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2011 - May 2012 Venting []


What are people's thoughts about working "stay at home parent" into the job conversation? On the one hand, I feel compelled to mention my status as a stay at home parent because (1) it explains why, if I am unemployed, I cannot do research all day and therefore really churn things out (and/or go to multiple conferences or spend all week there when I do go), and (2) what research/teaching I am able to do can be measured against the time commitment of having small children. It also explains why I am unable to accept part time work or uproot the family a semester at a time (meaning a greater chance for gaps in employment on my CV). On the other hand, stating this up front can seem strange or off to SC's, they are not legally allowed to ask about this anyway, and I get the distinct impression that just as in other job markets, there is a bit of a discriminatory attitude toward stay at home parents as being "distracted" in whatever way, placing us in the ultimate catch-22. So what say you all: should I talk about my "day job" up front? If so, can or should this be done in cover letters, or only if/when one gets an interview? What difference does gender make in this: is it better for stay at home dads than stay at home moms?

-- If your stay-at-home status might be a disadvantage, don't mention it. Emphasize your strengths, the things that work for your advantage. Focus on your academic accomplishments, not on what prevents you from accomplishing more.

Okay, but that's not really an answer. Is it a disadvantage, or isn't it? It's equivalent to having a full time job, but it's not something (I should think) one would put on a CV. Surely when looking for potential hires, the context of production is important. Wouldn't it be, if someone has fewer publications but a full time teaching load? And my question isn't merely about production: it's mostly about social mores and whether people look on such a role favoably or whether it weirds them out/turns them off, and to what extent this differs by gender.

-- Honestly, I would say it's a disadvantage. Do not bring it up unless they ask about it. Search committees are looking for any reason to winnow you out of the tall stack of applications they have in front of them, most of which are from people who are qualified to perform the duties of the position. But, at the same time, you need to be prepared to explain the gaps in your teaching and scholarship with a reason other than "I'm a stay-at-home parent." I'm afraid they will not see it as a full-time job, they will see it as a lifestyle choice, regardless of whether that is true or not. I think the biggest concern for SC's in your situation might be wondering what you would do if they hired you and there was no one to watch your children. Where are your loyalties going to lie? Will the kids be with you during office hours? Things like that, which all impact your ability to do the job if you get it.

  • I feel you. I went on a campus interview a couple of months ago, and really struggled to "perform single and childless," especially when confronted with a barrage of questions about my hobbies and how I spend my free time (uhhh...breastfeeding? Nope, can't say that!). It is unfair and unjust, but I think that our family status works against us. So, if I were you, I would do my best to keep that piece of yourself away from the SC . That being said, I would wager that dads have an advantage over moms in this area. Good luck!
  • I agree, I wouldn’t mention it. It is not a disadvantage, per se, but for SC it does not bring equal weight to your academia accomplishments during that same period - especially given your limited space on the cover letter. Having said that, be prepared to talk it up during a phone/on-campus interview. SC are human (or can be) and will appreciate the ‘dual-work,’ you are getting done and being able to manage time! Trust me, I have been there. I hate to say it, but stick to the professional goods - it’s all ‘bean counting’ at the early app. stage …
  • Although I think being a parent should reflect on our work ethic to any search committee, my experience is being a SAHP worked against me, even when I tried to leave family out of any discussions with the SC. Avoid bringing it up, if at all possible. After a rejection from a rather tedious campus visit for a part-time position (in one of the most expensive places to live in the country), I asked one search chair for constructive criticism; he said, "When I had time" to look for an adjunct position. Because I hadn't thought of that, apparently. I told my advisor (who finally decided to worry about my job prospects the year AFTER I graduated and still hadn't landed a gig), and her response surprised me. She said, "Did you ask them how easy it is to find a job in their local market?" Even she thought it was ludicrous. So, I may be jaded, but the mommy/daddy card WILL be played. And it's what's pushed me more or less out of the academic job search. Best of luck to you. I hope you have a better go of it than I have/did. I don't know anyone (read: any woman) who has a family, a completed and defended dissertation, and a tenure-track job straight of the gates.
    • Sorry to hear of your experience, which I'm sad to say is probably where I'm headed and partially where I've been. The ultimate fuckery of this job market if one has children is that even if I was able to land an adjunct position, this would not offset the cost of childcare. And for damn sure I can't move cities/states/countries for this kind of position. In fact, it's an open question whether tenure track would be better in anything other than stability, since asst. prof. pay is so low. It appears that choosing love of knowledge and love of family (i.e. getting a Ph.D. and having kids) has irreparably damaged my long term employment prospects and living standard. Now that I'm in my mid-30's with no significant non-academic work experience, I'm not sure what the next step is--there are links here and elsehwere about "transferrable skills" and "non-academic Ph.D.s", but in all honesty I'm just not seeing how anyone with a humanities or social science degree lands anything more than part time work based on anything other than connections and/or pure luck. :P
    • Yes, yes, and yes. Previous poster here. UGH. I've just tried to switch gears and find the next step...and hope for better returns when I do. Again, best of luck to the end of the day, for me, if I had to do it all over again, I'd go with my snuggly children and family. It took LOTS of time, but I think I'm finally at peace with the way things have turned out. My fingers are crossed you (all of us in similar situations) still catch a break.
    • If it's any consolation, I am a mom (two elementary-aged children) who did land a TT position my final year of my PhD program, just before I defended my dissertation. I did mention my spouse and children during interviews, which may have negatively impacted some job prospects (meaning some of the R1 institutions did not invite me to campus...but then again, they very well could have eliminated me for reasons other than my status as a mom). In the end, I am happy with my position. It may not be a R1 institution, but my colleagues accept me for who I am. I feel fortunate for my position; I wish more departments were more accepting of those of us who choose to balance family, teaching, and research.

What is the longest people have had to wait for a decision from a SC? I'm now halfway through week 9 after the interview. The chair mentioned it would take one month at the the interview. I broke down and emailed a short and polite inquiry after week 6 and the response was by the end of that week. I can understand that it takes time to get through the administrative hoops and all, but this seriously makes me wonder how much red tape one must go through in other situations (e.g. sabbatical, conference funding, etc) and if the administration even cares about its faculty. I understand that those outright rejected are supposed to get their rejections immediately after an initial offer is made, but I'd rather simply hear 'sorry, you are not number one on our list' rather than the eternal torment of 'maybe, later'!

-- As long as you're not officially rejected, be happy that you're still in the pool of final candidates, even if the chances are low. If you can't stand the "eternal torment," you can always withdraw your application...

-- Thank you for not answering the actual question and, instead, effectively telling me to not vent on 'The Venting Page'. Your snarky advise is well appreciated and I shall withdraw my application!

-- You can vent as much as you want, but keep in mind that this is a public space, and people might respond. In other words, if you complain about the "eternal torment" of being a finalist, be prepared for critical comments.

-- I am awaiting notice from an campus visit from the middle of March. They met the following week after two other canditates had visitied and I have yet to have any official notice. While I do agree that you never know, it is hard to imagine that the job is not gone.

5/27/12 (date)

OK. Is there a definitive word yet on whether a Humanities Ph.D and position in a Non-TT VAP type job causes a candidate to "spoil?"If so, is there consensus about the number of years after which this happens? I am coming up on the 3d year of a VAP job, hand, and about to enter the job market. I'm terrified. I have been told everything from "that is ridiculous! Ph.D. and experience IMPROVES your stock" to "there is a window that SLAMS SHUT after two years" to "seven years max at a VAP, then spoilage" to "as long as you have a VAP title and are not cobbling together random adjunct classes, you will be fine." What do others think?

  • I think you're pretty lucky to have a job. There are plenty of us who - for reasons of geography, family, discipline, etc. - don't have one... so are working a full-time "hobby," hoping to land a paying position at some point. So, no. I've had friends out of school for 5 years, bouncing from VAP to VAP, land a TT job. It all depends on what the individual school/department wants and, to a lesser extent, what's "popular" in your field.
  • [28 May 2012] No, there's no definitive word, and it really does seem to be discipline and sub-discipline dependent. That said - I'm in the EU and have applied for US tt-jobs in history and history/sociology related areas, and have been firmly (but unofficially) told by a couple of US universities that I am 'too old' or 'too long in the tooth' for a junior tt position. This happened about 4-5 years out from the PhD (so 7-8 years from the *start* of the PhD, as I completed in 3 years).
  • Above poster: telling you either of these things is age-based discrimination. You should immediately inform these schools' HR departments of their faculty members' infractions.
  • What constitutes "old" in the context of the academic job search? How to SCs determine a candidate's age? Most of the folks I know hitting the market are 30-35ish. Is this "old?" The entire "do you age out?" question seems indicative of blatant, discriminatory hiring practice.
    • You two misunderstand; it's not chronological age (which *would* be discriminatory and cause me to report it), it's academic age. Either that they want to hire cheaper, or they have a 'thing' for the 'up and coming' new promise, while the longer you go without a job the more they wonder what's wrong with you. It's unfair, but it's certainly not illegal. Whether I'm 30, 40 or 50 isn't the point, it's how long ago I graduated (<- i.e. got the PhD, not the BA/BSc!)
    • It's actually pretty easy to determine a candidate's age if a SC really wants to - the date someone got their BA/BS is a very good guideline, at least for the US. Most of us graduate from college at 22. Doing the math gives a ballpark age range. But yes, basing a hiring decision on age is discrimination... then again, requirements for academic jobs are so flexible, it would be hard to prove something like age discrimination versus "candidate just wasn't the right 'fit' for the department."
    • Although "long in the tooth" means chronological age, and "up and coming" and "new promise" suggest youth. I wonder if chronological age and academic age are (mistakenly) viewed by SCs as going hand in hand. It is easy enough to remove your BA grad date from the CV, and politely ask "why do you ask?" if the query about your college graduation date. Either way, in this market, it is ridiculous and erroneous for SCs to think that candidates "spoil" after a certain post-graduation date, especially if they are still publishing. What about the people who are ABD for 6 years and have taken 2-3 VAP posts during that time? Are they more, or less tainted than the post grad VAPs? The whole metric is irrational and silly.
    • For what it's worth, I started my degree later than everyone else, took longer than everyone else to finish, and then got stuck in a VAP for many years (like, they probably legally owed me tenure). When that position disappeared, I thought I was through, and I was unemployed for a while. But lo and behold, despite my age (both chronological and academic), something TT came through. It happened to be a position that my strengths matched perfectly. In the end, if you seem right for a place, I think your chances are as good as anyone's regardless of your age or how long you've held the degree. You just have to hope that such a position is available when you're on the market.
    • Thank you for this, above poster, and CONGRATS on your job! I appreciate hearing first hand stories like these.
    • I'm confused how you can be starting the third year of a VAP position, but only now consider yourself "about to enter the job market." You are in the job market, because you have a job, as opposed to those of us who have been looking for anything, VAP/Instructor/Adjunct or otherwise. Count yourself incredibly blessed and see it as a stepping stone towards something more permanent. Each year that I continue to look, but haven't racked up any teaching experience, I feel like THAT is what is detrimental to an application, as opposed to simply not having a non-TT job.
      • Indeed. I had a campus invite this year that went really well, where I was told they all "loved me", but I lost out to someone with "more experience full time teaching"--even though I've taught full time HOURS (without a full time contract) and have several years' worth of experience. I'd say, OP, that if you have been a VAP for three years and your PhD is in hand, you're extremely competitive in this market, and in fact you've been very lucky so far--with the usual caveat that whether you find the right "fit" for what a place wants/needs is a different story.
      • Thanks everyone. Yes, I need to count my blessings. I have a small child and a spouse in grad school, so the prospect of unemployment is terrifying, but all of you have reminded me to keep things in perspective.
  • I spent nearly eight years as a VAP before landing my first TT job. I was hired there as a junior person but paid as an associate-level. Shortly after that, I was hired away by a major research university at roughly the same salary. In the last couple of years on the market (i.e. when I was in the first TT position) I was applying very selectively at both the Asst. and Assoc. level, and getting interviews for both. Was I passed over for a couple of junior positions because I was deemed "too expensive" or otherwise undesirable due to time on the market? Possibly--it certainly seemed odd to me when committees went with folks who were less qualified by any measure. In the end, though, I think what matters most is what you've been doing with your time and the type of position you are applying (and hopefully interviewing for). For example, if you've been research-productive, a committee at a research university is going to say "wow. even in less than ideal circumstances, this person has done well, imagine what they can do with more resources?" Or an LAC committee might be similarly delighted at the broad range of courses you've taught, if that's been your focus. The key is to keep in mind the primary goal, whatever your current Visiting position, is simply to make yourself as qualified as possible for the job you do want, be it through continual research production or high-calibre teaching. Avoid any extraneous work (e.g. committee, advising) and don't have any illusions that doing extra work as a VAP will greatly increase your shot at a TT position in your current department. A CV only grows stale if nothing is added to it over considerable periods of time.

A couple of vents on job search-related pre-screening procedures: 1. requiring a credit check as part of a background check is not O.K., especially if this screening procedure is prior to an interview. Each one of these checks lowers your credit report, so if schools eventually make this a mandatory component of background screening, will more and more of us be deemed unemployable because of (job search) related bad credit??? No bueno. 2. Faith statements are annoying. We want to work at your school because we need a job, not because we luuuuuurrrrrveeeeee Jesus. Sorry. Making applicants do a faith statement just forces ppl to lie and humiliate themselves.

