don't know who I'll be or why I am continuing. My dreams have been fulfilled and crushed. And it sucks - it royally sucks. I hope all of you get the things you want and need to sustain yourself - I've lost those things to this game. Or I hope the revolution comes.  :(
  • I don't even know what to say to you -- the pain you're feeling is palpable in your message. I did things differently than you; I put my family first and made some career choices that have practically ensured that I will never get the "big" job. In fact, I'm having trouble even finding adjunct jobs any more. I do think I made the right decisions (for me, anyway), but I, too, am filled with regret about my lost career that I worked to hard to cultivate. My husband and I fight about this; I do feel that I gave up many things so he could have his career and so that I could make sure that I was around (most of the time) for the children. I'm sure there are men in our situations, but somehow these choices are never as problematic or complicated for them as they seem to be for women. But at least you DO have a place to land, and hopefully the position and the institution will be professionally satisfying -- and who knows, your personal life might not be as bad as you fear. A big virtual hug.
  • I am so sorry you're feeling down. It's really a sucker's choice, this game, isn't it? Win the job and lose everything else, or choose everything else (as I have done) and lose the chance to be an academic. Even an adjunct. I sincerely hope that you are happy in your wonderful new job, and that you end up being able to have the family life that you want, too. And remember that even though things seem ironclad right now, an academic job is just that: a job. A good job, but a job. It's not a prison. If you end up hating the place and missing your partner and you want to choose family and location and the rest of it, then the only people who will judge you are people whose opinions don't matter. Be well and I hope you find your joy.
  • OP, you don't sound like a whiner to me. You sound like, dare I say it, a woman in academia. I quit a TT job to have a family and to actually live in the same state as my husband. It's a decision that I still wrestle with because I miss teaching so very much. Now I'm back on the job market and deeply concerned that I'll never teach again. Try to find satisfaction in your new job. And read this article:
  • OP, I'm with you. I could be you given all the similarities in our situations. My question to you and others... what if a school opens a TT job search in your spouse's neigborhood in mid-March, *after* you've already taken that lonely job across the country?! Is it wrong to apply? Are we really stuck until next year's market? The dream job at home will be gone by then! Despairing - torn between feeling motivated to try and ashamed at my unethical thoughts of reneging on a perfectly nice tragic job far, far away.
  • If that job opens up: apply. And take it if offered! People have already been spilling all sorts of virtual ink in this page below on this topic, but I sincerely believe that it would be in everyone's best interests (yours, the department, your colleagues on the market who would apply for the job you're leaving next year or who might be second choice and get it this year) to take the job closer that you would stay in for good. No matter what, there will be a disruption and inconvenience when you move: might as well do it sooner rather than later. If the job isn't offered to someone else (and this is from recently hearing about a number of departments talk about their 'failed' searches) it's not because there is no one else whom they interviewed who will take it, it is almost always because the department thinks none of the other applicants were good enough (stupid yes, but not your fault).
  • I'm with you. I "won" three years ago and moved to the rural south to take a 4/4 job. My boyfriend of 5 years broke up with me almost immediately because he didn't want to live someplace where he'd have limited job prospects. I've been trying really hard to develop a social life here but with very little success, and as far as I can tell the only way other faculty meet people in the area outside the college is through things related to their children (which I don't have and am not likely to be able to have given my age and singleness.) I am burned out and lonely and went on the job market this year in the hope of moving somewhere I could meet someone or at least make friends. I got my last wikijection today. Sigh. But, at least I have a job.
  • There were very few openings in my area of expertise. I am fortunate to be offered a tt-position this fall at a great small-town university with collegial faculty members. My dilemma: after my graduation this June, my university wants to offer me a lecturer position for a year or two to teach undergraduates certain courses required for graduation. While the tt position would allow me to establish myself in my field, the second job (which is closer to family and in a more diverse and urbane locale) does not. As a future female academic, I struggle with career-life issues. The tt position comes at a sacrifice to me, my spouse and teenage child. Luckily, my family is supportive of me living far away…but the decision is difficult, nonetheless.
  • OP (and others), I feel a ton of sympathy for you. I am going to stop calling you guys lucky--you're just as wounded by the academic job market as many of the chronically underemployed. I'm making the other choice (leaving a good job / withdrawing from searches for family reasons) and I can say that neither decision feels good. I am having a big "what am I going to do with my life moment" because I have a sneaking suspicion that I'll be a terrible housewife. I just never pictured myself depending on my husband for anything, even health insurance. I'm going to have to find something less exploitative than part-time adjuncting to do with myself. Despite all of the whining among medical students about the match system, that seems more humane. You can "match" with a partner, and not as many jobs go unused. I wish we had something like that--I am tired of our "winner take all" system (esp in humanities).

2010-03-21 Have you tried asking for feedback of how you did after a campus visit (and you didn't get the gig)? Do SCs provide feedback or are they pretty tightlipped about it?
  • I asked for feedback from two SCC's and one provided it happily and the other didn't respond to the email. Also, in the course of being rejected from a third place, the SCC volunteered the info as part of the letting me down process. It was nice to get the info, but the one I really wanted to hear about was the one who didn't respond. That was the job I was wanting more than anything and was really disappointed not to get.
2010-03-21 Have you ever received a rejection letter with "reference to your recent interview for the post"--although you have not been interviewed? I am confused. And upset.
  • I haven't never received such a letter, no. However, I once received a rejection letter 4 months after a campus visit. It took 4 months to the SC to let me know that the position had been filled. No e-mail, no phone call but a letter sent after weeks of silence and unanswered emails. Depressing and unprofessional.
  • OP, It sounds like they're organized! Ha. I wish you'd write to them, "What interview?"
  • Not only have I received a letter like that, it was postdated by 6 years. This was in 2007, I didn't get an interview, but I received a letter thanking me for the interview and dated 2013. I had been rejected 6 years in advance!
  • I actually did write back to them, it was pretty spontaneous as I read the mail in the middle of the night. So--'What interview?' and I also asked the person who wrote the letter to give me some reason for the rejection, if possible, so that I could 'improve' in the future. Will keep you posted on any reaction. OP
  • I actually turned down a campus invite a month or so ago, and then received a rejection letter from them.
  • I got a rejection letter from a university after I turned down their job offer. Classy.

2010-03-18 This is a horrible job market, yes. And it seems unbelievable that we can't seem to get jobs in the fields in which we've trained for years and years. After all, if you're an RN, you can probably get a job as a nurse. If you get a JD, you can probably get a job as a lawyer. If you have a Ph.D., all bets are off. But I'm sorry to see the increasing numbers of people here on the venting page who regret the decision to get a Ph.D. At least for me, the decision to go to graduate school wasn't really about job prospects; it was about spending time immersing myself in a field that I found infinitely interesting and personally rewarding. It took me forever to finish, but I had some cool internships, had some funded travel and research opportunities, and managed to write some conference papers, articles, and book chapters. Completing the dissertation was a point of pride and I think it was a real accomplishment. Am I bitter that I'm not getting a job? You bet. Do I regret that I went to graduate school? Never.
  • My niece graduated law school last summer and out of her class of 110, only 3 of them found jobs. Since then, she says maybe another 10 have found full-time work. It really isn't just our field. And like lawyers, I know that in the humanities (as an example), the US graduates way more PhD's than can find jobs in a good year. But since this is a bad year, it seems very out-of-proportion. No industry is safe right now, except nursing (maybe).
  • I know TONS of people who recently graduated from top law and business schools and they cannnot find jobs. AND, they have $150-200,000 in loans to pay off! I hate to say it, but we're way better off than them.
  • OP here - I guess what I'm saying is that in other industries, like the legal profession or finance, the recession means a TEMPORARY lack of employment. Those jobs will come back, maybe not in the same numbers or with the same astronomical starting salaries, but they'll return. But in my particular discipline (art history), there were only ever a handful of jobs in the country in my field in a GOOD year. And now, with the increasing elimination of positions, and the increasing turn to adjuncts, etc., the possibility of all of us finding ANY jobs in the field, let alone good jobs, is quickly evaporating. At any rate, my overall point was that I'm still glad that I finished my doctorate; no one can denigrate that accomplishment, even if I don't put it to use in a career.
  • OP, I'm so glad you don't regret the PhD. I'm in the same boat - no academic job, but rewarding alternate career, and no regrets whatsoever. But I also agree with the others who've posted; yes, the law and business markets will take an upturn eventually, but PhDs aren't the only degrees that go "stale" - employers are more likely to hire a new JD right out of school, for instance, than one with zero years of experience whose JD is 5 years old. One of my best friends just graduated law school and TWO of her classmates have found jobs; she is lucky enough to have found a good job working for a politician, but many of her friends are admin assistants, baristas, etc. with JDs and mountains of debt. At least my PhD came with a scholarship so I'm not trying to pay off student loans... and I daresay that a PhD is even more transferable a degree than a JD. A PhD in the hard sciences can get you in the door at a consulting firm, a PhD in math at a hedge fund, a PhD in history in government policy, a PhD in English in marketing and communications, but a JD just screams "out of work lawyer"...
  • Yes, business and law school cost more financially. However, B-school takes 2 years and law school takes 3. Those who invested in Ph.Ds took 5-10 years and stressed out to write a never been done before study. not counting postdocs and time in the profession waiting.
  • I am so burnt out. I think there should be a time limit for PhD. It took a chunk of my 20s-30s. With very little income, I can almost live like a Buddhist monk while working on this damn dissertation. Nothing that I study really amazes me these days. I feel stupid for believing that it means so much.
2010-3-16 I had my share of phone interviews for being in the job market. For the past 3 years, I have developed my own database of phone interview questions and answers which covered all of my recent interviews until today. Today I interviewed for a position that had no specific job description except for the position title, TT professor of X (my department name). As a saavy interviewer, I prepped for the interview using their program's website to familiarize myself with the courses, school, culture, etc. At the interview, I was confronted with questions I have never imagined or remotely heard of and questions that hardly mattered to my expertise. I was literally at a loss of words. Needless to say, I ended up with a worst interview I ever had. At this point, I'm not concerned about being rejected for that position (for I am almost immune to rejections now), but I just can't get over the embarrassment when I need to move on and focus on other things.
  • Sounds like it was their problem, not yours. I wouldn't lose sleep over it. You did your job by researching the school and the department. Who would do well under such circumstances?
  • Would you be willing to share some of the odd/unusual questions?

2010-3-16 I'd like hear from/commiserate with other VAPs who did not get the TT position at the same institution. . . any out there willing to share?
  • I haven't actually been rejected yet, but I'm 99% sure the job will go to someone else. I've been there for longer than a typical VAP, too, and I was beloved by students, active in the department, etc. It was even subtly suggested to me that I not seek other opportunities since the position was coming open. I'm trying to move on, but I'm devastated, embarrassed, and yes, pissed off. The worst is that I haven't been able to find anything else to do, so I'm probably going to have to leave the field.
  • I'm sorry about that, OP. I'm dealing with a similar issue, and I know how hard it must be to see "your" job go to someone else. It's not your fault. I think in my case, I'm just not a "fit" for the department. Perhaps I need a personality overhaul. Are there courses in getting along and fitting in, for lifelong socially awkward nerds? I am good at taking classes.
  • OP here. Oh my, respondent #1! My experience is exactly the same--and so are the feelings (anger, devastation and embarrassment--for my willingness to take things as honestly brokered and at face value). The job desc. was written to look like me; SCC even asked me last fall to approve it. I have an exemplary teaching record, highly active in all department and school activities, top-notch performance reviews and recommendations--and know that a substantial majority of the department members had me as their #1 choice. The pres even told me in my one-on-one that I could be assured of the job. I got undermined, I believe, by one member of the SC whom I thought was in my corner; turns out that was all a ruse. I am pretty good at reading people--and I missed this one big time. Problem is -- this will devastate the department, which makes me very sad because overall the members are a wonderful bunch of people who really put their students first. I took a huge financial hit to take the VAP position when offered; now with no job prospects, it will take my family years to recover. Respondent #2--thank you also for your reply; I think you said all that needs to be said: it is nothing we did or didn't do--and I appreciate your "laugh through the tears" approach!
  • Ugh, OP, one nasty committee member did you in. I hope his/her guilty conscience makes it impossible to sleep. I am likely leaving the field too--and good riddance, I say (or will say, when I find a job!)
  • OP--The problem is--I am the one having trouble sleeping. I am sure the loose cannon is not. When the final outcome is reached, I will fill in many more details that I hope will be a cautionary tale to others.
  • final outcome reached--candidate who did NOT meet criteria as advertised fully accepted the offer. So now I have no job, but then again, why would I want a job at a place that treats its folk so abysmally? I am sleeping much better recognizing that there were serious ethical issues breached in the process.
  • I'm respondent #1. I'm so sorry to hear how things have turned out, OP. In a way, though, it must be somewhat gratifying to know that OTHERS in the department wanted you, even if you were sabotaged by one unethical person. In my case, while I think they all like me and appreciate my work, and particularly my dedication to and rapport with students, no one cares enough to really go to bat for me (I think there may be a little jealousy, since the students are very vocal about their support of me). The job description was written in such a way that I'm really not a viable candidate, although to be fair, some of this direction was coming from powers on high to try to fill in some perceived holes in departmental offerings. Of course, for both of us, it doesn't really matter how it all played out, since the end result is the same---we are unemployed. I also feel like, because of this experience, I'm UNEMPLOYABLE -- everyone will know that my institution didn't like me enough to keep me, and thus with a plethora of choices, who would choose me? Anyway, I'll be interested to hear your 'cautionary tale' when you feel up to telling it. Best of luck to you.
  • It hasn't happened to me, but I've seen it happen at the institution where I currently work. The VAP, who is a capable teacher, with pubs, a book contract, etc, didn't even get an interview for the TT position. My sense is that he simply didn't meet that vague "good fit" criteria we all here so much about.
  • I am a VAP and the same thing happened to me. I earned an NSF grant while at the institution, have 10+ publications, and have good teaching reviews. I even allowed an MA student to use my data for her thesis when her advisor left the program (he is the person I replaced). I was told that two (husband/wife combo) faculty members sniped me to pieces in the initial round of review-- people who were ABD made the long list, instead of me. I was given some nonsense excuse of being "inflexible" as an instructor. I got a t/t offer on the Carolina coast with considerably more start-up money and get to take my NSF money including overhead with me. I am one of the few who got to stick it up their asses, but I am still unsatisfied. I lost sleep for three months, my family was stressed, and I went through a really bitter phase. I was ashamed and felt hollow. It was particularly bad, because like a previous poster, I went broke taking this stupid position under the general understanding that they were going to take me for the tenure track position. All I can say is get everything in writing, everything. Don't quit. Keep breathing and don't let shady, underhanded search committees destroy your love for what you do. I got through it by running and spending copious amounts of time in the sauna. Finally, when you do land the t/t position, learn from this. Make the process transparent and try to fight against this type of corrupt behavior. I'm not suggesting treating each candidate like a snow-flake, but move the process away from its currently sorrowful, undignified, and underhanded state.

2010-3-15 I should stop whining. But these days I feel so wasted. I must have been a fool to have worked so hard for literally nothing, no income for now and no job for later. And I think about my dissertation all the time. Such a wasted life.
  • I'm with ya. I don't sleep properly and feel guilty as a result; I eat everything and feel guilty as a result; and all I do, in the remaining time, is sit on my bum and write/edit. So many people have told me that it's a "numbers game", a crapshoot and soon, my number will come up. Maybe?! Just don't think it's a waste. Aside from your thesis, I'm sure there are so many ways in which you have grown and become stronger as a person. It takes patience and constant visualization of the moments after the defense (Champagne-fueled laughter!). And, it does take lots and lots of attempts. Virtual hug!--Thanks!
  • I totally understand, and have told myself that same thing a million time... I can't even count the number of times I apologized to my partner for whining... And today, I finally printed my dissertation and delivered it to my committee today. I know I still have to defend, but that seems so easy now that the dissertation final draft is complete. And if I can do it, anyone can. More virtual hugs! --Thanks!
  • It was a failure, a foolish, foolish failure. I would never go to grad school again. It is the biggest mistake I've ever made. I can't think of a worse way to use intelligence and youthful years. I will never forgive myself for the poor stewardship of my life.
  • I'm relieved to hear someone else express what I have been thinking and privately saying to my husband for the last year. I'm hesitant to say it to others, because I don't think they'd get how deeply I feel like a failure. Graduate school (at least the Ph.D. part) was a huge mistake that I regret immensely. I want the last eight years of my life back. I'm about to defend (after I finish the agonizing process of editing in a few weeks) and have no plans to pursue an academic career. I have children and no interest in the whole thing anymore, but I'm still bitter. If I had had the foresight to get out earlier, I could have worked for several years and actually had a work history (and a 401K!). I leave this now with nothing but a seemingly useless title after my name. Oh, well. I guess I can sign my comments on blogs - SAHPHD. That's something, right?
    • My advice to you all is: quit while you're ahead. I know this sounds like cold comfort, but what I mean is finish that PhD (if you're close to being done) and then head straight out of academia. Don't waste your time on VAPS or Post-docs, especially if you're feeling this way already. Things are not going to get better anytime soon so you might as well begin re-tooling yourself for another profession. It's important to move forward and not let the negativity of failure or regret hinder you. This job market is totally out of your control so it's both unreasonable and pointless to feel like a failure just because you were unable to land a job. You could not have known that academia would ever more embrace the business model at the same time the recession hit, so you should not blame yourself for what has happened. It's really just bad luck. We simply came of academic age at the wrong time. After deciding to quit academia in spring 2008 (I got my PhD in 2007) I decided to go back on the market again this year--mainly because our family needed a stable income. Well, I managed to get one on-campus (I applied for three jobs) was more or less told that they wanted me for the position, prepared a solid presentation etc., was charming, really well-liked by the students, and then didn't end up getting the job. After obsessing about what I might have done wrong and checking the wiki on an almost hourly basis I was reminded of why I left academia--because it is a damn rat race. It creates resentment, animosity, jealousy, self-loathing, desperation, etc.--and for what?
  • Not that it's any comfort to know this, but academia is hardly the only place where this is happening in today's economy. As far as wasting your life, being filled with self-loathing, etc, as life-choices go, getting a PhD (whether or not you're able to find a university teaching position now or ever) is hardly the worst thing that can happen to somebody. Volunteer at a local shelter or something--serving others is not only good for your soul, but you'll see what the real serious problems look like and perhaps get a better perspective on the world in general. And then think about the private sector, or if teaching is really your passion, consider taking whatever courses you'll need to get a teaching certificate (a breeze after grad school) and teach high school. A PhD teaching high school makes a great deal more, even in the first year, than your average teacher with a BA, and if you dislike university culture so much, you won't have to put up with publish-or-perish, tenure review, etc. My point is that you have options, lots of them, and crying in your beer isn't going to accomplish anything for you. You've got your whole life ahead of you and you have to figure out how to make the best of it.

2010-3-11 Can someone please explain to me why academics are so damn sensitive and easily offended? And also why they are so concerned with rank and position? When I was in coursework, I guess I was somewhat insulated from the politics and egos, but since I've been working on the dissertation and on the job market, I feel like I've been navigating a minefield. Some people treat me like a colleague, others seem to think I'm a bug to be squashed in some kind of hazing ritual. I've met faculty members who seem appalled at someone calling them by their first name unless that person has a PhD, while others are perfectly normal and friendly. Then there's the whole issue of when to contact a SCC if you've applied for a job, if you should at all. I've had friends send truly benign emails to faculty members only to find out that the professors grossly misinterpreted a question and took offense. I used to think that academic department politics were not any worse than politics and conflicts in other businesses or industries, but now I think I was wrong. It's intensely more political and petty than anywhere I've ever worked. And I'm not just talking about my own department, but those I've heard about from others and some I've interviewed with. I'm just so over the drama.
  • I like academia, but not academics. -Mahatma non-academic scholar
  • It's because the stakes are so low. So very, very low.
  • In my department we call these folks (and ourselves, jokingly) "PhDouches." Real PhDouches would probably be offended by that because they are offended by being looked at sideways, so I can only imagine what they would think of being called such an off-color name.
  • Thanks for mentioning this - you know, it's something I've also noticed. Maybe it's because academic work is so very, very personal, and people identify themselves as people by their jobs? So, since everything is personal, everything is taken personally. Whereas if someone is, say, working at a bank, it's understood that it's not personal, it's business. There's no "it's just business" in academia. My own pet theory, anyway (and one reason it's nice to be out of academia after several years in it... it's great to be able to leave work at work.)
  • I think that's a reasonable theory (about it being so personal), but also I wonder if the constant evaluation (peer review, tenure process) just makes them all so paranoid and competitive that they can't help but take themselves so seriously. Think about it: the final act of getting a PhD is called a "defense." So we're all groomed to be defensive all the time.

---Very good point (I'm the "it's so personal" poster) - and another reason I left. Everything in life was an evaluation, by peers or superiors or the university or journal editors or someone or other. Plus, my field was right at the intersection of critical theory and identity politics, and by the end of my time as an academic I was literally afraid to say or write anything at all. I still think my (former?) field has some important things to say, but I think it's for someone thicker-skinned than I, alas.

  • This is why I find veteran academics to be creepy. They seldom say things against their own interests but push others to say self-damaging things.
  • I do think the culture of constant evaluation wears on people. It seems to me that junior faculty have a really good reason to be paranoid and touchy. I am a VAP at a school where student evaluations are of paramount importance. I have actually heard people talking about a 4.3/5 average and a 4.5/5 average eval as having some kind of enormous difference. When I hear how people are given tenure (or not) based on these student evaluations, I wonder if maybe no one paid attention in their statistics classes in high school or college. I'm smart enough to know that the one time I got a 4.8/5, it was a statistical outlier and a result of an 8 person class, not some kind of vindication of my teaching ability. Likewise, if someone got a 4.0/5 average eval in a 100 person class, I'd attribute it to class size and not teaching ability. I am really, really glad I don't have to try to get tenure under my current school's standards! It's easy to see how it creates paranoia. I also think that the best teachers might sometimes get lower evaluation scores because they would refuse to pander or inflate grades. I'm thinking that such standards might be a luxury only the tenured can afford. Until that's my situation, I'm going to continue to be a soft-hearted easy grader who bakes cookies for class. Also, if I ever get a TT job (doubtful!) I'm sure I will need therapy for the enormous case of paranoia I will no doubt develop.
  • To the above poster who mentioned "creepy" veteran academics who push people to say self-damaging things. That reminded me of a couple of instances when I was visiting family over the holidays. My sister's father-in-law is a retired professor and was asking me about my diss. I explained what my project is and he said, "Uh-huh... And your committee signed off on that?" I was amazed. I've known this man for over 20 years, but now that I'm part of this dysfunctional, academic club in which he's a veteran and I'm a newbie, he felt it was completely acceptable to open up a critical discussion of my work (which I had summed up in two sentences) over Christmas dinner. F*&% that! I already have to defend my work to my committee and anyone interviewing me for a job, I'm certainly not going to let my family or extended family treat me that way.
  • The use of student evals for retention, tenure and promotion, etc is beyond asinine. Especially when you notice how many students are fleeing the classes taught by burnt-out, near-retirement and crotchety senior faculty, thereby shifting the enrollment burden to TAs, VAPS, and junior faculty. If evals are saying things like "hard grader," "too much reading," "very demanding professor," etc. and the numbers reflect this, holding that against someone is monumentally unjust. Evals often measure whether people like you, not whether you are a good teacher or if you are even doing your job. I can tell you that I did not "like" a lot of my best professors, especially as an undergrad, when they were kicking my butt and I'd sometimes rather have been partying than working hard. I didn't come to appreciate them until much later. Certainly after I'd filled out that bubble sheet about them right before taking their final and right after turning in a huge back-breaking final research essay.
  • I have such strong feelings about student evaluations I don't ever know where to begin when talking about them. Unlike what this article infers, I believe the students are not to blame for the manipulative and punitive use of evaluations, administrators are. NY TIMES SEPTEMBER 2008: [1].
  • This emphasis on student evals is a noxious combination of the contemporary bureaucratic need to set "objective" benchmarks to evaluate performance (something that can be quantified numerically for mindless ease) and the creeping into academia of the corporate model which sees students as "customers" who need to be served up with instant gratification--education as a Big Mac and fries, with no consideration for its long term consequences. The absolute best part is when you have university administrators complaining simultaneously about grade inflation and student evaluation scores.
  • Students are certainly not to blame--the culture of "assessment" is. Students should have a means through which to reflect on their experiences--evaluations should just be taken as what they are, one small, limited snapshot of a person's teaching, not the final arbiter of it. With my school, there are no clear standards for tenure except where student evaluations are concerned. People's raw numbers are given too much weight. Like I said, I am so, so glad that I don't have to face that tenure process.

2010-01-30 Advice, please, dear wiki-mates. I had a phone interview for a position about three weeks ago. According to the wiki, someone has received a campus visit for the job (and they posted this about 9 or 10 days after my interview). Don't know when the campus interview will take place. I haven't heard anything one way or another from said institution. Is it appropriate to email the chair of the SC to find out my status? Is it too soon? I just would like some closure here; if I'm not being considered, I'd like to cross it off my list. But if I'm being held in limbo as one of the alternates, I don't want to seem obnoxious. What do you all think?
  • It is certainly appropriate to inquire. I would just ask about the anticipated timing and the status of the search process.
  • I've always been told not to inquire about status unless you have another offer in hand and can couch it in the claim that you are "advising them of your new time-line."
  • I hate to say it, but it pretty much IS closure when you hear that other candidates have received campus invites and three weeks has gone by since the phone interview. Those invites almost always go out at once or very close together, and the only reason to dip back into the pool of uninvited phone interviewees would be if all of the candidates who do campus visits either prove totally unsatisfactory or none of them will accept the job. This would be quite unusual (though not unheard of), but it would probably take weeks to run its course and there's nothing they'd be able to tell you now. Maybe you know something unusual about how this search is being conducted, but I think that 99 times out of 100 the circumstances you describe mean that it's time to think about other jobs.
  • Like the OP, I like to have "official" closure. When you contact the SC to inquire about time-line after you have been wiki-jected post-interview, chances are good that you have been rejected for real, in which case it doesn't hurt to ask. When you ask, you are showing them that you care about that position. I don't think this reflects badly. If they ARE trying to keep you as a "live" candidate so they can turn to you if the top picks don't work out, they can always either a) be vague about how the search is ongoing or b) tell you where you stand. Now, I wouldn't contact SCs right and left, but if it's been three weeks since your phone interview, you are more than entitled to some information.
  • Yes, I'm all for "official" closure. Then what if the SC does not answer an email after several business days? (I feel that telephoning is too intrusive but if I wait any longer my partner will do so on my behalf to preserve her sanity.) By emailing with no guarantee of reply I see I inflicted MORE longsuffering on myself than if I'd been ordinarily patient. Whatever that's worth.
  • Previous poster here. Yes, I would call. ESPECIALLY since you have your partner to think about as well--I know what that is like. I would call because I think it's a good thing to prompt academics to occasionally behave like considerate human beings.

2010-03-10 *I recently had a campus interview (which I thought went very well), but was then rejected by a genuinely remorseful-sounding SC chair informing me that the Provost exercised executive veto over my candidacy, and "decided to go with another candidate." What is the deal with this? My adviser was shocked and had never heard of such high involvement/meddling by higher admin, but from the looks of things (r.e. Texas State) this seems to be an emerging trend. Does anyone have a sense of what is going on?
  • I don't think it's that uncommon. I think what's uncommon is that that particular aspect of the process has become somewhat transparent. Where I work, our president can completely derail a search by vetoing a candidate and sometimes. . .SC use that excuse as a means of nicely rejecting a candidate. Sort of like when my husband doesn't want to go out with friends and uses me as an excuse to stay home.
  • A colleague of mine had this happen to him last year, and the university didn't end up hiring ANYONE. There was another related job call put out by this same university this year, and the only thing different about the call was it required some professional experience on top of a doctoral degree. My colleague did not have any professional experience, so perhaps that is why the administrators got involved and nixed him.
  • The fact that this not only happened but that the SC chair told you about it strongly suggests to me that there's some bad blood between the administration and this department, and that you quite unfairly became a pawn in their little turf war. For such a thing to happen is one thing--somewhat unusual but not unheard of. There could be some deficiency in your record that the SC didn't have a problem with but the provost refused to overlook. There could be a superman candidate that the provost can't believe wasn't chosen. Or it could just be that somebody on the search committee said the wrong thing to the provost's wife at a cocktail party five years ago. Whatever the reason, finalists for a job are almost never told anything about the internal deliberations of the selection, much less when the circumstances of the selection involve a rejection of the search committee's recommendation. The fact that protocol was broken by your being told about it seems to indicate a level of mutual hostility here.