  • That's just flat out illegal to make you do a faith statement on the basis of your religious views. What school is this?
  • I'm pretty sure it's not illegal if the university/college is private and affiliated with a particular religion.
  • I did not realize it was legal in the U.S. to require faculty to be a certain faith - I thought you just had to agree that the college was that faith. I work at a faith institution in Canada and we have to sign a document to state we are christian, heterosexual and don't gamble (?!). We have openly discriminated against perfectly good candidates before because of the faith issue but we are protected by the law because apparently you have to be Christian to teach humanities courses at a Christian college. I do not personally agree with any of it but, as the OP states, I needed a job.
  • It's not illegal if it's a private college or university; in fact, many actually do ask for faith statements. But in all seriousness, isn't it better to have a clear sense of the culture of the institution before you go there? No matter how desperate you are for a job, you have to look closely at whether or not you're a fit. I have a colleague who couldn't make it beyond one semester at a very evangelical faith-based institution. She resigned and moved back to her alma mater and adjuncted for another two years before finding something else. It was that unbearable.
  • The poster above is right about fit. The religious fervour of the school I work was not made evident to me until after I arrived. I was told they were opening their doors to non-Christian students and wanted to broaden their student base. Places like that do not broaden anything - the non-Christian students are ostracised and I feel hypocritical teaching about human rights movements and equality at a place of higher education that openly discriminates. I am probably going to leave academia because of it - I needed a job and could not imagine what life here would be like but I urge early career profs to think very carefully about accepting jobs as religious institutions if you cannot stomach much of what goes on there. And it may not be obvious when you make a campus visit so make sure you ask to see policies before you sign a contract!
  • I currently work at a large, nationally recognized religious university of the more moderate variety. I was required to submit a faith statement (just a one-pager, not the 20-page crazy-talk variety), and I was expected to join a local house of worship as a condition of employment. While I'm not required to teach Christian content, or conduct Christian-themed research, more than 80% of my students are religious, and many are deeply so. The theological implications of my subject matter come up in class discussion frequently (not usually at my prompting). I also have students seek me out in office hours when they are grappling with religious issues. Quite frankly, "luuuurrrrrrrrv[ing] Jesus" is part of the job, and you can't wish it away or fake it (for the long haul). And to repeat: I work at a moderate Christian university; in the past, I have turned down offers from more evangelical colleges because I knew it wouldn't work out. I'll add that while I'm a devout Christian, I now hope to relocate to a secular university where my faith will be a more private matter and I can conduct research in more "liberal" areas. In any case, I find it distasteful that someone would lie about their convictions to get a job they won't like and can't fully perform; secular humanists have convictions too, no? Or do the ethical stakes seem lower to those who aren't religious? Would some of you say that it's no different than boasting of greater expertise in a secondary area than one really possesses, which surely is common? Would be interested to hear others' thoughts.
  • Interesting thoughts. Although OP's tone certainly came off as obnoxious, I think that there is a point there. I agree with the above poster that there are legitimate reasons to require faith statements as part of a process of ascertaining a candidate's fit with the school. However, I agree with a kernel of OP's statement, insofar as requiring written documentation to gauge a candidate's level of devotion raises some ethical issues. I currently work at a liberal religious institution, and consider myself religious, but I'm not affiliated with a certain denomination, and unsure about many aspects of Christianity. This caused some anxiety vis-a-vis faith statements, mission statements, etc. I agree with above poster that faith is a process, in many respects a private and deeply personal journey, and appropriating it as part of a job application process diminishes that in a way. I'm sure that secular humanists have plenty of ethics and convictions, but in such a tight market including a personal statement about faith introduces some tension. As with any other piece of application documentation, there can be a temptation to over-state qualifications, especially if one really wants the job, so I suppose faith statements aren't excluded from this? Again, I realize that I'm being overly generous to OP, and lying about religious beliefs IS distasteful, but I see how grey areas could present themselves.


Does anyone have or know a story about a long wait (at least three weeks) after a campus interview, which resulted in being then offered the job? I was told by SC at a very good public institution (engineering) during my on-campus interview that the timetable to make a decision would be 4 weeks, but frankly I dont know if this is just smoke and mirrors. Has anyone legitimately waited 4 weeks and then gotten an offer, due simply to annoying bureaucacy? Especially it a public institution with a huge department? Also, if they're keeping you hanging because the job was offered to someone else but they want to hold on to you just in often will that other person say no and candidate #2 gets the offer?

  • I have waited a month for response after a campus interview, and been offered the job. Usually paperwork has to be signed by deans, president, etc., and this can take a long time. However, I have also found a rejection letter in my junk email box, a month after a campus interview. The only thing you can count on is that you either got the job, or you didn't. (UPDATE - 5/20/2012) I was just offered the job for which I interviewed on March 28. Hang in there!


I am moved to add to the post below. I completed (what I thought was) a successful campus visit to a 4-yr lib. arts college over a month ago and was told that I could expect to hear back in two weeks or so. To date, I have not heard another word from the school. No response to any of my thank yous save for a nicely-worded note from the Provost and departmental Administrator. This is my first year on the market and am wondering if this is the norm for the job search. It seems terribly unprofessional not to (at very least) respond to after-visit thank yous, moreover to be incommunicado for more than a month after the interview. How much time and effort does it take for a candidate to be informed that another has been found more suitable? Where is the respect and courtesy?? Have those on hiring committees forgotten what it was like to be on the job market???

  • I hear ya. I had an amazing campus visit. Was told they were talking to the dean immediately after the visits had concluded, and I'd hear by end of Feb. My thank-you emails to more than half of the faculty were answered swiftly and with lovely responses. And yet I have heard nothing. I'm assuming I didn't get the job. But no idea what the delay is. This happened to me last year and the year before (yay, job market!)... so it's just the new normal. Politeness has little place in academic job searches, I guess...
  • I am currently in a very similar position, after having been told that the faculty, at least, would have their decision the week after my visit, and then it would merely be a matter for the Dean, etc. Instead, no word at all in four weeks. This school has had midterms and spring break since my visit, and I suspect that they may have also extended an offer to the other candidate. I can also understand why they may not want to inform me of this, hoping to keep me waiting so that if their first preference falls through, they can come back to me. All that said, it shouldn't be too much to ask to send me a note with some broad sense of the timeline as it appears now: if they've made an offer, that person has a standard two weeks to respond, and negotiations shouldn't take more than a week or so after that. So at the very least, they could make a vague estimate of when I can expect word on "the process." This is all especially disappointing given that it's a very small department in a very small liberal arts college, so it's not like some enormous, Byzantine bureaucracy. Apparently, these are the times we live in: not only the discourteousness of not being timely, but never bothering to follow up with people whose lives they can change, and who they were serious about bringing in to their faculty--possibly until they died or retired. It's truly bizarre.
  • This is a common part of the job-search process. It's happened to me a few times too: weeks of waiting for that call after a campus visit that felt as if it went quite well; the sense of invisible wheels turning painfully slowly within invisible wheels. I have also been on the other end of it, as a faculty member in a department where the people in charge make a conscious policy of keeping the other candidates in the dark during the entire process in which offers are negotiated. This is a common practice, though I've never understood why. The explanation silverbacks at my institution give is that it's a legal matter dictated by the administration. Everything needs to be confidential, and treated as if the position is not definitively filled, until the anointed candidate has signed on the dotted line. My own opinion is that there is another factor involved: cowardice. Like Steve Carrell in the Office (or like any human being, I suppose), humanities academics are terrified of having to confront someone they have rejected. This fear is particularly acute in cases where there is a TT job at stake because, given the sheer number of candidates, the reasons for rejection after the campus visit are often, at root, arbitrary. It's precisely because this is a person "whose life you can change" that one feels a holy terror of telling that person "sorry, no." One worries about the insults and sobbing and emotional awkwardness and ensuing gnawing guilt the interaction might produce, and one opts instead to say nothing for as long as possible.
  • I agree with the above post: this is, unfortunately, a very common occurrence, and complicated negotiations can really stretch out the agony for those still waiting to hear. While part of it is dictated by policy and legal issues, a lot of it is, indeed, plain cowardice. I had an experience once where the promised two weeks turned into two months. I learned I didn't get the job (and also who did) via the wiki and the proverbial grapevine, and only some time after that got a short and perfunctory "sorry, no" email from the department. The only bit of leverage you might get is if you have another offer. Because offers are time-sensitive, you can send a polite email to the chair to let them know, say you are still interested in the position, and ask if they could tell you anything about your status. If they want you, this news will light a fire under their feet. If they don't, perhaps they'll be freer to let you know the outcome. Otherwise, if the wait is getting long and there's no response, it's best to assume that they have made an offer. You could still get the job if the candidate declines, but the chances of that are very slim.
  • Cowardice? Why? How? Aren't we (mostly) adults here hoping for an opportunity to provide instruction and guidance to future scholars? How about those of us who tend to take rejection on the chin..."Well, that-one-was-not-for-me-so-I-am-moving-on-to-the-next" attitude? Cowardice. (Shaking my head...with raised brows).
  • This happened to me, too. I was the first of three campus visitors, but while my visit finished on a Thursday the other two were scheduled for the next week. The department chair told me that they'd make a decision within 48 hours (over the weekend) and walk it over to the administration the following morning. Since it had gone extremely well, I really thought I'd get it. Ten days went by and I emailed the SCC. Got a very nice response thanking me for my thank you note and saying something about being caught up in the wheels of bureaucracy. So I waited more. Finally 6 weeks after my campus visit I emailed again because I'd had to change my old cell phone number, which I left on just for the job search, and wanted to give her the new number. She wrote back letting me know that I didn't get the job--saying some very nice things that somehow made the rejection feel better--and apologized for not letting me know sooner, but the administration had insisted that she wait. She also said that a letter had been mailed out. If I hadn't emailed I wouldn't have received this nicer rejection as the letter was pretty standard. I don't understand why they simply cannot say, at this time we're not offering you the job. What are we going to do -- sue them? The only possible change is for them to give us the job if the person who originally took it decides to take another job. It was a VERY stressful 6 weeks waiting... a quick phone call or email would have allowed me to move on sooner.
  • I had a similar experience to the above poster. Five weeks after my campus interview, I finally emailed the search chair, who called me the next day to tell me that I had not gotten the job, but that I "made it very difficult" for them since my interview went so well. Ironically, the Dean's (grammatically troubled) rejection letter arrived the following day. For this reason I'm very glad I called, because had I only gotten that badly written, perfunctory letter after such a great visit, I would have been quite hurt and angry. I got the distinct impression that the faculty assumed I had been informed by either the Dean or HR, and the search chair was I think slightly surprised and embarrassed that nobody told me. While it's obviously under the purview of the Dean and/or HR to send out the formal letter, I still think it should ultimately be the responsibility of the search committee (or absent that, the HOD) to cordially inform the other candidate(s) that they didn't get the job. How hard is that small courtesy, really?


This is not so much a vent as it is a question (is there a specific place to put job market questions? If so, my apologies for the misplacement).

This hiring season, I submitted an application for a t-t asst prof position at a Southeastern SLAC (a position not listed on the Wiki). I received a request for additional materials. Within one day of submitting those materials, I received a request for a Skype interview. Between the interview request and the interview date, and after significant research/digging about the college and faculty, I learned of an internal candidate for the position. Not only has this person been teaching all the position's courses as an adjunct, the internal candidate is also the spouse of the search chair (different last names).

I prepared for and completed the interview anyway (internal hires don't always work out, and I like the school), and it seemed to go quite well. I had an answer for every question, used a few buzzwords but not too many, and received lots of "that's a really great answer" and head nodding and laughing, etc. The SC told me to expect a word from them no sooner than one week, as the committee would be unable to meet to discuss candidates before then, but "for sure" within two weeks.

It's been four weeks since the interview, and I have heard nothing back. Should I take a wait-and-see approach? Committees can be slower than planned, I know. Or should I email the SC to ask for a timeline or whether I'm still being considered? If so, how should I phrase that? I have a full-time yearly contract position now, and my contract is coming up for renewal in just a couple of weeks, so I'm a little pressed for time in terms of job acceptance. Or should I just figure that campus interviews have been scheduled, and I didn't make the cut? It's getting late in the season, and I don't imagine that many colleges and universities are fooling around with long waits on unfilled positions.

  • You should probably email the SC politely. You have a right to know whether or not you've been rejected. Though in my experience, no answer = no job. This is the second time for me that the SC has never contacted me after an on-campus. This year, the college clearly offered the job to someone else (not only is it on the wiki, but the institution from which the new hire graduated posted a congratulatory note on their website stating where all of their graduates recently got hired!). I'm not sure why SCs seem to think it's ok never to speak to someone ever again after an on-campus visit. In this most recent case, I not only waited an extra 2 weeks before hearing from them, but when I did, it was to request additional material, and since then, nothing. I hope that if I ever get a job, and I am ever on a SC, I have the basic humanity to do what even corporate America does: have the balls to reject someone.
  • Interesting. At my institution you must remove yourself from any search process that involves a romantic or familial relationship. I'm not sure which HR department thinks that the spouse of a candidate is a good fit to chair a search. That raises red flags for me and I've worked in higher edu administration for 11 years.

This isn't necessarily a vent as much as it is a well-worded panic attack. Hi, I'm ABD at a reasonably well-known and decent public university, where I write about American cultural studies. I also have a graduate certificate in another field and six publications, three of them academic and three creative. I have been working in education since 2001.

This is my first big job search; between my MA and PhD work I scored an awesome job at a state public school, a 9-month position that paid well, and I got to go through a whole interview process and everything. So I've done the campus visit and all that before. I'm not super-worried about that, but what I am worrying and fretting and having anxiety about is how difficult *this* job search seems to be. I'm working me arse off on my dissertation in hopes of graduating in May so that a fellowship I may or may not be still in the running for is a possibility (I haven't heard anything from them, not even a rejection, but on here one postion out of the three available had been offered - what does that mean?! ARGH!) I've applied to teach in Asia for three weeks this summer, though I may have a summer class at the community college I've been teaching for (for the past 3 years), but I was only given one class offering for the fall. My whole future is one big question mark. I need to soldier on and finish chapter 5 of the big D so I can present it at a conference this week, but I am starting to wonder what the point of all this is, and if I'm eligible for anything ever at all. I am starting to think that the idea of a May graduation, just like the awesome fellowship (I have a feeling it's a dashed hope, but I cling anyway) is not going to happen. And I'm really scared. Help?

  • I recommend not graduating until and unless you get some kind of teaching position- adjunct, visiting etc. Let us say you graduate in May and go on the job market in October, if you do not have any teaching title you will be at a great disadvantage. I know not defending your dissertation puts you at a disadvantage too. But I think the former scenario is better. Will you get a job in the future? No one can say. A lot of us have been on the job market now for three years, entered it after the 2008 fall but have not tt job after publications, great campus visits etc.
  • I agree with the poster above. It is important to remember, however, even if you have your degree in hand and occupy a VAP position, you will very quickly start to "spoil" as far as search committees are concerned. ABDs are more attractive as hires because they aren't known quantities yet, and can therefore appear to SCs as being "potentially" whatever their imaginations fancy. As it is, once you finish your dissertation, you have perhaps two years to get a job, three at the outside. If, after that, it doesn't work, you'd be best advised to give up and consider some other career. By the way, you certainly ARE "eligible," don't worry about that. Alas, hundreds of other people are also "eligible" for every permanent position for which you apply. The problem, therefore, isn't you, it's the market. Cold comfort, I know, but it's what there is to offer.
  • I do not agree with this logic. Until you actually finish your dissertation, you must convince a search committee of your potential. Many people actually advance to candidacy and never complete their dissertation. By having a completed degree you will be able to show a search committee more than your potential as a scholar; you can actually demonstrate your work and your ability to finish a project. The notion that your value decreases over time and eventually expires is ridiculous. As long as you market yourself, continue to be academically engaged (write, research, etc.) then your value will not go down, regardless of your position. Also as a side note, I know much of what I am saying and what the previous posters said is dependent upon your field, so take that into account.
  • Previous poster, I'm not sure what your discipline is, but if you are talking about any kind of humanities field, where evaluation of scholarly merit is essentially subjective (despite whatever illusions of "objectivity" the discourse and praxis of actors in the field seek to impose), "the notion that your value decreases over time and eventually expires" is most emphatically not ridiculous. Though one can always cite a few exceptions ("My friend knows this person who knows a person who adjuncted for seven years before getting a beautiful 1-1 TT research job!"), in the vast majority of cases, the longer a person has "been on the market," the less he or she is "worth," just as in real-estate, the longer a house is listed but unsold, the lower the price its ultimate buyer will be willing to pay. As for the question of whether an ABD candidate has "the stuff" to finish, this is often fairly clear from both the CV (refereed publications? if so, it's pretty likely) and from sample dissertation chapters, which SCs usually request of such candidates. In a field where post-docs are the norm, and one is accustomed to seeing job candidates who blend graduate education with experience in industry and the like, the situation would certainly be different. In the humanities, however, the advice the first two posters have given, depressing as it is, remains valid.
  • For what it's worth, I have been informed on no fewer than three occasions that while everyone on the committee was impressed with my application, they were forced to put it on the automatic discard pile because I did not have my Ph.D. in hand. I am now worried that since I have acquired it, I will become among the purported many for whom there is a small 1-2 year window to get a job before I start to look tainted. This is hard enough for anyone out there, but I also fear it's exacerbated in that my primary "job" right now is stay at home parent and researcher/online teacher by night/weekends (which as you imagine, is not conducive to being all that good in any of these roles). Therefore it is also impossible for me to "stay busy" with anything more than extremely part time or haphazard employment while I pray for a TT job--which, although I've gotten much closer to attaining this year, looks like it may not quite happen. If only I had any clue about the state of the academic job market before I started my doctoral studies, I would have spent time formulating/preparing for a plan B. Whatever you do, I recommend working like hell to land your dream job, but also spending as much time and thought as possible on the likelihood that you never will.
  • Let me start by giving all my sympathies to the poster above. I know that place, and it's a tough one to be in. While those three responses may be indicative of something, I'd say it's also quite possible that what you are seeing there is simply an inability on the part of the SC member to provide a more thoroughly reasoned explanation for why you didn't get the job. With so many applicants for any given position, there are probably untold numbers who simply didn’t get the job because…they didn’t get it. Or, perhaps, the SCs chose to impose the PhD-in-hand thing as a way to winnow down the 200 applicants to a more reasonable number, which can be quite a challenge. Certainly, ABDs do get hired. However, it's true that a candidate is stronger with the degree in hand, then weaker again if he or she goes more than a couple years without landing some kind of tt job. Remember, however, that there is far more to life than this career sweepstakes. First, take pleasure in your child or children and the sense of purpose they provide. Academia will never match that, even though the culture of grad school and the difficulty of finding a tt job might make it seem like getting one is more important than life itself. It is not. In fact, it’s important to remember what “having a tt job” will actually involve: if you do manage to get hired and achieve tenure, odds are very good you’ll be trapped in that position for life, because (unless you’re among the .05% who are superstars) the job market only gets tougher to crack once you’re not tt anymore. This situation can be its own circle of hell, since at that point you’ll have too much invested professionally (and perhaps be too old) to ever have the possibility of starting over doing anything else, regardless of how ruthlessly, year in, year out, your institution forces you to “do more with less,” steadily taking away every small thing that used to make the job enjoyable, because deep down, they know they can (what, you gonna leave cause we don’t pay for no conferences? cause we ain't buyin books for the library no more? Go ahead, punk!). One need only read Terry Caesar (see the vent dated 2-29-12 below) to realize that even tenure isn't proof against bitterness, depression, rage, and the nagging sense that one has wasted one's life. In fact, it can be a one-way ticket to an entire career of just that.
  • Just thought I'd add my two cents here, for what it's worth. To the original poster, I really sympathize with you! I would encourage you, however, to finish your PhD soon. If not this spring, then maybe the fall would be a good compromise. I think there's such a backlog of applicants for most fields these days, that ABDs have a much harder time getting t-t jobs than they did in the past. It definitely does happen, but I think it tends to happen more at the top, top schools (at least this is what I've noticed) where they may be willing to take more risks on a person's potential as a scholar. For other jobs (even at really good places, but not say, ivy league) the risk that an ABD may not actually defend is often seen as too high. Anyway, good luck!

From Spansh Talk Page:

I do not come from an Ivy but an Ivy equivalent and have friends from Yale, Princeton, and Harvard, and there are plenty of rejections to go around amonst us. To the contrary, I would say those coming from middle-tier universities fare even better in some cases, because many SCs view them as sure things and can understand their heavily dated approach (Do they still quote Foucault?). Not to mention that many faculty in the post-2008 market are intimidated by candidates that apply for their positions, because they publish much more than they ever did as junior faculty.
Response to above: Let me speak for many: fuck you.
Seriously - - do you actually believe that crap? I mean come on. GET A CLUE. There are mid-tier PhD programs in English that have not had a t-t appointment in over a decade. THAT’S ANY TENURE-TRACK APPOINTMENT, ANYWHERE, IN TEN YEARS OF “HIRING” SEASONS. As you asshole Ivy and Ivy-equivalent “victims” chalk up those rejections, why don't you all get together for a trip on some Crimean River.
Actually, I [a new poster] am a t-t at one of those "mid-tier" universities and recently we had someone come to campus from one of those real (not equivalent) Ivy institutions. That person ended up not being even considered for the position, because the job talk consisted only of close readings of a canonical text. Quoting Foucault would have been refreshing.

I'd like to bring the original poster's attention to a commentary from this venting page (see below, about 10 months of posts):

"Terry Caesar's book should be required reading by all the landed pissants on their way to MLA with Georgetown and UTexas and UChicago and on their agendas: Traveling Through the Boondocks: In and Out of Academic Hierarchy."

Eh, that one is a bit snotty—and from an author who has a lot of social capital to lose if Caesar’s concepts were to catch on. Deconstruct the nonsense on which my precious superiority hinges??!! (I mean could you be more pretentious in your bio-statement than Nehring: “She lives with her daughter in Paris, Los Angeles, and Chania, Greece.” By the way, she went to UCLA and Stanford, which receive fire from Caesar…) She’s the 1% with a lot to lose. Better attack the egalitarian!

R: From a SC member. By reading some of these posts one can only hope not to hire such colleagues ever. How much resentment and naïveté combined! There are good and bad candidates everywhere and yes, there are Ivy idiots….and there are injustices... But I would bet that the reason some (I repeat, SOME) people have not gotten a job is not because of prejudices or because of the unfairness of competing with Harvard’s prestige, but because of their credentials and work (or maybe interviewers realize that behind the so-so lecture there is a biter unbearable individual, and some times they can even identify their IP addresses).

R: Another SC member here--yes there are good and bad candidates at all levels, but the numbers do not demonstrate that SC-s function with that in mind. No one from Harvard doesn't get work. Very few from ivies and "brand" institutions end up leaving the profession. That's an injustice -- especially in light of the unethical admission policies at top schools. There may be good candidates at mid-tier places, but they don't tend to get hired, or even have the chance to interview in many cases, as they are inevitably subordinated to those linked to a brand. Blind (that is, no affiliation) application packets would drop the top cohort down toward the middle, so it isn't done... The Humanistic fields are plagued by this problem. Ironic, as many "top" academics are progressive and even (gasp) socialist... but shifting the system towards faculty bodies that have democratic representation (% of ivy candidates interviewed equals their % in the applicant pool, same with state schools) would be an admission that the current structures of scholarly authority are unstable. The day-to-day identity of the elite professor (in reality, any prof) is too tied up in believing in the myths of his/her authority to deconstruct it by altering these hiring patterns. I am sure this previous poster and many others on SC-s believe in their own impartiality in candidate evaluation, but in broader terms, it's lip-service. Brand schools get placements, per the numbers game. Period. The looming dilemma is that of course they are not better candidates, at least better in the multiple of their overrepresentation.

I support interviewing state school applicants before elite ones whose demographic is already overrepresented in all sectors of the professorate. But I'm part of a tiny, tiny minority, at least on this campus.

  • Sigh. In principle, I approve of this notion of "affirmative action" for non-Ivy candidates. It would certainly be the just, socially progressive thing to do if the humanities job market were functional. The simple fact, however, is that the market is NOT functional. To solve this problem, we need to look further upstream: not at the individual fates of the particular candidates produced by the system in any given year, with all their intellectual merit or lack thereof, but at the system itself. Every PhD-granting institution depends on TAs, who are usually doctoral candidates, to sustain its program of humanities teaching. This is true from Harvard all the way down to the proverbial Whatsamattawit U. At public institutions of whatever tier, eviscerated by several years of deep cuts and therefore forced to raise enrollments to record levels, the demand for TAs is only growing. Because of the way the system is structured, each of these TAs has to receive a doctorate at some point: the PhD is envisioned as the "walking paper" a servant receives at the end of his or her long indenture. The fact that a TA-ship is temporary, a waystation on a journey to allgedly "better" things, is what makes the low pay bearable. The system is therefore primed to churn out more and more PhD-holders at all levels. At the same time, the number of tenure track positions is shrinking everywhere. Sadly, the math is obvious. We've got a Malthus situation here: population outstripping available resources, and continuing to grow nevertheless. It is not sustainable. Intentionally giving hiring priority to students from the afflicted public institutions is like putting a band-aid on a sucking wound. Sure, it's a gesture, but all it will do is make the ever smaller pool of lottery winners more diverse. The basic problem, and the increasingly vast human wreckage it leaves behind, remains unsolved.

This is not a vent per se, but given that the purpose of the vent is to relieve some job search anxiety, I hope it is not entirely out of place, and may introduce some much needed levity. I was driving yesterday and an '80s song by an artist named Kim Wilde came on the radio (apparently it is a cover of a song by the Supremes). The song is called "Keep Me Hanging On":

Set me free, why don't you babe?
get out my life, why don't you babe?
'cause you don't really need me
but you keep me hanging on

Why do you keep a-comin' around
playing with my heart
why don't you get out of my life
and let me make a brand new start
let me get over you
the way you've gotten over me, yeah

Here is another one by Go West called "King of Wishful Thinking":

I don't need to fall at your feet
Just 'cause you cut me to the bone
And I won't miss the way that you kiss me
We were never carved in stone

If I don't listen to talk of the town
Maybe I can fool myself
I'll get over you I know I will
I'll pretend my ship's not sinking
And I'll tell myself I'm over you
'Cause I'm the king of wishful thinking

Any other recommendations for a Wikia soundtrack?

Best of luck to all on their job searches!


Any insight out there about why a deadline might be pushed forward more than once? The time frame has been increased by over a month now. Does this mean that their current pool has the wrong fish? (Including me, eyes glazed and mouth agape.)

  • You're not alone. I just keep hoping that they need 5 or so viable candidates, and that they aren't contacting anyone until they have the required number. Is this just wishful thinking from a fellow fishy?
  • A similar thing happened to me recently -- the job didn't change the deadline (it had a soft, "review begins" date anyway), but it reposted the ad more than two months after the original date. I thought this meant I was dead in the water (I submitted by application several months ago), but was just offered a 1st round interview. So sit tight -- just because they need more candidates doesn't mean that you're not in their yes pile.
  • Bear in mind that search committees (and even departments) rarely have a hand in directly ordering/paying for job advertisements. Frequently it is HR that handles all that stuff. Obviously I can't speak for these particular situations above; however, I can give one example: in the past at my current university we were doing multiple hires in my department; each position was posted at different times. What I noticed was that on and, every time one of our new positions was posted, all the previous ones were reposted as well. So while the committee itself was not trying to extend or repost the positioin, the way HR was handling things made it appear that way. So, in short, while there may at times be reasons for a search committee to purposely extend a search timeline, I'd say that is very rare, and that there is probably some other reason for the job being reposted that has nothing to do with the search committee's decisions or perspectives.
  • OP here. This deadline changed on the HR site, first by two weeks, then another week, then another week. It never reposted to a job site, and I only knew about the date change by going to the school's site. Now the job has disappeared on the HR site, but I called and was told the job was still out there and I should "feel free to apply." Hmm.
  • Regardless of the mechanics, the point only is to say that just because the job appears to be renewing its call for applications or in some other way signalling that they want more applications doesn't mean that they don't like your application. That said, the response you got would prompt me to email the admin of the searching department and/or the search chair to confirm that they do, in fact, have your application. To those who might say that contacting the search chair is not advisable, I think that a simple caveat -- "I got this response from HR, which made me concerned that perhaps you never received my application" -- is an understandable explanation from the department's perspective.

Dear Search Committee, Please check your secretary's emails before she sends them out to candidates invited for a campus interview. They should not include the following:

1. The name of the other candidate

2. The flight information for the other candidate

3. The email address of the other candidate

With all this information and some savvy Google skills, I now know there are only two of us visiting campus and I know the other person's name, field, dissertation title, teaching ratings, and much more. The pressure is enough without all this extra info.