2010-03-10 I am a former academic who, after several interviews and no offers, decided to take my humanities PhD and run with it to the outside. I just want to extend a helping hand to those of you who feel like there's no hope, that if you don't get an academic job you're a failure, you've wasted your life, etc. YOU ARE NOT A FAILURE. THERE IS A BRIGHT FUTURE FOR YOU. There is a big, wide, wonderful, amazing world outside of academia. A world where you get to live where you want, you can change jobs without having to uproot your family. Where, counter to the claims of some tenured academics, there are interesting, smart people, and the work is worthwhile. Academia has its rewards and it's a great place to be if the stars align, but take it from someone who's done it: the world outside of academia can be just as great. Please don't despair.
  • 100% agree (social science PhD)
    • I agree, but with this recession it is very difficult to find a job PERIOD. Were it another economic climate I think many others would feel this way too, but I think some (well, at least me) were hoping to land an academic job this year because job prospects in other areas are so bleak. I for one have been unable to get a job teaching high school (I am certified) or in publishing (I have two years professional publishing experience). So, my question is: where do we go to get these jobs? Is there any type of unemployment office for us academics? A job service? I also think we need some type of service that helps us translate our cvs into resumes. Any suggestions?
  • Thank you! I am an ABD on the market, and I really needed to hear "you are not a failure." I won't give up hope on my passion for teaching college students and being a professor in academia, but it is important for PhD students (especially in the humanities) to realize that we are smart, capable people with skills that could be used elsewhere, too. The perspective broadens horizons and can help people get out of despair.
2010-03-10 Can I just say that having this venting page is the best thing about this job-searching experience? It's so helpful to feel that I'm not alone. I'm feeling a bit like Secretariat right now (and I'm dating myself by making that reference)---had lots of potential and success straight out of the gate, and then ultimately have become a disappointment. But you're all so clever and funny and supportive and snarky with your posts, and it makes me grateful to have this little wiki community, in lieu of actual, real-life colleagues. Yes, I've had some wine tonight. (I love you guys! Snort, snurfle.)
  • The feeling is mutual, OP. I completely agree, the venting page (as well as my discipline's wiki job page), has provided me with an anonymous community of sorts. I can't imagine how much lonelier and clueless I would have been without the wiki. I am grateful.
  • Cheers to that! Even though I have some colleagues on the job market with me and we have been supporting one another as best we can, this wiki has been extra special b/c of its interdisciplinarity :-)
2010-01-30 I would like to share here my latest rejection letter (courtesy of Texas State University San Marcos--I would like them to have all the honor they deserve): Dear Candidate...."The Search Committee for...position in ... department has completed its review of applications for the position. From the large number of applications we received, the Committee [yes, capped in the original] has made their selection based on the experience record and scholarly activity of the candidates. I regret to inform you that after careful, comparative deliberation the Committee has decided not to continue consideration of your application. It is the Committee's judgment, based on the materials and information available to us, that you would not be well suited to the particular needs of the Department." So, is this the "it's not me, it's definitely you" rejection letter? I'm sorry. I did not realize that this small school in the middle of Nowhere Texas was so prestigious. It's not my fault really...I just fell short by comparison to my peers. Hmmm. This very well might be the least tactful rejection that I have received not just this year but ever!
  • Good grief. How hard is it to just say "We regret to inform you that you have not been selected for this position. Thank you for your interest in our department." It's depressing to think that people who think the above is an acceptable rejection letter have jobs, and we don't.
  • Rejection letter sucks, but it is far from a small school and not in the middle of nowhere. Around 31,000 students last I checked. Still, it's very hilly and not a "prestigious" university if that matters, and who ever wrote that letter could have used more tact. I wish you better luck in the future.
  • As a Texas native who went to undergrad near TSU, trust me, it's not you. It's them. The hills are nice but the university has a "party school" reputation. Best of luck in your search, and hang in there.
  • I'm copying and pasting this gem from the U of Utah section of the anthro wiki: "In perhaps the all-time greatest rejection letter, not only was i rejected, but in regards to next year's search, letter stated: 'I wish i could encourage you to reapply, but don't want to mislead you." uh, so it appears i've been 'pre-rejected' for next year? they also noted that they are "unable to extend an offer to anyone this year for budgetary reasons.'" I just felt compelled to share this absurd rejection letter!
  • Well, OP, I was also rejected by Texas State University, but instead of a horribly written letter I was informed by the SC that the Provost has rejected my candidacy. It was, as I was informed, unprecedented meddling in department affairs by Provost Perry Moore. That was the extent of the explanation. And, lest fingers start wagging in my direction, I have a PhD from a top 10 program, publications, teaching experience and a CV that is as long as senior faculty in the department. And, by the way, wasn't Texas State University the FICTIONAL school in film Necessary Roughness? Ah, yes, indeed it was.
    • I would love to know what department this came from.
    • OP says History Department.
  • Oh goodie. I've got one to add. I just got this email from the dept. chair (NOT the SC chair or any member of the SC): "I know that these letters attempt to cushion the blow by explaining that the decision was a tough one, [blah blah blah] But in your case, it actually was a close and difficult decision--indeed, almost coming to a coin toss." A coin toss? A COIN TOSS? Yes, by all means, please do cushion the blow by making it seem like all of the time I spent photocopying student evals, preparing a job talk, driving to your school, etc. was not entirely necessary, as the matter of whom to hire was actually decided by a FREAKING COIN TOSS. Sheesh.
  • I realize that this is a place to vent, but I think that the vitriol at Texas State isn't warranted. They didn't feel that you were a fit for their department, which is their right - accept it and move on. Honestly, calling them a bumpkin place while you're ensconced with your top-10 degree makes you sound like an entitled jerk. If they're so bumpkin, why did you apply there?
  • Also for the poster above regarding the coin toss, I think that the dept. chair was genuinely moved by having to make such a difficult decision and wanted to parlay to you just how good your candidacy was. It's probably small consolation given that this is an all or nothing game, but maybe you can make lemonade out of this lemon by somehow using them to your benefit: maybe a reference for another job where they can say that you blew them away with your application and it's only because of very fine details that they hired someone else? That could actually work somewhat in your favor.
2010-03-09 Ugh. Was just told by a place that they don't negotiate. It's actually a pretty decent place to teach, from everything I've heard, but I got nothing - no start up, no moving help, nothing. Their basic stance was that - hey, there are a dozen other people right after you on this list, and any of them would make a good fit for this position. So, take it or leave it (they were a little more cordial than that, but that was the basic gist of it). Ugh. I took it, of course, because I have had no other offers by this point.
  • This sucks, I'm sorry. It's also kind of silly on their part when a mere $2,500 in moving expenses might have made you feel valued and excited about the job. Now the school has an employee that feels abused from the start--not a good retention strategy.
  • This does suck. I had the same thing done at my job though. They said "this is your pay, this is your (minimal) start-up, and no, we wont help you move. Take it or leave it in 72 hours." I wonder if this is a trend. I still took the job though.
  • Can anyone speak to whether they've been able to negotiate anything this year? I am very grateful to have an offer, but have been warned ALWAYS to ask for more, though of course politely and respectfully.
  • I was able to negotiate a mid year start due to the distance and difficulty of my relocation. I heard of somebody else who was able to negotiate a similar arrangement due to the anticipated arrival of another child in late September. Other than that, I was told that there was no room to negotiate on relocation costs, salary, or anything else.
  • I agree - $2500 for moving would have gone a long way in the good will dept... This is disgusting and more proof of the present trend in academic exploitation.
  • I was able to get a few thousand more added to the salary, and a bit more of a start up package. It was a public R2 in the midwest for a social sciences job. No deal on negotiating a dual hire.
  • They wouldn't even negotiate technology with you, OP? The Comm & Media Studies job wiki for this year has detailed info at the bottom about real offers and negotiations that you might find of interest.
    • OP here: Well, they did tell me I would get a laptop, but that was part of the standard package - no negotiation.
  • I attempted to negotiate a higher salary and it was a no-go. I was given some in start-up funds instead, and moving expenses were already offered, so I appreciated that they moved a little toward me. In general, though I felt weird about it. In previous jobs, I'd never attempted to ask for more because I didn't have the confidence and was just grateful the have a job. So this time, I adopted the "worst thing that can happen is they say 'no'" attitude, but then I started to think about the general state of the job market and I wondered if I was being perceived as greedy or delusional about the state of things. I guess no matter which way you slice it, negotiating is just awkward and uncomfortable.
  • Yes, negotiating is always awkward and uncomfortable. That being said, I was given very good advicce, that *everything* is negotiable. *Everything*. Once someone has extended an offer, this is usually the result of a bunch of paperwork, going through the hierarchy, and getting a bunch of stuff approved. They don't want to have to repeat the process. You'll never have as much leverage as right before you sign. Find out from peers what they're doing and use that information to your advantage. Don't be bullied.
2010-01-30 General Vent/Question: I'm still finishing the diss and applying for jobs...I have no idea where I will be, where I will live, etc. I'm finding these last couple of months are just sending me into such a deep depression characterised by bad sleeping patterns and a more general lack of excitement for life. Anyone care to share how they're feeling? I would have thought that these last months of the diss would be more 'exciting', but I guess I'm wrong. Does it ever get better? DOes one ever feel 'alive' and optimistic again? ha.
  • Yes, absolutely. I've been there. Many people have. Since you know you're depressed (and you've described classic symptoms of depression), seek out supportive counselling and medication, if necessary. It can make a difference simply to have someone help you reframe your life using CBT techniques, even while the circumstances of your life stay the same. It helped me when I felt stuck in a challenging set of circumstances for years. Beyond supportive counselling, put some coping strategies into place. Focus on getting something positive and pleasurable out of each day. Do something unusual and break out of your routine. Take a trip (even to another part of town). Make plans to do pleasurable things with friends every day, if possible. Volunteer and get out of your world for even an hour or two each week. If you're isolated, join a Yahoo! group to meet some new people. Sometimes distraction is one of the best techniques for coping with feeling unhappy. Know that you are by no means alone. Many people struggle with feelings of despair, uncertainty, loneliness, and feeling less than alive. Don't forget we're also just coming out of winter. You may feel more upbeat as the days get longer and the weather warms up. Keep posting here and let us know how you're doing. You have support here.
  • Oh my gosh, I hear you, sister (or brother?). I'm in the exact same spot, except that I've moved from depression to full-on anger. Here I am, trying to finish a dissertation, trying to prepare for a defense in two weeks, and all I can think about is how awful it will be to finally graduate and officially be a Ph.D., but not actually feel like one because what is a Ph.D. without a job? And anger at the schools that haven't notified me if I've made their next cut or not, and anger at myself for constantly checking e-mail hoping for good news. I understand. The best piece of advice I have is this: you are about to have your Ph.D. and nobody can take that away. This whole mess with the job market? Has nothing to do with you. Has no bearing on you as a scholar, at all. Nada. You, like me, and like a whole bunch of others, just happened to finish in the worst market ever. So chalk it up to bad timing and toss it aside. Focus on celebrating the achievement that's coming up. Enjoy it for what it is - not as a stepping stone to a job, or to anything else. Celebrate it for what it is--a huge accomplishment in and of itself. A huge freaking accomplishment. And no one is going to think lesser of you for not having a job...everyone knows that this situation is way beyond your control. Besides, it was normal BEFORE this year to be on the market a couple years before landing a job. So it's definitely expected now. There are jobs out there that are right for just might take us longer to find them than we'd expect normally.
  • I am in the exact same position as well, and let me tell you... I have said those exact words, "What is the point of getting a PhD if I cannot find a job?" to my poor partner about 1000 times. I find myself moving between depression, anger and bitterness. The best thing I do when I can't take it anymore (my final dissertation goes to committee next Monday), is I take my daughter to the park. Then come home and have a nice drink and remember that eventually the phone will ring. I just find it rather infuriating that I'm going to have to find a job to try and eek out a living in the meantime. At least I'm used to working for peanuts... Good luck. Perhaps we need an ABD or just finished PhD support page. Thought I'm sure it is even more frustrating looking for work after 3 or so year post-PhD. I hope I never find out.
  • I know this will sound corny to 90% of the people reading it, but honestly, I got through a total of seven (yes, seven) years on the job market by taking up Zen meditation. I have a job now, but it took me a very long time. The meditation didn't get me the job, but it certainly gave me perspective throughout the process. I originally began because of the neuroscience angle. I read that it helped people overcome depression, and I'm here to say that it does indeed work if you do it. Here are instructions on how to do it [2]. Or you can get this [3] or any number of other guided meditation CDs. Good luck, everyone! Good thoughts to all of you.
  • I guess, by your description, I am depressed as well. I go to bed at 2-3 am. I am tired during the day. I have no other reason to wake up in the morning other than to write this s****y dissertation. I am close to finish, but the idea of being an unemployed PhD suddenly chocked my throat. I decided to write a couple more chapters just to kill time and have a sense of purpose. I might well end up producing two book worthy manuscripts when I get out. But no job, regardless. I feel like a stupid work bee. I get little help from my prof, who is obviously supporting her other students and even has the cruelty to say so upfront. Why did I get into this in the first place? What a curse.
  • I agree with the above poster about going for counseling. I went to someone last semester because the combination of the job hunt, the diss, and a bunch of things happening in my family and personal life all at once put me to a place where I felt like crying, eating and/or sleeping all the time. Also, I felt like I was complaining and venting to my friends and family every time I talked to anyone. That, in turn, made me feel guilty about being a 'Debby Downer' type and that made it worse. So I decided I needed to go to someone who didn't know me and could listen to me objectively and I would know that it was their job to listen, so I wouldn't feel guilty about unloading. It really did help. My counselor was able to help me put some things in perspective, even when I thought she would just tell me things I already knew. It was good to talk through those things. Also, just know that we're all there with you. Even those super-PhD students who appear to have everything together are struggling at times.
  • OP here: Thanks, guys! Yeah, I should be talking to someone professional about this...I just feel it's part of the 'norm' for this period of finishing up and not knowing about my future -- I'm trying to be super rational about it, but also thought I'd see who else wanted to vent (!). I mean, I'm curious about who else is in this boat and I find your comments so comforting. I still have a little bit to go with the diss -- editing chaps at the moment, but I'm in the UK, so things can move rather quickly it seems. Anyway, I do incorporate exercise into my life...I have a dog (poor her, eh.)'s just hard. I work all the time and, quite frankly, I need to! I keep thinking that I am trapped in a room and there is only one door to walk through: finishing this sh*te and moving on. The uncertainty of it all -- and the fact that it all rides on you -- is tremendously heavy. Thanks for sharing...
  • This article from the Chronicle last year about grad school and depression might interest some of you:

2010-03-07 I don't know if this is appropriate for the venting page, although it does involve venting, but I wanted to announce that the long-awaited point at which college-level instruction is compensated by $0.00 appears to have been reached: the Faculty Internship Program at a CA community college offers a chance to gain valuable teaching experience at a community college for a salary of [no stipend] per course. Who is tempted? Um, me. I'm tempted. I could use the valuable teaching experience. I wonder if I'm a competitive unpaid internship applicant. I also wonder if my work-from-home spam will soon begin noting that preference is given to candidates with PhD in hand.

  • The next layer of the scam is *clearly* for universities to start offering a post-doctoral degree or credential, and I'm a little surprised that this hasn't happened yet. It could be a really buzzwordy thing like "digital instruction management" or something more buttoned-down like "professorial studies." They could just institute some form of Habilitation in the US, but charge tuition. There would seem to be real money in it for the more cynical administrator.
  • Ok, unpaid (but for course credit) internships make some sense for undergrads who have not had any professional work experience and will need it to land a job with only a bachelors degree. BUT doctoral students are NOT in the same situation at all, since part of a masters/doctoral education (at least in my discipline) is to learn how to teach and get real experience in teaching (no matter the research focus of my insitution!). At least in my doctoral program, I have gotten TONS of teaching gexperience, as instructor of record, in course design, etc. In short, the faculty internship program cited above is BS.

2010-03-07 I am about to negotiate a spousal for my husband. I want to ask for TT, but it's not likely. Still, a short-term CLTA with the promise of a TT in 3-5 years would be acceptable. I would appreciate pointers/advice/strategies ahead of the nego. Thanks.
  • There are institutions that can afford to accommodate a TT spousal hire. You won't know unless you ask, and you won't get it unless you ask. Ask for what you want, and see what is countered. A lot of it depends on the wealth and size of the institution/college/department as well as the department's leverage with whatever administrative powers can grant the spousal hire. Don't be unreasonable, but ask what you think they might be able to deliver on. If they can't, they'll tell you, and you'll adjust accordingly. You can start with a TT, then maybe a 1.5 shared position, then a permanent p/t position with some retirement or health insurance or some other benefits, then a guarantee of ongoing adjunct work, for example.
  • Agree with the points above - you never know about TT unless you ask. This might also be a good time to try to discuss the issue with other faculty you have met in the department, to see how things have worked out in the past. So if there are any faculty you especially connected with on your visit, you might contact them to get a sense of the "history" of this issue in the department. Of course, you only want to do this if you feel comfortable but it can be a good source of info - you might also get some tips about how to approach the department chair and/or dean with the issue.
  • Another suggestion if they can't accommodate a TT position immediately: offer to split a position with your spouse on the condition that each of you moves to full-time TT employment on a set schedule. A couple I know worked this out: both hired at 50%, then they rotated gaining 25% over 4 years (year one, both at 50%; year two, one at 50 and one at 75; year three, both at 75%; year four, one at full-time and one at 75%; year five, both at full time).
  • OP here: thanks for everyone's suggestions. My update is that the univ. cannot offer a TT nor a promise of a TT in the next few years. They have instead offered a teaching intensive lectureship (8 courses in a school-year!) with the Chair reiterating that he cannot "legally" guarantee even this: I am assuming he cannot put it in writing that this is a done deal because of several internal reasons. I am very tempted to get back to the Chair with the previous poster's formula, but my spouse feels this might be pushing too much. I am very torn and will be saying a yes soon, without any of my anxieties allayed. I am sure, just having an offer is so much of a big deal in these dire times, that to even negotiate for a spousal might be over-reaching.

2010-03-06 If you are shortlisted for university X, is it still possible to call (or email) university Y to let them know, in order to get a chance of having an interview with Y? (Given the typical 2-week window for replying to offers and the fact that X and Y are 10000 miles away from the US, if I get an offer from X, Y will never have the time to arrange for my travel in a 2 week-window (especially I am not available all the time, too)).
  • I think that would work if you had an offer from university X, but in my field you don't make contact with a school like University Y (one with which you only had a first round interview) unless you're withdrawing your name from consideration or you have another offer. Sorry.
  • Go for it- you might not have any leverage but you have nothing to lose, especially if you have heard campus interviews have already been sceduled (chances are slim to none that they would then add you, but there's no real downside). If interviews haven't been sceduled yet, this could at least give them a wake-up call that they need to get moving so as not to lose out on their top choices, as this portends that other institutions will be issuing offers before them too likely. Email the chair, not the secretary, couch it in terms of a professional courtesy informing them to facilitate their potential scheduling just in case (letting them know you remain very interested in their position in particular), but of course don't make it sound like you expect an interview.

2010-03-06 Is there any way of finding out who a dept. ended up hiring for a position that you interviewed for? Does one have to wait until fall when the dept. updates the faculty website?
  • No. Yes. Try and forget it, though. It will only make you feel worse when you find out. I mean, why exactly would you want to know who they hired if not to compare them to yourselves and wonder why it is they got it instead of you?
  • Unless you're well connected and can make inquiries in your field without seeming bitter or gossipy, you'll just have to check the webpage. I can sympathize with wanting to know. When I was on the market last year, I found myself in a few different situations: recognizing that I was the longshot candidate and honestly being curious to see who they ultimately chose, being in a close race with somebody I knew (and didn't particularly respect) and hoping that if I didn't get it, at least they didn't (bitter, I know, but I'm human), nailing an interview and finding out (somewhat dejectedly after the fact) that it was simply a case of the department wanting to broaden its offerings and coverage. Go ahead and be curious, but just treat is as curiosity, not a chance to obsess over what could have/should have/might have happened.
  • I found it out through my own advisor, backing another student of hers, and, boy, did it hurt. I'd rather not know, if I lost.
    • Ouch.
  • I disagree slightly here-I interviewed at 2 schools this semester, but landed neither job. I inquired about their hire choice in both circumstances, looked up the people, and found the information to be quite helpful. Yes, it did make me bitter, jealous, self-doubting and all of that, but the info did give me a sense of the sort of dissertation projects, pubs and experience that are landing jobs out there. In the second case, the hire was Ph.D. in hand, whereas I am ABD, which sort of made me feel better (it's not me, its the ABD). I say that as long as you are polite and respectful, and can handle seeing the other name, send the SC chair a brief note. The info might help you identify and work on gaps in your application.
2010-03-04 I received an offer by phone a few days ago, where the Chair wished me, outlined the salary, and didn't say much else except that I have two weeks to consider the offer. But there has been no written letter of offer so far. Do I assume this university does things this way and is awaiting my 'yes' before sending a formal letter of offer? On the other hand, I have read everywhere that I ought not say 'yes' until I have in hand a letter of offer in writing. Would it be fair to email the Chair asking for one? Any help on this would be wonderful, wiki-mates. Thanks!
  • The expectation (in my field at least) would be that you negotiate for salary, research start-up, moving costs, and so forth. It is standard in my field to not get a written offer until you settle on the entire startup package, but you do have to verbally accept the offer before they would send the letter. But you can probably get email confirmation of the startup package and salary (I would suggest that, actually) ... which will give you leverage in case anything is hinky in the offer letter. I think it's not how it works in most non-academic fields, but it seems to be how it work for universities at least.
  • Actually, the second poster is absolutely right. You'll come back with a yes, or negotiate if you want, and then say yes. Only then would they even think about sending you a contract. That's how it works as far as I know.
  • Yes, and be aware that according to the American Historical Association's best practices for hiring guidelines, the clock starts ticking on your decision time only when you receive the WRITTEN offer (either hard copy letter of intent or via email). Also you are not bound to it if there is a discrepancy between initial email and later letter. However, if it was me I'd be sure that you mention that you are aware of this as standard practice upfront to make sure there are no surprises.
  • I never gave a verbal (by phone or e-mail) 'Yes' until I signed and mailed back the contract. Like the above posters, I negotiated details of my offer prior to the university sending it in hardcopy to me, which they (and I) wanted done ASAP. Even though I was initially told verbally (by phone and e-mail) that I had 2 weeks to accept, I ended up having more time per what the final hardcopy offer said. Not initially saying 'Yes' and then having more time for my decision per the hardcopy offer was necessary in my case since I was still going on another on-campus interview that, at the time, I was seriously considering. If you think you'll need more time to decide for whatever reason, I recommend what I did. Of course, make sure you are very enthusiastic about the offer througout the process.
2010-03-04 In this tight market, I know how important it is to sell yourself in the interview. But, I just had a terrible phone interview. Their connection wasn't good and in addition to the terrible constant clicking in my ear, every now and then there was that sound of when someone is dialing--all the little tones. I could not hear them very well and I got very nervous and just interviewed terribly. It was embarrassing. Really awful and I must say, quite depressing.
  • That's too bad; it's hard when things are out of your control like that. Hopefully the SC on the other end didn't perceive it the way you did. I wonder if you should have asked them to call back so that you could have a better connection. If it's any consolation, I have the opposite story; I had an absolutely smashing phone interview, got very cocky, thought I had it in the bag to at least land a campus visit. Needless to say, no campus visit for me. So now I'm trying to figure out why I thought it went so well, and obviously they didn't.
  • I've had both experiences. Bad interviews that landed campus visits and great ones that never even called/emailed me back for months to send me a rejection. It's nearly impossible to figure these things out.
  • Sorry to hear about this, OP, but your experience is typical. Phone interviews are so hard because they depend on the interviewers (not the interviewee) to make sure that questions are conducive to the format. Indeed, as has been said or suggested here by many others, a main reason that all interviews, both by phone and in person, are so tough is that SCs have no idea how to conduct them well, nor do they put a great deal of thought into the mechanics of them.
  • Wow, I just had the very same experience. It couldn't be the same job, could it? Doubtful. Horrible connection. I asked them to repeat the question a couple of times, but they seemed a bit annoyed (but acknowledged that they were having problems with the phones). With every question, I tried to begin my response by restating what I believed I had heard as the question. Within about 24 hours of the interview, I was informed that I had been eliminated from the search.
  • Obviously, you know better what happened in the interview than we do, but don't automatically assume it was as bad as you think. I did a phone interview last semester and I don't have a land line. When the SC called, my cell phone malfunctioned and shut off instead of ringing, but I didn't know that until I looked at it five minutes after the scheduled interview time. I was wondering why they hadn't called and discovered my phone fully off. I turned it back on to find a voice mail. I returned the call and half the committee had gone back to their offices and had to be called back in. I was mortified and spent half of the rest of the phone call apologizing. Despite that awful start, I still got called for a campus visit. Just like the above poster who thought things went well and they didn't, you just never know. (Also, don't trust cell phones. That's the moral of my story.)
  • OP here. I appreciate the responses. I'm just trying to weather it until April when I'll get (or not get) the call.