  • Oh wow, that is insane. But maybe you will be glad to know that you are a much better candidate than the other one? :) Hopefully your talk and everything goes well! I am glad that such a thing didn't happen in my last campus visit. In fact, none of the other candidates' talk info were advertised on the website of the school either.
  • This happened to me too! But I could tell the emails came directly from the search chair instead of his/her administrative assistant because of the personalized "sent from iPad" postscript. The other candidate's name was in the first email and I was offered that person's proposed visit dates, then in a follow up email over a week later describing the visit - in the section on the teaching demonstration there was a response to the other candidate embedded within it that was saying the candidate's idea about doing a teaching demonstration on "X" was appropriate. The chair never noticed any of this or at least never commented on this during my visit. While it may have felt like an inside "edge" to know the other teaching demonstration topic, my field is small enough that I was easily able to determine who this candidate was and recognize that he/she was a BA alum of the institution and his/her academic profile stated a strong desire to return to that area. The institution is a small liberal arts college whose website shows that a significant number of faculty share the background of having attended the college as an undergraduate and returning after receiving their doctorate elsewhere. The department was small enough that I didn't doubt the search chair knew this candidate as an undergraduate student there (and did I mention the emailed name was a shortened nickname version of the candidate's actual full name listed on his/her official profiles?). So what did this make me think? That the search chair was composing every email about the visit with this candidate in mind and I was the "fill-in-the-blanks poorly" afterthought candidate. I was grateful for the campus visit experience (it's my first year on the market and first campus visit) but let's just say I was given a timeline of the beginning of this week when the offer was to be extended, I have not heard anything, and I'm not going to hold my breath ;). I am tempted to write the search committee a letter about this experience when all is said and done to encourage them to be more considerate in their future hiring practices.
2012-02-07 Is the Bloomingdale Executive Training Program from Seinfeld a real thing? I want...err, I mean, my friend wants to know...

To research institutions who claim they want their faculty to be civically engaged and have "leader in community service" or "premier globally engaged university" plastered all over their websites: when you tell me in my interview that my extensive civic engagement/community based learning experience is exemplary and that is a primary reason I attracted your notice... and then in the same interview tell me that if I were to gain a position in your department I will have to avoid engaging in the types of programs I have been involved with and developed for years so I can "keep my head down" and have a book in press within 2-3 years, this is what I say to you:

What creature changes his or her DNA so easily? How can you near-dictate 2-3 years of utter disengagement and expect the same type of person capable of that would then be capable of "blossoming" into an engaged scholar after the first tenure review?

Figure out what your institution really wants, figure out what type of scholars you're really looking for, and stop wasting my time. And maybe amend your website to read "premier globally engaged university for tenured faculty only."


Dear Search Committee,

I'm not foolish: I don't think that just because we had a great interview and you were all incredibly nice and excited about my work that I deserve a campus visit. I don't doubt you were incredibly nice and excited about every great candidate you invited to interview. But can I tell you something? Don't ever say things like "I see you fitting in perfectly to our department" and "for my final project before retiring I would like to work on X [area of my research] and I'd like to work on X with you" - especially not in the same interview. Because when I discover on the wiki that you haven't invited me for a campus visit it makes my estimation of you change from being genuinely nice people to... genuinely callous people to be polite about it. Please remember something and put yourself in the position of your interviewees: we are hungry for a job and when you throw those crumbs of connection at us, we make a meal of them until we hear from you (or don't hear from you and rely on the wiki). So please: compliment me, us, our research all you want - but don't stay these things that overreach (even if you are thinking them in the moment - stop yourself from uttering them!). In other words, stop acting like the stereotypical first date that woos and never calls because we should be able to treat each other better than that.

I agree 1000% - x2--there are ways to be complimentary and generous about a candidate's work without being fawning.

It's sad, but the reality is that one good piece of advice is not to take ANYTHING too seriously with job searches until you've seen a written job contract. For example, a few years ago I was called by a department chair and invited for a campus visit, asked to start scoping out flights. I didn't hear back until a few days later when I was told that I wouldn't be coming to campus after all (no reason given), but I was still on their "short list." Unfortunately, I had turned down another campus visit so I could do this one. Was also told one time by a few members of a search committee (after a few bottles of wine at dinner) that I'd definitely be recommended for hire. I wasn't. In fact, I never even heard back from the department at all. Not even a form letter, and this was an R1 school. In short, academic jobs are no different whatsoever than any other job--lots of bumps in the road, many of which you never see coming. However, having been on about 7 search committees over the last few years at more than one school, I can say that most people that misinform or fawn may be careless--and sometimes ignorant--but usually are not purposely malicious. Some overstep their boundaries to be nice to candidates. If so, it's usually because they are genuinely interested in them and their work and forget the contexts in which they're communicating. It happens all the time (unfortunately candidates are trained to prepare themselves for jerks, not the opposite). In short, concentrate your energies on interview preparation and take ALL committee comments with a grain of salt, the good ones and the bad ones.

- A usefully clarifying remark - thank you. (from "x2," above)

- Thanks, I think we do spend too much time preparing ourselves for jerks. (from "1000%" above)

- A2: I think hiring departments and faculty, as well as candidates (all we) should keep in mind that this is an exasperating and wearying but a necessary process and that most people are not sadists. Freud once wrote “Neurotics live in a world apart, where… only ‘neurotic currency’ is legal tender; that is to say, they are only affected by what is thought with intensity and pictured with emotion, whereas agreement with external reality is a matter of no importance.” In our profession, we also tend to live in a world apart, certainly a neurotic world (not that there is anything wrong with it), where a nice comment--most likely honest or the expression of enthusiasm for someone’s work--is construed as cruelty. I understand the distress but remember that committees not individuals make these decisions, and that an invitation or an offer are simply the result of a negotiated consensus among disparate opinions. I would say: that most likely, professor X, that was so enthused with your work, was honest (and right) about it but he or she was defeated on a committee… I wish you good luck with this process. A teacher of mine once recommended me to concentrate on my work; at the end, as an academic you are your work and this concrete result of your efforts and intelligence will take you where you want to go (or at least close)…


I can't fricking take it anymore! I spend 19 hours a day refreshing my email and double-checking my phone! It's REALLY BAD FOR MY DIGESTION!

This is how I felt all day! Based on what I gathered during my campus visit today might/could be the day when they notify candidates and I'm dying! Not sure whether they'll call or email, so I alternate between pushing refresh and opening my phone to check for missed calls... If they offer to someone else, then I have to wait almost two weeks, right? UGH!!!! And tomorrow is a non-teaching day and other than the gym, I'm home "working." UGH!!!!!! Will this never end?

Reply: I know how you feel. I just spent three hours crying after I received a lovely rejection letter in the email on which the Chair of the department hand wrote a little note to me about how great it was to meet me and talk to me. I am tired of feeling like this and have decided that this is the last year I put myself on the job market. I am going to go an do something else. I love teaching and writing but I cannot take this emotional rollercoaster anymore. I am getting old waiting for the right job to come along. Good luck to you, I hope one day all bringt phds get the jobs they trained for.

Reply 2: ^^^ You should try again. The letter from that chairs tells me you were very close... Best wishes!

Reply 3 (to reply 1): DON'T TRY AGAIN, I am in the same situation, in my second visiting position, no campus visits yet this year, but I have been on more campus visits in the last 4 years than I can admit to without being embarrassed (well over 10), I have cried so many times that I am surprised I have tears left in me, and two weeks ago got to learn in an email that even though people in my current dept. seem happy with me, and one search committe member even said the initial interview was just a formality for me..that I was "in", that I wasn't even a finalist and got to watch all the candidates come for visits and get oohed and ahhed over as I have to show a brave face and pretend it doesn't bother I too am getting old waiting for the tenure track job, putting off finding a spouse, starting a family, and while I LOVE my job, I too will be leaving "academia" if something does not come this year, nobody gets how hard it is or how much TIME it get a book published while in a visiting position will get me a job someone said, what? I went on 6 campus visits in 5 weeks and taught 4 classes in one semester last winter, publish? really? there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing something else, that is my plan, because while I have great student evaluations and am not too bad at research if I do say so myself, I apparently SUCK at campus visits. This means I won't have my dream job if it doesn't come around this year, but right now I dream of a job as a secretary with medical insurance where I could actually see my family once in awhile.

(to Reply 3). Oh, my god. This is happening to me right now. I've been a VAP for three years, was told my department didn't even want to have a search, they flew out one other candidate and guess who is getting the job offer? Not me! My only hope right now is that the other candidate doesn't take it because I put all of my eggs in this basket (or rather, had them put in for me as I got nothing from my other applications, not even a g-d phone interview). Is it because I'm too old? I don't know. I spent all day Friday crying after I found out. I'll go hard core on the market next year but then I am DONE. F- all of this.

- No one can tell you what you should or shouldn't take or suffer or stand. But is it at all possible to send a few discreet emails asking for frank feedback about what you "did wrong" in the campus visits? What if it turns out to be something you could fix next year, like low energy or saying a few wrong things during dinner or not giving enough attn. to undergraduates' or graduate students' opinions? Just ask for one or two lines, nothing that would take up a lot of time for the old SC members, with the understanding that you've no axe to grind but just want an objective opinion at this point. And then apply for only five or six jobs next year, just the ones you'd really love, while simultaneously exploring your other options; clearly you have the time management skills and energy to have a "real job" and go on the market in a reduced form. Of course, it might be something "wrong" that has nothing to do with your performance whatsoever, but it's seems like you're at the point where you would rather hear something concrete than "probability rules are against you" and "it's a lottery even at the campus interview stage." This is just meant to offer vague support in whatever decision you make. :(

-I'm in the position of waiting to hear after a campus interview. The committee said it might take up to a few weeks to let me know. I'm a week in and going NUTS. A few weeks of this waiting crap?!! All I can think of is stuff that I might have done wrong. Can a comment at dinner really make or break you? What could they possibly be talking about for a "few weeks"? Granted I've never been on a search committee (I'm on the market for the first time) but it seems like it would be a relatively straightforward discussion after they've met their three candidates. I have another campus visit coming up next week, but I really want the first job. I wish they would just make up their minds already!!!

-Hang in there; the waiting is terrible. But there are all kinds of possible reasons for the delay, starting with the fact that while your whole life hangs in the balance, for them this search is just one more task in an already full schedule. While you're thinking about nothing else, they're teaching and attending other committee meetings and watching their must-see TV show in the evening and all the rest. They may not yet have found a time that everyone's schedule is clear to sit down for a meeting. Then once the SC makes a decision about who they want (assuming it's straightforward, which it isn't always, when people disagree and argue for different candidates), there are administrators who have to sign off on it, and who have to put together a formal offer with all the terms in place, before they can call. And the search is probably even lower on the to-do list for the administrators than for the SC members. Finally (and I know this isn't what you want to hear), there's always the possibility that they've ranked the candidates and offered the job to someone else first, but they haven't contacted you because if the first candidate doesn't take the job, they want to offer it to you. So build in another few weeks that the ball is in another candidate's court. That's not necessarily the case; in fact, a week is a short enough time frame in this game that it doesn't necessarily mean anything one way or another. Best of luck.


I feel frustrated knowing that Search Committee members are trolling the Wiki. I feel like this essentially prevents me from wanting to post updates, for fear that the search committee will see them and be able to pretty easily deduce who posted them, and I am not entirely sure why, but that makes me uncomfortable! This should be a space for job market searchers to freely share information...and it just seems that when there is the constant threat of being surveilled by potential employers, such free sharing is inhibited. I understand that committee members want to ensure that there is not false information being propogated about a job (such as changing the due date--which is pretty unconscienable), but still....

  • If you want to post, but are paranoid, you could always cover your tracks by calling your information "second-hand" and being a bit more vague about the exact date. Also you could create a UserID to mask your IP address and thus your general location. Just some practical suggestions.

I guess my vent is that there is less of a reason to vent this year...damn!

Job Market Looks Brighter for Some Ph.D.'s

2011-12-23 I am taking a big-time Academic Jobs Wiki break for the rest of the year. Hope you all have the chance for a few drinks, good companionship, and a great many deep breaths over the next few days, and that the person reading this gets one of the many, many jobs I won't be getting. Have a wonderful holiday full of anapestic Santa-related verse.
2011-12-22 I know search committees deal with unforeseen circumstances, but what's with changing due dates, particularly informally making them earlier than originally posted? I've applied to three positions this year where the due dates were listed as December 31, 2011, and in one case, the search committee had clearly begun making a long list at the end of November/beginning of December based on their skype interviewing, while in two other cases, the original ads were both removed in the middle of December. Granted, two of the announcements said that review would begin "immediately," but I'm genuinely curious as someone relatively new to the job market: when that's the case, should I always be aware that search committees might not feel obliged to give full consideration to all applications received by the official due date?

  • Just a thought, if your primary source of information has been this page then don't worry too much. I know of at least one person that posts false and misleading information about searches at schools in my discipline. When you see inaccurate information posted about a search at the school you are attending; it only takes a few minutes to match the IP address to other posts. A few phone calls later and you have a person obviously trying to discourage other applicants.
  • While that's undoubtedly true, it's also true that some search committees begin reviewing applications early and start contacting candidates before the deadline, sometimes even as far as phone interviews. My own opinion is that this is very unethical if they have a listed deadline, as there are legitimate reasons to apply closer to it (waiting on the acceptance of a paper, say). But based on comments on this issue last year, not everyone agrees. Therefore it's usually best to apply early, if you can.
    • OP here: thanks for your comments. Sounds like applying earlier can be advantageous, even if dubiously so (in my opinion as well).
  • Thanks for your comment; it turns out that one of the positions I was talking about suspended its search, so maybe that's why it deleted its Inside Higher Ed ad in the middle of the month. Don't know about the other two though. Also, to be slightly off-topic for a moment, how do you view IP addresses of wiki posters here?
    • At the top of the page, note the "Edit" button. Next to that, there is a down facing arrow which, when clicked, will reveal a "History" button. Click that button and it will reveal a world of information. Only those with an account will be excluded from the histpry data. Enjoy.
      • Thanks - that's helpful to know.

This 'vent' is from a tenured faculty member who has recommended several truly outstanding candidates for humanities jobs this year and is feeling a sense of despair. These candidates all have publication records (not to mention teaching experience) that far exceed what I and my cohorts had coming out of an Ivy-esque institution a decade ago. But because our doctoral students come branded with the name of a public research institution (albeit a very respectable one), not swathed in Hahvahd crimson, they are getting passed over in favor of candidates who in some cases have nothing better to offer than prestige. In many cases, our candidates actually WANT to score a nice little 3/3 job at a liberal arts college, even if it isn't top-ranked. They don't grumble about living in slightly substandard locations, and they know that they'll in many cases be teaching students not nearly as bright or well-trained as the ones they've been teaching as doctoral students. Yet the interviews are still granted, in many cases, to candidates graduating from the same seven or eight institutions that have dominated the market for years -- even though scholars from these places don't have nearly the publishing track record that our students do. (They also won't, in many cases, be seasoned teachers or generous, cheerful colleagues). Why do smaller colleges and second- and third-tier research universities fall for the prestige of schools that don't actually train their doctoral students to do the things that these jobs demand (eg, teach passionately and creatively, participate in an intellectual community)? And why, even when I recommend a candidate, not yet even graduated, whose publication record far exceeds the demands for tenure at most smaller colleges, and whose work is as stellar as it is prolific, does that candidate get passed over in favor of Ivy candidates who haven't published a single damn article yet? I am really beginning to believe that (1) search committees don't want to hire anyone who is smarter than they are, and (2) academics are about as shallow and brand-conscious as your average teenage girl.

  • Perhaps the more pertinent question is this, then: if your graduate students have no reasonable hope of getting jobs, then why do you continue to admit them?
  • OP, you make it sound like Ivy league PhDs are do-nothings and sourpusses, and you couldn't be more wrong. I know all too many PhDs and ABDs from Harvard, Yale, etc. who are committed and creative teachers, have stellar publication records, and would happily teach at smaller and lower-ranked colleges, but still can't get those jobs because of all the advanced assistant profs. -- and even tenured profs. like yourself -- who are jockeying for a better place in the sun.
  • (Not the OP.) Now hold on there, pardner. When a tenured or tt prof takes a job somewhere else a little further up the food chain, his or her old job opens up the following year for someone else. As for Ivy Leaguers, I've been on a few search committees, and even argued in favor of hiring an Ivy Leaguer, but he was voted down because of two concerns: one, that he wouldn't be a good fit for our non-Ivy League students, and two, that he would likely have one foot out the door from the beginning, and we'd have to do the search all over again in a couple of years. I didn't agree with that logic--I'd had more recent experience with the job market than most people in the department--but there you go. If he had persuaded most of us that he could relate to our students and that he'd love to stay with us, he might have gotten the job. On another search, an Ivy Leaguer lost the job because she asked someone in the department, during the campus tour, how she could get out of teaching Freshman Composition. My point is that, at the campus interview stage, this sort of thing matters a lot more than one's credentials. In fact, if you're applying for a job at a college that emphasizes teaching, you might want to downplay that stellar publication record. If you bring it up, it raises the question, especially among older faculty: would this person really be happy here? Does this person understand that this is basically a teaching job?
  • OP here. Of course there are stellar Ivy league candidates. Arguably, I was one, and so I am in a good position to know how bogus it is to value candidates from the kind of school I attended over candidates from slightly less prestigious schools (in all modesty, the training my students get is much better than the kind of training I got -- if one can even call what I got "training". I expect that top Ivy applicants will get the best jobs, in certain cases. But I know from personal experience that candidates from top schools who get mediocre jobs are bitter, whereas many top candidates from not-quit-tippy top programs would not be bitter (and are in many cases equivalent scholars and more well-trained teachers). My experience as admissions director of my program has taught me that there is often no substantive difference in quality between our students and students at, say, Yale or Berkeley, except the "brand". As for why I continue to admit students, I don't. That's the decision of our current admissions director, with guidance from our department chair and dean. When I was admissions director, I reduced the overall number of entering students by 50% over 5 years. So I hear you. But until three years ago, every student whose dissertation I directed got a TT job within 2 years on the market, so obviously further readjustment is needed now that the job market is even worse than it was before. And one last thing: I am so dismayed by the fact that new job openings go to professors already on the TT at other schools that when my program had a new position (in another field) two years ago, I argued vehemently that it was morally imperative that we give the job to the best candidate who didn't already have stable employment. That candidate got the job.
  • I am not in the humanities so here is an outside perspective. Shouldn't you all quit bickering and just be happy to have a job. If it is so hard to get a job in the humanities then who gives a s*it where your degree is from, be happy to be employed. In other words, get over yourselves. In every single field there are elite schools and their graduates get preferential treatment regardless of their productivity. Schools want those big name PhD's in order to recruit other PhD's, funding, students, etc. It is part of the dysfunctional system that is acadmia.
  • I am not the OP, but I agree wholeheartedly. I am a TT Assistant Professor with an Ivy League past who is also tired of the way my non-Ivy students are received. I will also add that most of the Ivy candidates we see on searches do have less teaching experience and have received significantly more resources to produce the same number of publications as their "second-tier institution" counterparts, which should be an important consideration for a department that needs sustained research production and talented teaching. In response to the poster immediately above, you might recall that this IS the venting page, where bickering is allowed, including your own. But more importantly, silently accepting a dysfunctional system never fixed anything.
  • Well, as an Ivy Phd who has been on the market in the humanities for five years while continuing to build a teaching and pub record and has not had a tt nibble, I question the idea that Ivy Leaguers are getting all the jobs. Much of my grad school cohort, many with books out and strong evals from multiple years of adjunct teaching now, also have had no nibbles and are starting to leave the field. If Ivy Leaguers are walking into all the jobs, I don't know them. Instead, I've been told after 2 different interviews at places I really wanted to teach and that seemed like great fits, that the interviews had gone really well but that I wasn't selected because they guessed that someone with my background wouldn't want to stay and would probably have other offers. Which feels crushing when they're places I sincerely wanted to make a career. I'm not sure there's anyone in this market who can count on offers.
    • To the above poster: Right on. To the OP: I'm normally the sort of person who completely buys this sort of class based/anti-elitist argument. But I'm at an Ivy, I'm damn near done with my diss, and I have had 0 nibbles. None of my friends at said Ivy who are currently on the market have more than 1 AHA interview. Many of them, including the ones who work with the biggest names, have truly tremendous output in terms of quality and quantity, and are just generally fabulous people, haven't had much of anything. Not even the ones who have been on the market for 3-5 years. As far as I can tell, no search committee is really willing to give ABDs much of a second thought. In the past 3 years, no search in my home department has brought more than 1 ABD; often they bring none. It's a buyer's market, and us ABDs are cheap, desperate labor. Even the postdoc market is apalling: 500, 800, 1000 applicants for 2-4 positions? It's not just your students who have wasted the better part of a decade of their lives, only to work at the nearest Borders Books upon completion of their PhD.
    • I have some bad news for you about Borders...
      • Now I'm depressed.
    • Again, to the OP: I am a Ph.D with a publication record (in top tier journals) and a provisional book contract (with a good academic press). I have sent out close to SEVENTY applications and received ONE interview. Again, if you think that the prestige of Harvard Crimson, Stanford Cardinal, or California Gold means anything special in this job market, you are mistaken--the Gold and Cardinal haven't done a lot for me.
    • It's not that the prestige of those places doesn't mean anything (it helps when the most famous woman in a field says "this is one of the three best students I've had in 35 years"), but there are a million other things going on right now in this job market. I'm on a SC right now. We had an unbelievably strong pool of candidates from which to choose. It was really painful trying to narrow it down. I can guarantee the OP that prestige of institution was not one of our top criteria. However, a couple of the prestige universities have incredbly strong programs in the field in which we were hiring, so they each sent us about 5 really excellent candidates. I can also say that the work being done in the few really famous programs in this field was, on the whole, generally more interesting than stuff coming out of anywhere else. That's just a fact. Why wouldn't it be? Best faculty and research resources, most money, highest admission standards, etc. Yes, some of the prestige U people didn't have the strongest publication records (though some did), but several of those without the strong pub records had incredibly strong credentials of other kinds-- e.g. an array of research langauges and experience or really, really fascinating and ambitious projects that all that funding allowed them to try and pursue. At the very end we had one candidate in the mix for a campus interview who was from a third tier institution. That candidate didn't ultimately prevail, but not because we were worried about the lack of crimson on the letterhead. She/he's topic simply wasn't as good a fit in our Dept. Not quite what we were looking for. Yes, She/he had a stronger publication record than at least one of the candidates we decided to interview. But so did a number of the candidates from prestige places who didn't get an interview. It's not always the number of publications, but the kind of work, if that work fits what your Dept. needs, if the person has a good preliminary interview and appears to have some clue about teaching, and so forth. I can say something else: a lot of Prestige U candidates are really well prepared for their interviews (professional development is another advantage at Prestige U). And we could be incredibly picky with whom we invited to campus because we had way too many good candidates to choose from. There are WAY too many talented people out there for the number of jobs. Lots of State U people got rejected in our search. Lots of Harvard/Princeton/Columbia types also got rejected. That's the market right now. My only advice for job candidates is that not only must you be productive, and your work important, but you need to be 1000% prepared for your interview. And sometimes that's not good enough either. It's a crapshoot out there. You not only need to be good, you need to be lucky. Sometimes it's also really helpful to have have the right demographic profile. When you're trying to narrow a pool of 20 great candidates down to three, things like that begin to play a role. Being a woman will not by itself get you on campus, but being a woman in a male dominated field who is one of 20 incredibly strong canidates that the SC is trying to narrow down to 3 can help.. And when Prestige U is cranking out a higher number of incredibly strong candidates than state U., it's most likely that more Prestige U people are going to get lucky more often than state U candidates.
    • Interesting perspective above; thank you for that. One thing it suggests is that committees can afford to be very, very choosy about the particular aspects of this job that matter to them the most. So the poster above suggests that at his/her institution, the candidate's research topic matters a great deal, along with generalpublication quantity. At the institution where I am temporarily employed, on the other hand, I've been told that they are looking for how broad an array of needed topics people can teach and are trying to suss out who is sincerely eager and willing to work the 60-70 hr/wk schedules that are necessary in the first few years just to get their courses up and running, while getting great teaching evals and demonstrating the know-how to teach to (and develop rapport with) a variety of types of students. One question I have, then, is how one's letters of reference play into a market like this, if they are standard letters being sent out to multiple places. Of course you can tailor your own cover letter to different schools, as best you can figure out the different departments' proclivities from the outside, but how are recommenders supposed to pitch their students as alternately amibitious, productive researchers and completely devoted, talented teachers, plus whatever other profiles may be sought? I have strong supporters, but I can't ask them to write two or three different letters apiece, never mind 50 or 60.
      • I would just ask your writers to produce a single letter that speaks at some length to both your research and teaching (if they don't have enough info on the latter, and many faculty advisers don't, try and give them some useful data). Then make sure to tailor your own cover letter to the particular job. Also, tailored letters can sometimes backfire when the faculty member totally misreads what kind of institution he/she is sending the letter to or sends the wrong letter. I've never been more impressed by a tailored letter than a generic one all things being equal. Your best bet, it seems to me, is to have a single letter from each writer that throughly covers all aspects. Then you can emphasize your own key qualifications for each place in the cover letter. That's how I would do it. But there are a lot of different opinions about these things.
      • While tailoring your own letter to an institution makes a lot of sense, insisting on tailored recommendation letters is IMHO a waste of time. If it's a great letter, it's a great letter, however generic it might be. You're much more likely to piss off your recommenders by demanding uniquely crafted letters from them than gain any marginal advantage over other candidates.
      • Interesting how this thread has gone from a sharp critique of a broken system to advice on how to perpetuate it
      • It's because it wasn't a good argument to begin with.
    • Don’t you find a bit misogynist the sentence “academics are about as shallow and brand-conscious as your average teenage girl.”?
    • The person above who noted that this thread has "gone from a sharp critique of a broken system to advice on how to perpetuate it" is onto something crucial. So many of the contributors here have begun and ended in the same way. They start out by noting that they are Ivy Leaguers, or people with steller publication records, or what have you, and that they have in fact not been able to secure any kind of job; then they conclude, just like the OP, by suggesting that someone *else* must be getting those jobs, whether that be "Ivy Leaguers," "people who already have TT jobs," "people with more teaching experience," or whatever. What all these responses, taken in aggregate, would seem to indicate is the following: it's not that the jobs are going disproportionately to one group or another, it's that THERE ARE SIMPLY NO JOBS. Or, rather, that there are so few jobs that getting offered one is basically arbitrary -- provided you've attained a certain level of competence. The motivational-speaker advice about how you need to be 1000% prepared in your interview, work like Comrade Stakhanov, close your eyes and think of England and so on is just so much eyewash, which leads to an unproductive "blame the victim" stance. Most humanities PhDs will NOT get jobs, regardless of how good they are, and that is not their fault. Giving well-intentioned "advice" about how to "do well", in a situation where simple material reality has rendered individual efforts to "excel" more or less irrelevant, is whistling past the graveyard.
      • Rubbish. That there are more candidates than jobs is a commonplace. But to conclude from that that the whole process is a lottery. and individual efforts make no difference at all, is as useless an analysis as saying that it's all down to willpower or virtue. Once you see job candidates in action, it's stunning to discover how unprepared so many of them are - to the point of being unable to simply articulate what their research project is, and why it matters. Will being well prepared for the market guarantee you a job? Of course not. Will it improve your odds? Absolutely.
    • As the person who wrote that comment, I commend myself for my insight. But seriously, poster above, you are right. We have entered an era of academic Calvinism.
    • As the person who wrote the comment to which you responded, I would like to say in my defense that I _did_ qualify my statement about the process being arbitrary with the phrase "provided you've attained a certain level of competence" -- and in the current situation, it's true, that level is extraordinarily high. I should have been clearer about the high level of the "baseline" here, but I would argue that even in my blunt formulation, the point still stops short of "rubbish." It's just painful to hear, is all. As a repeat SC veteran myself, I agree that a surprising number of candidates actually _are_ totally unprepared, even at the campus visit stage -- I've seen ABDs "wing" job talks, if you can believe it; many also don't actually bother to track down and read what people on the faculty have written, and thereby get wrong-footed by what would have in fact been pretty predictable questions, if they had done their legwork. What I find galling, however, as I'm gratified to see you also do, is that many who handily _exceed_ the necessary baseline level of competence, who are creative scholars, charismatic speakers, and exhaustively prepared, still fail to get jobs. The phrase "Academic Calvinism" strikes me as an incisive way of summing things up. Given that this is the USA, and we lap secularized Calvinism up with a spoon, my guess is that the system will continue, crunching the hopes and futures of brilliant young people like so many bones in its jaws, for generations to come. The ever growing number who sacrifice everything and yet still "fail," who are not among the "elect," will simply blame themselves, assuming a burden of disappointment that could well stunt the rest of their lives; those in power (advisers, people who actually have TT jobs, especially at prestigious places, those of us on SCs, etc.) will enable them, in order to preserve the increasingly delusional sense of meritocratic entitlement that makes it possible for us -- victims of our own pathetic and all too human vanity -- to face ourselves in the mirror every morning.