2010-03-04 It's official, I hate this market and I'm one of the so-called lucky ones! The market being so tight in so many fields has exacted it's revenge on me even though I managed (via sheer dumb luck) to land a great TT job. The impossibility of getting a partner hire at my new institution and the fact that there are no other options nearby mean that my personal life has just taken a very severe beating owing to the specter of a super-long distance relationship with no end in sight. Why is it that we so often wind up sacrificing our personal relationships (we'll leave the hell that is grad school and the nightmare of getting tenure aside for the moment) for the sake of an academic career or vice versa? I know I sound like somebody who wants to have their cake and eat it too, but seriously, who just wants to look at cake?
  • I'm with you, OP. I'm looking at a 14 hour drive or a $500 flight each time we commute (one small podunk airport to another). I know that we're "lucky." But it's okay to vent about the absolute crappiness of the situation that demands you prioritize your career or your personal life. My new job won't keep me warm at night. So much for the dream of a small house, employed domestic bliss, and a truly happy ending. Instead, I find myself melancholy about my upcoming move to collegetown, USA. It's all very bittersweet... emphasis on the bitter.
  • After doing 2 years of an 11 hour drive/$500 flight apart from my husband, I am about to leave my job and either adjunct or leave the field entirely just to live with my sweetie. It's a better decision for us both financially and personally--there's no shame in it either! We were spending my entire (generous) salary on travel and a second household. Think about a career change for one partner or the other, at least a year or two down the line. Academia may be great, but it's not the only worthwhile life path.
    • I am not in this situation, with a spouse who is not in academia, but I'm just going to throw in my two cents based on many years in working in academia (and living in university town). Think very carefully about your priorities. Most of the academic couples I have known who have had appointments in different institutions have not been able to withstand the pressures of a commuting relationship. In my own case, I am considering leaving academia to spend more time with my children; after many years of farming them out to other people as I slog away, I am realizing that it is not worth it. These are precious years, and nothing can replace your family life. Yes, I'm a woman.
    • I'm not a woman, and I'm in the same boat. I was offered a great one-year last year, but it would mean a twice-a-month commute of 800+ miles just so I could spend a few weekends a month with my wife and kids (wife is tenured). I turned it down, and took a much less prestigious per-course appointment. Was this good, career-wise? Probably not (my job search this year has been a total bust). Was it good for my soul? Absolutely.
  • OP here, I'm not married or anything, just in an otherwise committed relationship. We had been doing the distance thing already (one person in the midwest, the other is the mid-Atlantic area) but the new job is on another continent so the option of continuing our current arrangement of visits once or twice a month is simply impossible without teleportation and/or a time machine. I took the job at a point in our relationship when it was probably best to be thinking as one rather than two, but things changed and now we've got a relationship killing two-body problem. I understand those who chose to get out of academia for family situations, and had the circumstances and timing of things been different, I may have considered that route myself. I just hate that we're in a profession that either puts horrible strain on already established relationships or almost precludes you getting into one (or at least letting one become anything serious) for the last year of grad school (and however many years in post-doc/VAP/adjunct limbo) because you know it may be short lived due to this very issue.
    • Ouch. I hear that one. I am not in a relationship and count my lucky stars when I look at my classmates who are partnered and having a hard time finding jobs in places where their significant others can find positions, not to mention the difficulty of finding a job AT ALL, which we all share. At the same time, I would like to pursue a personal life because I would like a significant other, but I know at this point it would be a waste because who knows where I'll be next year? And when I look at places that are hiring, I can't help but also consider the likelihood of my meeting someone in towns that seem to have only college students and retirees, with no one in the in-between demographics except other faculty, most of whom are already in relationships. While you all suffer from long-distance relationships, I will die alone with my research and my cat. None of us can win.
  • Alright, wiki community, can you help me out here? I waited as long as I could, but when I had to make a choice, I only had one offer in hand at XYZ University, and had to accept the job far, far, far away from my partner. That was a week ago. I have to survive, right? Besides the folks at XYZ U are very nice. Anyway, I have two more open files, which are post-on-campus-interview. I planned to tell them I had accepted a job elsewhere, but I'm holding back. What if I get one of those offers, and basically say "dual hire or no dice"? Am I way out of line here? If I consider another offer provided they could give something to both my spouse and I, would I be doing something terribly terrible? Is what I'm considering crazy? Immoral? Completely within the realm of acceptable behaviors? I really don't know. I would take your advice seriously, wiki-mates.
    • I think it's considered bad form to back out of the contract, but I know at least one person who has done such a thing and it wasn't the end of the world. But it's definitely not immoral to take a better offer, it's business. If you were in this situation a year from now, you would just ask your current institution to match or beat the competing offer to keep you (and you very well might be if the other two jobs don't come through this year--I'm assuming you'll keep looking for a place the two of you can be together). FWIW, (which is probably not very much) I'd jump at the dual hire and never look back because those are seriously hard to come by. You might also search around on the Chronicle forums where I think this question has been asked before.
    • I am also looking at the specter of something similar and have been trying to look for guidance (all this is still hypothetical in my case, but it has given me something new to obsess over as we wait). My situation (not for a brand new asst prof. position): One search has about a month head start on the other and stated its intention to wrap things up as soon as they can; the second search (easily my first choice) could potentially not even be finish interviewing the other candidates by the time the first one has issued an offer. Although I'm not a historian, I've found this set of guidelines on their site which seems to me to unduly privilege the hiring institution in that it only requires a two week decision period: I took a chance and asked the dean at the slow 'top choice U.' during the campus interview for advice. S/he said she thought that it would be unethical for the first institution to demand a decision before all offers were in hand and I would be in my rights to ask for more time, though its easy for them to say that in their position. In reality, I don't think the 'head start U.' will allow this, so I fear that I might find myself in a similar situation to you. If it was a question of needing to be in the same city as my partner as the OP's case sounds, I think that gives you complete moral and ethical immunity as long as you are clear and decisive as soon as you hear. No one has the right to grumble at what is a bureaucratic inconvenience compared with the choice of keeping your family together. Whoever was their second choice will be very grateful, deserving and, I'm sure, well-qualified in this market. My case is more murky since it really is just a matter of wanting my first choice but not wanting to be left with no choice at all. Does anyone else have any advice for us, or can point out more of these 'best practice' guidelines?
      • I think it's completely unethical to even consider signing a contract and then not honoring it, especially in this job market. Even if you don't care about whatever inconvenience it may cause a school and department, or care about the abstract idea of honoring something that you've signed your name to, think about what you're probably doing to the prospects, livelihoods, and yes, relationships of other people. I disagree strongly with whoever said that this is just "business." If you're in business and you're in the habit of breaking contracts, you won't be in business very long and could very well end up in court. It's "just business" only in the worst way possible, not as bad as when a movie gangster tells another it's "just business" before riddling him full of bullets, but in academia, an extremely bad and potentially very destructive practice. I know of someone who learned that she was a search committee's second choice for a job she was over-qualified for but at a school she loved, where her husband could easily find a job in his field, and which was within easy driving distance of her elderly parents. The first choice was a super duper over-qualified candidate who signed the contract and then backed out of it late in the spring to take something fancier. She'd already been notified that she didn't get the job, as had the other candidates presumably as well. The school simply failed the search, lined up a VAP, and ran the search again the following year, by which time my friend and her husband had moved across the country for her husband's work and she was teaching in what was for a much less-desirable VAP job which ended, forcing her to adjunct for two years before finally landing a TT job. This is anecdotal, I know, but think about what WILL happen when you sign a contract. There is another candidate out there who needs work as much you do, who also has a family and a personal life, and who may want or really need the job that you are putting in limbo by privileging your own relationships over everything else. If you're not sure you want to do the job and can't negotiate to make it more to your liking, either bite the bullet, accept your fate and commit to it, or don't sign the contract at all. At the very least, be aware that if you do such a thing as break a signed contract, you're forfeiting the anonymity applicants usually enjoy. The word will be out about how shabbily you treated the school where you broke your contract, and you might very well have enemies for life among the candidates, presumably colleagues in your field, who were next in line and took less-desirable offers (if they even had them and didn't up adjuncting or unemployed).
        • I'll add to this that if you just happen to be an excellent candidate in your field this year and are competing for the handful of jobs available in this terrible market against other excellent candidates, you have a very strong vested interest in other candidates not behaving like this. How are you going to feel if you barely lose out on a job to someone, they sign a contract, and then (this doesn't seem totally implausible at all), that same person decides that one of the jobs you're still vying for out there is more to their liking for some reason? Theoretically, they could edge you out of your second opportunity, slither out of their contract for the first position, and land you at the unemployment office. Are you going to be okay with this if you find out that the person responsible for screwing up your job search and possibly even your life did it all out of love for their beloved so-and-so?
        • It's patently absurd to expect people to make career decisions based on the hypothetical situations or unknown feelings of other candidates. Maybe the second person in line has a better job offer already? There's no way to know and it is essentially irrelevant anyway. Laying this kind of guilt trip on the OP is a bit much.
        • Two points come to mind with reference to the above situation: 1) A yes and a paycheck (on the TT) will always be better than a maybe unless you're willing to get out of the academic game altogether. 2) It's bad form in any business to accept an offer, sign the paperwork, and then back out. Just click on over to the universities to loathe page and see how we rail against institutions that extend and then rescind verbal offers. I think you're playing double or nothing if you don't stick with your first offer.
      • Ok since we are in Wiki-land and colleagues who are new to the market are reading these and might be taking these posts seriously to make life decisions, I'm going to cut to the chase and say that whoever wrote the posts starting with "I think it's completely unethical..." and "I'll add to this" are likely motivated by malicious interests, and should be ignored. The whole system functions on the assumption that we are professionals who are self-interested but ultimately committed to the greater good; you will only drive yourself crazy and end up bitter if you try to imagine any range of punishments that might befall you if you don't do what some impersonal organization demands or what petty evils every random hysterical borderline case out there might try to wreak if they choose to act out on you since you got the job they thought they or someone they know deserves (witness again the very labile poster above). Do what is in your best interest, be clear and professional, make your decision as fast as you can, but don't compromise your future happiness due to pressure or threats, its not going to make anyone's life better in the long run.
      • Thank you, posters with good sense. One of the reasons I'm happy to be working outside of academia again is the childish politically-correct mindset that I encountered amongst grad students: that you're somehow responsible for what befalls them through your own career choices and you have to take into account their well-being. You know, "we're all in this together, and we have to distribute the goods equally." What nonsense.
  • Oh, good, I'm glad that the above poster called out the people who wrote those posts. Of COURSE those who are lucky enough to be in the running for multiple offers are trying to find the situation that best meets their professional, and personal, needs. You simply can't worry about what other potential candidates might do or think; they're looking out for THEIR own best interests. A reasonable SC and institution will understand that you might have other irons in the fire, and it might be possible to negotiate for a bit more time to make your decision. If they really want you, they're probably willing to wait for you a bit. For god's sake, it's only March. I got my first offer, a few years ago, in late May.
    • My point was not to condemn people for looking out for their own best interests (sorry if it came across that way). Perhaps there are even times when it makes sense to behave unethically, but let's not pretend that's it's not what it is. In all fairness, the conversation was not about negotiating for more time or better terms in an aboveboard fashion but about what is after all an illegal act that could get you sued if a school's legal department thought it worth their while. I'm not suggesting at all that you "think about the feelings of other candidates" when you make your job decision--I'm suggesting that your "job decision" should be made before you sign a contract. Do you consider it "political correctness" when you landlord holds you to your lease and expects you to pay your rent? If you take a job, is the school going to cut you pay checks out of "political correctness or because that's what they're contractually obligated to do? Is it really so "malicious" to suggest that people should should honor agreements and not break the law? Breaking a signed contract is both illegal and unethical, and there are victims--if you're okay with that, fine, but don't pretend it isn't so.
      • Actually, it's not illegal to break a signed contract if the other party agrees to let you out of it, which is what happens most of the time in academia unless the school really thinks it's worth it to pursue legal action (and this would only usually be the case when trying to keep senior faculty from leaving, not compel a new hire to show up against his/her will--no one wants that). And in what world is breaking a lease (your example) unethical? Things happen, people's circumstances change. Again, it's bad form to be sure, but it's a big stretch to call early contract renegotiation unethical.
  • Most SCs wouldn't start over if their chosen person reneged on a verbal acceptance, would they? They would contact the runner-up, who may have nothing... It's more likely that a disappointed runner-up would get a great job than anything else, isn't it?
    • I think it's very unlikely that a SC would start over after someone reneged on a verbal acceptance--not if they're following the rather arcane bureaucratic procedures they're supposed to as part of academic hiring. At the schools I'm familiar with, they don't enter the "reject code" on other applicants until they have a signed contract. Once they have the signed contract, the others will be assigned the official reject code and the search is declared closed.
  • I think it might be good to keep things in perspective in regards to breaking a "contract." This is an academic position (which is, in then end, an ordinary, run of the mill, civilian job). It is not the USMC. Could someone please give me an example of when an academic has been sued or jailed for quitting a position? I mean, geez, I just signed a contract with Wendy's. I agreed to make burgers and clean their toilets, and they agreed to pay me $7 an hour (hey, shut up, it pays more than adjuncting). Can I expect legal consequences if my dream school contacts me before my first shift and I decide to leave fast food behind? Should I do the "ethical" thing, and dutifully remain at my cash register?
  • This year I took a less prestigious TT job with a higher teaching load and lower pay among my options in order to be geographically located in the same city as my partner. I pulled out of some great potential opportunities in the process, turning down an offer involving a move and taking myself out of contention for in-progress searches with time lines that exceeded the decision time frame I was given by the offering school. This felt so bittersweet despite being a "lucky one." But I didn't feel confident that I would be able to land a dual appointment while both being ABD. I am left feeling "what if" about the previously accepted campus invites I had to rescind and the phone interviews I had to turn down. I hope that when we re-enter the job search together in a few years (aiming for better TT jobs with lower teaching loads) the market will turn around somehow (state budget crises will subside, endowments will replenish, etc.), so that it won't seem like a partner request is asking for the moon and the stars.
  • I guess I have to share my story on this one. Two years ago, I was on the market for the first time, ABD. I had also been in a long term relationship with another academic for seven years. I got a T-T job offer somewhere far away from him (3000 miles), and even though I had other interviews, I accepted and signed a contract. A month later, I got another offer, 50 miles from my fiancé. After much talk with my advisor and committee, I did not break contract, as they told me it would be totally unethical and the ignominy would follow me around for years. And that is the story of how I lost the man I loved and had been with for one quarter of my life. Two years later, I look back and realize what an idiot I was. I’m on the job market again (I hate my current position) and I lost the love of my life. Will people frown at you if you break contract? Probably. Will they sue you? Doubtfully. But don’t let people make you feel like breaking a contract is in the same ethical league at torturing animals. This is your life. I’m alone and the fact that I stood on ethical principle gives me zero comfort. Our jobs are hard enough. Play hard ball.
  • My partner and I have lived the situation in the above comment, with a slightly happier result (miserable commute, but still together). We also made the "ethical" choice, as opposed to the best one for us. I really wish the search timing was standardized because I also know of at least one other tragic belated job offer story. As it turns out, we're most likely leaving our original jobs anyway--how happy are our hiring universities going to be after all? They are going to have to do another search. So many positions must be lost this way, to everyone's misery.
  • Hi all, I was the second OP (I kind of hijacked/extended the real OP's comments). I really appreciate that you all took this issue seriously. I was an emotional mess, but in the end I tried to play hard ball (with guilt, yes, serious guilt) and it didn't get me very far. It was like keeping up profiles although I'd just started dating someone. Very sketchy. I got two more offers, but neither could do a dual hire, so I stayed true to XYZ University, who had received my initial verbal acceptance a few weeks prior. I'll always wonder if I wouldn't have been happier at ABC U., since it was much close to family and friends, but it was dual hire or bust, and that was that. I signed and mailed my contract to XYZ yesterday. No harm done, I guess, but I am glad that I tried for the dual hire.

Now I can move forward with less to regret. Thanks again to everyone who commented...

2010-03-04 Is there a reason why SCs cannot be a bit more personal in rejecting candidates? I think that after someone spends a day or two on campus meeting faculty, administrators, and students and giving presentations a simple phone call is in order informing the candidate that another person has accepted the job. I realize email is the way of the world, but SCs, if you are going to send out an email then make it a bit less generic. After all, you only need to write 2-3 of these emails so you could put in an extra 5 minutes telling us what you liked about our research, teaching approach etc. This is not rocket-science, just common courtesy (the only time I received a rejection by phone was after an AHA interview; it was a personalized call and really helped cushion the blow. And the call took all of 2 minutes).

If this is how the system operates I want no part of it and am relieved I was not selected for the position. Who needs such treatment by individuals who very well might have become my colleagues had the first person rejected the offer.

  • I got one of those recently. I did a campus visit and when they had their offer accepted, I received a canned email signed by the SCC, but sent through the email of the administrative assistant. The SCC didn't even have the decency to email it herself.

2010-03-03 I get that a lot of jobs don't acknowledge receipt of your application and I get that a lot never tell you yes or no. But I thought after a phone interview that you'd get a courtesy e-mail. I just don't understand. Is there a reason they don't? Are they holding onto you just in case everyone else says no? I can see from the wiki they've already scheduled at least one campus visit...but I don't know if that means I'm out of the running. Earlier, the wiki told me that they'd scheduled phone interviews, so I thought I was out of the running then, but 3 days later got my own phone interview invite. So I don't trust that "it's on the wiki" necessarily means "you're out of the running." But when do you figure that out for sure? When is it okay to e-mail and ask? I'm ready to deal with rejection, but this living in limbo really should be against the Geneva Convention.
  • My sense from being on the job market this year is that administrative/funding issues play a part in this. SCs want to hedge their bets in case the dean/provost nixes the candidates that they forward and they have to return to the pool. This is sometimes the case, especially at smaller schools, where departmental desires may not align with the dean/provost's vision of what the school as a whole needs, and how the hire would fit their notion of the school's mission. In these instances, SC wants to play it safe by keeping the phone interview people in the hopper until higher up administration clears the hire. Painful, but my sense is that the late-stage slowdown is par for the course. I would say that it's OK to email them at this point and inquire about the timeline for campus visits. If they are considering inviting you to campus, a polite inquiry about their timeline will not disqualify you. Hope this helps!
  • It does, thank you so much! I've been beating myself up for checking the wiki so much, since no good comes from it. But your response reminds me that the wiki can actually offer some solace. Thank you.

2010-03-01 So I've found out, via this wiki, that campus interviews are being held for most of the jobs I applied for this year. Had a really good phone interview for a job that I thought I wanted, and I thought it went very well. Found out today that campus interviews have been scheduled for that job, and I've heard nothing. My first reaction was disbelief, but very shortly after, I felt waves of relief. In a way, I'm hoping that I DON'T get any job offers so that I can leave academia. But somehow, I feel like I have to pursue opportunities if they present themselves, but if I'm being honest with myself, I'm disillusioned and bored with my field and with academia in general. On the other hand, I feel like others will think I'm a big loser if I don't get a job (I think people who already have jobs in my field have no idea how tough the market is right now), and for some reason, I can't stop caring what people think. In short, I'm feeling rather schizophrenic about everything right now.
  • I cannot agree more, you have articulated exactly what I am feeling myself at the moment! Disappointed, and weirdly relieved. Frustrated at spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars to interview at a conference and then having to find out via a wiki that I did not make it to the next round. Really, SCs? is it that hard to send out a "no thank you" email? it's not like you're interviewing hundreds or even dozens of people at the conference. Actually makes me think that maybe I'm not missing out, even if it hurts to have dedicated so many years to something I love and believe in and not "succeed" in finding a job. I realize that there are many factors at play, but my initital reaction is to balk at what seems to be a rather blatant lack of professionalism. Still hard to explain to the fam...
  • Same here. This is a hellish roller coaster ride. Yes, I am also self-conscious about what others think. I have done very well as a grad student and suddenly nothing, no job, no money, no status. I remember how my professor would laugh at academic fall-outs, weaklings, and third-tiers. Now I am that. Didn't know I would end up being the one without the job or the halo. But the thing is, deep down, I don't really envy successful academics, though I would like a good job. I have been living off campus for several years and started to see academics as domesticated animals. Most of my professors come from academic families, born on campus, married to academics, will probably die on campus, and have a campus memorial. Honestly, I find that boring and somewhat pathetic. The life of the mind begins and ends within a few blocks. But...of course, I would like a job, a good one, now.
  • FANTASTIC POSTS! Academics as "domesticated animals" is the best line I have read in a while, probably unfair to domesticated animals though. I share everyone's frustration, but I should remind people that this is an exceptionally difficult year to apply, much tougher than previous years, so we shouldn't beat ourselves up too much, and if this thing does or doesn't work out,we'll find meaningful employment elsewhere...
  • Not long after starting my phd, I came to conclusion that an academic career is a trap, run while you can. Felt that I was playing a game, pretending to have the same vision of career success and being willing to follow the same deadening "formula," while inside, I was screaming, "Must...escape!"

OP here. I should clarify that the people who I fear letting down are not family members (they support me no matter what), but rather my grad school professors, my dissertation adviser, my fellow grad students, the colleagues that I've met and interacted with over many years in the field (as a very active grad student, and as an adjunct prof at various prestigious institutions) of my senior colleagues said to me once, "Cream always rises to the top." And here I am, skim milk, not able to get a TT job, and without any other options in academia. I fear their pity, and yes, their self-satisfied scorn for someone who hasn't been as successful. It's a little tough to hold onto the self-esteem. And yet I KNOW that I am every bit as qualified as they are, I've just made some different life choices that have landed me in this particular position. And frankly, if it doesn't work out, I'm not going to be that sorry. In many ways, it's a stupid life.

  • I feel like I can only offer platitudes. It's your life and your choices to make, and for no one to know what the most interesting or fulfilling directions are for you. As I've said in other posts on this page, life is full of surprises. Sometimes it's the unforeseen opportunity that turns out to be more fulfilling than anything we could have planned for ourselves. I had the same fears as you, esp. of letting down my supervisor...yet she's the one who's expressed the greatest delight that I'm working outside of academia, in a job that's interesting, with great colleagues. I didn't expect that. In my experience, most people respect someone who has a job that they enjoy, even when that job challenges their narrow ideas of what constitutes "success" for someone with a PhD.
  • Great posts - I can totally relate. I had all but resigned myself to being forced out of academia when an invitation for a phone interview materialized out of thin air - now back to the emotional roller-coaster as I wait to hear about the next stage. Because, yes, it would be great to tell my advisers and colleagues that I am not a "failure" and could get a job. But, we all must remember that , if we don't get jobs or decide we don't WANT academic jobs, we have not let our advisers down - it is the system that has let us down. My great sense of shame comes from trying to explain to all my friends and family aobut why I invested so much of myself in something that offers so little return. . .
  • I hear what you're saying, OP, but I think the tougher truth to realize is that our profs, advisors, colleagues, etc. just don't really care about our successes or failures as much as we often believe they do. Think about it: how many times have you taken someone else's failure either as a personal blow or as a source of endless delight? Probably not that often, right? The truth is, while our failures seem hugely significant to us, they barely register to others. And if you really are surrounded with the nasty sort of academic vipers whose own egos are dependent upon measuring themselves against the failings of their graduate students or colleagues, well I think there's not a whole lot there to miss (and really, why would you even care about the scorn of such pathetic people in the first place?). So do what's right for you, ignore everyone else, and move on with your life.
  • OP, thank you SO much for starting this thread and for your insightful and honest comments. I am a little amazed at how quickly I was able to move on after deciding to get off the academic job market roller coaster. For two years I cried, became enraged, and generally believed I was a failure because I couldn't land a job. This was so stupid! I was an excellent graduate student with publications, conference papers, and a prestigious teaching award...I should have felt great! I have now dedicated myself to landing a prep school job and honestly, I could not be happier. The responses I have received from the prep schools have been fantastic and very encouraging! And some of these schools have innovative curriculums that would rival those of a university! At the end of the day I just want to teach...and if that teaching comes without the pressure to publish, attend conferences, and write grants, all the better! Good luck to all of you out there!
  • I'm in the humanities. A PhD from a top-5 School in the Ivy League. Famous advisers. Had a contract with a top university press to publish my dissertation, which wasn't half done when I signed the contract. I was on the market for three years. Not only did I not get a job, I barely landed an interview. (the second year I applied for 40 jobs and had ZERO interviews, and didn't bother to go to the big conference). My third year on the market I had two interviews. The first was with a military school. (I didn't make it to the on-campus visit). Then, as I was about to leave academia and possibly the country, I was contacted for an interview with an R1 at very top. They invited me to campus. I got the job. So I went from nothing to getting the best imaginable job in terms of prestige, research support, quality of life (three things important to me, even if tenure here is tough). So crazy things happen. They really do. You can't predict anything. If I got a job - this particular job - there's hope for everyone.
  • I'm also in the Humanities, have been on the market since 2003, completed my PhD from a non-Ivy top-10 program in my field in 2005, worked as a VAP at two different places with 3/3 loads and have not yet published my diss as a book (see 3/3 load and lack of stable home base from which to operate for reasoning), though I have a respectable amount of publication credits and conference activity. As in every Humanities field, the job market was beyond dismal this year. I was about to hit the point where it was going to hurt my appearance as a candidate to have any more temp positions under my belt ("If she's got all this going for her, why has no one hired her yet? Something's fishy."), and I basically had to score a TT this year or would have had to leave the profession entirely. I have had excellent luck with the numbers of conference interviews I've landed in years past, but of those, I landed only a couple of campus interviews here and there. This year, I had four conference interviews (a lot for my field, especially this year) and ended up with three campus interviews and two job offers. I was the inside candidate for the job where I am currently a VAP, and they offered me the job (This was *not* a given!), and I gladly accepted it. It could've gone either way for me this year, and my cv, job letters, and personality have not changed drastically from last year to this year. Sometimes things just work out. In my experience with the job market, there is almost no rhyme or reason to the process. But paying your dues and waiting your turn don't hurt your chances. Don't give up!!
  • I am not in the humanities, but a PhD candidate (defending this month, graduating in May) in environmental science / natural resources. I have a lot more teaching than research experience, but currently working on publications left and right. I have had one phone interview. My question / concern is that I really won't be able to pay my bills while paying my dues and waiting for a search committee to realize I'm the brilliant PhD they have been looking for.  :) Can anyone out there who is an adjunct tell me how in the world you pay for childcare and health insurance while working a temporary part-time job? It is ridiculous to expect folks to do so much work for so little compensation / benefits.
  • Getting the first TT job is the hardest point in a career nowadays, harder than getting into grad school, getting grants, or getting other positions post-tenure. It is the narrowest winnowing point and no matter what any deluded old baby-boomer might still try to fool himself and others into believing, it is really a function of dumb luck more than "the cream rising to the top." Anyone who gets hired and begins to meet her/his new colleagues realizes that most of them aren't really "the best of the best," don't come from all the best schools, or are doing the 'best research' and if they are not deluding themselves, that person knows that they are not exceptional either, just good as everyone else but lucky, like a lottery winner. See what kind of non-academic careers you can start, if you are happy when next fall roles around, by all means pursue it!! If your adviser is one of those wierdos who would lecture you for not consigning yourself to adjunct-zombieland for the sake of their ego, tell him/her to kindly die or retire to do his/her part to de-stagnate the job market (and then go ahead and do want you want to do).
  • Oh, dear. Thanks above poster for saying what I had in mind. I am paying my dues for some terrible advices I have been getting from another baby boomer. When I told him/her that things were going awry, s/he fired back, "my former student (already a tt prof) just got another tt job, why don't you try to be more like him?" What is worse is that I also applied for the same job and just learned that s/he has been backing the other student all this time. And I was supposed to be "the cream rising to the top," according to her. It felt like a gunshot. I couldn't concentrate or sleep well now. Everything was so hurtful: the lies, betrayal, and condescending comparison. I should stop asking for his/her advice or believe anything s/he says. So demoralizing. Perhaps it's good to lose faith, now that I can just be myself.
  • Thanks to the two of you. I'm lucky that my advisor is very young and in tune with the feelings expressed here about TT positions. S/He has reasonable expectations and hopes I will go into academia, but knows that my interdisciplinary research makes it a bit tricky to find a good fit. A few of my committee members are "the cream rising to the top" type, and can't believe that I don't have a job yet! Oh, well.
2010-02-26 Umm... why are we spending so much time on this wiki, contributing to it, spilling our unemployed guts, in order for wikia to sell our ideas to advertisers?
  • Are the ideas sellable? I can see that some chronicle writers use phrases from this site for their articles. But I am glad we have this site, at least, I can get a sense of reality. Otherwise, I would be clueless about the whole process.
  • Would you rather they charge us a subscription fee to use it? Wikia has to support the sites somehow.
  • Yes, that's why non-profits exist. Instead, we have our comments mined for insights into us as a demographic (I guess we would be the "Despondent Academic" cohort) and then marketers present us with U of Phoenix ads. Ah, Web 2.0.
  • This is not a non-profit. It is a collaborative site created using a service made available free of charge to users by a for-profit company. That is incredibly obvious by visiting Wikia's homepage. When we post, there is a note next to the 'save page' button that says: "All contributions to Academic Jobs Wiki are considered to be released under the CC-BY-SA (see Wikia:Licensing for details)." Everything is on the up-and-up and that's the trade we make when we participate here. And I'm quite happy to ignore a couple of banner ads in exchange for this board. How is this any different than participating in a message board on a news site that is supported by advertising? Or organizing a Google group (which is supported by advertising)? Even many non-profits run ads, excuse me, "sponsorships." Contrary to popular delusion, the Internet is not free. Neither is any other type of information. Write a letter to the editor of your local free weekly and there is advertising on the opposite page. Stand on a street corner on a soap box and spout your opinions, that street is maintained with tax dollars and the bus shelter next to you is covered in advertisements. It may be free to us, but someone has to pay for it. In this case, advertising is a perfectly reasonable way to do it. (And no, I don't work for Wikia. My research area leads me into a lot of writing and debate about the "info wants to be free" topic.)
2010-02-25 When is it appropriate to contact the SC and ask about status of the search? I had a campus interview a couple of weeks ago and have heard nothing yet. They did give me a two-week timeline for a decision, which we are now nearing the end of. If a decision has not yet been made, does inquiring about the progress risk biasing them against me in the selection process?
  • I'm in the same boat and am keen to hear advice about this. In my case, the SC told me that they'd make a decision in 2 weeks and it's now been a little over 3 weeks. I'm not fooling myself into thinking that they haven't offered the position to someone else, but is it OK to email and ask about the status of the position just to see if they tell me that I'm next in line or if they thank me for visiting but send me on my way?
  • I've offered something about this below, the gist of which was: write them. A brief, nicely worded e-mail checking in after two weeks will not swing the balance in your favor or against it. You are simply asking for information. If they don't want to give it to you, they won't. Most SCs, though, notify a second or third choice right after they notify the first choice, simply because there's a good chance #2 or #3 will end up getting a the nod, and you want to be above board and professional about things. But if they need a nudge, nudge them. A friend of mine nudged a search committee for two months before he learned the search went to an insider. Did the search go to the insider because of the bi-monthly nudges? No. But eventually, they told him he was # 2 all along, and finally knowing that was comforting. Most SCs shouldn't need two months of nudges before they decide to share the info that it's in their best interest to share, but there are SCs that know what they're doing (thank you!), and SCs that are an odd mixture of evasive, inexperienced, uncaring, rude, clueless, unprofessional and the opposite of empathetic (boo!). Just write a version of: "Dear X, I just wanted to check in to see if you had an updated timeline for your search. Needless to say, I remain wholly interested in the position, and look forward to learning where I stand. Thanks so much for your time." How could that possibly offend? Especially if you were asked to campus?
  • Thank you! I think I'll do just that.
    • I was fairly aggressive when pursuing the job I now have. I knew I wanted it and I knew they moved slow so I followed up one day after the time frame they gave me. Later that day, the SC called to make me the offer. But this was a SC that I had a good rapport with and felt comfortable nudging. There were other schools that I definitely wouldn't have felt comfortable emailing. As a matter of fact, one school that I nudged emailed me back to tell me they didn't know yet and they didn't know when they would know. I never heard from them.
    • Send the SC a polite message. Higher up administration always seems to slow things down, so the SC is probably almost as frustrated as you with the delays. The committee has already made up their mind if you are first or second choice, so asking for an update isn't going to change that.
2010-01-30 Out of curiosity, what does "nailing" an on-campus interview entail? I have received a ton of contradictory info on this subject: sell/brand yourself strongly and strategically, but don't "overplay the persona hand." Be friendly, nice and personal to all, but don't try to be everybody's best friend or kiss ass. Dazzle them with smart research organized into a clear PP, but don't intimidate or appear arrogant, of risk info overloading. Ask questions, but let convo flow organically and don't appear rehearsed. Connect with students and do a lively and engaging teaching demo, but don't try to entertain or prove how "down" you are with the kids. Look stylish but not corporate. Be professional yet relaxed. Demonstrate multiple talents and abilities, but appear focused in you skill set, too. The paradoxes go on and on, and as I wait for the news from a recent visit to come back, I can't help but wonder what the "right" approach to a campus interview is. Basically, walk the tightrope between going above and beyond in every category without making the dreaded mistake of "overdoing." Anyone who has served on or been privy to the workings of a SC care to weigh in? What does it take, when SCs are weighing 3 or 4 equally (over)qualified, awesome candidates, to to have the hand tipped in one's favor?
  • I wonder if no one has yet responded to this OP because none of us know the answer?! Even though I am happy to say that I recently accepted a TT offer, I thought I "nailed" another on-campus interview that I had in the fall, while I felt that this more recent one only went "really well." And, if you haven't guessed already, I didn't get the offer for the one I felt I "nailed."
  • Honestly, I think it's dangerous to think you've nailed an interview. I think if you feel pretty good about how things went then you're not setting yourself for self flagellation when you don't hear anything from the SC.
  • I interpet it simply to mean you came away feeling good about how your visit went. That doesn't necessarily mean the department thought you were good (and vice versa). I've come away from interviews that I was sure were terrible, and didn't get the job. Then, the last time that I gave a terrible interview, they offered me the job. So you can't always gauge your candidacy by the feeling that you nailed it or didn't. There are simply too many variables and too much human chemistry to know in advance what tone to strike. I don't even think that those on the hiring end know what was the right tone or attitude until after all the candidates have gone home. Having been through two departmental hires (both as a grad student), I can tell you that everyone is feeling their way through. Hiring criteria change during the selection process. Prime candidates select other offers, leaving the hiring committee with a less than stellar slate. We change our minds about what we want in a colleague, etc.
  • Chime with the poster above - chemistry is key. As someone who has both nailed and failed multiple campus visits and been on both sides of the interview process, I can tell you that nailing an interview is about fit: when your teaching style, your personality, and your research approach accord with those of other faculty members. Of course, you can get a job without nailing an interview, and you can't predict these slippery human factors in advance, so the only real advice I can give you is to figure out who and what you are as a teacher and scholar and perform it at your very best on the visit. There are only so many factors that a candidate can control.
2010-02-23 Just received phone rejection from dream job, and I am crushed. What do I keep doing wrong in these interviews? Feel like the past eight years of my life have been wasted. I have never felt so low. At least they contacted me at all.
  • For what it's worth, I found out yesterday that offers were extended for my dream post-doc (in my hometown where all of my family still lives). I now am on the wait list, but know that it's highly unlikely that I'll be selected because people aren't getting multiple offers like in years past. I also have similar feelings about the last 8 years. I guess what I try to tell myself is that I was lucky to have certain great experiences during this time (for me, it was researching /taking classes/writing for 2.5 years in a foreign country) even if there are many experiences that were equally trying, including the last five months of the searching for jobs/postdocs. We have a job search in my department and 3 of the 4 candidates nailed the on-campus interviews. We'll be turning away amazing candidates, who likely will not get offers elsewhere because the market is so awful. (3 of them are already in TT jobs, so that candidates finishing grad school, like yourself, are getting on-campus interviews is great!) There might be little consolation in this, but reports about how many people are applying for jobs and postdocs is astounding and there is a huge trickle down effect--if current VAPs don't get TT jobs, the VAP positions won't exist for people who are finishing up, for example. In the past, students in my department have landed TT jobs while still finishing their dissertation, and I, who am in the same boat, can't even land an interview. This postdoc, which I'm on the wait list for, is my best result. It truly is the worst time in decades to be on the market. Just know that there are so many people out there like you, though I know that this doesn't help to put food on the table and give you a deserved tangible outcome for your search.
  • OP: I am terribly sorry. Do not feel like you, personally, are doing anything wrong in your interviews. This is the nature of the market right now (awful). I have lost count of the rejections I have received and have many times asked the same questions, internalizing and assuming that there was something inherently wrong with me and/or the composition of my file. It is NOT us,it is the state of the market. I hope that things begin to look better for you.
    • To both of you: I feel your pain. I have been on the job market 3 times and all told I have had 2 campus interviews, one of which I am still waiting to hear from, though it's been 2 weeks so it's not looking good. I too devoted 8 years of my life to academia. I have teaching experience at liberal arts colleges and numerous publications, including an edited volume. As a SC poster pointed out on one of these forums, what would have been sufficient for tenure a decade ago is now required for simply getting a tt job. I think most of us are really highly--or even over--qualified candidates that would have had our pick about 10 years back. What I find tragic is the incredible waste of talent. Hundreds of excellent researchers, writers, and teachers with no outlets for expressing their talents. And, nobody seems to care, or even know what's going on in our world. It's as if we were on some deserted island. I just think of all the ways we could be contributing to society if only we could find work outside of academe. What we need now are the kind of WPA programs that put artists, researchers, and educators to work in the 1930s. Anyone want to help me draft a letter to our president? We've got enough woeful tales on this page alone that I think we might be able to get somebody's attention. At least the media's.
    • OP here. Thanks so much for the kind words.
  • I have also lost count of my applications and rejections. I am tired. My dreams get smaller, now non-existent. After a decade of absolute dedication to graduate study, I am not even sure what I want to do right now. I know I want to get out in a couple of month and never look back.
  • Great idea! I would love to help you draft the letter. Should we start it in the open forum here, so that all can edit and contribute?
  • I'm game for a letter to our prez or congress or both. How should we proceed?
  • I propose that, given their historical knowledge of WPA programs in the 30s, the poster who originally suggested the letters to president and/or congress begin an open-source draft either here or in the discussion section of the wiki. Once the contributors agree on the final version, someone can volunteer to copy and paste into word and send as an email attachment or hard document. We could also circulate a signature petition amongst our colleagues/peers to include with the letter, and present ourselves as the undersigned-for purposes of critical mass/solidarity. Thoughts?
    • I am the poster who suggested drafting a letter to the prez, and I also think a petition is a wonderful idea. I would be happy to get this started but I need to finish up an article over the weekend (my pubs are the only thing that are keeping my spirits up right now). So, if anyone else has time and wants to jump in feel free. We'll all add to it/revise as we see fit, though I imagine at some point we'll have to get in touch via email. I'm so happy people don't find this idea overly idealistic. In these times we've really got nothing to lose. I do believe that having a critical mass can make a difference despite the fact that my username seems to contradict this (now you know what region of the world I study).
2010-02-22 I'm curious as to whether it might be better to take a job at a school that you don't plan on staying at for more than a year or two (if possible) or a prestigious postdoc? I can't say that I find myself in the position of having to choose between these two options, but I wonder which is better in the short term: a good postdoc or a non-prestigious job? I'd love to hear what you all think. I guess my main question is really which position would serve someone better in terms of eventually landing a better job? I've heard all kinds of people say that it's far easier to get a job when you already have one. Is this true?
  • I only claim to speak for my own experience, which is now several years old (a different market) --I turned down several tenure track jobs in favor of VAPs at better places. This strategy eventually landed me in a job I like. My ability to move (no spouse / children, no geographic limitations), my firm research plan (I knew I was going to be nearing completion of my manuscript in two years), and the specific professionalization support offered by the VAPs (research groups, interviewing seminars, etc) all played a part in my decision. I think at a 4-4 job or a 3-3 you might be surprised to find that you have a bit less time to work than you might have thought. If you take a job where you are unhappy, this would further decrease productivity (for many people). I know this is a rough job market, but if I had my job search to do over again, with no guarantee of landing a job at the end, I would still choose the short-term happiness with the potential of future gain over the long-term security of a mediocre job.
  • OP here. Thanks very much for this advice. It's interesting to hear that you gave up permanent positions for short-term work at better places and it eventually worked out (though, as you say, it was a different market).I've heard many people say that any job is better than any postdoc/VAP, but I've always wondered if landing a mediocre job wears off a little of your academic "luster" in terms of being eligible to land a better job later. Again, though, it's not like I have the luxury of deciding between the two...
  • I made that choice last year and I LOVE my (humanities) postdoc. I don't know how it will work out in the long run as it was a 2 year postdoc and I opted not to go on the market again this year. Look at teaching load, service requirements, and research support. Will you get to teach the classes that will help build your CV? Is this a school like where you want to end up? If you want a job at a liberal arts college, a teaching postdoc at a liberal arts college can help you get your foot in the door. Where will you be happiest? I am very happy here and that is making me more productive. Even if I don't land a tt after this, I'll have had two amazing years I wouldn't give up for anything. I hope it is a choice you get to make. Good luck!
  • The last two posters were either writing from a different job market or haven't been crushed by the experience of being on the market yet. But from someone who has suffered through many searches: always take the TT job! in the olden days, such a calculus might have been worth the chance but in this market only a fool would not. It doesn't matter where it is- having any TT job is a great deal more prestigious and rare nowadays than a postdoc (now dime a dozen on applicants' cv's). I was even told this directly by an organization head who called to offer me a postdoc, when I told them I was looking at a tt offer too he said take it and don't look back. Also, a tt position will open up doors when you try to publish (something necessary if you want to move up from either position)- I've heard many senior acquisitions editors say how they privilege proposals from those who are employed because they don't want to invest scarce resources in those, like postdocs, who might not be in academia 5 years from now because of the job market.
  • OP again. Thanks for this different point of view. It's interesting to hear especially that tt positions factor into publishing. I guess taking a 3/3 or 4/4 humanities job could be a better move than a 2 year postdoc. Who knows these days, though -- I feel like I can't possibly crack the code of what it takes to propel yourself into your "dream" job, or even into a job that seems tolerable/manageable. In any case, after 3 campus visits that I haven't heard back from yet (2 weeks overdue on the last one now), and after a handful of postdoc rejections, I'm most likely to end up with nothing next year. So depressing.
2010-02-21 I am an engineering phd from a R1 university. As I did not have sufficient publications at the time of graduation 5 years back, have been in the industry until now. After having recently published a few papers, I just submitted in late jan-early feb applications to about 20 universities for TT positions. Haven't heard from any one yet, but hope atleast some of them will respond. I was a TA during the phd days but I am little nervous to prepare lesson plans and teach courses after this big gap. There is also an insecurity feeling in me about the TT job security, and whether I can take this challenge after such a big gap. But The urge to go back to academics has become very overpowering as it is my dream job... Would like to know if there anybody in a similar situation.
  • Bravo for pursuing your dream! And from a secure position. You're in an ideal situation (employed, and with industry experience). If you don't get an offer, you still have your job; if you do get an offer but change your mind after being back in academia, I'm guessing that you can find another industry job. I think you've got nothing to lose. I began a PhD after working in the public sector and business, with the goal of having more leverage--and the option to teach. During my PhD, I leaned away from an academic career. I found a job in industry before I finished the degree; I'm currently waiting on a postdoc decision. The postdoc would buy me publishing time and allow me to build networks that I can't access in my current job. It would also give me more mobility with my current employer and similar organizations, and allow me to teach, which is my passion. If the postdoc decision is a "yes" I'll try to negotiate a leave of absence with my employer to leave that door open. I'm not so sure that the job market will be any better in two years' time, and I'm also not sure that I want to re-enter academia full-time, beyond the postdoc. Good luck to you!
  • OP here - what the previous poster has said is true. It made me feel better when I reminded myself about the back-up... although I would want to get the TT job at a respectable university and survive the tenure clock. Thank you and good luck to you too.