So I have been sending out applications once again for this season. In the past I've been told to not hold my breath for "highly desirable" locations. So I thought I was doing good with Richmond, VA, Missoula, MT. My assumption being that NYC and its surrounding areas and all of California are the "highly desirable" areas of the country. But, observing peoples reactions it seems as though the deep south is the only undesirable part of the country. I'm wondering what everyone's opinions are on this. What areas of the country are more competitive (regardless of your field of study)? Are there certain areas where people are more apt to accept a lecturer position even if they could get an assistant professor in Alabama? Just curious.

I suppose there are exploding superstars who can turn down jobs left and right, waiting for one in the right neighborhood of Boston or Manhattan or something. Nice for them. Maybe I just want to believe this, but they also tend to be the kind of people who look down their nose at the south. I taught at an SLAC in the south last two years, kind of town where I saw a lot of stars and bars with "if this flag offends you, you need a history lesson." That's not so nice, but otoh, in this day and age, as my wife says over and over again: any job is a good job. bloom where you are planted. and my father says: make yourself useful. We actually liked the place, and were sad to leave. This year I'm teaching in the sparsely populated Mountain time zone. People had snooty things to say about this place too, and I love it. I'm looking forward to landing somewhere else 'undesirable' soon, because it keeps turning out well--an adventure. That doesn't answer your q., but that's my $.02. To briefly answer your q., I think I'd do everything I could to avoid a job in rural Oklahoma, or Los Angeles, but in this hiring cycle, anybody who turns down a legitimate TT job for any reason other than another TT job gets a sidelong glance from me.
    • ^^^ I like your attitude, poster above. That's a healthy take on "undesirable" locales.
    • Hey, yeah I like your attitude too; this whole thing sucks BIG TIME. I am just applying for all schools that fit my research profile. However, as your advisor tells you too, you can ALWAYS switch jobs and it is easier once you land a tenure-track to switch to another position. Also try out international cities?
    • I have done quite a bit of my education in one of the above-mentioned "undesireable locales" and I must say you have to make the most of it. In attaining an academinc position, a good fit is very important but having a job is a necessity. Also, I will say that their will always be good people and bad people no matter where you go. Look for a university that is a good fit and the location can be dealt with.
    • How wonderful that you and your wife enjoy where you landed. I wonder if my same-sex partner would enjoy rural Wyoming or Arkansas or whatever just as much as you two?
    • I cannot deny the (unfortunately) legal heterosexism and racism (and other "isms") in the south, but just like other places in this country, there are pockets of progression and happy places for people from diverse backgrounds, including myself. I spent all of my graduate education in the south and would move back in a heartbeat. Also, the minute you start looking at the low cost for renting apartments and buying houses down there, you'll realize that living in a big northern/coastal city is not all it's cracked up to be, especially when salaries nowadays do not reflect the difference. Just think, you would actually be able to pay off student loans and not incur more debt...
    • I can appreciate the goodwill of the above, but I find the attitude a bit patronizing. Most people smart enough to be applying for academic positions are smart enough to know that the cost of living is much lower in the South and Midwest. In fact, some of those folks may even have grown up in or lived for extensive periods of time in those locations *and still don't want to live there.* But poster above wants to look askance at those people because he assumes they are acting from positions of class/academic privilege, or because they are elitists or ignorant. But for some people a move to one of those institutions may require moving to (1) a location that does not recognize their marriage; (2) a location where their spouse, partner, or loved ones may not be able to find employment and will not follow; (3) a location where they feel -- rightly or wrongly -- physically unsafe; or (4) a location where they are isolated, alone, or marginalized (All too often pockets of "progression" in the South and rural Midwest just means liberal, white, straight folks). Maybe you weigh those concerns differently and you think that having a job or living in an affordable community is the number one priority. But don't pretend like the above issues are trivial or the equvialent of "There aren't any cool music venues in town" or "I won't be able to eat decent sushi."
      • I agree completely. We're not just brains looking for jobs, and no, not every job is a good job (I once worked at a dog racing track in rural NH for exactly 2 days. Lots of jobs are degrading), not even in academia. At this point, I've seen too many good folks driven literally crazy by poisonous departmental culture to think that landing anywhere is fine. And then, to possibly add on top of it the social/cultural/political exclusion and/or very real threat to physical safety? Our outside, non-academic lives matter, to some of us, a good deal, and are not trivial extras that come into consideration only after salary, teacihng load etc. But to the OP's point, of course "undesirable" is all in the eye of the beholder: I'd love to end up in northern or central Maine, and I've got a friend who would give his eye teeth for a sattelite school in the deepest of the deep south. I would never take a job in NYC, and so am not even applying. Quality of life, and all....
      • Ditto the above. I wouldn't take a job in NYC or Boston for 80k and instant tenure. Desirability's relative. And for me, what I'm willing to do now is wholly different than what I would've been willing to do 10 years ago. Priority's shift to other things: what a life partner wants, where one wants to raise one's kids, proximity to aging parents, quality of life. I'm in CW, and once heard at an AWP panel that only 1 in 500 of those with a terminal degree in my field will ever have t-t job. And the rest? Believe me, they're fine. (Tho being a writer's admittedly a blessing in that our life's work can be done outside the academy). But the world's full of--and will be increasingly full of--PhD's who are teaching high school, or working for non-profits, or doing arts admin, etc etc etc, and their sky ain't falling.

--Hey, a question: Is it true that you have a better chance of getting a TT job if you already have one? On one level it makes sense, but on another it seems counterintuitive. I mean you would have to pretend that you really wanted to work at one school to get the job in the first place and then what, a year later, maybe two you're on the market again? Is it better to do it that way or, if you're lucky enough to have steady teaching gigs with health insurance where you are, wait it out until you find something you actually want?

  • I think this is highly dependent upon one's academic field. For example, in some humanities fields any teaching experience is like gold. However, in some fields once you have taken on the role of adjunct it is hard to recover from the "downgrade" to just a teacher. This is especially true when there is a high demand for new assistant professors right out of graduate school. So I would say it is somewhat counterintuitive in that you have to start at some point without a TT job, but once you have that first academic spot it defines you in a way depending on your field.
  • It is ALWAYS good to land a tenure-track position somewhere else in a state school before landing your perfect position (whatever that means). Landing a highly competitive humanities and social science postdoc is always a great way to get into the tenure-track jobs because it is expected that you will publish several articles (from ur diss; from other projects) during ur postdoc; of course there are also selected few highly competitive ABDs who will land wonderful tt-jobs; but these candidates MUST have already published good stuff (in 1st 2nd tier journals), presented at national conferences, etc. If you taught a survey course even better. I think there is an article somewhere about this. There is also that article on here about how doing VAP could help transitioning into a tt.
  • Thanks to both of you who responded. I just defended (September) and I have a forthcoming article in a top journal and tons of teaching experience. I'm hoping that gets me somewhere this year. Last year--ABD and no article--was atrocious. Trying to stay as positive as I can.
    • I am struck, reading this thread, that there is a presumption that straight people will be comfortable living in "red states" or more conservative places that would be uncomfortable for gay people. I am an atheist: my dilemma on the market was whether I could and should rule out schools in locations dominated by evangelical or other conservative forms of Christianity. Fortunately I got a job in a liberal town in the SE, but I am close enough to the bible belt to know that I definitely would have felt uncomfortable, if not downright persecuted, living in a place where bible verses get written on public school walls and evolution can't be taught. It isn't just a gay issue (and I say this in all sympathy and camaraderie with the GLBQT community).
    • I'm afraid that the difference--that the previous poster's privileged postion does not make readily apparent--is that often one can't hide physical "difference" the way one might be able to hide something like, say, atheism. We still live in a day where a landlord can hang a sign outside of the pool saying "whites only" and have the gumption to actually fight its removal in court. (Cincinnati, Ohio, circa 2011). We also still live in a time when an interracial couple can be banned from church activities by majority vote. (Kentucky, circa December 2011.) Jim Crow is alive and well, and to repeat an earlier poster's position, for some people, excluding a geographic location is not merely a condition of "comfort" it's a matter of safety and the basic exercise of one's access to the same rights and privileges, including marriage.

I had given up getting a position this year and planned to stay put at my current location. Then one month ago College X contacted me: "We would like to set up a phone interview in the next two weeks." I responded and waited. Two weeks passed and I emailed to confirm my phone number. They responded to say, we will be in touch in a few days. That was two weeks ago. I am not sure if I should take them seriously, email them again, call them and/or what I should say. There are other issues which make this difficult for us on a personal level. My partner just accepted adjunct teaching, we want to move apartments if we stay here, we had intended to go away this week but are waiting to hear from College X still. I am in a position that if they offered me the job I would take it but this waiting seems unreasonable. Is it customary to wait one month to schedule a phone interview? Has anyone been in this situation before?

It has been 9 weeks since College X made contact with me about scheduling a phone interview. I guess they are not hiring but I am glad that I took the time to learn everything about them, their department and their courses in preparation because now the research I was planning to do this summer is behind schedule and I have to start preparing for new courses at my current location. I am glad I changed my summer break so I could be home when they called. I am a little annoyed that this has all come to nothing and that I am back where I was in MAY when they emailed me. Thank you for letting me vent.


Well, here's a new one. After lots of rejection, I had three interview offers in one week. One was a phone interview for a good position at a religious school I'd never heard of in the Middle of Nowhere, State I've Never Been To. One was an on-campus interview at a dream university. I had the phone interview for Nowhere first and it went really, really well. I asked when they might be bringing people to campus (because I was trying to figure out how I'd visit three schools in three states in one week, which I obviously didn't tell them). They gave me some possible dates. And then three days later, they sent me an e-mail asking me if I would accept their position without visiting campus. Just like that. Yes or no. They didn't make me an offer, mind you - didn't tell me what it paid, nothing. Just pressured me to say I'd accept it blindly. And maybe, a month ago, in the throes of desperation, I would have. But this particular week, I knew I had at least two more interviews, and one at a much better school in a much better location. So I couldn't very well just say yes. If Nowhere had brought me to campus and I had seen the place, met the faculty and students...who knows, I very well may have taken it over better offers! But put on the spot to accept blindly, I said what I thought was true and sensible: I was still interested in the position, but I couldn't make a major life decision like that without knowing if the campus and students and faculty were the best fit for me. I would like a campus visit before making that decision. The next day, they sent me a rejection e-mail. WTF. Was I supposed to lie to them and just throw myself prostrate at their feet? Are we at the point where even tiny schools can demand that we accept anything they do to us? I can't believe this happened to me. And now I'm terrified I won't get any of the jobs and will wish I had just sucked it up and accepted that position blindly.

  • I think it would be safer to have found a lover on Craigslist, and no doubt happier, too. You did the right thing.
  • That is crazy. I truly hope you get one of the other positions. But even if you don't, if that's the way the place operates, you probably don't want any part of it. They'll just screw you in some other way down the road. I can't believe they thought you would accept a position without any discussion of the salary, etc. Holy shit.
  • I'd echo those above - it's absolute madness to demand a candidate accept a blind offer (with no details of salary, contract, package etc.) at a campus the candidate has never visited in a state they've never been to. You absolutely did the right thing, and I just hope all the other candidates rejected them too - SCs have to know that they cannot make such amazingly unreasonable demands.
  • I had a very similar situation in 2001 with a small university in the Northwest. I said “yes I would be delighted to work at The End of the World College if I am presented with an attractive offer” …then, a week later I got an ok offer with two weeks to answer. I took that offer and negotiated a better one from another place (where I work now). So, based in that limited experience, I would say that you should always show/say/indicate that you would accept a job offer (even without a visit) unless you do not want to go there under any circumstance. Saying that you would accept is not a promise but a demonstration of interest and commitment … and one can always say no after being offered the job, if you have a better offer. But again my experience is very limited and at that time I just followed my advisor's counsel.: she told me never to say no until you are in the position of saying no.
  • I agree with the above comment. OP you definitely took the wrong approach. You should always say yes until the last possible moment (in my opinion even if there is now way in hell you would go if offered the position) because any offer could be a job if you don't have one or used as leverage to get something better at one of the competing universities. I have a tt job at a great institution in the middle of nowhere. I was offered one at another institution last year in the “most livable city in the US”. I said yes up until the last moment when I had all of the details of their offer to take the position. No way was it worth it even though it was in a great place to live near family and friends. Big pay cut among other things, higher cost of living, and little in terms of support. I went to my Dean to tell him I was offered this position and he was happy to congratulate me because it verified that my current institution had hired a very competitive person that other institutions wanted in their program. I got a raise and spousal accommodation at my current institution even though the other offer had nothing for my partner. Although this worked out well once, I won't be doing it a second time unless I am truly looking to make a move. This all came as my PhD advisors’ recommendation – only say no if you have to sign your name in writing, you’re not happy, and you’re able to use the offer to your advantage. This is the only time the candidate has the upper hand in the search process. A verbal “yes” is not a signed contract nor does it bind you to the specifics of the contract. Hope this helps in your pursuit.
  • Thank you all for your advice. I know its different for everyone, but for what its worth, I am *so glad* I didn't say yes to that job! (whoever likened it to Craigslist...too funny, too true!) A few weeks after that, I landed a job at one of the UCs in California. I am so happy! And they treated me wonderfully--none of this "make-a-decision-without-knowing-details-do-it-now" stuff. I think the message I've gotten from this is that there is no single "correct" or "right" way to handle any particular job situation. It's different for all of us. I'm just really glad I went with my gut.
  • Congratulations from the poster above! Very happy that you made it into a good position. You are also correct about how particular each case is, so thank you for just regarding my advice as just that, advice.

Please SC member who wants to be nice, don't tell me that I will be hearing from the SC soon and that I am the strongest candidate and that you think, between us, that I will be hired. Please SC member, don't schedule a meeting with the Provost only to shuffle me there late and, when the Provost just shakes my hand and says it was nice to meet me, dismiss it by stating, "The other two candidates will probably not talk with the Provost, either." And please, SC, when you write to inform me that I have not been selected, at least have the courtesy to have mailed out my travel reimbursement check or mention in the email that it is on the way. If you can make a hire, you can pay me promptly. Believe it or not, I actually have other visits I am scheduling and could use the money. I really don't want to have to keep sending emails out to you asking if my check is being processed. It's not that I don't trust you, it's just that you kept telling me during my visit that you had yet to be reimbursed from the conference interviews and that leads me to believe that you and I are going to have a longer relationship with respect to this matter than either of us want.


So I know that the venting page has become somewhat vicious, but I'm pissed off enough to risk it. Here goes. I had a campus invite about three weeks ago, that went really well. The best I had ever had. The search committee chair and I got along famously. Obviously, I didn't get the job (hence the vent), but the anger comes from that I have yet to be told by the search committee (or anyone for that matter). I found out about it one anxious night when I looked on their website, which announced that the position had been filled. The information has been out in the world for a week or so now and still nothing. I can't even get a piddly little email? Did I really stink it up that bad? I feel very used and have an immense amount of contempt growing inside me toward both the search committee chair and the school. This is the first time I have felt so much hate toward a search committee. I have felt disgusted by the system, yes, but this time I have pure hatred boiling inside me. I like to think I'm a nice person and don't often feel like this, but here I am, on the venting, despite all warnings that this is not longer a supportive venue. I'm sure it has something to do with being the last job of the season as well, but in all honesty, a nicely written (even mass emailed) note does a lot to diffuse a little of the hurt. Particularly when you are right there to the bitter end. How long can it take to pick up the phone, write an email, ask the secretary to write an email; as opposed to the hours/days I spent preparing for my teaching demo, interviews, finding the right clothes to wear, and traveling to the school. Is humanity not a word in the search committee's vocabulary?

  • I don't blame you for your anger. I have seen several posts over the last couple of years that have bemoaned the lack of information forthcoming from search committees, but it is my understanding that unless a contract is signed, even if there is an offer and an acceptance, search committees don't want to close the door on other candidates in case there are changes at the 11th hour (better offers being accepted, etc.) However, in your case, if the institution has gone so far as to post the name of the new faculty member on their website, then surely a contract has been signed and the courtesy of a rejection letter could have been extended to other finalists for the position. I'm sure you did a fine job, so don't take it personally -- the other candidate was a better fit, for whatever reason. And the department's incivility is no reflection on you.
  • Anger is a perfectly natural reaction. And it really does feel like it's not you, like something alien that gets into you and starts eating you up from the inside. It's the end of the year, you're tired, and this last incivility is just one too many. Even the most rational, easy-going person has a breaking point. For many of us, too, it's the first time we've ever faced this kind of incivility. If you have the resources where you are to seek counseling, even a few conversations could be helpful in developing long-term coping strategies for this sort of thing. But in the short term, vent by all means.
  • I, too, am really surprised that the department made an announcement on its website so quickly yet did not notify you of the outcome of the search. Perhaps a rejection snail mail letter was sent that same day but has yet to arrive in your mailbox? If it makes you feel any better, I think that many search committee chairs are still clueless about how much job candidates use the internet, including that this wiki even exists, so it is highly likely that the department did not even imagine that you would see the announcement online. In part this is because the chairs are tenured or full professors who are unfamiliar with the way new media factors into job searches nowadays. For example, when I had an on-campus interview last fall and saw on the wiki that the offer was offered and accepted a few days afterward (not by me, and a particular person's name was identified), I sent the chair (who, like you said, I felt I had gotten along with fabulously) a personal e-mail saying that I wished the department my best and looked forward to staying in touch through the discipline. The chair immediately called me and the first words out of his mouth were something like, "I have to ask, how did you find out? We hadn't planned on calling you until the contract was signed..." He had never heard of the wiki, etc.
  • I had exactly the same experience as the poster above - had a campus interview this spring, went really well but found out 2 weeks later on the wiki that an offer had been made and accepted. To be fair to that SC in question, when they discovered I'd already heard the bad news they were mortified that I had found out that way, and, as with the above example, had planned on informing me as soon as contracts had been signed and checked.
  • I had a similar experience a couple of years ago. Very idealistic college, very "people friendly" type of department, good campus visit, no rejection. I think rejection letters/calls just aren't a necessity for some people any more. Also, after very positive experiences/interviews (like the OP mentioned) it is uncomfortable for your people-friendly best buddies to actually be adults and call you.

Argh! Someone insists on repeatedly vandalizing the job wiki where I hang out, and it is driving me nuts. What's the point? Sometimes they're un-funny "jokes," other times they're just regular lies. Occasionally entire job postings are deleted. Oddly, the same IP address also posts disparaging comments about other posters' lack of professionalism! He posts comments, and when he's contradicted he posts again, pretending to be a different person agreeing with his own previous comment. The job market is bad enough, must we turn on each other and make it even worse??? Why, why??? The only bright spot is that the vandal doesn't seem to have realized his IP address shows up with each post. Sometimes I really want to post "Thanks for yet another installment of vitriol and misinformation, Chicago," but I'm afraid it'll just drive him underground and make his stupid posts harder to identify. Too bad he's in such a large metro area; my field is small enough I'd have a pretty good chance of figuring out who he is in most cities. I know I shouldn't be wasting my energy being bugged by this guy, this board is not real life and I have articles to write and CVs to polish in preparation for the approaching bloodbath of next year's t-t application cycle. But still, grr!!!

-- OMG! Peole pretending to be other people? On the internet? I've never heard of such a thing. Call the police!

---OP here. Oh, I'm sorry. I thought I was on the VENTING page, not the invitation-to-sarcasm page. Lesson learned, I'm outta here.


I miss you Venting Page. Are we all just too tired to post?

-see post just above and the post 2 below. people are being ruthless with each other... it's become a not very supportive place/environment to share tales of job search woe :(


I just moved to the US from London and have a phd in Media and communications and an MA in Anthropology of Media from the University of London. I am not sure how to go about my academic job search with no connections here in the US. Are job searches as straight forward as simply applying for a position at the chronicle of higher education website or does it involve leg work especially talking to people within the departments concerned? Do I have a greater chance with full time teaching than post-docs because the latter perhaps requires more insider academic connections here in the US with professors who can recommend my candidature? Right now, its a bit of an uphill struggle for me and I would be extremely grateful for two or three sharp points of advise to help me with my applications. Thanks and your help is really appreciated!

  • It's hard to generalize from field to field. It's best to be cautious and remain a bit formal is my sense. That is, submit an application in reply to a job posting, rather than trying to make in-person contact in advance, unless invited. However, I don't know your field specifically. It is probably best to consult an academic with a position in a US university who works specifically in your area, who can give you a sense of the protocol and etiquette. There are lots of differences between the US and Britain as to protocol. So it's good to get some advice. You might also go the Chronicle of Higher Education Forum. This forum here is more about venting than precisely sharing information and networking. good luck.
  • Would second most of this. In-person contact between a candidate and dept. is rare in most fields before the interview, at least here in the US. Situations vary, of course, but cold-calling departments to find out about positions doesn't seem like a good idea, at least in the US market. For the initial application, having a compelling cover letter and CV is very important; I have run into UK applicants who weren't aware of the weight put on the letter. The person above is absolutely right: you need to talk to an experienced US academic in your field, ideally one who can also review your application materials (letter, cv, writing sample . . . maybe even letters of recommendation, since those are also very different here -- much longer and more effusive than British letters, I believe).
2011-04-06 I was invited to apply for a NTT position back in November. I did, believing that I was not only a great fit, but that I'd at least get a conference interview considering that I was INVITED TO APPLY. To my surprise, I receive a rejection email (personally written, not a form letter at least) stating that while my credentials were impressive, I was simply "not a good fit for the position," and that I would not be interviewed at the conference. Ouch. Seriously, though-- what the hell???!!?!? Why invite someone only to discard them like yesterday's news? I would think (since it costs them nothing for ME to travel to a conference on my own dime) to interview that they'd at least give me a chance, but no. Even if costs IS an issue in this decision, I'm still puzzled by the 180-degree turn in enthusiasm-- in November, the same CV they had was enough to merit being encouraged to apply, but now it's not. I'm seriously miffed by this and had to vent a little. Thank you, kind Wikia friends.

  • I have no real advice on this matter, but I do want to say that you're not alone! This same thing happened to me this year. What gives, people?
  • I'm sorry, but an invitation to apply for a position is not a guaranteed invitation for an interview. Such situations happen all the time, and you shouldn't be surprised. Searches are fluid, and while a committee may have found your work interesting before their review of materials began, it's entirely likely that they simply found candidates that, as their letter to you clearly stated, were a better fit for the position. Search committees invite candidates to apply so that they will have a broad and diverse pool to choose from. It's that simple. But in no way does an invitation indicate any preferential treatment whatsoever.
  • (OP) Hmmm... I may be wrong, but I'm *pretty sure* that this is the "venting" page, not the "lets respond to someone else's frustration with a holier-than-thou attitude that offers no empathy or kindness...oh, and sound like a prissy jerk in the process" page. If I'm in the wrong place, I fully apologize-- indeed, I have been enlightened by your superior wisdom and robot-like opinion. To be fair, though, I suppose that if I had a job already (as I presume is the case for you) I, too, might also feel inclined to "keep it real" so boldly as you have. Until then, though, I'll take my academia with a side of nice, please.
  • Wow, I didn't write what is above, but I didn't find that the respondent wasn't nice. Yes, it is frustrating that this happened, but I do agree w/ this person. I, too, was invited to apply for a job and then didn't get an interview. But another colleague who was invited to apply got the job. I wasn't bitter about it. I realized that while the person who invited me might have thought me a good fit, for whatever reasons (some perhaps arbitrary), the rest of the committee didn't. Just think, if even professors in a dept are each inviting a couple people to apply, can they accommodate that many interviews? Too, has the entire committee previously seen your CV, written work, or cover letter? Perhaps the person liked a conference presentation or another article you wrote, but then didn't find what you mailed in as strong. Frustrating, perhaps, but as the respondent says, this happens all the time. (For the record, I'll be adjuncting part-time time next year, so I'm not superior in any way to you, just looking for some sort of permanent position and wishing you the best with your search.)
  • The last TT job I heard of where they invited people, they invited almost 50 people to apply. I don't know the numbers in this case, but when they're inviting more people than they can possibly interview, there is a sense that the interviews will be some of the invitees and probably some off-the-street applicants too, but certainly not all the invitees. I'm not saying this to upset you or anything -- far from it. I'm saying it so you know that you are probably not being disrespected, and, frankly, just the simple fact that you were on their list of people to invite says a lot about you, your worth in the market, your accomplishments, etc. Keep on truckin and don't let this kind of shit get you down.
  • I am replying as the "prissy jerk." In no way do I have a holier-than-thou attitude, but I am trying to shed some light on this issue for you. The job market is terrible, and you can vent all you'd like. That's fine. But venting can often get in the way of what is reality, and the reality is (in general) what I and two other posters noted. Add in a good dose of complete and utter randomness to each idiosyncratic job search, and that should help you to understand why you did not get an interview despite being invited to apply for a position. In your original post you said that you were miffed. I understood that, and attempted to explain why you shouldn't be so terribly miffed. If you take such enlightenment and advice as someone being a "prissy jerk," that's unfortunate for you.
  • (OP) Perhaps I was being a little defensive in reading your reply as being prissy or holier-than-thou; I apologize. You absolutely have a valid point that venting can get in the way of reality. I'd venture to say that those who have been applying thier hearts out on the job market (after previous giving the same passion while working for years on a Ph.D.) are even more prone to such fuzziness/ defensiveness--clearly, I fall into such a category. I appreciate the reality check (and indeed expected one, considering that the appeal of the venting site is to seek others who can identify with a vent and offer solace that both encourages as well as informs); however my initial reaction derived more from feeling like your reply's rhetoric. While true as straight information, it came off as a little insensitive. Put yourself in my shoes-- if you were rejected by 60+ jobs (without a single PHONE interview or request for additional materials or ANYTHING), despite being well-qualified for most of them, things like "It's that simple," "you shouldn't be surprised," "as their letter clearly stated," or "in no way does" might translate to a sensitive individual as being told they were stupid to have not known better already (but more accurately, is kind of calling such a person out on their newness to the academic job hiring process and politics, which is already a nerve-wracking and disappointing thing to navigate). I'm sure that you didn't mean to be offensive (otherwise you wouldn't have replied a second time here, which by the way I appreciate), but when you've got to feeling as though every search committee thinks that, an additional feeling of that can be upsetting. Even so, take a look at the reply beginning "The last TT job I heard of...". That person gave similar info as you, but bookended it with encouragement to keep on trucking "Keep on truckin." Whenever I reply to someone else's rant, I instantly try to understand how what they're saying makes them feel. It's admirable to want to give info and keep things based in reality as a supportive contributor, but a little tact and consolation, I think, is why a lot of us *really* come here to vent. We simply don't want to feel alone in our frustration, misgivings, and uncertainties.
2011-03-29 Back in August when jobs were just getting posted I was applying to anything and everything that I was remotely qualified for even if it was in a remote part of the country. Now, as the hiring season winds up I find myself being very picky about where I apply. I am too tired to apply to everything and for some reason have become very picky about where I live. Imagine that. I wish I had the energy to keep applying, but it all seems so pointless.