2010-01-30 oh the agony...10 days since the campus visit and not a word...every day that goes by I wonder if it has been "too long" and someone else has gotten the offer and is negotiating it...staring at the phone and obsessing about the visit..AAARRRRGHHHHH!!!
  • You're in the same boat...huh? How long have you been waiting? How are you coping? It's really taking a toll on my psyche. I wouldn't care if there were other job opps, but it being a recession makes me even more desperate!
  • From my experience, the search committe usually knows exactly what date they will make their decision, and it's generally the day after the last candidate visits. The offer usually goes out within a couple days from there, after the Dean has approved it, etc. Thus, when I was on three interviews this year, I asked the search committee exactly when they expected to make their decision, and in all three cases I was given info about when their last candidate was visiting and then when they would decide. In all three cases the first offer was extended in this timeline. The only other reasons why a first offer might be delayed, I've heard, is if the search committee cannot come to an agreement, or if the Dean also doesn't approve the decision. Both of these situations are redflags about the job that a candidate who eventually gets the offer should consider.
  • So, I should begin the mourning process then. I figured as much. Thanks for your help, and I hope you have better luck than I did.
  • Don't mourn just yet! You could still get an offer if the first person was countering an offer, etc. I had a friend who got a third-place offer last year and loves her job. Not many people will ever know -or care- if you weren't a first choice.
  • OP here-it has been a really tough couple of weeks. I have been trying to keep my mind off of it, take walks, spend time with partner and friends, and, oh yeah, work on the dissertation! Spirituality/religion plays a part in my life; so I also try to cope by reflecting on my many blessings, how lucky I am, and the things that I cannot change. It sounds like a platitude, but I believe that things happen for a reason, in living without regrets, so whether or not I get this job (a great job that I really, really want) I have a lot to be thankful and happy about, and life's path will lead me to where I need to be; the right place. Also, yoga, breathing techniques, and meditation all help. Every time I get anxious, get tempted to compulsively check the voicemail, comb the school's website for info, etc, I try to just breathe and reflect for a little bit.
  • OP, I am in the same boat and it is so hard. In my case, a cryptic message on this wiki tells me an offer has gone out to someone else, but I haven't heard from the school yet, which is really messing with my head. It really does feel like I was just in the most amazing new relationship and then the person never called back.
    • Hey, OP! Just write the SC head a note and inquire after the status of the search. After two weeks, it's totally within your (assumed) rights. A brief note of inquiry and continued interest in the position can do no harm. If you're #1 they'll say the stuff is tied up in the Deanery; if you're #2 or #3 it's in their best interest to inform you. A friend of mind last year was #2 on a search that extended well into May for some reason. A grueling two months of not knowing. She inquired about the search after three weeks, and they continued to be evasive. The job went to the insider after all, and not because she wrote an e-mail. This is not normal. It was a poorly run search with little feeling or professionalism. If an SC won't contact #2 and #3 up front, they are bad at their jobs and need a reminder. They need to be trained. They need to be prompted to do the right thing. I wish SCs realized that they constantly risk alienating potential colleagues before they even arrive! Being top-three is an accomplishment on its own, and to make it that far and be treated like this is insane. In your e-mail, though, don't act like you're imposing. You're not. You're just checking in.
  • Well, I don't know how things are going to shake out in your cases (good luck, people!), but the good news is that in this case (unlike grants and fellowships), no one can take more than one job. I received an offer last week, and I'm very, very grateful for it, but I haven't accepted it yet because I'd rather take a job closer to partner and family. I'll find out today or tomorrow if I get a second offer, and if I do (pretty please!), the folks waiting to hear from school #1 will get a second crack, and a new offer will go out. There's no harm in being disappointed right now, OP, as I will be if I don't get an offer from school#2, but it also doesn't hurt to remember that the jig isn't up until an offer is actually accepted. I know a few other people who are weighing offers, or waiting/hoping for their first choice, so I think that the OP should remain cautiously optimistic and put off full scale mourning. Fingers crossed that as things shake out more of us will be happy than it looks right this second. Now if I'm in second place at school #2, the tragedy will be that I can't wait any longer to notify school#1, and I won't be able to wait to see if I were to get a runner-up offer at my favored choice. The sad thing is that school #2 should have notified weeks ago, and the fickleness of delayed offer timings due to the east coast snowpocalypses could change my life... To the previous poster, I really like the analogy with dating... It does feel like that sometimes. Only you go out a few times and then they propose marriage or they don't! It's a relationship on speed. [I'm back. School #2 went with someone else. I am sad. I guess sometimes schools settle for their number two, and sometimes we settle for our number two. My runner-up has been waiting patiently, and my time's up - I have to take the job in hand... If their number one declines in a week or two, I'll be devastated at the bad timing... I guess it could be far worse. Sorry, to mourn in front of though of you with no offers. A job in the middle of nowhere far from partner and family is just kind of a bittersweet victory.]
    • Hello to above poster. Can you tell me what discipline you're in--History, English, etc. Thanks

  • It sucks because that job you took that's not your first choice probably IS the first choice for their #2 candidate or something...and yet what can you do? I'm so frustrated by the whole process--I wish there were a better, more transparent system for all of this.
  • Yes. Why can't this system function more like grad-school applications (remember those?). A single date--say, April 15--should be the standard for jobs that advertised before December. June 15 should be the standard for schools advertising jobs after December. Everyone would have a sense of their best options, everyone would be able to calibrate their anxiety to a regular schedule. Schools that over-played their hand and lost their top three would have already contacted their top 10 (of course, because this would be a humane process) to let them know precisely where they stand, and schools could begin recruiting from that select and informed group. Instead, my partner is in a situation similar to the above: she'll have to decline a great job where she's a finalist because they won't know for 6 weeks what they're doing. Fortunately, she got a great offer, but still. It is unfortunate that while one group of people struggle with lack of options, another more fortunate group isn't even able to consider their options fully.
  • While I understand weighing offers, I would also like to urge those of you with multiple offers to not hang on to them too long if you know you probably are not going to take one. Holding an offer for 3+ weeks is too long--it is disrespectful to the school as well as the other candidates. Those who do this are essentially holding a job hostage in an already tight market.
  • This language about holding a job hostage is ridiculous. Sure, if you're just being indecisive, make a decision already. But if the decision has serious work/life implications for you and your family, then wait as long as you possibly can. Another offer might come in; another offer give the job-seeker power some power at least. It's not their fault for getting two offers. The problem here is how the game is set up. If you're forced to join the game with the current rules, you might as well play the game. Why accept a job just to ease an anonymous job-seeker's anxiety? As I posted above, the game itself should change. Until then, play ball.
    • Agree strongly with this sentiment. Your responsibility is to yourself, not to take care of others.
  • What should you do if you receive an offer from your second choice while your top choice institution, whose search is proceeding at a glacial pace, has not even finished interviewing the other candidates? Should you call Glacial Pace U. and give them an ultimatum risking annoying them but on the assumption that if they were going to hire you in the end, they would hire under those circumstances? Do you take the offer in hand but break the agreement once you hear from Top Choice Glacial Pace U?
    • Here's what I would do: ask the institution making the offer for a few days or a week to think about the offer. Email the chair of the search committee at Glacial Pace U and briefly outline the situation, that you're received another offer but you would be delighted to come work for them if they were to make you an offer. Close by requesting a time to talk with the chair by phone. You use your offer as a bargaining chip and present new info to the search committee that you're in demand, without putting the chair on the spot by calling him/her and asking, "So, where exactly are you in the search process?" If chair agrees to talk with you by phone, you'll have more information to work with (e.g. you'll be better able to gauge whether they are interested in you, and how soon they might be prepared to make an offer). If not, you may want to accept that first offer. Other opinions?

2010-02-20 I am wondering if SCs typically contact your references before they forward your materials to the Dean's office for approval (in support of hire) or does this vary from school to school? It's been about 10 days since my on-campus and I have heard nothing and I think at least one of my references would let me know if they were planning on offering me the job.
  • Typically not. Unless there is a good friendship/networking connection between your references and someone on the search committee, they won't pass the info along. Nobody wants to "tell" someone that a decision has been made until the Dean's office has approved it.
  • As someone with no prior experience, would this mean that if one's references have been contacted after an on-campus interview it is a good sign? I'm completely in the dark here and would love some advice as to how to read these particular tea leaves.
    • Yes, it is a good sign! The administration may require it before they can offer the job to you.
2010-02-19 I have only posted once before (the woeful tale of a British historian in the academic wilderness, below, 30 Jan) but I feel compelled to comment on the e-mail that arrived in my inbox today from SUNY Brockport regarding their search for a historian of British Africa and Modern Britain. I had a first round interview – my only interview this year – but did not progress to the campus stage. The job went to a female historian who completed her PhD dissertation at the University of Michigan on the history of British big game hunting expeditions in Africa 1880-1914. I have not read the dissertation abstract but I would guess that it is a gendered analysis that explores the masculine aggression that supposedly underpinned British imperial expansion in Africa during the period before the First World War. As far as I can tell from a quick search, the successful candidate has published one book review (Journal of British Studies) given one conference paper (NACBS), and taught a course at the University of Michigan (compared to my seven peer-reviewed articles, seven conference papers, and twelve courses taught at four U.S. universities, including the University of Michigan). By what criteria is this person considered to be the best candidate? Can the hiring decision be explained by the fact that the search committee included two other gender historians? Is this really fair? Does it promote a plurality of analytical approaches in the department, thereby serving the interests of the students at Brockport? I think it would make an interesting study to see how many hires in each year go to cultural and gender historians where this is not a requirement or preference stated in the original job advert.
  • This is a depressing situation. After reading your story, I came to think that there might be some kind of expiration date after finishing a PhD. It's obviously written in some of the VAP ads, which specify that the applicant must have received PhD within 4-5 years. What happens after that? It is probably even harder to land on a TT job after those years. It is possible that some of the people in the department are intimidated by your experience, since they are looking for a gullible ABD to toy with. When I had an interview for a TT job, I got a visibly hostile response from a recently hired assistant professor, who was about my age and obviously uncomfortable with my candidacy. It would have been worse if I was more experienced than her. As for research methodology/historiography, yes, there is a strong trend towards cultural history. This is very unfair, since I have seen many of my colleagues in such field paying for collateral damage after years of hard work. The competition for such jobs (diplomatic history/IR/political history) are unbelievable.

  • To the OP: I'm sorry to hear about your bad luck. But it's just that--luck. We all know that life isn't fair, that jobs line up for some and never materialize for others due to a whole range of factors that may not have much to do with one's "merit." However, I resent your implication that being female or thinking seriously about gender systematically privileges certain candidates. Is it not equally likely that the person hired was regarded as the best "fit"--particularly in a department where others share her thematic interests and methodological approaches?
  • This may be stating the obvious, but not all conference papers come up easily in a quick internet search. A book deal would not come up either. If you search me on the internet, I too have only a couple of book reviews published. But I do have some things accepted for publication that have not come out yet. I'm not saying this person is a better candidate than you are; I'm just saying that unless this person's current CV is on the internet, there's no way to see into why she was chosen instead of you. Even then, there's really no way of knowing. And without reading her abstract, it's impossible to say with certainty what her dissertation is actually about. This doesn't mean that you deserve to be in the situation you're in; rather, there are so few positions available that brilliant and deserving people are shut out for no real reason. I wouldn't care about my rejections from ill-fitting Podunk U if there were more diverse jobs to apply to.
    • I am appalled. How are you people not appalled? OP, I feel your pain, but to publicly slam someone who can very easily be identified and whom you don't know at all? What did she ever do to you, except get a job you didn't get? No one deserves to be talked about in this way in this kind of forum. Shame on you. Seriously. Get some perspective. **Agreed. The personal nature of these comments is shameful. The argument has to be directed to the seeming irrationality of our institutional situation, not against our colleagues.
      • Eh, I figured the poster has already outed him/herself here to people in his/her field as unprofessional. It reflects badly on the OP, not the successful candidate.
      • Maybe people aren't 'appalled' because the rhetoric is par for the course for this page, and no one feels sorry for a search committee, or for a candidate who just secured a sweet gig. Let him vent. Its his career.
      • Or maybe no one is all that appalled because no one really cares about Carl Watts and his boring, hackneyed research. It's really not as "significant", "innovative", or "truly interdisciplinary" as he thinks.
        • Nice one.
        • Not nice at all. In fact, it opens you up to serious legal problems by libeling a private person by name in a public forum. If someone did that to me, I'd be exploring my legal options. The OP may be venting distastefully about a search committee's discussion, but he wasn't naming names. What you've done is far more legally and morally problematic. It is not the behavior of a "decent human being" either.
          • For what it's worth, niceness and decency aside, the name named above is the same as the wiki username for the original post, so it's reasonable to infer that the guy was willing to make his identity known to readers of the site. I'm sure he doesn't appreciate the sudden appearance of this page on Google searches for his name, but he did effectively sign his ("distasteful") comments himself.
            • how the name was obtained originally is a separate issue from then choosing to use it to libel him as a "bitter and angry misanthrope" with "boring, hackneyed research." But luckily, he doesn't hold a grudge. Maybe he's not so bad after all, eh?
        • OP here - I don't have a problem with identification on the forum and I am not feeling litigious. As far as the comments on my published work are concerned: fortunately for me that person has not yet acquired the status to peer review for any of the highest ranking journals in which my research has been published. Now, to get back to the substantive issues: would you care to comment on either the selection criteria by which search committees operate, or the dominance of particular approaches within the historical community? (I suppose the opinion of my research addresses the latter issue.)
        • There you go. Great rejoinder, OP.
  • I am a cultural historian of modern Britain and I am interested in gender. I applied for this job and I did not get an interview at the AHA. In truth, I didn't get a single interview this year. So, perhaps your broad sweeping assumptions are broad sweeping assumptions. As you begrudge this person's success, keep in mind the others out there like me who would have found a shred of consolation in at least making it beyond the first cut. I sympathize with your despair, but harboring venom against your colleagues will not serve you well in the long run. I have sensed this bitterness in job candidates at my own institution and it never left a good impression.
  • Reading this post makes me think of what my professors have always told me about job interviews: the interviewers are sitting at the table thinking whether the candidate is the type of person that they would like at the department holiday party.
    • It's not about them liking you at a holiday party. It's about them HATING you whenever you open your whiny mouth and ruin the party. You just have to be a decent human being, not a bitter and angry misanthrope.
  • To try to answer the OP's question about why he wasn't chosen, from the perspective of a literary scholar: your capacity to summarize your competitor's research in one pithy sentence is one hint. The Rhodesian war on which you seem to work already has my eyelids fluttering to a close whereas 'big game hunting' sounds like one sexy trip down imperialism's memory lane. All of which is to say that projects with surface appeal have an immense advantage over projects that tackle (again) long-standing historical questions. And it is likely that someone who went to the considerable trouble of finding a topic as seductive as the one you deride has considerable charms in person, as this professor-to-be knows something about knowledge's relation to desire.
  • Obviously, women who get academic job offers only get them at the expense of the obviously much more qualified male candidates. How do they do this? It's obvious: by playing the gender card. It is never the case that a woman could simply be a superior candidate. If we know an academic is a female, that's all we need to know to be assured that she works on gender. Of course she does; with her pea brain, she knows that's the only way she could possibly get a job since she is obviously unqualified in every other respect.
  • OK, enough with the sarcasm, but I assume since you (OP) used the word "advert" that you are in fact British. If you're used to the RAE, this might cause you to misunderstand the way job searches work in the United States. This isn't to say one way is better than the other. But generally speaking, for junior hires, many American departments hire on the basis of (perceived, yes) potential (which includes teaching potential) and a the elusive "fit" rather than the quantity of prior publications. If the committee thought your rival's dissertation will have an easier time finding a publisher--as a book--than yours (which might be the case because of the topic, or merely because less of it already exists as articles!), if they thought her way of handling questions was conducive to a better teaching style, for their particular students, than yours, they have every reason to hire her instead.
2010-02-17 I regret having worked so hard for so long. I should just have enjoyed myself and tried to live a normal life. I spent many nights, weekends, holidays, and semester breaks in libraries doing my supposedly "important" research. It was so not worthwhile.
  • I think that a lot of us are feeling this way now. I worked all those years so that I wouldn't have to work 24-7 when I had kids. Now I am teaching an enormous course load (I am talking 7-8 classes...a semester!)as an adjunct and yet have to try and get writing done to keep competitive. It is depressing to never have time to relax or have fun or to spend real time with my kids without thinking, "Aren't you about ready for bed yet?." But, this isn't forever. It's just a rough spot. Marriages have rough spots, classes have rough spots, economies have rough spots. And that's all this is, a rough spot. We all just have to weather it through until it passes. And, I know it's hard. Academia is a pretty awful place at its best in that there are a lot of self-important people who can make you feel about the size of a bedbug, but you just have to hang on. If your research were not important to you, you would not have done it. Don't throw your pride in your work away so easily. Just hang on until the rough spot passes.
  • I'm with you, OP. Just in this past year, I have missed my sister-in-law's wedding, Thanksgiving, Valentines, and spent the winter "holidays" copy-editing a book so I could make a little cash to supplement my slave wages as an adjunct. And, alhtough I appreciate the optimism of the poster above, I fear that this is more than a "rough spot" The rapidly shrinking number of tenure-track jobs has only been made worse by the economic crisis. One really does wonder how long it will take for the academic job market to recover, or if t even will recover. Meanwhile, grad schools keep spewing out more PhDs so the competition only grows. On the bright side, I loved grad school, and wouldn't exchange those years for antyhing. They were a good 7 years that I was not in a cubicle.
  • Yes, this is an extraordinary time and most non-job seekers (i.e. tenured faculties/administrators) are slow to grasp the extent of damage we are dealing with. Baby-boomers would probably claim no responsibility as they head off to Florida or Riviera with fat retirement checks. Universities are competitively turning TT jobs into adjuncts, VAPs, and teaching postdocs, and refuse to acknowledge ethical problems. Grad school was my lost decade.
  • Right on. Speaking of ethics, I think that those of us who are beginning to realize how much of a scam the academic system/job market has become have an ethical obligation to warn current and prospective graduate students of the changing and deteriorating labor conditions facing them. I have a loved one still in graduate school who, thanks to the advice and pressure from well-meaning but clueless mentors, family members, educators and teachers, has completely romanticized and fetishized the Ph.D. and the academic job. These things have achieved the status of Holy Grails, and subsequently this person is willing to do anything-aggressively network and schmooze, self-promote endlessly, sleep with people, and sacrifice everything-their long-terms partner, family, quality of life, hobbies/free time/personal enjoyment, etc. if it means landing an academic job, any job, anywhere. I think that this is, frankly, batshit insane, and we need to *WAKE UP* and begin to interrogate, and start a critical conversation, about how this process happens and is disciplined in various discursive formations-the family, high school, university, and figure out how to stop it. The *best* academic jobs are decent, reasonably secure middle class jobs making 55K or so for 60ish hours of work per week. Decent, but somehow we, as bright, ambitious eager young people, have been seduced/interpellated into equating gainful, secure employment with something akin to landing a lucrative Hollywood film contract. It is heartbreaking to hear-and see-what extents grad students will go to to make themselves "marketable." The mystification of the Ph.D. and the academic life imparted to us is a *TRAP* that only serves the interests of the corporate university's initiative to replace those old-school ivory tower type jobs (which is what we are tricked into thinking we will obtain)with precarious positions like VAPs, postdocs, grad students, and the like. Capitalism has captured academia, and many of us refuse to see it. If you must do higher ed, do law school, med school, or business school. Or get into marketing, PR, nonprofit, etc. Empire has incorporated the University, and we are not doing anyone any favors by drinking the kool aid and playing the game. Opt out, organize resistance, fight back.
  • Amen! What is required is a three-prong offensive: (1) get the word out to other grads to form a plan B while warning people considering grad school to rethink their options; (2) maintain our own networks (like through here) in order to share information about how to leverage our PhD's into a non-academic position--where those jobs are, how to market yourself, etc.; (3) finding a way to organize so that there is better pay, benefits and security to academic jobs. As you say, capitalism has captured academia (we might also include curricula that resemble the "applied" utility of a trade school, to the point that even so-called "R1" unis look to be competing with the University of Phoenix), and there's not much we can really do about the overall trajectory there, sadly. But even if they're hell bent on eliminating tenure and so on, there should be a way we can collectively push back enough to make conditions better than what they are now.
  • The problem with warning current grad students is that they think they will be the exception to the rule. They see the handful of people who secure TT jobs and say, "see, I'll be like that person." Didn't any of you think that? Remember your friends from seminar who were a couple of years ahead of you, who made it look so normal to get a job...your friends who now post about their research travel, the grad seminars they teach, and their gleaming, happy children all over facebook. They made it look like we could do that too.
  • I've been teaching undergraduates for a number of years now (always VAP), and whenever someone asks me for a recommendation for grad school in our field, unless they are absolutely top-notch I highly discourage them, and I try to give them ideas of other ways to use their B.A. I just think it's unethical to send them off like lambs to the slaughter. It's true though---very few of them listen to me. They think they'll be the exceptions that prove the rule, or they tell me that they're doing it for the love of the field. That don't pay the rent, sweetie. The reality is that most of them just can't think of what to do besides go to school.
  • Response to the above poster: I am now teaching (adjunct, naturally) a very large undergraduate course - 353 students with 5 TAs - at my degree-granting institution. I know four of the five teaching assistants, as they were only two or three years behind me in the program. There's a kind of willful ignorance about grad school, and I admit I was one of the willful. Every now and then they'll ask me about the job situation. I tell them straight up what the deal is, but no one really wants to listen to the depressing reality. Too busy with classes and writing and grading to deal with that. I've since stopped talking about it altogether, lest I be equated with the crazy old man who hangs out by the student center preaching the end of the world. Sigh.
  • Re: This is partly true. Before I entered job market last fall I had a brief chat with 4th year grad student in philosophy. He thought my former colleague was some sort of loser for landing on TT job at a third tier rural university. This guy swore that he would not settle for anything less than U-Toronto or UCLA. He'll probably have a breakdown next year once he enters the market. The problem is that both of our not-so-willing to retire professors are still going around telling people that PhDs from elite schools should not aim for anything below top 50. OMG! I feel like pulling my hair out. I keep reminding them they have been telling us lies all these years and that they should just stop. They pretty much stopped talking to me.
  • I agree with all of the above but would like to emphasize that we are not the only ones who suffer - the whole adjunct system is really, really bad for the students. I know my own students are getting a second-rate course right now because I spent the "break" writing job apps and copy-editing that book rather than working on my course. The students get no advising from me. I do not participate in curriculum dev't, don't attend faculty meetings, etc., and yet I am teaching a core requirement for the same students taught by the regular faculty. And this at a well-ranking private liberal arts college. How can this be a good thing? Not to mention that it puts more weight on the regular faculty, as there are fewer of them to deal with advising, committees, etc. If this is the future of higher ed, I want no part of it. Academics will go to pot like this--who in their right mind would get a PhD under these conditions? It's terrible, but waitressing sounds good right now! I'd make more money and at least be able to get a full night's sleep for a change.

    • I think all of us out there who have friends or family in grad school should direct them to this page. Perhaps things will start to sink in once they read this. I should add that I was one of those grad students who decided to pursue grad school because I was passionate about the subject matter. I was well aware of the fact that getting a tt job would be difficult, and in fact that was not my aim when I entered grad school. Getting a PhD was a personal goal I hoped to achieve and I figured I'd work as en editor, teach high school, or work at a non-profit once I finished my degree. In fact, I actually chose to give up academia after 3 years teaching as a VAP at two SLACs. That was a good plan until the recession hit and my back-up jobs were no longer available. Now I feel like my only option is getting at tt job--or getting a new degree. I don't regret my time in grad school, in part because I made sure never to sacrifice too much of myself. I worked quite hard but always made sure I had time for a social life, family, and travel. It's only now after all my back-up plans have fallen through as a result of the recession and I find living at the poverty level that I am beginning to wonder if I should have followed a different path.
  • Ditto... I am only at the poverty level thanks to one random adjunct course at the local community college and an internship I found thanks to a friend. Both end this summer... I am finishing my dissertation, but am finding it very hard to be motivated when I know I am not going to be able to find a job. How depressing!!! Back to work.  :(

2010-02-11 Can I ask a question? (or could someone tell me where this question should be posted?) Saying a person can't get TT, which would the better fallback? VAP or some kind of teaching post-doc? Or are they equivalents? I'm just wondering how this works, thanks.
  • If the teaching load is the same and the institutions carry similar prestige, I personally would go for the VAP. Being a VAP, with that title, counts as full time teaching in a way that a teaching postdoc and an adjunct position does not. Of course, I have been at two schools that had great VAP programs.
  • If you are still ABD, I would advise to take the post-doc. I was ABD and was offered a TT and a post-doc, both at great institutions. The post-doc paid less and I thought the TT would have a longer contract, even if I decided not to stay. What I did not figure is how difficult it would be to finish my diss while teaching a full load of new courses as a new teacher. A VAP position oftentimes has an extra course from the normal course load and does not pay the same as a TT. So, in the end, you don't gain much by taking the VAP, in my opinion, esp. if you are not done with the diss.
  • Thanks a lot for these answers. I have the degree, but I still have two significant projects to finish writing. I think actually the next three years will be more intense than the last three. As far as teaching goes, I would like a real load, but I know I can't get much done with an extra or 4/4 load. Also, if the poster above is still around, what is a great VAP program? Is it mainly a question of course load? How would you evaluate this or what would you be looking for there?
  • I am the above poster in favor of VAP --a good program would provide research funding, a 3/3 or lighter teaching load, a variety of courses, integration into a supportive department --essentially a place that would treat you like a visiting faculty member, not like cheap labor (many VAPs pay rather well).
  • I am a VAP in an English department right now (not that I turned down any postdocs, but still) and I am treated exactly like the other assistant professors in the department-- in terms of pay, benefits, courseload, and committee responsibilities (they are pretty "easy" committees, but I am still expected to contribute). I love it-- finally, I feel like I have a "real" job in a way I never did as a graduate student. There are more demands on my time than there would be as a post-doc, but I am still able to pursue my own work; frankly I am happy to be part of a fully integrated member of the department, rather than a loosely affiliated researcher who teaches a class or two. I have already had much better results on the job market than I did before taking the VAP, and if none of those work out I will have a much better vita next fall (several upper-level courses taught, a sparkling recommendation from the chair here, and possibly even a book contract [fingers crossed]). Maybe I would have published more as a post-doc, but as a VAP I have a better opportunity to show how I can contribute to a department in a more nuts-and-bolts type of way.
  • This may sound a bit rude, but most people aren't going to have that many choices this year: VAP, postdoc, or otherwise. I see where you are interested in learning more, but please don't reject something before applying based on the speculation of strangers. Apply to as many positions as suit you (and as you find comfortable), then when you have an offer for a particular VAP and postdoc and you are trying to choose between them, come on back. Or as Ed McMahon used to say, keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.
  • They only advantage I can see to a post-doc or VAP is steady pay while you're finishing your dissertation. If you've already got the degree, how are those positions any different than adjuncting (pay excepted?). None are permanent, and in another year you'll be in the same position, forced to move to some other location and repeat the process. In this market, I don't see how adding a post-doc or another VAP position to your CV is gonna matter an iota. Personally, I think one would be better served by taking an entry level position somewhere, and gaining some skills and experience which can be applied OUTSIDE of academia. Nothing's to stop you from applying for academic jobs while working 40 hours a week. Hell, with that kind of schedule, you'd actually have more time to get your apps together. The market will still be there, just as shitty as always.
  • I agree that it depends on the exact postdoc and the exact VAP. Some postdocs are better than some VAPs and vice versa. VAPs and Postdocs are far better than adjuncting. Unless you are planning on leaving academia, a postdoc or VAP will help you be more competitive when you apply for positions the following year. Many postdocs come with generous research funds and decent salaries. VAPS and Postdocs can receive the same benefits (including health insurance and retirement contributions) as tt positions. Often postdocs teach their "dream" classes in their specialties. Postdocs and VAPs can increase your teaching experience in conditions far better than adjuncting. Many postdocs and VAPs are not 1 year positions but 2 or 3 year positions.

2010-2-11 Okay, here's my gripe. I am lucky to have had two job interviews. Lucky, lucky. However, both places twisted themselves into pretzels to figure out if I had a trailing spouse without actually asking me directly. I adjunct at my spouse's school, which is not where my parents live, and not where I got my degree a few years back, so they smell something "fishy." They have gotten students to ask me about my relationship status, as well as their own spouses, etc. This kills me. And not in a ha-ha kind of way. After six years of phd work in history, my slim chances may be damaged because I couldn't reassure them that I was single or say something about how my spouse can follow me anywhere with ease. After all this, I may get torpedoed by the haunting specter of a trailing spouse. I am a woman, btw, and I wonder if men on the market are getting this same anxious roundabout grilling. I did a good job in both interviews and really connected with people, but I am so sad... I understand that the dual career thing is hard on them, but I *would* take a job far from my spouse and commute back and forth if they can't give my partner a job. I would ask, but it wouldn't be a deal-breaker. However, I couldn't tell them that, since I get the feeling that if I had tipped my hand about having an academic spouse then both search committees would have cut me immediately. This is what it may all come down to?! Depressing...

(how did i mess up the table...? help! i promise i'm better at history than wiki edits...)

  • The "{" symbol that indicates the start of a table had been deleted from the line |class="wikitable sortable". (I compared this page with other tables to find out what was different about this one.)

  • I understand the twisting of yourself into knots as you relive every moment of your interview, but in most circumstances, I don't think this would have much influence on your chances. Even if things get so far as a job offer, they are fully aware that they can simply refuse any requests you make relative to your spouse. If it's a deal-breaker for you, they cross your name off the top of the list and offer the job to the next person. They completely hold the upper hand, and your family situation only becomes an issue if you make it one. Of course, if they REALLY REALLY want you, they'll be prepared to hire you and your spouse and your second cousins. But in that case, you'd certainly get past the initial interview phase and don't need to be worrying anyway.

  • The interview is so elusive it reminds me of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and its crazy dark overlord Willy Wonka. We all have to be able to eat chocolate and afford it but once that is over with who gets the golden ticket to get the interview then gets the TT job (i.e. the factory) seems a bit random, sort of unfair and somewhat strange. i keep expecting to see Oompha Loompahs on a campus visit or at MLA wheeling out candidates and singing songs about the various R1s and Ivies said candidates come from. (Breaks into a chorus of "I've got a golden ticket!") Btw - I find the imperialist aspects of Willy Wonka as problematic as the next cat. I'm just saying.

  • The psychodrama involved in the campus visit process is about to drive me into therapy. On the most recent one, I felt like the most minute details of every interaction, every word out of my mouth, physical gesture, and everything else I was subjected to the closest surveillance and scrutiny imaginable. Constant, nonstop evaluation by every single human being (and there were lots of them)I encountered, in every way possible. By the end I felt like a specimen under a microscope; SC committee played it so well that I have little idea if I will get the golden ticket or not. Airport shuttle driver handled the inappropriate questions that SC was not allowed to ask, such as marital and relationship status, my religious affiliation, whether I had a car (follow up qs included make, model, year, and reliability/maintenance history)what sorts of climates I was used to living in, my hometown's population,views on drug and alcohol use and student drinking, and whether or not I was interested in purchasing a home. Several days later and I am still physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted and feel like I have been hit by a truck, not to mention completely neurotic and paranoid, analyzing every one of these moments for a possible slip, gaffe, bungle, or mistake that will be used as an excuse to knock me out of the running.
  • Agree with above poster. My last campus visit (not this year) left me upset for months. Most people were OK, but the chair of search committee was the sickest creature I met. She hated the fact that my talk was well received by her colleagues and told me that she would make her student do what I was working on. I remember her saying things like "This is just a game, you need to learn to impress us in this game." After the dinner, she walked away without saying goodbye or making an eye contact. Nobody was selected for that search, but I still remember the negativity. It took sometime to detox myself.

  • To the last poster: there is something to be said, at least, about not ending up in a department where your colleagues act so unprofessionally. When the SC chair is behaving as you describe, and the dept is inviting people to campus, treating them rudely, and then not even hiring anybody at all, it sounds like a place you'd soon be looking to leave anyway. The absolute worst, in my book, is when you have a wonderful campus visit--love the school, students, department, and city where it's located, click with everybody you meet, give a well-received talk and leave everybody clearly impressed.... and then have them very regretfully and respectfully tell you that somebody else is a better fit for the dept. That's the roughest, to come a hair's breadth away from securing your dream job and then have to face some untold additional years of uncertainty and scraping by on adjuncting or food service. In some ways, not getting the campus visit at all would be easier.

  • People probably should be advised that there are no 'dream jobs' there are good jobs and worse jobs, but no dream jobs in academia, the dream job idea is sort of like the 'one true love' idea, it is a fiction that people use to manipulate people into performing according to set scripts. Good jobs even can turn bad after arriving, similarly things that look remarkably poor can in the end turn out to be quite good as you adapt, people leave, etc. I do agree that you should not even consider taking a job that treats you poorly, and beyond that you should let people know what happened on the universities to fear page.

  • When I said “dream job” I wasn’t suggesting that a job (because it is after all a job) could deliver some sort of personal nirvana or continuous ecstasy any more than could a “dream car” or “dream vacation.” However others might use such terms to manipulate us, there are in fact job situations that are pretty close to ideal for academics & I don’t see a problem with using “dream job” to describe them. Of course we have to have realistic expectations--about jobs, love, or anything else. I know a guy who gets 180k to teach a 2-0 load at an R1 school in a great city. The semester he teaches, he comes in two afternoons a week. To me, that would be a “dream job,” although my own dream job is quite a bit more modest, and I think consistent with what I could reasonably expect with my qualifications at this stage of my career.

  • I know how you feel OP, though my questions started with the phone interview. I have an adjunct position at a very prestigious SLAC multiple states away from where I am finishing my PhD because of my spouse's position. I have tons of publications, teaching experience, etc., and they told me in the phone interview that I was EXACTLY what they were looking for and how great of a fit I was. I was so excited when they called to tell me I was a finalist, and they would be scheduling my on-site interview in 3 weeks. Instead, a few weeks later, I received an AUTOMATED rejection letter from their HR department ("DEAR APPLICANT") saying they had selected another candidate that better fit their needs (without even interviewing me as promised). I am still recovering from the cruelty of that process.
  • Wow! I am blown away by the experience mentioned just above my post. That is just plain horrible. If I have learned one thing from the job search this year, it's that when I get on the other side of things, I will do my best to treat job candidates like I want to be treated. Didn't we all learn this lesson in kindergarten? So sad that even with 22+years in grade school, undergrad, and graduate school, some people still appear to have missed that memo
  • Poster from 2 above again: I promise to be much more humane when I am on the other side as well! My advisor mentioned that he has heard of SCs doing that before. That is, picking one applicant for an on-site interview, promising TBA on-site interviews to others as backups, then dropping them if the first person accepts the offer. This helps to make sure the backups don't accept other offers in the meantime (or even worse, turn them down). That was my first interviewing experience, so it's hard not to be cynical about future experiences.

2010-02-08 WTF. Dozens of applications, and only *one* request for an interview? I understand that the job market is crap, but just ONE??? Would some of you who are getting interviews post what type of institutions your PhDs are from, how may publications/conference papers you have given, how much teaching experience you have, etc. so those of us with apparently no prospects have some idea what we are up against here? Because, well, I THOUGHT I had a Phd from a good school, lots of conference talks, reasonable publications, and ample teaching experience, but apparently I can't even make the first cut for a crap 4-4 teaching gig at an open admission public institution. Again, WTF.
  • What field are you in?
  • Art History.
  • I feel your pain. R1 degree, fellowships, awards, publications, and ton of teaching. I'm beginning to wonder if I just smell bad or something.
  • I feel both of you and am right there with you. There is such a thing as being overqualified for the crap 4/4 gig though. These places might expect that you'll jump ship the second you get the chance, or that you won't fit in with the "dept. culture." Or so I've been told. Believing it makes me feel better.
  • I truly think that there are any number of reasons why one might not get an interview, and hard as it may be, we all need to try not to take it personally. Some of the 'lower-tier' schools might not even consider someone who they think will just get the hell out as soon as a better opportunity comes along, and so they don't waste their time. There are also just a shitload of worthy candidates out there. We all have good degrees, with publications, conference talks, teaching experience, and we all deserve the best. So it comes down to someone who can fill a particular hole in a department, or some other criterion that has nothing to do with the lack of merit on the part of other candidates. I'm also an art historian, in the odd position of really being over-qualified (and too old) for almost any entry-level job, but not far enough along in the career path to be considered for any of the more senior jobs (and there seem to be almost none of those, anyway.) I'm thinking of leaving academia, partially because I see no particular job prospects for me, and partially because it's a stupid way to make a living. I just need to get over the shame of 'leaving the field'---and believe me, at least in my circles, there's an incredible stigma attached to those who do. I have to stop caring about what other people think and begin to think about what is going to make ME happy, not my dissertation advisor, not my colleagues, etc. Oh, sorry, somehow this turned into a rant that's all about me. Good luck getting an interview, OP. And if you don't, trust that it has nothing to do with your worthiness as a potential professor, or as a person. At least, that's what I keep telling myself.
  • I'm completely with you OP. I have won 10 external fellowships to fund my research and writing (and I'm in a humanities department), was an alternate for a prestigious full-year writing fellowship, have taught several 300-level classes (one of which was an original design), presented 10 papers all over the globe, and have NO interviews. I have top scholars in my field from other institutions writing letters of rec. I just don't get it. I, too, am considering leaving academia. Applying to postdocs with 1 in 400 odds is simply laughable, time-consuming. I wish I had stopped after my Master's.
  • As everyone is saying, there is no 'formula' for getting a good TT job. But from my experience so far on the market for the first time this year, I can say that the one offer I just got fits me near perfectly, at least when it comes to the position itself. That is, the job call specified for a teacher/researcher who does exactly what I do. I honestly feel like it was just a fluke that this job call came out the same year I was finishing my doctorate. I am sure that this school had hundreds of other applicants who were just as (if not more) 'qualified' than me, but who maybe did not specialize in this area. Given the oversaturation of job candidates in this economy, unlike before I think search committees can ask for and actually get new faculty who specialize in exactly what they want/need. As a result, I have not heard a peep from plenty of other schools that I fit some portion of the job call but not it entirely.
  • OP here. Thanks for your thoughts, guys and gals. Although I do see the logic in some of the reassurances here, I can't say that I feel much better. I mean, the curriculum decisions made in some of these schools are so ridiculously arbitrary. Like, why does a small liberal arts college really need scholars with such specific research interests? Is good old-fashioned merit really so unpopular today? And to the "over qualified" argument, I say that it sounds an awful lot like the excuses offered by advisers who have been promising me interviews and job prospects for years. When no interviews came up last year, everyone said "no one gets a job when they're ABD. Next year you will get something." Meanwhile another year of my life is squandered as an adjunct. Well, I too am starting to think that I just smell bad. On the bright side, I am actually looking forward to getting this one interview over with, so I can embark on a new career that does not involve living apart from my spouse, fretting about publications, hoping for a job in some podunk midwestern town. Even if it has to be an entry-level gig, at least I will begin to learn some actual skills. Yes, I am bitter.
  • I wish people who were NEW to graduate school were on this page, because if they were, I would say that it is worth the time to develop a good Plan B that you would actually be excited about doing. Academia makes us somehow accept mass rejections as a statement of our worth as human beings and professionals. It just isn't true. It isn't. Mot academic would-be's I know have thought processes that just aren't healthy or realistic (me included--this isn't a judgement of others). And, it is NOT RIGHT. My world will not be all set and happy if I land a crappy job that pays $35,000 in the middle of nowhere, yet people in the academy define THIS as success. And we buy it. It is time to start making decisions in our own best interests, people. This may mean recognizing the emperor's new clothes and refusing to do something actively against your own interest (like, for people I see online who are contemplating leaving their families to go move to podunk U for a job that pays crap and probably isn't worth it. Really? You are willing to pitch your spouse and/or kids overboard to move to Wyoming? Where else do people make such stupid decisions?). This system has screwed many people over, but at the end of the day we have to decide not to be victims any more. If you have, like me, received 40 or more rejections this year even though you have done what everyone told you to do, then I would urge you (as I am urging myself) to take the first step: recognize this is an abusive system and start making sweeping decisions in your own best interest, financially, professionally, emotionally, psychologically. These jobs ultimately are just that: jobs. The era of the cloistered life in the ivory tower is over. There are other jobs out there, too. I worked at one for five years before finishing my degree, and I can say, academic jobs (the vast majority of them, anyway you know, the ones we might have a slim chance of landing) are not any better--they aren't free of the crappy politics, etc. The difference is that academic jobs have a very low salary ceiling. Just my angry thoughts. : )
  • ^^^^^^I love you. I really needed to read that today. You are absolutely right. What the hell are we all thinking. Arise, comrades, and cast off the shackles!

  • Ok. That's it. I give. I made my appointment with my university's career services center. I don't know if that will help any, but it will at least get me on to some other track. I'm done with academia. I'm getting out. No clue where I'm going or what I'll do instead, but there has to be something better than this. I gave it my all and I'm just not cut out for this kind of abuse. Folding clothes at Sears was better than this. I will sincerely miss teaching and thinking about Shakespeare all day long, but you know what I won't miss? Pretty much everything else. Later, academia. It's not me, it's you.

  • Amen! One thing to consider if you are in English--teaching at a prep school. I did it for a few years and loved it. Salaries typically start at 50k or so, they LOVE having PhDs, they do not abuse you, the students are motivated and smart (and just a year or two younger than the college kids we have been killing ourselves to teach), you actually have summers off, and guess what? You have some say over where you live!!!! Which matters!
  • I'm one of the people who's had no job interviews this year, despite being an extremely solid candidate. But you know what? I'm not letting that make me feel like a failure. The thing is, we are all in a shitty market, but we're all smart people. Academia is NOT--despite what our advisors and some of our peers think--the only good place to use that intelligence. Getting a job in the "real world" right now might not be so easy, but I guaran-damn-tee you that the world outside academia will look better much sooner than academia itself.
  • Graduate school was a major mistake in my life. I am glad that it's almost over.

  • I think one check on the system that we can take some responsibility for is: if you are still adjuncting after 2-3 years, get out and go do something else. Refuse to live below the poverty line and without benefits ANY MORE. This abusive system functions because we enable it to--we agree to work without security or benefits and for pennies. Go live your life and find something else to do--to do so is not to admit defeat. It is to boldly demand more for yourself. You have to be able to walk away from this by choice, or else you are imprisoned by it. And no one wants to live like that. I gave myself one year adjuncting because I have a family (and I refuse to make them pay for an inhumane job market where getting a job/getting struck by lightning feel equally possible). If I do not land a tt job this year, I am going to do something else even though I have all the qualifications I should theoretically have to get a job and still have a few open options. Perhaps this is foolish, but I am at peace with it because I will not be job market fodder indefinitely. And, I no longer think the tenure track is the yellow brick road. In some ways, I think this has allowed me to return to being a normal person and not the empty shell of a person the job market sometimes turns us into. Don't be a university slave getting paid less than minimum wage for the next decade--you are better than that. And don't worry about how to morph your personality into being the perfect cyborg being you think some random department in Kentucky might want. Stop the madness! Be yourself, act for yourself.

  • OP here again. I agree wholeheartedly with the above. I am only on my first year as an adjunct, but it will be my last, whether I get a job or not. I simply refuse to live like this -- slave wages and no health insurance -- beyond this year. Period. People, we must not enable this exploitation. It is an emotional decision, as I love my students and genuinely feel good at what I do, but the investment is simply not worth the return -- it hasn't been for a long while. It is definitely reassuring to read here that I am not alone in this disaster of a job search (thanks wiki!) and I wish all of you the best, whatever path you may take.

  • While we're at it, then, how about creating a section on this site for alternatives, or links to sites that already do this? It's fairly straightforward to get a non-academic job if you're in a field with obvious transferrable skills. For someone like myself it's not that easy: a Ph.D. in critically-oriented media studies? Well, my entire m.o. is anathema to working in advertising and related fields. The best thing I can think of is policy or consultancy work, for which I think I'd do a bang-up job, but which would require some convincing at the application/interview stage (not to mention: being in a situation in which having that terminal degree is either an asset or a threat). Point is: let's move beyond talking about transferrable skills--what are the transferrable JOBS? We all talk about how having these degrees (or nearing their completion) indicates how smart and dedicated we are (and humble, hah), but if that's all it took, I personally know people without degrees at all who have these qualities in spades, but without some kind of "experience," they are not let in the door. What's more, doesn't having a grad degree sometimes give off the perception of being TOO smart? Where are the jobs where having a Ph.D. puts me near the top of the list, and indicates to the employer I have knowledge and skills that are needed and applicable? Perhaps what is required here, given that most of us are hanging out here in full knowledge we won't land any TT jobs this year, is a committed effort at sharing (1) info on how to opt out so as to try to undermine the labor exploitation of adjunct jobs; (2) info on the sorts of jobs those of us who are contemplating fleeing academia could realistically land in which we have a shot at applying all this arcane knowledge and expertise.

  • Excellent idea.

  • If teaching at independent high schools interests you, it's important to try and get some high school experience, even in one of those summer programs. Or volunteer locally. Then, you need to get a letter or two that discusses teaching in a high school specific or high school friendly way. Finally, you need to get on board with one of the major recruitment firms, like Carney Sandoe & Associates. Making it into their system is competitive, and there are no promises about jobs, but I have five interviews at their upcoming Boston conference. And in a few phone interviews that I've had, they seem very humane: you might teach four sections a semester (equivalent of a 4/4) but they always try to give you a maximum of 2 preps. You might have to be involved in student life in various ways, but you don't need to publish. And so on. Just a suggestion. With a year or planning, many could be viable high-school teachers.

  • I too am in the same situation. Last fall I churned out 40 job applications for TT jobs while learning how to breastfeed, potty training my toddler, and working on the last 2 chps of my diss (thank god i was on maternity leave from my full time contract teaching position!). So far, nothing! What really surprises me is that some were under the impression that they would get a job based on merit. MERIT has little to do with getting a job in academia, or with being successful in this country. this is something that minorities have know for a long time.

2010-02-07 The campus-visit process is driving me insane. I hate not knowing who the other candidates are, their personalities, research, etc. I spend so much time thinking and obsessing over who they might be; I feel that I can't effectively prepare my presentations not knowing who the other people are, like I have to be positioning myself against them in some way. Especially given the postings on this site saying that so much of it at this stage is about "fit" and personality-well I believe that we don't have an immutable, essential self, that our identities are somewhat in flux and determined by the situation in which they are situated. That being said, it is so hard to try to hone in on how to best express yourself as a "good fit" without knowing that much about how your personality compares-in a relative sense-to your competitors. Does this make sense? I am trying to heed the advice to just "be myself, and let the chips fall where they may," but this is difficult, given how much is at stake! Thoughts?
  • Sometimes it sucks to know who the other candidates are, too. It has become somewhat of a pattern in my department for two Phd candidates in the same cohort to get invited for on-campus interviews at the same school. I'm in this situation right now, and the one good thing about it is I actually think I'm a very different candidate than my colleague (given our research agendas, teaching experience, personalities, etc.), so if they want someone like my colleague instead of me, then oh well! Then again, this makes me wonder why we both made it this far for the same position...
  • I'd recommend medication.
  • LOL I have a strict self-medicating regimen.
  • Medication is the most pragmatic alternative to tenure
  • What's even worse is knowing that they are bringing 3 others to campus, and knowing that they don't post on the Wiki (i.e. I'm the only person who's posted any updates with respect to that position). So I really have no way of knowing in a timely fashion whether or not they've made someone else an offer.

2010-02-06 OK having just watched a search take place at the U where I am adjuncting I can say that this whole process is so depressing. 3 visitors to campus (out of probably 15 interviewed, 60 apps), and all three of them are clearly great candidates for the position. As far as my encounters with them go (job talks, their CVs, etc) there is nothing notable to distinguish them as scholars (except that 2 have filed, one is ABD). How will the SC decide who is best? What do they do at this point? Is it here the departmental politics, and "diversity" issues become important? As someone on the market this should probably make me feel better, as there are so many qualified people. But knowing that it is not exclusively based on merit makes me feel worse.
  • I just watched a search take place at my uni, too. And, wow, was I amazed by the extent to which diversity issues drove the whole process. The contender they went with gave an incoherent mess of a job talk, but they offered him the job (at a very prestigious uni) because he is from the Middle East (for an Arabic lit position in an English dept). The two American candidates (who both gave excellent talks) didn't stand a chance.
  • Really, OP? You can't believe academic job searches are not simply meritocracies (if such a thing were even possible to begin with)? Time to get real. All kinds of factors get considered in these searches including personality, fit, and, yes, even diversity especially when all 3 candidates are deemed qualified.
  • I've served as the grad rep on several job searches in my department. OP, you ask "how will the SC decide who is best?" And yes, while department politics and diversity and number of factors come into play-- it's also the candidates personality, whether he/she "fits" with the other egos in the department... and also if the candidate will seem HAPPY (i.e. and STAY) at the institution. We had a candidate for a Medieval position a few years back... and while she was wonderful, we just knew that her research (and her research needs) would not be fulfilled at our school. While she was a lovely person, and her talk was excellent... she was also a very focused Medievalist... and we needed a medievalist who could teach more broadly. So, things like that are all factors in the decision. It is tough decision-- for everyone involved!
  • This whole "diversity" thing is a load of crap. On a recent search 3 candidates were selected for campus visits. The college (or the Dean's office or whoever) was in an uproar that all 3 candidates were men, so they insisted on bringing a 4th, female, candidate to campus. It was utterly absurd, because she didn't stand a chance of getting the job, since she was not among the top candidates. This was unfair to the female candidate (who was obviously misled into believing she stood a chance) and a waste of money. And I will add that there was a female faculty member on the search committee, so I'm confident there was no obvious gender bias in their original selection.
  • A female faculty member makes it impossible for obvious gender bias to occur? Are you kidding me? Clearly you have not met the woman in my department who only takes attractive men (well, as attractive as it gets in academia) as her advisees. Still, the OP was not really noting that diversity issues *were* playing into it, but that, all things being equal, they might. And how do you know there were no women as qualified in that search? When a fourth add-on is chosen, it's usually because he/she is part of the politics, as you note. Even if there were an equally qualified woman, she would not be the one chosen to serve that purpose.
    • "well, as attractive as it gets in academia" How funny, and true. That would be the venting thread I would start. Why must academics be so dowdy, such frumpy dressers? So schlumpy and ratty and downright unsexy? Especially in my field, ____________?
  • I know the people on the committee fairly well and I am confident that gender did not influence their original selection for the 3 finalists.
  • Yeah, and your whole "diversity is a load of crap" is also indicative of your stellar ability to judge this kind of thing.
  • My judgment is sound. I'm friends with these people. They value ethnic, racial, religious, and gender diversity. But they did not let it cloud their judgment in selecting finalists. The university's intervention in the alleged interest of diversity is what made a sham of this whole process. And I take offense at your sweeping judgment of my abilities.
  • Take offense all you want. You said something in a very ignorant way--both about diversity and about the job search process--that makes me think you've got some problems.
  • Uh you seem to be the one with issues since you are drawing conclusions about somebody you don't know based on a few sentences on a blog.
  • While it's true that identity politics is surely still alive and well in the academy (and in some fields more than others!), I think it's probably also important to keep in mind that as graduate students we often only have limited access to the candidates and their application materials. And so even though it appears from outside of the search committee that a person was hired (to take the second poster's example) because they assuaged the identity-politics anxieties of a department, it's possible that this candidate interviewed better, or had stronger writing samples or letters of recommendation--even though the job talk tanked. Or maybe the other two American candidates struck a wrong note with a lot of the department, or had less teaching experience? (It's also hard to judge without the details of these anecdotes.) Not that I think this process is entirely meritocratic, but just that there are so many subjective factors that it sometimes appears arbitrary.
  • Whoever said "diversity is a load of crap" is not facing the changing reality. There are as many women in colleges as men, but this is not reflected in faculty demographic. Some Ivy league universities are trying to limit Asian enrollment, so that they don't outnumber whites. Without this ceiling, Asian students could make up a majority of the freshmen population at Yale or Princeton strictly based on merit (See Boston Globe article). As you know, their presence is not proportionately reflected in faculty demographic, especially outside the sciences. Furthermore, there are many universities outside the US that instituted white male favoritism in recent years--under their own attempts at "diversity"--in faculty hiring and this trend will continue for some time. (See faculty profile of Yonsei Underwood International College. More than half of the faculties are white males in their 30-40s). You can always turn to them for help, if things don't work out in this part of the world.
  • The problem isn't at all that diversity isn't a worthy goal but that (as I've seen it anyway) academic hiring applies some of the crudest mechanisms possible for achieving it. By and large, this isn't true in other professions, and for all the right-wing anti-affirmative action talk about hiring "less qualified candidates," that is rarely if ever actually the case. I've been around many searches where it was openly stated (though not to the applicants themselves of course) that the job was definitely not going to "another male" or another "white person," and I've seen this work against minority applicants as well. The notion that since our last hire was black, asian, female, etc., that we don't need to do that again. Faculty diversity is desirable and necessary, but the sausage-making aspect of how it's achieved is a little distasteful.

2010-02-04 So I get this rejection email today that read, "We have reviewed the candidates for the assistant professor position for which you applied, and we have determined that another candidate is more qualified for the position." Fair enough. It then went on to say that the school had received over 800 applications for 6 positions. While my PhD isn't in Math and I'm no numbers expert, am I supposed to believe that out of such a pool of applicants 6 people were clearly more qualified than the other 794? I call BS. Especially when the next paragraph bemoans the state of the job market and claims that "we've had to reject enough people to build ten excellent [redacted] Departments." So are these other excellent candidates part of the less qualified 794? I get how rejection letters work, I really do, and I've never taken one personally before, but when undesirable school wants to tell me that I'm not qualified enough for a job I wouldn't have bothered to apply for in a better market, it rubs me the wrong way. Is someone else more qualified for the position? Maybe. Was there not a single other equally qualified applicant? Not a chance. Only in such an awful year could such a poor choice of words leave me so bitter. On a more positive note--I'm so happy for the venting page. I feel much better now.
  • I find the sentence about having to reject enough ppl to build ten departments inappropriate-it reads as overly cheeky and playful,familiar, egotistical, and all around unprofessional. I agree with you about the bloated sense of self-importance coming out of some of these places. I got one from an unimpressive school/dept. located in a post-industrial wasteland informing me that I was not part of the "top tier" of "highly qualified" candidates they encountered in their "extremely selective" search. absurd.
  • This phrasing really is frustrating. I understand that they preferred other people, but to begin a letter by framing their search in terms of qualifications instead of preferences seems like little more than an insult. I am firmly appreciative of the fact that they bothered to send out letters, but I think that their attempts to frame the quality of their candidates really just ended up being unnecessarily offensive.
    • Exactly. What's wrong with the generic, "We received a large number of applications from well qualified applicants, yours among them. We regret that your application is no longer under consideration"? I've gotten any number of variations on these lines--all of them perfectly inoffensive. If the school really wanted to make some kind of claim about the candidates, something like "We were impressed by the quality of the applicant pool and have chosen the candidate that best meets our needs at this time." Maybe this particular program suffers from an incurable case of either chronic foot-in-mouth syndrome or terminal delusional obliviousness, but either way the phrase "dodged a bullet" comes to mind. Also, maybe I should offer my professional rejection letter consulting services to schools. That's a job, right?
      • Yes! Start a coaching service for faculty and hiring committees. You can draw on the recommendations on the Dear Search Committees page.
  • Alas, I am one of the clearly less-qualified 794. This e-mail rejection has so many charms in addition to those already mentioned. I love the apology for--and the deeply felt regret in face of--the "impersonal method of communication" (e-mail). This regret seems somehow contradicted by the fact that this impersonal missive was then rendered doubly impersonal as it was deftly routed through an administrative assistant's e-mail account. Also, the apparent offense of using e-mail for such news could have been greatly mitigated if the sender had harnessed one of the values of said method of communication: speed and timeliness. They wrote with news that anyone who had used the wiki even casually would have known for weeks. The real offense of the e-mail, then, comes in the form of its painful and evasive rhetorical contortions of its author. The medium, here, is not the message. At least no trees gave their lives for this gibberish.
  • I got the same email. It seems that I too must consider myself one of the underqualified 794. I forwarded that email to a friend who applied to the same school for a position in a different department (and was rejected with a more polite email) and we had ourselves a good laugh. Then we remembered that neither of us have jobs and stopped laughing. You win, crappy school with 6 qualified applicants.
  • I can understand being frustrated, but as someone who got this very email, I have to say that it bothered me a lot less than the untimely "Thanks for your interest - you're not under consideration" ones that the "more desirable" schools send out in March. I thought the "we received enough qualified applicants for 10 departments" business was nice, and not at all self-serving. I think it sounds like this smaller department was baffled by the wide range of candidates they had to choose from because of the state of the market.
  • Not to be a jerk, but I think we need to just get over anything having to do with the wording of rejection letters. It really doesn't matter, and it really is not worth this kind of attention. It reflects nothing whatsoever on you, and it really doesn't reflect anything on the caliber or character of the program either.It's an awkward communication in a catastrophically bad job market, and the ones that are worded smoothly are no more sincere than the ones that are worded somewhat less considerately. They all have the same message: "not you." The best thing is not to let it get to you, not to get sucked into this microscopic analysis of a stupid genre, and move on. The process is demoralizing enough.
    • Sure, but isn't this kind of the point of a venting page by definition? To let off steam and move on?
    • Yup. The former poster was clearly not from a field that specializes in training its graduates to microscopically analyze genres. That's kind of just part of the fun--part of the, how you say, venting. I'm on the correct page, right? This is precisely part of "moving on."
  • Fair enough. Live and let live. I just fail to see how dissecting the language someone uses to reject you as part of a mass wave of rejections could make one feel better, and I have been thinking a lot lately about how academia fosters a kind of inescapable masochism that I am trying not to indulge in as much as I can. And, I am indeed in a field that analyzes language and genre closely, which means I realize that despite the diversity of signifiers here, the signified is a unified: "we reject you." So, I don't even bother to read the letters--they aren't worth the scrutiny. Because, seriously, if you weren't chosen, chances are your application got a whole 1 minute of consideration (which can be sort of liberating, because at that point, why even take it personally?). Why give them more time than they gave you? And the venting...does it really make you feel better to do a structuralist analysis of someone who is rejecting you? Okay, for a brief moment you feel smarter than the yahoo who wrote the letter, but really, how long does that last? And where does that get you?
  • I am not one of the above posters, but I laughed out loud when I read some of the above these. So, yes, it does help!

2010-02-04 What is up with schools demanding 2-3 years of fulltime teaching experience for *assistant* faculty positions? Is this just another way for schools to ensure that they have a steady flow of cheap and available adjuncts to exploit?

2010-02-04 Here's a new one and I want to know what people think: the other day I was sitting in a noisy cafe preparing to teach when I got a phone call on my cell phone from a search committee wanting to interview me for a tt position. They asked me if I had a few minutes to talk. I of course said sure, but what they meant was they wanted to conduct the interview there and then! I was totally shocked, as I expected them simply to set up a time for the phone interview to take place (I had also previously written the job off, because of a wiki update 2 weeks earlier stating that an interview had been scheduled). So I was interviewed unexpectedly on my cell phone (with an echo), in a noisy room, with no time to prepare. Suffice it to say, it could have gone better. What if I had been in the bathroom? I wanted to send an email subsequently, thanking them, perhaps explaining my lack of preparedness, but I'm not even sure who it was that interviewed me.
  • Yikes. This is why I never answer my phone if I don't recognize the number of the caller...
  • Absolutely unprofessional on the SC's part. I am sure you did the best anyone could under those circumstances. You could send an E-mail to the SC (if you don't know who this is, contact the dept.'s administrative assistant) and request another phone interview. There is nothing to lose by asking. Also (to echo the above), now that I am on the market, I never answer my cell unless I know who it is. That way, messages can be left and I can call back at a good time on my own terms.
  • Yeah, but if they were willing to pull a stunt like that, odds are they might never have called back if the phone went unanswered. Now you have to ask yourself this: if they offer you the job, are you willing to work with these idiots? Please do post the school on the Universities to Fear page. (x2 this comment, and previous one)
  • I'll gladly post the name of the school, once the job market season is done. Suffice it to say, I would take the job, for the simple reason that a tenure track job is a tenure track job at this point.
  • This happened to me during this search cycle. I was contacted for a phone interview out of the blue at 7pm in the evening. In addition to being totally caught off guard, I was mildly irritated-what if I had kids, etc. and couldn't just drop everything and talk right then? If this happens to you again, I think that it is totally appropriate to request a reschedule, and give them the reason why.
  • This happened to me as well. I was sitting around grading papers, so my environment was somewhat relaxed. The bright side to this approach, if there is one, is that one doesn't spend the time leading up to the interview stressing out about what to say. I was a bit unsettled by the call and it took me a while to get back to work that day, but in retrospect, it was far less invasive on my research/teaching time than interviews where I've had weeks to obsess and prep.
  • I agree with the above poster--there is something liberating about not being able to stress out about it. It just happens and then its over. On my last phone interview, I deliberately refused to think about the phone interview the whole day, waiting for the call (and the interview wasn't til late afternoon), because I had learned from experience that I would just stress myself out more thinking about it and do worse. And I'm glad I did, though I didn't make the second cut. But that's just me--I'm weird. HOWEVER, I also agree with those above who say to post it to the "Universities to Fear" page, because that strikes me as the ideal purpose of such a thing--if people apply there, they should have a heads up of what might happen.
  • This happened to be too. In fact, it was from my dream job and to be honest, I WAS in the bathroom. The phone number was even blocked and I was about to send a text message so I accidently answered the phone. The odd thing was, I was desperately waiting to hear from that school. DESPERATELY. In fact, I told myself, I will hear from them tomorrow, and BOOM. I did. It was a surreal experience... the interview could have gone better of course but I did rehearse some of the expected questions way back but it didn't come out the right way. The point is, SC asked if I have questions for them and I didn't have a lot ready, I only asked like 2 or 3. SC seemed interested in me and it's been like 9 days since the phone call. SC said she will have a meeting with the committee and they will decide on who to bring on campus. If I had gotten a heads up, then I would have stressed out like crazy, but then again I hope they used the same tactic to approach others who made the short lists. Otherwise, it would not be fair on my part.

2010-02-03 So. I love my research. I love teaching. I even, dammit, kind of love committees. Sometimes. But I don't think I love them enough to sacrifice every other aspect of my life on their altar, and it pisses me the hell off that this is considered by so many to be a failure and to mean that I'm not a good scholar. I am going to pursue other career avenues research in my spare time, and teach in the evenings occasionally. And I am going to be happy because I'll get to live where I want, with whom I want. Who's with me?
  • I admire your approach, but I had my stint in "the real world" when I briefly left my PhD program a few years into it. I couldn't handle the lifestyle, so I went screaming back to grad school. I didn't regret the decision for one minute, that is to say, until I found myself nearly bankrupt and on the job market for the 3rd year.
  • I am 100% with you. I have been in grad school for 7 years and I am burnt out. And this is only my first year on the job market.
  • OP, you are in good company. A bunch of us have jumped ship and haven't regretted it. The notion that finding a non-academic job might be seen as a failure makes me laugh, but it's also sad, because it's a really limited vision of success. In what sense is having a job that allows you to use your many skills, earn a sane salary, and make a contribution, a failure? You can find ways to teach, do research, publish, and yes, even sit on committees, outside of work hours. It's also fun to have a PhD in a work world where most people don't have one--their reactions remind you that it's a real accomplishment.
  • This sounds great, but honestly I can't figure out how to translate my particular skill set into anything remotely useful outside of the ivory tower. Seriously, after combing and, all I can realistically see myself doing is general clerical or entry level stuff that anybody with an associates degree would qualify for. Any recommendations for where to start in terms of finding a new career track? Entry level is fine, but it has to look like it leads somewhere eventually.
    • I wish I could sit down with you and talk about your work & volunteer experience, and then have a look at your CV. I really doubt you're qualified only for an entry-level job. It takes a bunch of high-level skills to complete a PhD. (Monster is probably not the place to spend your energy looking). What are your transferable skills? e.g. writing (what kind of documents?), editing, teaching, training, counselling, computer & technical, organizational, managerial (people or projects), project design (i.e. your dissertation research), fundraising? (i.e. getting grants)? Where have you volunteered during your PhD, and what were your duties? You need to identify these skills (things you are really good at, and enjoy doing), and your accomplishments, and write a non-academic CV that highlights both. Then target (1) the organizations that you'd like to work with that are hiring, (2) the local job market in your skills area, and (3) the hidden job market by telling everyone you know that you're looking for work. For example: In the last 4 years of my PhD, I started sending off cover letters and CV to the organizations that I wanted to work with (e.g. Gates Foundation, Unicef, WHO, Global Business Coalition) for jobs that matched my skill set. (No bites, but I refined my cover letters, and figured out what I'm not suited for). Every day, I checked the online postings / job forums of local employers that hired people with my skills. I've always hated the mantra of tapping the hidden job market, but it can pay to let everyone know you're looking for work. Find out who amongst your friends and colleagues works for a company or organization that's hiring. I found my current job that way. One of my friends is a member of a network that advertised the position I'm in, and she encouraged me to apply (I was reluctant because I thought it was too junior). She was instrumental in getting me hired, because she is a close colleague of the person hiring. I have another friend who is starting a large business, and they'll be hiring people with my skills sometime next year, so that's another opportunity that will open up. If you've volunteered, go back to those places and ask them if they're hiring. (I was offered a position by the organization I volunteered with during my PhD.) Consider also starting your own business if you can offer a service that's needed. That's one way to generate some income on your own hours while you keep looking for a salaried position. It is really tough to find a job, any job, but I think you deserve better than an entry-level position. And it's been my experience that there are more employers out there who value a PhD than not (runs contrary to the posts here). Best wishes, and I hope you find some of this helpful.
  • I worked for some entry level jobs between my masters and doctoral studies. I was in my early twenties then and had a boss from hell. She had problems with my education and would often mock me about it. I also worked for a few of such jobs in grad school (libraries, hospitals, offices), as well. They are not that bad, but you will be trained into the jobs by some young high school or college grads and can find the situation a bit awkward--which I did. A few people I know (with phds from prestigious universities, including Harvard) took jobs at public archives, college administrative offices, museums, high schools, corporations... Their departments and advisors usually ignored them afterwords; but who cares what they think. But are such jobs even available in this economy? I guess we are trapped somewhere between economic and academic downturns.
  • I think the moral of the story here is: at the same time as you're getting your PhD, do whatever you can do to gain marketable skills in a "Plan B" field. Work part time, take internships, do volunteer work, even work full time for a while and work on your diss in the evenings if you can. If you're in English, try getting a couple years' experience in marketing or communications; if you're in math, see if you can do some consulting work for a bank; if you're in history, do some work for a museum or an archive; if you're in poli sci, do some work for a think tank. Basically, find a non-academic professional career that's a cognate of your academic work and get some essential work experience in it. That way, if you et an academic job you're golden, but if you don't, you've still got a relatively rewarding professional career on the go.
2010-02-01 O.K., so what is the deal with the media studies job search? Who are the people out there getting offers and campus visits for these jobs? I feel like I have the relevant experience they are asking for-production experience including teaching production classes, working with sophisticated tech like After Effects and the like-but my experience never seems to suffice. To land one of these positions do you need to be a professional filmmaker who has won awards at Sundance? Have a hefty portfolio of professional production projects? Any details on what cuts it would be most appreciated. Thanks!
  • I have no idea. But, what has annoyed me even more, is that many of these job calls say they will consider candidates with degrees that are not 'media studies' per se, but in the end I don't think these candidates are being seriously coonsidered, especially given the oversaturation of job candidates this year.
  • I think that, given the current market, there are some delusions of grandeur going around small schools hiring for these sorts of jobs. News flash for search committees: Michael Moore is not going to come and work for your school. Hate to be the one to tell you!
2010-02-02 There has been a lot of talk on this wiki about convincing departments and professional organizations that they have a responsibility to help PhDs find jobs or at least prepare for jobs outside the academy. I am always skeptical that this would go anywhere since those at the top seldom see this as their problem. Even in this job market, the feeling one gets is that it's only those who are poor scholars or choose to leave the discipline that have to worry about other career tracks. All that BS aside and even ignoring the ethical imperative many of us see in realistic career training, another angle occurred to me this morning that could potentially get more attention.

Several prof orgs have issued formal statements condemning use of their disciplines in war or other morally problematic endeavors. The American Psychology Org's condemnation of psychologists who participate in torture leaps to mind. In the past this has all seemed pro-forma to me, but I recently got notice from a prof org about a new statement condemning military applications of our field. In the past, I got recruitment contacts from private contractors and the US military because they are using people with precisely my skill set in one angle in the "war on terror." I always ignored these because the six figure starting salary wasn't worth alienating peers, potentially being cast out of the prof org, and having to live with moral ambiguity. I am still uninterested in participating, but the salary (ANY salary, but starting near 150k plus bonus pay!) will almost certainly tempt away a few people, and probably more this year than last.

Anyhow, the point of all this rambling is that I was struck by the latest request from prof org to sign a letter of condemnation. In addition to telling us that these are evil jobs, why doesn't prof org take some steps to inoculate us against them by providing other options or helping us find them? The unintended message is "you can't have the jobs we dangle in front of you, we don't want you to take these immediately available jobs, and we aren't helping you find a third option." Maybe if the prof orgs saw this as one part of the moral imperative to prepare us for jobs we can actually get, they would be more inclined to do that? Then again, maybe not.

  • I find your post sort of interesting, but probably not for the reasons you intended it. As an historian, I feel that my profession is endangering itself simply because in so many instances the way that the field is conducted makes it of very little use to anyone in the real world. While diplomacy continues to remain an essential function of government, very few universities have on staff a diplomatic historian. And, while you can take classes on Gay New York at the turn of the century, it's hard to find a good, old fashioned course on diplomatic history. And, we historians very rarely speak to the larger public anymore anyway. Who reads our books or articles except for other academics? Quite frankly, it's astounding the self-importance so many in this profession have when they are making such a small contribution outside of their own very pigeon-holed field. Until the appeal of the humanities is broadened so as to draw in students who do not plan to major in history and to catch at least some of the public attention, we will be facing a shrinking industry.

  • To the OP: 150K a year?! You, my friend, obviously have a degree in some other subject than history. I know history PhDs can make some good money - 60K or so - working as public historians or for the Army in DC. The caveat? You have to work in and live around DC, which realistically cuts that pay in half. Frankly, I would have no moral qualms doing this; the government and the military need historians, too. Now, as for psych PhDs being utilized to create more effective forms of torture (or engineers to develop bigger bombs?), that's something else. If there was suddenly a mad rush of PhDs into those sectors, I foresee predictable consequences: namely, richer PhDs and a still-unchanged academy.

  • Hi OP. I feel compelled to respond to part of your post. I'd like to nuance your explanation of why some folks concern themselves with alternatives to academic employement before entering the PhD. It's not quite so either-or, as in "it's only those who are poor scholars or choose to leave the discipline that have to worry about other career tracks" (and I realize you're capturing a sentiment). Some of us entered the PhD as our second or even third career. We saw it as opening up more opportunities, but we aren't dead-set on an academic career, though we might be on that track now. We have one foot inside academia and one foot outside. We're combining our career interests, because working in one or another alone is not challenging, or we've seen enough unemployment to know it's not prudent to put all our eggs in one career basket. Or we like our other careers and don't want to give them up, or we have great networks outside of academia, the work is rewarding, and so on. I will argue that everyone going into a PhD should make other plans for employment (even if it's your first career), because there is no guaranteed employment any longer from any training program (except maybe the trades or medicine). It's your insurance. Why would you want to bet everything on 21 red? Life, too, is inherently unpredictable. We have less control over our life direction than we imagine. A PhD takes a long time. Much can happen to your life goals and circumstances during that time. It's unrealistic to think that you're going to be the same person exiting as entering. Why would you want to bank solely on one future or outcome for yourself? Why wouldn't you want to allow for your own growth as a person? I think finally there's a strong age bias in these comments, in the shrill insistence that PhD graduates are entitled to an academic job. These are posters who, I suspect, have not yet experienced the curve balls that life throws at you (divorce, bankruptcy, death of a spouse/parent/child, chronic illness, disability), that force to you become flexible: to revise your plans and dreams, to embrace what does come your way, and to make the most of (sometimes radically) changing circumstances. Often, the unexpected direction we take in life, when forced to give up on a dream or career direction, is more fulfilling than what we originally sought for ourselves. This perspective is missing from these posts. Yes, you can rigidly insist on only one outcome or career direction for yourself even when circumstances don't support it and it means banging your head against the proverbial wall...but why would you want to?

  • Quite a bit of life lecture here in the previous response. However, I don't see the wrong with having a more structured career goal. Sure, one has to be flexible, but I think it could do more harm to be a complete career windsock. Besides, it's not like there's major labor shortage in any other sectors these days. This is where the academics differ from the American manufacturing sector. When manufacturing jobs are lost, they blame it on outsourcing and demand that the government create more jobs for them (the hell with training for something else). And really, assuming that most visitors to this page are those already with PhD's in their hands, how realistic do you think it is to expect them to consider alternative career paths at this point? As for your comment twitting PhD graduates expecting entitlement to academic jobs, it's tautological, since it's academic jobs that require candidates with PhD's. I suspect few would go through such tormenting process of obtaining a PhD had they not wanted an academic career in the first place.
  • Re: "how realistic do you think it is to expect them to consider alternative career paths at this point?" I guess that depends on how long one is willing to be unemployed, and how realistic a prospect it is to have no income. But going back to my earlier point: why insist on seeing it as either-or? You can look for academic and non-academic employment at the same time. You're not restricted to one or the other. Why would you want to limit yourself?
  • Who sold academia before we are to be sold out? I entered grad school in the heyday of star-academics, most of whom were busy university-hopping, salary-raising, and self-branding. They were too selfish and narcissistic to care for what went on in the academic underworld. They still don't care. Now, we end up university-hopping (if lucky enough) for unlivable wages...and still listen to what they think?
  • Huh? No one's saying you should listen to what they think. Why would you?

To the second poster: This is a common observation, but not one I find totally convincing. Sure, there are those "old-school" academics who could care less about what goes on outside of their prescribed bubble, but all the profs I know and have worked with go well out of their way to interact with the public, whether that be assisting in local "history day" fairs at public schools, working with historical societies to expand public awareness of historical events (this is especially big in those states readying themselves for the sesquicentennial of the Civil War), or simply giving presentations geared toward and open to the public. The problem, I think, is the entire discourse surrounding the "utility" of the humanities. In a nation that values employment potential over responsible citizenship, history can have little real value - Diplomatic or Gay New York. There's a good article on this subject in the September '09 issue of Harper's.

  • OP here. No, not history nor engineering. My particular field is being used in ways that are directly impacting combat operations. 150K, even 60K per year to work in DC with military credentials would be fine in and of itself. It's the understanding that one would be only a step or two removed from actual military operations that puts these jobs off limits for myself and my discipline. The analogy to psychologists helping interrogators increase their "effectiveness" is very close to what I'm talking about.
2010-02-01 Has anyone else received much nicer rejection letters than last year? I mean, last year I got one informing me that I was "not a winner" of a certain dissertation-completion fellowship. This year, my postdoc rejections seem much more kindly worded. I don't know if it is some issue of perception on my part, where I've got a thicker skin, or if people are trying to be nicer in this extremely unkind economy (well, aside from the tt folks below, who are indeed rude). This isn't quite a "vent," but more of an observation that I'd like to get confirmed one way or another.
  • YES. I got a rejection letter that was embarrassingly kind. "Your work on XYZ is not only important for the field, but challenges non-specialists to confront longstanding assumptions about..." I wrote to the SC and thanked them profusely. I also got one that I could not tell if I was being rejected or encouraged to wait for an offer (uh, it was the former). This is not much of a vent, but I think that it is difficult to be on the other side of the hiring process this year too. Rejecting so many brilliant and abundantly qualified candidates cannot particularly feel good (if one has a soul, that is).
  • I don't mean to be a downer (but it is a venting page, so I probably should be one), but it is not to difficult to create a general purpose form letter with phrases such as "your work on XYZ challenges..." I could easily do it merely from the experience I've gotten writing innumerable book reviews for way too many grad seminars. (Now that I've reinstituted the spirit of venting...)
  • I have difficulty concentrating on my current work after reading rejection letters. But I prefer those with straightforward & detailed reasons--like they chose candidates with more publications or teaching experience--other than how many applications they got. Yes, I did get some "kind" letters saying they wished they could work with me etc. If they really meant it, they would have offered me the job.
  • They might mean it, they might not. But I assure you that no search committee puts any significant effort into writing rejection letters.

2010-01-29 Yet another iconoclastic film from the irrepressible grumbler, Won Dum Joo: "Memoirs of a Failed Academic Through The Prism of Seinfeld."
  • Thanks again for making me laugh! George as a metaphor for an academic job candidate- priceless.
  • I'm not sure that it's merely a metaphor by this point.

2010-01-30 I’ve never posted anything on the Wiki or Chronicle Forums during my five years on the job market, but I thought I’d share my story because I think I am at the end of a career that never took off. Let me preface this by saying that I obviously share everyone’s frustrations and wish you all well in the nightmare job search. I am a British historian, I completed my PhD at a Russell Group university (research-intensive), have a teaching qualification in post-compulsory education, and 13 years’ teaching experience (British independent schools, British universities, and US universities). In 2002 I met my soon-to-be wife in Chicago. She is from Michigan and I started writing speculatively to universities in the state to see if I could get a teaching position. At that point I had not completed my PhD but was offered a 3-year visiting position at a large public university in West Michigan (which gave me completely the wrong impression about the state of the job market in the US). By the end of the contract I had completed my doctorate and started publishing my work in good journals like “20th Century British History” and “Diplomatic History”, but I was getting nowhere with my job applications. Further temporary positions followed in Wisconsin and Indiana, which brought a commute of up to 800 miles per week in snow and ice to get to work (I never even had a drivers’ permit until I moved to the US). I continued to publish in journals such as “Commonwealth and Comparative Politics”, “Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History”, and “Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History”, and secured a book contract with a good publisher. Then, after a brief stint teaching at the University of Michigan, the economy collapsed and I could get no further work anywhere in the US, despite the fact that I had now taught a dozen courses in British, European, World, and US History, with excellent teaching evaluations. By that time I was a parent (wonderful) but our household income was dependent upon my wife’s increasingly precarious job as a mortgage processor (not-so-wonderful). I made a tough decision to relocate my family to the UK to take a temporary teaching position in an independent school, and managed to combine it with a one-year Research Fellowship in International Studies at the London School of Economics. I thought this would give me a reasonable chance of securing a further university teaching post and made around 60 applications to universities in the US and UK (even split). I had a handful of interviews but want to tell you about just one that typifies my experience on the job market. The post was a teaching fellowship at a UK Redbrick, advertised in “19th or 20th century British or international history”. When I got to the interview I found that the other five candidates were all social or cultural historians, working on gender or urban working class experience. I was the only international history candidate. The other candidates all knew each other from the conference circuit, and seemed to know several of the existing members of staff, many of whom were social and cultural historians (including the Chair). The job went to a candidate who had just completed her PhD and was working on her first publication (article, not book). This was the point at which I accepted my academic career is going nowhere, and to say that I am fucking angry would be an understatement, because it is obvious from my own experience and the legions of Wiki posters that this sort of shit goes on all the time. Discuss.
  • I would love to offer you some consolation after such a miserable experience, but of course, there is no consolation for not having a job. What I can say is that my experience also indicates that one's success in the market is heavily dependent on chance. I, too, came on the market (in literature) with high-level publications, teaching awards, etc... I haven't been able to establish any pattern at all in the responses from universities. Small teaching colleges often failed to acknowledge my app at all, but a few asked for interviews. I made it to second-round requests and to campus interviews for some research institutions, but did not make it anywhere at all with others. Some of this I am happy to chalk up to the possibility that other candidates offered a particular combination of sub-fields or interests for which the department, unbeknownst to me, might have been looking. Certainly, this is the worst possible year in recorded history to be on the market such that there are a lot of people just as qualified as I applying for these positions; choosing a top 15 or a top 3 for interviews gets a little random. Now I am told that some smaller colleges might have considered me "over-qualified" in that my research-oriented C.V. could suggest that I wouldn't stay. And finally, there is the very sad truth that those of us in academia are vetted for a certain level of research and/or teaching quality, but not so much for the quality of our self-esteems. Every insecure, suspicious or socially inept colleague you knew in the doctorate program is likely to end up on a search committee some day. If you choose to stay, the profession is clearly a stronger one with you in it, and there is reason to believe that post-recession markets will be slightly better as the universities play catch-up with their oversized undergrad classes. If you give up, it is a loss to all of us, but it is also a perfectly understandable response to a process that simply isn't working. Best of luck.
  • Dear OP, that is indeed an awful story. And, although I don't know you, I feel perfectly confident in saying you deserve better. Many, many of my colleagues are leaving the profession, and I am looking to do the same. While this may be a loss to the profession, I see no indication whatsoever from the academy that it cares. A profession that has no interest or investment in its own future seems, to me, irreparably damaged. And, sadly, as one of my advisers recently confessed to me (a person who is the chair of a large humanities department at a very high-level R1), things are not likely to "get better" once the recession ends (whenever that might be) because once the universities have gotten used to operating with more contingent faculty, they are not going to seek to replace those positions with tenure lines. We've been told so many times the old line: "Things will be better when (everyone retires, the recession ends, the rapture comes)." But it doesn't, and by believing it, we keep feeding the very system that exploits us. I wish you luck as well.
  • Dear OP: Wow. Your story illustrates a lot of what is wrong with the system. I sympathize with you and can only urge you to do what all my friends and relatives have been telling me for years: know that it's not your fault. You've done everything right. I wish you the best of luck finding rewarding work that supports your family.

2010-01-29 Our nation's brain drain:

Last night, as I pondered many of the comments on this wiki and my own future as an unemployed humanities PhD, I became deeply troubled not just by the seeming injustice of what we are all going through, but also about the implications of this state of affairs for the country as a whole. If, as we presume, a significant percentage of the country's best and brightest enter PhD programs, and of those a large percentage go on to be unemployed, then we are squandering some of our best talent. I feel that the concept of "transferable skills" is something of a myth--despite what the folks at the CHE would tell you. For most of us the PhD has become a liability, and we will be lucky if we land jobs at all, much less ones that are challenging and rewarding. If only there were some way for us, or someone, to figure out how to marshal that talent into a valuable resource. I think many of us are so focused on our own research that we lose track of the big picture, but would jump at an opportunity to do meaningful work. I know that I myself have become so institutionalized from years in grad school and teaching, that I cannot even fathom what else I could do. Thoughts?

  • I'm trying to figure out the exact same thing. Meaningful work sounds like exactly what I want and it could potentially take many forms--but I'm worried about what I will be able to find. There are several mentions of people on this page having trouble finding high school teaching posts (!) and that was my fallback! Between bouts of depression I am extremely curious as to what will happen to all the wandering PhDs.
  • Well, I don't necessarily think that earning a humanities Ph.D. means one is among the best and brightest (I know a lot of academic idiots) but it does mean that there are a ton of smart people who are good thinkers and writers, but who feel somewhat disadvantaged by their degree. That, of course, is sad. I tend to think of high-school teaching not as a "fallback" but as a viable and desirable career option--although it is one that requires some thinking ahead (teaching high-schoolers over the summer can be a smart career move in many ways as it at least offers proof that your are not viewing high school instruction as some kind of penance before tenure glory ensues). Now, if only graduate programs would recognize how desirable a Ph.D, coupled with the proper experience, can be for independent high schools. Perhaps then we wouldn't be psychologically conditioned to think of such work as some sort of "fallback." On another note, I have often wondered why English Ph.D. programs don't consider offering an emphasis on secondary education (in the same way that some programs allow one to emphasize in creative writing, or theory). At least the Ph.D would then signify some broader teaching ability--and it could also supply credentials for teaching in public schools.
  • I completed an educational studies program while an undergraduate, obtaining a provisional certificate to teach 7-12 English. Though I have never used it, I have been unemployed as a higher education professor (after 12 years of teaching, in both TT and non-TT jobs) for almost two years. I'm dusting off the teaching certification. If this year ends up being another bust year for a HE job, I'm starting the re-certification process. I wish I could do both at the same time, but I have not been able to afford the testing fees etc. while on unemployment. BTW, my alma mater eradicated the educational program two years after I graduated. I have taught many students when I was a VAP there a few years ago, and I would have loved to have directed some of those students into secondary school teaching. The only way to do so is to promote Teach for America, but I am not comfortable throwing recent BAs with very little training into difficult, nuanced teaching situations.

  • (continuing from above) For those of you in cities, many urban boards of education have developed teaching fellows programs. However, I would really encourage (and I've heard that there is federal and/or state grant money to help you) you to go through a degree program, even accelerated. There are tremendous differences between teaching secondary and higher ed, of course. However, the basic prep is, for me, the most variable and my undergraduate courses on learning how to prep for high school courses, as well as courses in educational philosophy and the history of pedagogy, have been invaluable to me in all my subsequent teaching experiences.

  • As all the history-type people are aware, the high school social studies market - in public schools, at least - is not much better than the academic market. That said, I went through an education program years ago (Praxis tests, student teaching, etc), and was certified to teach 7-12 social studies in Ohio. Of course, after all these years in grad school, my license has since expired (in 2004, I think). It probably varies by state, but anyone here have any experience in getting one of these things renewed?

  • Back again from post before last post: I started until it got too pricey. First, go to the Dept. of Education for your residential state, if that's the one in which you want to teach. At the DOE site (at least in my state this is the case) there is a chart that specifies what you want teach and what you need to teach it. If it is not clear what you need to do, write to the contact person who handles certification. S/he will want a copy of your previous certificate. If you don't have one, you've got to go to the OH DOE and get it from them. If you want to teach in a different state than you have had certification, most states have reciprocity relationships. In my case, my cert. was so old (1988) that I had to do two Praxis tests and take one course an accredited ed. program in my residential state, partly to do with the age of my cert. and the fact that I was now living in another state.

  • I really wish that I could have been certified to teach secondary school (or at least taken the requisite secondary education classes) as part of my PhD. I wouldn't consider high school teaching a fallback career if I could be certified without years of onerous (and maybe costly?) classwork! I would really like to teach public high school, as politically/philosophically I'd have a hard time teaching private high school. It's probably a class thing. I'll never be able to send my child to private school, so I'd want to teach in a public school and work to improve public education in my own small way.

I am certified in Social Studies 5-12 and have had absolutely no luck finding a high school teaching job--and I've been looking for 2 years. Part of this is because I am more expensive than someone with an MA, but it's mainly due to the fact that where I live it is all about connections. Despite the system's rhetoric about hiring "highly qualified teachers" I don't even receive a phone call or email response when I inquire about positions. Part of this might be because there are over 300 people applying for one job in social studies--making HS teaching in this city MORE competitive than the academic job market. My word of advice: get certification in the city in which you want to teach and make sure that the university/college is committed to helping you find a position after you graduate or, even better, 2) do an alt cert program. Some of these alt. cert programs basically guarantee you a position in a school after graduation. I really regret getting certified in the state where I completed my PhD because here I am a total outsider with no connections and no way into the system. In fact, at this point I regret getting certified at all because I am ineligible for alt. cert programs. Beyond this, even private schools are not interested in me. In fact, I went back on the academic job market this year because it is LESS competitive than trying to get a HS job in social studies!

  • Yup, that sounds about right. I've had a similar experience. For those who are thinking about escaping the vagaries of the academic job market for a HS social studies position, expect more of the same. Jobs are scarce, so you'll have to be prepared to move anywhere in the US. For all you city folks, urban schools often require experience in an "urban" teaching setting. Oh, and no one cares about your history or polisci PhD, what you've published, or any academic awards. In many cases the degree will be a liability. You can't hide it, obviously, but you'll want to stress other qualifications, such as computer or web skills (preferably sweet ones), the ability to design a syllabus (or "lesson plans" as they're called), previous school teaching experience (college courses count for precisely nothing), as well demonstrate a willingness to coach. And of course it always pays to know someone. It's silly, but true.

  • Is this different for a Spanish teacher? It had been my hope that actually speaking Spanish well would be an asset, hopefully the only one I'd really need. I suppose I can talk up my lesson planning and powerpoint skills. But would high schools even necessarily have technology in the classroom? High school is a rather distant memory at this point and I didn't go to a school in a wealthy area.

2010-01-29 An open letter to smug TT wiki trolls:

Hey guys. First, you must have something better to be doing (say finishing up that latest manuscript?) than perusing a venting page designed primarily for non-TT folks. Now don’t get me wrong. Personally, I welcome comments from TT people, and some sage advice and observations have been delivered via the wiki, but the whole “shoulda known better” schtick is not terribly helpful. I come here to vent and bitch about the market not because I feel entitled to a job, but because I feel entitled to a brief period of mourning and self-pity before starting out in a new direction. Why do you visit here? Some sick version of “survivor’s guilt?” Seems to me there’s a bit too much hand-washing, and not enough hand-wringing, in these trite comments.

If you feel compelled to comment, might I suggest the following:

1)Empathize. As a human being, it’s the least you could do. If I wanted to hear, “I told you so,” I’d talk to my father.

2)How about some constructive input?

Do you bluntly inform your grad students that they will never find a TT job? Let’s face it: most people enter PhD programs with the notion of teaching, securely, at the college level. To indicate that such a position is attainable is at best misleading. When your students ultimately fail to find a TT job, do you tell them straight to their faces (a la Donnie Baker) that their aspiration was naïve and foolish? Or, do you save that estimation for the wiki, to be delivered anonymously?

Is your department still admitting new students into your program? Why is that? They are receiving specialized training. Is there an understanding or concern as to what they will do with that training once they have the PhD? Or is that not your responsibility?

Is there such thing as an academic “community?” Or is it every PhD for him/herself? If there is a community, who does it represent? TT folks, only?

Do career academics have cause to be concerned about the increasing numbers of adjuncts? Or are their positions secure regardless?

Given the current trends, how do you envision your field twenty years from now? Is there cause for alarm?

Would it be better if PhD programs admitted students with the assumption that they will not be teaching on the tenure track? In my program, there was little discussion as to what to do with the degree if a TT job failed to materialize. Why are people being trained and groomed for academic positions that no longer exist?

Finally an observation about the “naïvete” of grad student expectations: when you go to medical school, you expect to be working as an M.D. When you go to law school, you expect to be working as a lawyer. When entering an engineering program, you expect to find work as an engineer. When you enter a teaching program, you expect to be employed as a teacher (and maybe a football coach). So, when you enter a PhD program, spending the vast majority of your time conversing about the nature of the “profession,” learning how to write like an academic, and teaching and grading at the college level, you should “expect” to find employment doing . . .what, exactly?

3)This is meant not so much as a complaint than a call for real dialogue about the nature of the academy (history, in my case). If you cannot adhere to #1 and can’t address any of #2, please, shut the f*ck up.

--THANK YOU! I, and most everyone who reads this wiki, appreciate this. Please understand TT professors (who most likely did not get a job at a time when there is a record high number of applicants and a record low number of jobs - MLA and AHA have posted precise statistics). We are not whining, just looking for a little support from each other. It's hard to believe that you wouldn't have some of the same feelings and seek out some of the same support. When most of entered grad school 7 or 8 years ago the market was much better - graduates from my MA program and my PhD program (different schools) were getting jobs without fail. Perhaps not at top notch places, but they were securing TT jobs. There was no way for us to look into a crystal ball and see the October 2008 economic crash. Hell, few economists and policy makers could foresee this in September 2008!

  • to whoever wrote this open letter: I could not have said it better myself. You rock (x4)
  • There was recently a forum essay in one of my discipline's top journals about how TT faculty need to change the discourse of the "job market" for their doctoral students. One discursive change that the author suggested relates to the OP above that said we should not be only trained for a TT (research) job if the majority of us will not have the opportunity to become a TT researcher. Article citation: Jonathan Sterne, The Pedagogy of the Job Market, Communication & Critical/Cultural Studies, 6(4)(2009): 421-424.
  • Agreed and to the OP, you should feel ENTITLED to an academic job. Last month I was telling myself that I "deserve" a job, but then I realized that it's beyond that, I have entitlement: I have a PhD from a top institution, well known advisors who signed off on my work, outstanding teaching record, publications, distinction on my comprehensives. If the system for the production of Phds is so fucked up that someone like me (and presumably most of you) can't get jobs then there is a problem with the system. Perhaps departments need to let in far fewer grad students; perhaps departments should not abandon their PhDs once they graduate (and most of them do). We put in the work, they gave us the credentials. And once said top institutions stamp our diploma it is THEIR RESPONSIBILITY to make sure we have a future, since we committed ourselves to them and (probably) went broke in the process. Otherwise they have no business training us and should close up shop.

2010-01-29 U an bit TT faculty. I am at a school that does promotion. Personally, I don't think TT is going to survive much longer. But that' neither here nor there. It took me two years and over 300 applications to get this job. I managed 5 MLA interviews and 3 campus visits. I started the search in 2007 and, like many of you, I had publications. But I was coming out of a less-than-stellar university in the deep south. Anyway, sometimes it takes more time than we want, but if you keep it up, something will happen. It might be the coveted TT job, but it might be something stable that allows you to teach what you love and to do your research. That's all.

2010-01-30 I'm sure this has been vented about before, but I am really miffed by the lack of courtesy on the part of search committees. I only applied to 6 jobs this year (lack of mobility on my part due to personal circumstances), I received two interviews, and I have heard NOT ONE WORD from ANYONE, including the places I interviewed. I know some are horrified by the impersonal e-mail rejections that are generated by SCs, but I'd take that over complete silence. Of course I must assume that I am no longer a candidate anywhere, but it would be considerate if at least the places that interviewed me gave me a pat on my back and sent me on my way. Don't even need the pat, but some tidbit that allows me to move on. Without it, I spin all kinds of fantasies about the top candidates all refusing these positions, and then the SCs returning to my application, and seeing that in fact, I'm not so bad. I'm sure this is not going to happen, but without any word one way or the other, and without a Plan B to fall back on, it's all I've got.

  • 1/29 I am not TT, but I do have a job. My school is promotion based. I've been reading this year's trials and tribulations and just wanted to say: It too

2010-01-29 Basta! Enough pretending that academia is a meritocracy. Enough preachiness from tenure-track/tenured faculty. Enough claiming that those on the job market should have known better. Enough intentional blindness to the pitiful position of adjuncts and contingent faculty. And enough ignoring the perfect storm that threatens to destroy the structure and shape of higher education in the US, for everyone. Enough!
  • Hear, hear.
  • Yeah, enough! Now what?
  • Well, how about if we stop by ditching the half-baked economic jargon? "oversaturated markets"? "excessive supply"? Putting aside the fact that academics are supposed to know better than to accept invisible hand theories of how their world works, let's not forget that the demand is huge for educators. At the college level, job training, secondary schools, supplementary education, and yes, even graduate work are supposed to be the thing that, according the the politicians and planners, will drive the effort to move any given state and the country at large into a more successful "future." And there are teacher shortages at every level as class sizes continue to grow. This isn't just about whether people with advanced degrees and teaching skills are needed; it's about whether the actual people behind "markets" are ready to make the hard choices and commit resources for this proverbial future. So, in sympathy with the OP, stop blaming the PhD's for wanting to get to work.
  • Union, anyone?
  • YES. A union of contingent faculty. Someone is going to have to fight for fair wages and it might as well be our generation!

2010-01-27 So I'm sitting here watching American Idol and wondering why I don't have a job - odd I know - and I couldn't help running some stats. From what I gather around 720 people get to audition in each city. They visit seven cities each year. At the end of auditions, somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 people are brought to Hollywood (the recipients of golden tickets). This means that the odds of anyone who auditions getting to Hollywood are very roughly 150/5000 or 1 in 33. Man, I would kill for that kind of odds when it comes to applying for a TT job! Seriously, I realize that the metaphor would be more accurate if I started with the people in the stadia and maybe ended with the person who actually wins (Closer to 1/1,000,000). But then it just wouldn't be venting.
  • Frustrating as it is, I finally get to see how sausages are made through this job search. Something must be truly sick with the system that, after a decade of academic apprenticeship, we are left with impossible odds of finding real jobs and getting by.
  • I agree. I wish someone would have told me that spending years on a graduate level education was the surest road to unemployment.
  • ugh. 100+ apps later, facing unemployed Ph.D. status in a few months. hoping to be able to convince partner to let me live off of their inheritance until (if???) market bounces back. contemplating life as homemaker/stay at home parent. might be more fulfilling and rewarding than this s*it-even if some offer comes, still facing overwhelming work load, chronically lonely existence in two-horse nowhere town, low pay, and no job security. Best-case scenario=all of the above, plus ridiculous tenure expectations. gotta know when to fold 'em, right?

  • I feel your pain, though I live in a big city with lots to do--of course I can't afford to do much because I'm unemployed. Although the homemaker/stay at home parent gig can be isolating it is also the most rewarding thing you can do at this point. Yes, it's depressing to know that you spent 10 or more years devoting your life to something that you cannot earn any type of reasonable living off of, but take comfort in the fact that you have family. Doesn't pay the bills, but now's the time to start looking for a new career that will. This might mean discovering where your other interests and passions lie and working in that direction or simply accepting the fact that in this day and age--especially since the recession--being paid a living wage for something you love and feel passionate about is a luxury. Indeed, this is and historically has been a luxury for most people in the world. Most people work to simply put food on the table, and I think it's high time that we as Americans broke away from this notion that "we can do anything we want if we work hard enough" or, for that matter, that "owning a house is our right as Americans." I'm not advocating cynicism, but just a bit more pragmatism. We need to realize that there are structural forces at play here that are totally outside of our control and that no matter how hard we work, we won't get that dream job. Time to take pleasure in the everyday things which often pass us by while we're busy revising yet another article for publication in the hopes of getting a tt job. Take walks with your kids, play with them. In the meantime figure out where your other passions lie career-wise--or at least find a field that you can see yourself working in for the next 30 years or so without going crazy. And, if academia is still nagging you, turn that diss into a book or write a second book. May take you a while and you might have to fund the research trips on your own, but isn't it worth it after all this time?
  • I think the frustrating part for so many of us is that we aren't looking for the dream job, just any job. At this point, I've been working as adjunct 4/4 for two years at absolutely minimal pay (well below college average in a college that is lowest on average in my poor state). Although I've done very well here and gotten a prestigious award for my work, the current budget situation looks like it will require my job as a sacrifice to maintain the bloat elsewhere. The idea of jumping ship to another industry is extremely appealing and I have even met with some recruiters from other fields. The problem with the advice that I keep hearing that says "well, time to look for another line of work" is that none of the other industries are hiring either. It isn't like some company is going to look at our PhDs and say "well, you aren't qualified for this particular job, but I like calling you Dr and there isn't anybody else who's qualified for the position; you'll have to do." At the bottom end of the market, a PhD is more hindrance than help. Who wants to hire us to bag groceries or work on landscaping crews knowing we'll never be happy and expect more money than a high school kid? I believe that the especially dark turn this wiki has taken over the past few weeks has to do with the final hope in this cycle disappearing for most of us. Hopefully it will turn around eventually, but right now I'm having a hard time seeing a bright spot anywhere.
  • Have you told your professor how bad things are...and what guarantee do you have that you'll get a post-doc? With such a dire market people are now just happy to get VAPS, post-docs, and yes even adjunct positions. I agree with some of the above posters that once you leave academia the PhD starts to become a liability. I have tried to get a job teaching high school (I'm also certified) and nobody even answers my emails when I inquire about a job--this includes the elite private high schools that request that their candidates have an MA or PhD. I think that taking the PhD off the resume is a good idea in theory, but then how do you explain what you have been doing for the last 7 years...and what about letters of rec? One viable alternative is to return to grad school and get an MA in an area where there is/will be work. Yes, I know the idea of going back to school and further in debt is not appealing, but how many years can you live on 10K, and after a number of years the shelf-life of that PhD will expire and then what?

* 1/26 All of you entered grad school knowing the job market sucked but convinced you would be different. I've heard it over and over again. You took the risk. No one owes you a job. The market is oversaturated, and again, you knew that going in. As one who has served on several search committees I can tell you that it is even worse than you think. How one gets a campus interview, let alone a job, is dependent on so many inexplicable variables as to make me shutter everytime I serve on one of these committees, because I realize how precarious were the circumstances in which I got the tt job, and how easily it could have slipped away! Knowing what I know now, I never would have gone into this professsion because the risks are simply way too insane. And I did it at 30, married and with a child already! I was a fool, I say to myself now. I got lucky, straight up, and that's it, I got lucky. My scholarship, my teaching, my credentials, had only so much to do with it. The wind has to be blowing just right in your favor to get one of these jobs. That's the truth.
  • While this is undoubtedly true, you, sir or madam, have an irritatingly smug tone that fails to acknowledge that, hey, this *is* the worst job market in 30 years. Many of us are not exiting grad school under the same conditions in which we entered--my field was actually expanding quite healthily six years ago, and just three years ago had the most tt job searches in its history. So if you insert a little sympathy instead of a bitchy I-told-you-so tone, maybe I'll take back the following: Dude, it's "shudder," not "shutter." Unless you are a camera. And "every time" is two words, not one. So, yeah, it probably wasn't your scholarship that got you the job.
    • To the 1st responder here: Well done! Reading your reply to the OP gave me SUCH a gratified feeling. Way to speak truth to smugness.
  • I recently heard a Harvard-educated administrator (at my R-1 institution where I am getting my PhD) say that to get a job in the academy, one has to be "Lucky And Good." He then said, "Note how I said 'Lucky' before 'Good.' But also note that I said 'AND Good." I think this sums up our job prospects.
  • None of us are clairvoyant. I'd say, on average, we entered grad school ten years ago--before Sept 11, before the spike in oil prices, before the job "market" crash of 08. I would be fine with the 2000 odds of getting a job in my field--at least 50%? I'd say it's down to 20% now. In addition, all the information available talked about more jobs in the future--how was I to know, as a naive 22 year old, that the graduate advisors were either speaking from fantasy or out of a conceited need for cheap labor? How were we supposed to not believe the information pushed to us by profs and grad programs? In addition, who can tell a 22 year old anything that they'll believe? 10 years later, I'm still trying one more time because I am good at what I do. I'm just not very lucky. I have enough validation from my teaching evaluations and publications to think that I don't totally suck. Yes, I may leave the field, but there's no need for bitterness at me because I was stupid for getting into it. What I want to see from a TT person or a search committee member is a little empathy--not ha ha, you're stupid. Even if you can't give me a job, TT person, why not just say "wow, this field really sucks for the new PhDs. I wish it were different for you." That kind of thing goes a long way. I don't think any of us are begging the universe for a specific job--but how about respect and understanding, particularly since this is the venting page (meant to make us feel better through the experience of common suffering). In short, smug TT person, you can suck it.
  • Actually I found the OPs words reassuring, and not terribly smug. Since this is my first year on the market,receiving all these rejections has been a little hard to take (not even being invited to interview for jobs I should be qualified for). As for the "you knew this going in" - okay, that is a bit smug for a venting page. It's BS actually. I specifically remember my MA adviser saying "every one of my students gets a job". Silly me for listening to that!

I agree that some of the griping here seems naive: there has never been a time in the past three decades that the job market didn't suck, and yet students entering graduate programs refuse to see the writing on the wall -- or think hey will be the exception to the rule. Speaking as someone who was the exception to the rule (one year on market, in 97-98, scored R1 TT position) and who now reads this page to understand what my doctoral students are going through) I agree that luck is a factor, but it is certainly not the only factor. Otherwise, how can I predict with such eerie accuracy which of my students will get interviews and flybacks, and which won't? Even so, anyone who begins a PhD certain that a tenure-track job awaits them at the other end is foolish or arrogant.

  • Ok then, Mr or Ms. R1 TT, why don't you post here the exact criteria that it takes to get those flybacks? That would be extremely useful information for job seekers. If it's that your advisees have a certain ineffable quality about them that makes them seem professorial, then that tells me one kind of thing. If it's more to do with a number of publications or certain language in the cover letter or student evaluations, that tells me another. Please, o great one, inform us. Tell me, o prophet of academia, whether I can actually do anything to help my chances, or whether I'm forever condemned by my looks and personality to the adjunct track.
  • Kudos to the above professor for taking such an interest in your graduate students. And yes, we all knew going in that it would be difficult, but I don't think that anyone knew just how difficult. Most of us have been encouraged by our faculty to go into academia, and told that we would get jobs if we worked hard and were smart. So how is it naive to listen to one's mentors? I certainly never felt entitled to a job just because of my degree, but I do believe that our profs have failed us to some extent by not communicating just how hard it really is to get a job. Especially when the PhD seems to be a liability when trying to land a job outside of academe.
  • A question for R1 TT: at what point in the course of their graduate studies can your start predicting the chances of your students to land a job? And what do you advise to those who, you can predict, won't get an interview.
  • Dear one-year-on-market person: I have a question about your ability to predict. Is it because of your students' abilities, or your cultivation of certain ones, that they get jobs?


* I've come to the conclusion that it is utterly irresponsible and unethical of search committees to not inform immediately those candidates they have interviewed but have not selected for campus visits that they have not been selected. Were it not for the Wiki we'd be sitting here well into February thinking that a phone call may be forthcoming. Do they do this just to keep their options open in case the candidates turn out to be disastrous? I'd much rather be given a preliminary rejection and called back a few months later and told that I'm back in the running.
  • Yes, I endorse the concept of early, polite rejections. Let me have as much time as possible to figure out next year's uncertainties.
  • Mostly agree, though I'd be happy with any notification, if not an early one. Last year I had a January phone interview (my only interview, as it turned out). Informed I was 1 of 5 candidates. Never heard from them again, and the wiki was quiet. Discovered they made a hire after checking the dept. website in June. Srsly, how difficult would it have been to send out a short letter or email?
  • Completely agree. I was interviewed by a (crappy, 4/4, podunk location, open enrollment) school, then teased into thinking I would be invited to campus via an email by interviewer informing me how much they enjoyed our interview, the timeline for candidate selection, and that interviewer hoped that I was still interested in the position. Learned via the wiki that I was not one of the Chosen Ones invited to campus. If you are going to bother to send out a follow up email at all, and you know that said candidate will not be invited to campus, just make that email a polite rejection!!! seriously, SCs, WTF?

2010-01-26 * You know I think back to my grad students days and the various strikes launched by TAs over their alleged mistreatment by the university, but now that I'm in the universe of repeated annual job searches and on-tenure track faculty, there is absolutely no comparison. There is pure exploitation of those in quest of tt positions, currently unemployed or working as adjuncts. I wish it would be possible to organize some sort of mass protest - against the universities and the umbrella organizations such as the AHA and the MLA which perpetuate the misery. I'm convinced that in our litigious society a lawsuit could be brought against these organizations for the psychological trauma and financial damages we've endured. Grad students (at least those who don't attend the more notoriously dehumanizing institutions) do not know what constitutes real suffering. But I shall stop venting before the single malt scotch has its full effects.
  • Single malt. Oh, the misery.
  • I'd be on board with a nation-wide adjunct strike day or some sort of grade retention action. And I'm sober.
  • Yes! I would be first on line for the strike. This miserable situation describes my post-graduation life. And, while we're at it: My wholly incompetent TA receives a stipend of over $10,000 per semester, while I receive around $5,000 for teaching the course. Said TA has also created more work for me, since this person frequently makes factual errors in lectures that I then have to clean up and correct for students while trying to maintain a level of patience with said TA, who always claims the course is outside his/her area of expertise so why should he/she be able to teach it? And then TA complains about how much work TA has to do, and I want to punch TA, since I'm currently trying to shop my book, submit articles, and do research while teaching 3-4 classes per semester AND in the summer. The TA is managing the incredible task of taking two classes and TA-ing for me.
  • During a phone interview with a school outside the US I asked if they would be attending the MLA to meet any American candidates in person before making any final decisions. They laughed and told me that they refused to have any part of "that hellish madness". Sensible. I bet we could get foreign allies for this strike, backing up the principle of our protest.
  • We don't need a strike, we need a UNION. Let's face it, there is no other way to put an end to the exploitation. If I am good enough to teach the SAME UNDERGRADS that brilliant endowed professor teaches, then surely I am good enough to be paid a living wage and receive health insurance. How is the treatment of adjuncts in this country even legal?? The only reason they can exploit us like this is because we let them, so a union is the only answer.

2010-01-25 * Male and female (or masculinist and feminist) candidates, stop fighting among yourselves like Democratic Party members. Instead, go check out the SC venting over at the CHE forums, in this thread in the "Tenure Track" category entitled "argh! spousal surprise" -- started by a SC chair or member to vent about partner hiring requests. Debate is ongoing; if you're a finalist in a humanities-ish job search, and you've just received an offer and have mentioned your partner, might want to check it out, to see who you're dealing with:,66057.0.html
  • Wow. I assumed with the market being what it is that SCs would move right on down the list with little thought. Nice to see that candidates, assuming they get an offer, might still have some leverage. Still, I would bet this case is exceptional. If I was to try something like that, no doubt the offer would be rescinded - and I don't have a job to fall back on, as seems to be the case with this person. On a side note, if indeed the candidate is simply using the position itself as leverage to get his/her spouse hired at his/her current institution, and thereby causes the search to collapse, he/she (as noted elsewhere on the wiki) is simply a douche bag. As for the SC member who aired the complaint: Dude, whoever you are, if you happen to read this, I'd like you to know that I, as a member of the growing class of exploited adjuncts, also have zero (0) sympathy for you. Sorry to be a dick, but that's just how I feel.
  • Me, too. I am more sympathetic to over-exploited adjuncts, vaps, graduate student lecturers, than some spousal hires. Need to have basic human rights for all before taking an extra baggage.
  • The above poster would do well to remember that a "spousal hire" concerns two humans, not one human and one suitcase. Most academic couples negotiate this problem, and many talented people leave the profession over it. I think this is a good choice on their parts--one which I would myself make if I could turn the clock back two years. My husband and I took separate jobs in different states. We see each other very rarely thanks to the price of airfare. We've done "what you're supposed to do," and it's hurt both of our productivity. We did try for a spousal hire at his school--they declined to hire me in any capacity (adjunct, secretary, admissions office, anything). At the very least, the school could look for a class for the partner to teach, or make some calls to people they know at other local universities. Places need adjuncts--why is it so hard to help make the connection? Mostly, what a spousal hire wants (and I know this is what I wanted) is a year or two with a job title so they can go on the market again without an employment gap. Failing that, a year or two in some kind of admin position would give the spousal hire some much needed time to look for a second career option.
  • Well, I am sorry that you are not together in an ideal setting, but I am happy for you that you both have jobs. Many of us here are still searching and may well have to endure another year making as low as $5000/yr, heavily in debt, and competing against the odds of 3 to 1400 or 1 to 300. Another year without livable income or a supporting spouse is not an ideal situation. I want to sympathize with you if I can. (Incidentally, three spousal hires I know are all in tt or tenured positions. Two are married to famous academics. Those are the spousal hires I had in mind. Perhaps others are not as lucky.)
  • I'm not sure how many people know this, but at least most R-1 universities have an administrative office on campus devoted to managing spousal hires. What annoys me more, however, is that these offices (or at least the one at my current institution) only deal with "high-level/advanced" positions, as well as from what I can tell, prioritize the sciences and administrators. So, my humanities department was unable to retain several associate-level faculty in the past few years because this office did not offer any support for managing their spousal requests. Makes me think that it is not even worth paying the probably pretty hefty salary of the administrators who work in this spousal hire office!
  • Most people who ask for a spousal hire don't even bother to ask for a TT. It's much more common to ask for an adjunct position. In this climate I wouldn't dare bargain for a TT for the trailing spouse, but how unreasonable is it really to ask for assistance finding a course or two for the partner to teach at adjunct pay?
  • What a frustrating topic. Well, I should say up front that I was a trailing spouse and am now totally stuck--professionally speaking. Eight years ago my spouse accepted his first job out of graduate school--in a shitty southern town with NO white collar work outside the university. The college promised me an adjunct job to start and a tt job when I completed my degree. I finished my degree, immediately got a book contract with a really good university press, and taught at low adjunct wages for years until a position finally became available. I was informed that I had to go through the interview process like anyone else. Fine. I did. The Search Committee called to inform me that I had been chosen. Two days later, the chair overruled the committee to hire a candidate who had not even been selected to go through the interview process--because someone in the administration was pushing her. Long story short, I complained to the chair who immediately decided that (after nearly a decade of teaching at this school) I was no longer fit even for adjunct jobs. Now, I see both sides. I have a close friend who was hired as a "partner hire" at one of the best R1 universities in his/our field despite having no publications after being out for quite some time. He was probably hired over someone who better fit the bill. But, what about when a spousal hire is denied employment when they are clearly a better fit with better teaching evals/publications/experience than other candidates? The person who got "my" job has published nothing except for one encyclopedia article and is likely to never publish beyond the encyclopedia genre. And, I can see when schools are located in large metropolises--maybe trailing spouses can find some other line of work. But, from my perspective, retaining quality people matters, too and you can't do that if you force families to live off one very low academic salary in a location where there simply are no alternatives for the trailing spouse other than working as a cook at the local Biscuit Kitchen. The problem, I think, is that as academics--despite all our education and supposed smarts--tolerate being treated like shit. The entire profession needs to be reorganized to institute something akin to a real merit system--and in that system there should be a place for spousal hires who are competent. Aside from being a soldier, what other profession so regularly demand that spouses live apart, that children be raised by one parent or another (despite the fact they are not divorced), or that those in field sacrifice so much for so little? I read these anti-spousal hire posts here and think, well you are someone whose spouse is in a different profession. Maybe one day you will live in this crappy southern town and your wife will have to choose between driving two hours each way to work or accepting the Biscuit Kitchen's apron.
  • Yet few academics get to choose where they want to live. So even those of us whose spouses have other careers/goals may find themselves living in a town they hate. I do feel for academic couples, but I suspect that most of us (on the venting page) with families are hardly in an enviable situation.
  • Well, what I wish for is fairly paid employment for all. I wouldn't be in nearly such a mess if adjuncts were paid a fair, living wage(and I'm one of those wishing for a spousal hire!). We would all benefit if the system weren't so corrupt. It's not a question of adjuncts v. spouses. Eliminating all spousal hires won't get all people stuck in adjunct positions fair pay. Likewise, hiring spouses won't help adjuncts. However, I'm losing faith in the system's ability to improve itself.
  • Historically speaking, systems never do improve themselves--it takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice by a lot of people to force changes. And, let's face it--most academics are too tied up in their own little corner of academia to band together to fix the system. You can see this even in the lowest level of the academic food chain--departments. I'm the poster from above who was passed over for the administrator's friend. This was not the first time in this department that this had happened. A few years earlier the search committee chose a candidate for the position--he was well-qualified, seemed a good addition for the department. But, he was a white American. The chair, an African, pitched the search committee's recommendation in order to hire another African (from his home country) who was much less qualified and who consistently has caused problems for the department. Unfortunately the chair also deemed this character tenure-worthy and brought him in as a tenured associate professor (this after the guy had been denied tenure at two other places). What do you think the search committee did in either of these instances? Did they rise up and go to the dean and say we are the ones supposed to making the hiring decisions? Did they bring the issue up at the faculty senate? No. They had classes to teach and encyclopedia articles to write and it was easier, since it did not directly affect them, to let things rest where they were. And that's academia on a larger scale--it's so hard to get in and once you are there it is just so much easier to get by than to work to make the system fairer or better for those following behind you. And, show me the adjunct who can afford to lose those crumbs from the university's table. Where is the incentive to fix the system? And, let's be honest, the problem extends beyond this. What I have been thinking of is only the humanities. But, take it further. At the school my husband teaches at, salaries are negotiated--there is no scale or step system. So, for years he made thousands of dollars less than the people hired after him because of a salary freeze put in place by the state. He was hired at a little over forty thousand a year and made that for four years while the freeze was in place. And, at the same time humanities instructors are barely skirting the 50,000 mark, the professors (even new hires) in the finance department are making over 100,000.
  • This spousal hire discussion always ends up in a contest to determine which miserable system-wide problem is worse. And then, correctly, we always go back to the screwed up administrative decisions and market realities that provide too little support to the faculty that sustain their Universities. Without getting rid of any of that discussion, is there not some way to take the discussion beyond the administrators? I assume all of us would argue that well-paid, preferably tenured faculty are in the interest of the students that justify the existence of Universities. And yet, ask the average college-bill-paying parent what "tenure" means and he/she is likely to think it has something to do with having ten years on the job. Where are our academic associations in all of this? Could not MLA et al put pressure on all those "top 100 college" guides to include faculty retention and tenure percentages in their stats? Are there not other ways to get the importance of faculty situations across to the funders and bill-payers of our universities? Maybe our admins then could tout their faculty instead of the new snack bar in the dorm to incoming students. It might give them a reason that they can understand to create better positions?
2010-1-23 * I hate when you have a phone interview, and it feels like you're wasting the interviewers' time. Not only did this university only set aisde 15 minutes to talk to me, but also they were rushing me through my answers. I tried to be as enthsuiastic as I could by expressing positive emotion verbally, but they hardly reacted to me. Way to make me feel like crap and dislike your university. Interviewers should be forced to learn how to be as respectful/impressionable as much as we have to on the other side of things.
  • I recently had a similar experience. But I try to chalk it up to the particulars of the phone interview--that is, its easy to interpret it negatively when "they hardly reacted to me" too, but maybe if I could have read their body language, the whole experience wouldn't have felt so cold. There was one interviewer in the group who was clearly offended by some of my answers (I could tell by the wording of this person's responses), but the rest might just have been nodding approvingly for all I know. I agree with you that interviewers could do a better job of verbalizing their responses to our responses, just as we have to learn to communicate our qualifications. Its tough--hang in there!
  • I learned from "The Chicago Guide" or some such that phone interviewers usually plan to get through a greater number of questions in a smaller time slot than for in-person interviews so I expect our experience is unfortunately widespread! This insight into form doesn't at all address the concern that interviewers should do what they can by becoming more responsive - a stellar point and one to keep in mind when we are finally on the other side of the line. In the meantime it has persuaded me to seriously ratchet down my expectations for my phone interviews (and thus to not be too disheartened when the interview is flat). Not that I've succeeded and I think for good reason: it's incredibly hard to feel that you've presented the best version of yourself when you are essentially going through a series of remotely witnessed wind sprints! I'm a long-distance runner myself.

2010-01-24 *I saw it happen just the other day. We had one male candidate for the position and SC decided that if we hired the male we would be vilified throughout the university. The sense was that it would be very difficult to justify that out of all the candidates not even one of the women was better than the male. The male candidate was at least equal to the top two women candidates, but he was dropped and lesser candidates were included in the final pool simply because he was a male. Admittedly, the department is heavily skewed toward males - 6 males and only 2 females.

2010-01-15 *I feel like being a male on the job market is really working against me. I am a feminist and all about equality but it seriously seems their is a privileging of woman in this market. Anyone agree?

- Jeff, is that you? It's okay, hon. Love, Woman

- Nope. They're privileging folks who can spell. Signed, non-privileged female job seeker.

- 1) Follow the directions for editing, since you are outside the table. 2) As a woman who is in a field where last year 75% of TT jobs went to men, who comprise only 45% of grad students in that field, I'm pretty sure you're wrong. 3) Maybe if you checked your spelling and grammar in your job letters, you'd get a bit further in searches.

  • Now that I've put you on the table, I can say what I feel: you are no Feminist - you're an ugly little misogynist troll, trying to redirect the anger that job searchers have against an underrepresented and historically disadvantaged group. Please return to the damp little space you came from.
  • Original male poster- from what I gather, it's more about what we study than who we are. Sometimes those two spheres overlap, in the case of 'me-search' and the like, and of course we are embodied scholars. Then again, my name is gender ambiguous, so who knows?
  • Ugh. Tell me you did not just use the word "me-search" in connection with the work of women scholars. Even if you did not mean it, the elision here has a nasty implication about women's scholarship and the reasons women are (or are not) getting jobs.
  • Privilege still applies. There is no magic formula for job-getting, and the odds are against all of us (something like 1 in 300 odds of getting each specific job). Being a woman or minority doesn't help. From what I've seen, it's still a disadvantage. That said, being white, male, upperclass and Protestant doesn't guarantee someone a TT job either.
  • To original poster: If you don't like being male, you can always switch to being female and switch back again. Go see doctors in Thailand, they will give you a good discount and advice on operation process without psychological evaluation. Then, re-enter job market next year and see if there is a difference. Perhaps you will finally see how things are for everyone.
  • My impression is that it depends on the field and the particular job. If a department is looking for diversity, that doesn't mean they are looking for women or minorities necessarily, it may mean they are hoping for someone who is different from the people they have. I am a white female and lost out on a job to a male of color. I have no way of knowing what the discussion was that led to the choice, but I did notice that the department already had a lot of white women in the mix. Of course, he could simply be better qualified than I or give a better interview. I think gender and ethnicity might be a factor in some choices, but finding "the right fit" likely involves a lot more than that, including biases, preferences, unconsciously forming impressions based on whether a person is of a particular group, in addition to things like qualifications and personality. Women are historically underrepresented. In any given job decision, that could work against an individual woman or not. On average, I think women are still at a disadvantage, though it may not seem that way on the surface, particularly if a man finds himself on the receiving end of multiple rejection letters in situation where women got those jobs. On a side note, I disagree with some of the above responses that skewer the original poster for simply raising a question about gender and preferences in the hiring process. It's a valid topic for discussion and debate. The hostility and name calling is not helpful to anyone.
    • It was not raised as a discussion point, the OP claimed that women are being privileged. Also, adding that part about "being a feminist"? Sounds awfully like "some of my best friends are...". Finally, an academic poster who uses "their" instead of "there"? Unquestionably, that was a troll.
    • I catch plenty of academics in similar mistakes in emails and informal writing. People do not proofread on wikis and message boards. It's a post, not a paper. And I think the OP was absolutely raising an issue for discussion. The big indication of this is that he qualified his statements as being his perception and then asked for response. What part of that is not up for discussion? This did not need to be a flame war.
  • I was the poster who wrote about "me-search" and also did not appreciate the hostile interpretation of my comment above, especially because I am someone who not only has an ambiguous name, but also who studies gender/sexual ambiguity. I think it is just that I study/research something that relates to myself. I am not ashamed of that. To the hostile writer above, I recommend reading Gloria Steinem's op-ed in The New York Times where she similarly justified her desire for Hilary Clinton to be the Democratic nomination for president IN PART b/c she was a woman.
  • I am the poster who responded about "me-search," which is (as you should know) a very loaded term that is quite frequently used to dismiss feminist scholars, the field of African-American studies, queer theory, etc. Your post, placed within the context of someone complaining about women scholars, specificially mentions "me-search" in an ambiguous way that doesn't necessarily imply a positive view of it, and perhaps implies that women get jobs when they are "identity" candidates doing "identity" work (i.e. "me-search"). I do not have a problem with "me-search" itself--hell, it's what I do--but as someone who has struggled for recognition that it isn't just about me, I am aware that most people are not using the term as a means of reclaiming it most of the time.
  • I know what you mean, OP. I feel like being left-handed on the job market is really working against me. It seems like almost everyone who gets hired is right-handed. What to do? Should I become right-handed?
    • Don't you know? Handedness is a life-style choice. If you really wanted, you could cure yourself from your left-handedness, all you need is faith!! (yes, I jumped from gender to sexual orientation, but I just couldn't resist;-))
    • I'm trying therapy, but it doesn't seem to be working.
  • I don't want to speak for the OP, but when every single job listing says, "women and [minority/underrepresented/term du jour] candidates are especially encouraged to apply," this is bound to make non-female, non-minority candidates worried and suspicious. Perhaps then some parsing is in order: academia may be one of the few places where getting hired in the first place, or at least seriously considered, may be MORE likely because one is a woman/minority. But of course after that, hegemony reasserts itself: the boys' club, the dick-wagging and harrumphing in faculty meetings, the tokenism and other humiliating slights, tenure skewed to punish people with family commitments (historically and culturally more likely to be women and minority faculty), etc. I doubt anyone believes it's easier to be a woman or minority academic, it was only suggested above that women and minority candidates may be at a slight advantage in this job market. Perhaps this may represent a bit of cosmic justice, if only a little, but it still sucks for individual white males. It should be okay to complain about that so long as nobody's holding it against women or "people of color".
    • The statements on the job listings are just words - they are there to make the University look good. The fact is that in many fields (especially Engineering, but there are many other "Old Boys" clubs out there), a woman's name on a resume is more likely to send it to the bottom of the pile than to the short-list. Take a look at lists of interviewees in departments - if the proportion of women being interviewed is higher than the proportion in the applicant pool, AND the women have weaker applications than their male counterparts, than you can claim that women are being preferred. Personally, I have not seen it, and I'm in one of the most liberal of all academic fields. Again, the words on the job listing are meaningless, like "University of XXX is a family-friendly institute" - no more than an HR requirement.
  • That's quite right. I work mainly with old white non-Jewish males. They are so good at playing the PC game, maintaining nice facade, and some even married out. Every now and then they'd give out anecdotes on discrimination against women and blacks in class to impress their students. Most of them belong to the liberal left and made their careers out of it. Over the years, I realized that the membership hasn't changed much for decades, always the same old guys. Some of them are fundamentally uncomfortable with women, successful Jews, and non-whites being around as equals. They always say, we are going to hire a woman, young scholar, or person of color this year...a few years later, the place is taken back by another member of the club.
  • This ALL of course can cut both ways. Are there WASPy disciplines? Are there male dominated ones? Of course. Some are completely unapologetic about this too. We need not forget Larry Summer's comments from a few years ago. That being said, the demography of some disciplines have shifted dramatically in the past two decades. There are now more women in History than men. I suspect that the Humanities and Social Sciences are more diverse than the Sciences. I have been apart of more than one search where only individuals of one ethnicity and gender (and I do mean gender here) were shortlisted in the name of diversity. The basic point here, of course, is that using "race" and sex as qualities of evaluation is discriminatory to one group or another. Now, sometimes, such discrimination is necessary. Should, say, a department comprised only of faculty from one social background try to diversify? Certainly, but do it openly and honestly. Diversity searches do exist. And, I would like to add, as a member of a so-called minority, it is incredibly alienating and offensive to be judged based on naive conceptions based on stereotypes. That is the foundation of racism and sexism.
    • The claim that there are now more women than men "in History" is not accurate if intended to apply to PhD recipients. The January 2010 issue of Perspectives makes clear that women comprise 42.2% of the newest cohort of history PhD recipients. And although that is the largest percentage of female PhD recipients in history ever, it still lags behind the percentage of female PhD recipients across all disciplines (46.1%) and the percentage of female PhD recipients in the humanities overall (52.2%).
  • I wasn't aware that Larry Summer's comments were WASPY. He's a Jew and the comments were about differences between men and women in the maths and sciences. I don't agree with him but where does the WASPYness come in? [Sorry, I was quite unclear. My mistake. I have amended my post a bit.]
  • Aw, don't tell me we've reached the end of this thread already...I've been loving it!
  • I have a hard time with the statement that AAEO language is "just words," but maybe that comes from working in a profession where we take it as a truism that everything has some meaning. Not to mention that search committees invariably bring it up in interviews and supporting material requests. "How will you add to the climate of diversity on campus" sometimes feels like a hostile question, implication being that there are better "diversity" candidates in the pool. Beyond regular hires, one institution I've called home recently had "hires of opportunity." They could get extra money to hire a candidate from an under-represented group even where a regular search wasn't going on. So to the original point, I don't think it's unreasonable for some candidates, even those of us who are on board with the goals of AAEO hiring, to wonder if identity politics might be a detriment to them. As of now, I wouldn't trade the benefits to being straight, white, and male in this society for any perceived advantage in the job search from being under-represented, but it's hard not to wonder about individual cases.

In fact in my time adjuncting at two universities in two disciplines, I've had the opportunity to see about a half dozen hires. In every case, identity politics were discussed and it was universally accepted that it would be great to have a candidate who adds diversity to the faces of the faculty. Only in one case do I think it made a difference and an underqualified individual was hired. In the other five cases, the best people (including men, women, and minorities), got the jobs.

2010-01-15 You know what, crappy 4-4 school located in the middle of nowhere that accepts 95% of its undergrad applicants? Yeah you ... the one that interviewed me at MLA and sent me an exceedingly hope-inspiring unsolicited follow-up email and then decided it was only interested in candidates with a longer list of publications? You. You can bite me. I hope all of the folks you extend offers to either turn you down or take the job and then ditch you after a year.
  • Would you mind giving them a copy of MY c.v.?
  • Amen. I can't wait until the job market turns and karma repays all these lame schools that treat us like expendable pieces of meat. I look forward to when their overqualified candidates walk out on them and leave them hanging to take other jobs! Most of the faculty at these schools have worse qualifications than many of us on the market without jobs. They just benefited from being on the job market when the economy wasn't in such a mess. It's reasons like this that I want tenure to be abolished. It's the under qualified people already at these universities that should go without jobs not us just because we're shopping for jobs in the worst economy since the great depression.
  • I agree, too. While about half of my department (14 faculty members) does a great job, the other half would be blocked from getting tenure today because their teaching is beyond awful, their interactions with students (including advisees) are nil, and their publication records are questionable (I'm in a humanities department at an R1). What's more they're so high on themselves and make it a miserable atmosphere and quash all positiveness that emanates from energetic grad students and professors. And they can't be fired. Sadly, I'm learning more and more that academia deserves the bad rap that it gets from outside the Ivy Tower.
  • Sing it, sister or brother! I was an adjunct in a small liberal arts college, and I was told they weren't going to consider me for a tenure-track position because I was "underqualified." I have a PhD from an R-1, more publications and awards than any of the current faculty, and some of the best student reviews in the department. I used to love teaching there, too, until this search happened. Now I just feel like I worked my butt off there for nothing.
  • My favorite is when the interviewers at said podunk, liberal arts school with a crappy teaching load ask the glorious question "so why do you want to work here specifically?"...and want a serious answer other then "because I'm desperate for a job you idiot, why else would I be in a small town in rural Arkansas for an interview!" The self importance of many interviewers of just amazing...and I've been on both sides and tried hard not to do that myself.
2010-01-15 Anyone check out the cover of the latest Perspectives (the AHA periodical), whose cover states: "The job market: An Unhappy New year?" So kind of them to send it out a week after many of us blew a fortune attending their stupid convention.

I agree! As if we didn't know that the market is rough. Gee thanks for the reminder!

  • What bothers me most, actually, is that the article is exclusively based on LAST YEAR'S statistics. Couldn't that piece have been written in September? Way to be approach it as history, historians.
  • After 3 years on the job market I can honestly say I have nothing but contempt for the AHA as an organization. They're never getting another dime from me; I would burn my membership card if my $152 conference registration fee actually got me one.
2010-01-14 One of the joys of being on the job market is the need to check one's spam box, just in case. Today, the first spam message began: "Is your lack of degree holding you back?" I laughed pretty hard.
  • It's either laugh or cry, right? No, I believe it's our possession of degrees that's holding us back...
  • LOL! I have to say that this 'venting' wiki has continually made me laugh, and feel like I am not alone, during a process that otherwise makes me feel like I am a lonely failure. Thank you to all of the contributors on here :-)
  • Yes! It is a delight to read after a tough day!
2010-01-13 The Academic Job Search: A Love Story

Proceedings from the 124th Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association (AHA)

  • Hilarious! And I couldn't help but think that the job candidate who produced this video UNFORTUNATELY had a lot of time on his/her hands.
  • Thank you! And I'm sure there is a compliment in there somewhere. As an adjunct sending out applications I hardly have a lot of time on my hands. I've just finally straightened out my priorities.

Part II has now been posted:

Brought to you by Won Dum Joo

2010-1-13 I know that my professors are busy, but is it really so impossible to send in letters of reference on time? I've gotten three emails this year from three different jobs noting that I have letters missing. It's totally demoralizing that I'm eliminated for the job even before I get a fair review, especially in the middle of this terrible job market. It makes me feel like crap that I can't even get a reliable letter writer. I keep wondering if I've done something wrong or offended the letter writer in some way, or if they just secretly think my work sucks. And I'm running out of options for other letter writers. In my department, I'm stuck between the choice of unreliable-but-sharp and reliable-but-clueless writers, where the former understand and appreciate my work, and the latter who like me personally but don't really have any idea of how to pitch my work to a future employer. I'm going to have to go with the latter, though, because at least the letters will arrive, even if they don't contribute much to my application.
  • Letter writers can totally screw you over. Request them way before you need them. Don't worry, though. If you have a multi-year job search like most of us (ha ha) you'll always have a year-old letter you can use when recommenders miss their deadlines. Also, avoid having letter-writers mail them/upload them themselves. Interfolio is great, and even has a workaround for the electronic apps that require you to put in the email addresses of your letter-writers.
  • That's good advice. I'd also suggest, when possible, asking for more references than you need for your dossier file. So if you know you need 3 letters, ask 4 or 5 profs for letters, especially if you know one or two of them are flaky...
  • Interfolio is more reliable than letter writers. I can really sympathize with your agony. One of my referees never sent anything, but always affirmed "I'd be more than happy to write..." But none of his letters were sent. Fortunately, interfolio helped me figure this out, since his upload was always incomplete. I could ask other people. Another colleague found out during an interview that his third referee never sent letters. The SC gave him a shot regardless, because his two other referees were nobel laureates, and supported his work. The third one was just an insecure loser, who probably wanted the guy to fail.
  • Following up: (I am the Interfolio fan above) What I try to do is keep 5 viable letters, i.e. letters a year old or less. That's usually impossible, but it means I tend to have 3 I can send at any given time. The job search is year-round for me, since I've been scrambling for 2 years to find a TT. When possible, I send extra letters if I have ones that I'm confident will be good. I've actually had one job ask for 5, so I've needed all of them exactly once.
2010-1-12 I'm so sick of tenured faculty giving bad advice. I was repeatedly told that certain jobs were beneath me and I did not listen. I went out for every position possible. Every school had cool brilliant people - really top tier hires - so I applied. In the end I might end up among the elect, I might get lucky but had I listened to them I would have nothing and no more funding. They don't know. It's pretty awful because I love the faculty and I respect their work but they just don't get it - even after they have served on these committees. There is too much random to predict, too many unknowns and too much luck involved in this process. And I wish everyone weren't so sunny and optimistic with their salaries, their partners, their houses, their children and their tenure. This stinks - and even when you win the lottery the people who have slogged through with you, the people you care about who have made you less lonely, might not have a golden ticket and there is no explanation. And we all know every time we don't get a call back or a position because of this brilliant wiki but they are clueless as our options run out and we are passed over. The interests of contingent labor - i.e. graduate students, adjuncts, contract employees and non-unionized staff people - differ greatly from those of tenure track faculty. And even saying this out loud is perceieved as fighting words and you are perceived as a don't bee. It's just true. And how many graduate degrees do you have to have? One of the featured guys from Penn in who is an example of how to get a job from a Chronicle article had two PhDs! Wow. My undergrads will have to have mutant super powers to get in the door in ten years.
  • Today I felt the same way when I received a rejection letter from a position that fit my research expertise perfectly, but that one of my junior faculty members (who got her Master's degree from this institution) told me that she was sure I would at least get a first-round interview. She was so wrong. The wiki was oddly silent about this position until the rejection letters just came in, so I'm wondering if there was an internal hire, or at least someone specific recruited. Still, I am feeling like the poster above, because I think my last chance for some sort of a tenure-track job will be my upcoming on-campus interview at a teaching school that is not selective. Of course, as luck would have it, the wiki has not been silent about this position, including a rumor that there is an internal candidate. Argg.
    • To the first poster: yes, tenure track faculty are out of touch--particularly those already at the full professor rank who are pretty removed from the nasty task of looking for work. They think we have choices. They think we can choose between jobs we're qualified for, or can choose to leave the profession (instead of being forced out by the "market"). They don't fully realize that only 1/3 of new PhDs (and more men than women) will ever get TT jobs, and some of those will only get them after many years as adjuncts. I have been told (by my husband's school that refused a partner hire) that getting a second PhD could make me more attractive on the market. That sounds like the worst advice possible--if one PhD left me in debt and insane, imagine what two could do! In fact, a home tonsillectomy might be safer, more pleasant, and less costly.
      • You got told to get a second PhD, to have a better shot at a job? The fact that it's possible for anybody to even consider that "advice" summarizes what I'm beginning to regard as "the academic psychosis" so very well. Even more pathetically, if I wasn't married with kids, I'd probably consider doing exactly that. So, are we soon going to have a generation of double-PhD adjuncts? The administrators would really be in heaven at that point. "Dr. Unemployed, would you care to teach one section of Freshman comp, one section of Intro to film studies, one section of Modern Poetry, and two of Chemistry II next semester?"
    • I know this isn't the place for this necessarily, but looking at this page reminds me of how much anxiety and pain so many of us are feeling. The process is so demoralizing, and many of us feel we have been sold a bridge in Brooklyn. I just want to send my heartfelt best wishes out to everyone that things work out for you.
  • I too hate getting bad advice from tenured faculties, especially the feel good liberals who tell you that there are so many great jobs lined up for you. "Just dream on, kid, you will get one." After all the rejections, I feel like they are mocking me. It's creepy and makes me wonder why they keep bluffing.
2010-1-5 I wish I'd never aspired to anything beyond a lousy corporate job, because that's all I'm going to get. Five years on the market, one dissertation, publications that would get me tenure at most R1s in my field, more classes than I can remember and eternally high teaching rating, and none of it's worth shit. I'm tired of it, I'm tired of myself, and I'm tired of being told to be optimistic. And I'm just plained tired. I'm tired of working 80+ hours a week holding down a job, teaching classes, and doing research, because none of it will ever do me any good. I made a horrible mistake by aspiring to have a job that I don't hate, and so did most of you, because most of us aren't ever going to have a tenure track job. We'll just come here and gripe until we give up or die.
  • Or until you get a corporate job worthy of you! You are brave -- unlike many. If more of us had such self-respect, and cut our losses, we wouldn't all be in the mess we're all in, now. Many people go into academe, at least in the humanities, because they think they hate corporate life -- but they don't have an intellectual bone in their bodies, either. Where they've stayed and survived, they've ended up corporatizing the academy, for the rest of us -- because as it turned out, they were suited for corporate life after all. And they take places, among the faculty, that should go to the rest of us, instead, who do genuinely hate corporate life, and know exactly why we hate it, and what we want to do instead -- make it die! The fact is, as bad as things are now, this shake-out will be good for the profession: the system is bloated not only with administrators, but with faculty whose allegiances are uncertain or divided, and who are basically high-school teachers, as far as intellectual promise and commitment. Meanwhile, corporate life continues to be soulless, because everyone with a soul flees it, instead of trying to change it. We'd have a European-style welfare capitalist state by now, if academe hadn't sheltered the U.S. white-collar liberal-left for so long.
  • I'm pretty sure the current trend of new PhDs leaving the profession because of lack of opportunity IS NOT going to fix academia. Nothing is--especially not the further marginalization of qualified candidates. I think we are on a trend of increasing numbers of VAP positions and, being in one myself, it doesn't seem to me that the universities are going to halt the trend any time soon. Having a cheap and expendable labor force is too valuable--to the institutions. Yes, more of us should leave the profession, sure. But we won't fix anything by doing so. If we do leave the job market, that doesn't mean that there are any more opportunities for those who continue to apply. Unfortunately, only the universities can create opportunities and expand the market--and they're not doing that. Unfortunately in academia despair is rather logical, and hope much less so.
  • While I certainly respect the spirit of this conversation, may I just say that I know a holy host of brilliantly talented, creative, intellectually stellar, and committed high school teachers. Perhaps we'd do well - as a profession, I mean - to realize that smart people, indeed brilliant people, take up all sorts of livelihoods. A few reminders: Franz Kafka (insurance agent); Wallace Stevens (insurance agent); Walter Benjamin (couldn't land a solid teaching job to save his life, literally); Sheryl Crow (high school teacher). OK, so maybe Benjamin and Crow in the same line up is shaky. But I just want to point out that high school teachers often wield their own unwavering and fruitful "intellectual promise and commitment." It's just a different route, that's all. May this new year bring all of us the jobs we dream of, or at least jobs to pay the rent, however that manifests itself.
  • So -- Im kind of giddy with joy. I check this wiki on a regular basis, mostly looking for information on interviews/campus visits in my field that I wasn't called for (a.k.a. wikijections), but I rarely write a line as a lot of what goes on here strikes me as bitter and pointless. But this? Poster # 2 -- "Or until your get a corporate job" -- I love you. I couldn't agree more with what you write about the corporatization (?) of intellectual life in America. I genuinely hope that everyone with an anti-corporate intellectual agenda gets a job, rises up in the ranks, frees thought from parochial outlooks and self-interested interests, and shakes things up from the inside. But since the current state of things in academia has taught us to keep our hope on the tightest of leashes, and since most likely things will not change given the obstacles that, from down here in the murky adjunct waters, look nearly impossible to surmount, I hope at least that someone with a vision starts an Insurance Company whose exclusive purpose would be to provide a steady paycheck to the Franz Kafkas and Sheryl Crows of the future. Thank you unknown people in this thread for your blunt and fierce comments. And to the first poster -- you are indeed brave for admitting what many of us will perhaps never have the courage to admit.
  • "Wikijections"! What a great word! Thank you for introducing that to my vocabulary.
  • The thing about high school teaching is actually very true. I love working with students, and I don't exclude 14-18 year olds from that. In fact, some of my most enlightening moments as a student occurred in high school, and I'm still in touch with my freshman English teacher and my journalism teacher many years later. But guess what? I can't get a job as a high school teacher either! Thank you, recession. At least in the market where my husband's tenure track is, there aren't any open positions for people like me, who, with a PhD, both cost more to the school and require a two-year certification process. I may go down that route eventually but, at the current moment, paying my own way through a two-year certification program (it does still cost something, even if I were to join a special state program) for teaching (something I've been doing for ten years) sounds really unappealing. Maybe one of us will get a job in a state with less stringent requirements for PhDs who go into high school teaching.
  • To the above poster: you don't need a certification to teach at a private high school. Private high schools hire from CVs and experience. And they LOVE the PhDs. Just something to think about.
  • I did! The jobs are hard to get (and in many areas require a religious affiliation) and pay less than public. Also, crappy benefits, generally. If I taught hs it would definitely be public.
  • Wow! That wasn't my experience at all. I taught private high school for a year and have friends that still do. The junior faculty members made a good 50K+, senior faculty members made upward of 80K a year, there was summer research money, excellent benes all around. And definitely separation between church and state. I wonder if conditions vary from state to state? But I'm with you, actually. If I went back to teaching high school, it would be public, for all sorts of different reasons.
  • If I could just figure out how to spin myself to them. I actually sent applications to two different recruiting agencies for private schools last year, and was rejected both time pretty quickly - I think because my CV is so heavily weighted towards college level teaching. However, I have been substitute teaching in public schools this last year, so that might get them to give me another look.
  • The above posters are right in that the type of private high schools varies widely by region. My husband's current TT is in the South, which means the private high schools are mostly religiously affiliated (and pay poorly). No real prep schools in the area.
  • This is very relevant thread! For anyone interested- I teach public high school with my Ph.D., and it really is a viable alternative to the academic search, especially right now. Not that it isn't without its drawbacks! Teenagers can be very hard to motivate. Previous poster is correct about pay for private school in the south- I'm near Atlanta and pretty much wouldn't be able to pay my bills with a private school job, with just a few exceptions. And it's lovely not having to worry about publishing.
I just heard from 6 of the 7 places that interviewed me at the MLA: 3 rejections and 3 campus visits. I am grateful that something worked out even though I am not from an Ivy University. I guess even if I am rejected, I can say that things are not so ugly if you keep an open mind and keep researching and teaching.--I think this should be moved, and probably to a different page. Right--is there a vaunting page? Great idea! I dare you to create one, and I'll meet you there.// Thanks for sharing this, I was totally demoralized and your good news gave me hope. Good luck on campus!
  • Congrats! Your post is related to one of my "vents." While I understand that many SC have to wait until the spring semester starts in order to meet with other members of the SC, deans, provosts, etc., I feel that the line they give everyone, "we'll let you know on such-and-such a date" is just that: a line. The reason I say this is because I beleive that the SC members already have a very concrete idea of who they want to invite back and who they don't, so why make anyone wait any longer than they have to? While it truly may be the case that they need to consult with other people, the fact that you (and other people I know) have already been called back for campus visits makes me question the line that they give to all of the candidates. On the other hand, it could be that one particular SC is smaller than another, and able to make a decision more quickly. On the other hand, I can't stand waiting anymore, and I feel the longer I have to wait, the less of a chance I have.
2010-1-4 I know SCs are busy and the rejection letters are sent out by secretaries or student employees and really I can handle the impersonal nature of applying and being rejected. But it stings a bit more when you get rejections from people you know personally - grad school acquaintances, undergrad profs, people with whom you've share'd data, etc - and it's the same three-line form letter that the department has been using since the 19th century. Would it really be too much to scrawl a hand-written note at the bottom that says "So sorry Suzie, please keep in touch" or a quick e-mail ahead of the letter saying "we had to send you a rejection and I want you to know that it was a tough choice and nothing personal?" I know they can't do this for everyone and I shouldn't expect special treatment, but it really seems to shift the rejection from professional to personal when you get a laser printed signature from a name with a face.
  • Yes, one of many dispiriting discoveries this job cycle has been how little professional friendships matter on the job market, in more ways than one.
  • I'm totally in agreement with the poster above who desires more 'personal' rejections at least from interviewing situations that started out personal b/c maybe you already knew a member of the faculty, etc. I find it hypocritical that job seekers are constantly advised to find any way they can to make their candidacy personal (such as by reading up on the university's mission and the faculty research/teaching interests in order to make personal connections, or sending 'thank you' cards that reference a personal anecdote), yet this is not expected of (or at least not regularly practiced by) the search committee. And, the large number of applicants is not an excuse, since as a job seeker, in a sense I have had to 'personally' get to know at least 100 faculty when applying to 30 schools and therefore made personal connections between me and at least 3 faculty at each school.
2010-1-3 I'm sick and tired of search chairs and tenure-tracks trolling this site, telling us how tough it is for the poor search committees to wade through applications, or tenured old-timers who clutter the field because they refuse to retire and yet won't hesitate to blame us for an awful job market, or pissy search chairs who have the hypocrisy to lecture us about our attitudes, or people who already have a job trying to tell us that they have the same problems because they're looking for another job, or search chairs who post under the same IP addresses pretending to be a fellow job candidate, or even faculty bragging about how they are on their second TT job and telling us to stay positive.
  • Some baby boomers are hostile to young job seekers and it seems like they are going around cutting down trees.
  • Sounds like you're spending too much time on this site. Go where others reinforce the positive, and avoid the negative. Or grow a thicker skin and learn not to take any of this to heart.
  • ^^Its called "venting" for a reason. Relax. Kind of hypocritical (or ignorant) to tell others to develop a thicker skin, or to spend less time here, hey?
  • Not at all. It's a vent; it belongs here. Great. But that doesn't mean I can't offer advice to the individual.
  • I think it should mean that exactly. In general, I think it's annoying to offer advice on the venting page. It's for venting and commiserating. If someone asks for advice or opinions - great, but unsolicited commentary like yours comes across as pretty condescending.