  • I don't think it's at all a bad idea to pick and choose where you apply. If you are convinced that you want to limit yourself to certain areas of the country, then why waste your time? It's a Catch-22, of course -- the job that you don't apply for, especially if it's in an 'undesirable' part of the world, might be the one you would have gotten. But life is not just about your job (well, that's the goal, anyway). And what if you don't get tenure? Then you're stuck in a place you might not want to be, probably w/ significant ties (kids in school, etc.) Of course, in this bad job market, there may not be any job at all, and then you have to reinvent yourself -- so at least do it somewhere you can see yourself happily ensconced in a community and lifestyle.
  • Ugh. Same here. However, I'm doing the opposite now that the postings are slowing to an even lighter trickle. My thought process has become, okay, maybe we could afford a part-time job in Alaska...
  • You know, my friend last year took a one-year position in Alaska. She had to leave her home, her husband, everything. And then had the added burden of trying to put out applications for the next year while prepping for three new courses in -40 degree weather. But she did it, and landed a tenure-track job for the following year. So sometimes, taking that crazy job works. But I think most of us won't even get the opportunity of taking the crazy job, unfortunately. When I found myself doing the thing the OP mentioned - applying to anything and everything, because I felt so desperate - my boyfriend said, "Stop doing that. Stop beating yourself up." He was right. I didn't realize it. I think we all do that....apply to horrible positions in horrible places because we think, "Who am I to say no to this?" But it will just waste everybody's time. So I guess my advice is: apply for things you want, and if you're offered something you're not sure you can handle...well, remember, Alaska isn't so bad for a year.
  • What it seems like a not very desirable job may turn into a great opportunity. You go into the job market among other reasons to find what you want, to discover places and institutions where you may like to work. Besides, getting that extra offer could represent $5-$10K more in your salary. Being picky before having clear options is not a good idea. In my opinion you should apply to all and every single job you are qualified to EXCEPT places that you despise to the point of changing careers before working there. As soon as you get offers you can start choosing; then you may get picky.
  • Oh yeah, and you know what is f**ed up about this system? It is that when there is a perfect job near your hometown where you can see your family everyday, it is tenure-track, but in a community college, and you are not even supposed to apply for it (how dare you), if you want to stay in the "game" for tenure track at research university and for competitive postdocs for the next year job market. This is how screwed up the system is. Why should we look down on people who are teaching or who taught a community college?
  • ^^While there is certainly truth to what you say, I think the realities of the academic job market are going to erode these ridiculous hierarchies. A job is a job is a job. The 'system' is just a construct, populated with actual people. If we stop refusing to play the game, the rules of the game must necessarily change. Do what is best for your own situation, and do makes you happy and makes sense for your personal life, and to hell with the 'system' and the close-minded people in it. They should be so lucky as to have the freedom and peace of mind that comes with not giving a flying f**k about what other people think. (I'm really just giving myself advice here -- wish I'd take it.)
  • "If we stop refusing to play the game, the rules of the game must necessarily change." Amen, Brother or Sister. So, when are all of us who are in currently (and perhaps indefinitely) in adjunct hell going to organize and force schools at least to offer them as renewable VAPs, if not t-t lines? I see more and more schools, including the leading ones, relying on adjuncts and even turning full-time lines into adjunct positions. The result is a degradation of the working environment for all of us, and a degradation of the quality of education (I speak here as an adjunct who is a dedicated teacher, but only able to do so much for my students in my role). Can you imagine what would happen to a major school if the adjuncts all refused to work? What about a whole state system? I think it's hit the point where we need to figure out how to take action.
  • "If we stop refusing to play the game..." What a horrible syntax! Not to mention the logical error. --> Hey, you, yes you who wrote this: Do you feel better about yourself that you have superior syntax to some random person on the internet? A person who might not even be a native speaker of English (lots of PhD students in this country fall into this category). Whoops, that was a fragment... Now I'm inferior to you, too. Feeling better yet?
  • ....aaaannd THAT's why we could never organize. Yeesh.
  • National/international organization is not going to happen. But we can communicate, and we can find the places where our individual interests and "individual action" in support of system-changing are one and the same -- #1 place we can do that? REFUSE to be an adjunct. Refuse jobs that don't respect your experience and credentials. If good people refuse to adjunct, the "adjunct system" will collapse. Let it. Protect your own interests and find work that's GOOD for you, financially, emotionally, etc. etc.
    • I don't think that's going to make a difference if there isn't some sort of broader movement, though. I mean, a few of us here and there deciding not to apply for adjuncting jobs isn't going to make a dent. Universities would need to face the real prospect of having no one to teach their classes, and we can't get their without some kind of coordinated action.
  • I totally agree with you, however, after looking for jobs outside of academia this year, I found nothing (despite being the finalist for one job). So, I'm back in underpaid and overworked adjunct land for another year because I need to pay my rent and eat. Any suggestions for other work? I'm willing to be flexible.
  • Depends on your area. I'm a creative writer, and on the wiki for CW jobs, there is this (in the discussion about adjuncting): (quote) Plan C: Friends of mine who have entirely given up on academia have: joined the Peace Corps and had amazing adventures (*many* have done this, none has regretted it); (2) gone overseas through the Fulbright program for nearly-as-primitive adventures; (3) gone into writing advertising/ad copy; (4) if they've published books, started their own at-home kitchen table community writing workshops, getting people from the local community to pay $50 a pop to work with them; (5) gotten jobs at factories and warehouses where they claim that (because of the low stress job that doesn't tax the brain matter) they get more writing done than ever before; (6) high school teaching (warning: no one I know is happy with this choice); (7) working in university administration, which keeps you in contact with writers and readings and whatnot, but you're doing a 9-5, better pay than teaching, no grading, your own office, etc. (8) I also know people who went into journalism, but that's even more of a dead-end than academia, as the newspapers "fold." C: (9) Arts administration (PSA, Academy, Poetry Foundation, state or independent agencies, etc.) (10) Editing. --& for what it's worth, every writer I know who teaches high school is exhausted but deeply fullfilled, and also really happy with their retirement & health benefits. Whereas the perils of adjuncting--struggling on a 3/3 or 4/4 load for $2,000-$5,000 per class--no benefits, no security semester to semester, often no sense of community--are legion. (endquote)
2011-03-25 At this point, after three years on the job market, I'm hoping for the best...but expecting the worst. I finished my degree last year, against my better judgment, but under pressure after receiving a dissertation year fellowship to actually finish in my dissertation year. In the meantime, I have gotten NOTHING- no adjuncting, nothing. And I'm not being picky, either. I'm applying for anything and everything I even remotely qualify for. The only consideration that I have to take into account (and it's a big one), is I have a family and I can't work if it doesn't cover the cost of day care and student loans. I'm grateful my husband is gainfully employed and not an academic because he can support us in the meantime. I got a campus visit last fall that went wonderfully- so wonderfully, in fact, that my advisor got the impression they were going to offer me the position when they called her again after my visit. And I've gotten a few phone interviews. But this brings me to what is really hacking my chain right now: when I contacted the school I visited for constructive feedback so I could learn to do better "next time" (God willing there is a "next time"), the SC's response was, to paraphrase, "You were the only one who isn't currently teaching. But you did very well." That was it. Nothing constructive. And it turns out that the position went to a person with the exact same fucking credentials as me...but was already an assistant prof somewhere. W.T.F. We are the same age, even, but this person had just managed to get out of school and into a spot before me. THEN, I have a wonderful phone interview last week that seemed to go very well...for a PART-TIME position...and they contact me today, asking me if I had an updated cv because mine didn't seem "to reflect my current situation." All I could do was say that it was up-to-date, and that I was working independently from my current location (because I am- my husband and I are shouldering the cost so I can attend conferences and such just to stay involved). So I'm thinking I'm screwed on this job, which would entail moving my family (that I did not even mention existed in the interview because I think that partially scuttled my chances at the November campus visit) across the freakin' country...for a part-time position (if it pays for day care, that is). My point is, I have accepted and internalized that there are things that I cannot control in the job process. That's fine. Really. But I'm mostly discouraged my the fact that my current employment status may at all weigh on any SC's final decision (or the dean's decisions, I suppose). I wouldn't have been teaching last year as a fellow, either. And finally: all of you assistant professors out there STILL applying for jobs, clogging up the job market, when you have one already can KISS.MY.ASS.

  • In the future, I'd suggest a couple of strategies. First, you might mention to SCs, calmly, that your spouse has a good income and that you've been fortunate to spend the last several months working independently on your research. You will also have to mention that your spouse is looking forward to moving to town x with you, and that he/she can be employed nearby. In the past, I hemmed and hawed and pretended to not have a spouse, and this just made me feel nervous and weird when people would talk about families. Once I started to be open with SCs, they knew my situation better and actually offered to help him find work. Second, I'd suggest that you find something, anything, with a university affiliation, even if it is a tutoring gig at a community college that gives you five hours' work a week when your spouse is home in the evenings or on weekends. Even if it is a part time job at the library. Try to find something with hours where your spouse can watch the kids. These SCs just want to know whether there's something off with your resume or not. Show them that you're hustling for work and getting to know how a university works from other perspectives, but that you look forward to teaching TT in your field. And don't trash the assistant professors looking for work; many universities are close to firing tt faculty and people want to jump ship.
  • I think the above is good advice, especially the part about trying to get teaching experience anywhere you can. The reality is that the person who got the other job did NOT have the same credentials as you--they had teaching experience as an assistant professor, and you do not. If your husband can support you, then even if something DOESN'T pay for daycare, you should take it -- that is, if you really want to stay in this crazy game. But with a glutted market, someone w/ teaching experience is (probably) always going to get the job, regardless of your other qualifications.
  • OP here. Thanks for the suggestions re: bringing up my family situation with SCs. I didn't deny that I was married- I just didn't bring it up. Previously, I always tried to emphasize in cover letters how the school's location would be ideal for raising our kids, etc., etc., thinking that would indicate my commitment to sticking around. I would never lie about my situation, I just don't think I'm going to make as big a deal about it unless I'm asked. And, it's true, that professor does have more teaching experience than I do. I wish I could be more gracious to those who have tt jobs straight out of school and respect the hierarchy that is this profession, however, here's the way I think about it: a friend- who shelved his/her completed dissertation and waited to defend it until he/she landed a job- refused to even apply for a job that was a perfect match. Why? Because they said it was unethical to do so when they had a job and so many others did not. That's the bar I set in this situation. It's ridiculous to expect anyone else to have these standards, especially when so many academics will sell the person next to them down the river instead of think of the greater good. And, I don't think tt profs are getting laid off in nearly the same numbers equivalent to new grads without gigs. Lastly, I'm curious if the second respondent is married and has kids. It doesn't seem like it, because if we could afford any day care, my research productivity right now would be stunning. So yes, my spouse can put a roof over our heads. But no, I don't have the luxury of taking just any old job. And I think it's that bullshit mentality- that we should take any crumb we're given just to get a foot in the door (and I'll reiterate, I have applied EVERYWHERE) that keeps all of us so easily exploited. I realize the pragmatism of your advice, but it's not helpful or realistic. Thanks, though.
  • Second respondent here -- husband and two kids. I don't even want to get into the number of jobs I've not applied for because it wasn't a realistic situation for my family, financially and otherwise. And then there are the many others from which I've been rejected. It's not clear to me if you're lacking teaching experience entirely, or just not teaching this year. I guess my point is that if you have no teaching experience of any kind, to make yourself a viable candidate, you've got to get yourself some, even if it means some sacrifices/readjustments. But I'm absolutely sympathetic to your situation, because in many ways it mirrors my own. But I don't think that people who are in t-t jobs and applying for other jobs are necessarily throwing others under the bus; they're probably just in crappy situations and are trying to move elsewhere, for a whole variety of reasons. I have no magical answers, and in many ways I think that academia is a ridiculous, thankless, and ultimately pointless way of life. But if you're going to try to make it, and if in fact you don't have any teaching experience at all (not clear from your messages if you do or not), then it's unlikely you'll be competitive against other candidates. It sucks, I know -- if we were doing this in a different generation, we'd all get decent jobs straight out of grad. school. But then again, as women, maybe not. I know it's all been said before, but I'm still incredulous that women bear the brunt of these decisions and dilemnas. Cue irate male respondents, but it's true.
  • OP here. Thanks for weighing back in. I do have substantial teaching experience- luckily, my doctoral institution made sure of that. The longer with no job + year of fellowship, the more remote it seems, unfortunately. Plus, I'm in a field that will take a master's w/professional experience over PhDs with minimal professional experience. Bah. It's all so demoralizing. I think my biggest concern is the longer I go without landing anything, the harder it will be to get something. And it's hard to get absolutely anything at all right now, academic or otherwise. So, I'm just plugging away, applying applying applying, hoping nearly a decade of work doesn't go down the drain. Is there any indication that family concerns weigh as heavily with male academics? It doesn't seem so. I hope I'm wrong. I just have so many female friends who are wringing their hands in the same way, wondering what we sacrificed by choosing family over career. Because yes, every male in my cohort landed a gig after graduation. I wouldn't trade my family for the best tt job in the world (geez, who would?)...but still, maybe the single cat lady academics are, in fact, happy???... Too many shoulda/woulda/couldas for my taste.
  • First responder here. A couple of clarifications: I wouldn't mention anything about my family until I got to the campus visit stage (so no, not in the letter), but at that stage I would be honest. Many associate/full professors have children and it's a nice conversation topic as long as you focus on asking them questions about the area and keep a positive spin on things. I also think what looks like a crumb to you might look very different to a committee, especially the kinds of positions where you work with nontraditional or first-generation students, or anything to do with technology. Many universities struggle with how to accommodate these students, so that tutoring job that looks crappy to you might look like "this person can help run our new tutoring center and get a course release, and she can also be on the outreach committee" to an SC. I actively sought out such positions as a grad student because of my own beliefs, but I can see now how that benefited me. What about the "professional experience" that helps those with an MA in your field? You might try an internship or some informational interviews w/people in your industry (because you do have some time and a little income) that might lead to a position that will give you this experience (and, if it's in industry, you'll probably have decent benefits and child care options). Depending on the kind of position title you can negotiate for yourself as the result of this networking, you could move back into teaching in a couple of years and be a powerhouse candidate. I don't know your industry, but it doesn't seem that unreasonable.
  • Totally different responder: the OP sounds so dramatically bitter that I probably wouldn't hire her either. I mean, I'm married, no kids, no wish for kids, but I don't exactly consider myself a "crazy cat lady academic." That kind of vitriol could have permeated your campus visits, and paired with your lack of recent teaching experience, totally shot your chances. I know by serving on a few search committees that SCs ask themselves, "Does this person seem like someone who is collegial and low-maintanence? Would I want to see them every single day for the next 10-30 years?" If any of your "kiss my ass" attitude came through your interviews, I think you have your answer. BTW, who told you it would be *easy*??? Is it harder for women with children/families? Sure. Is that a fair system? No, but free-enterprise hasn't been historically "fair" to minorities. But you probably knew all that before spending the last 10 years in school, right? And the single "crazy cat ladies" I know are pretty happy, actually, but they too have their individual struggles that you seem to totally disregard becuase you're too consumed in your own suffering. The bottom line: this system doesn't owe you anything. The quicker you realize that point and make a reasonable plan, the happier you'll be.
  • Touché! I was going to say: Maybe the other candidate had a more pleasant personality? Maybe the other candidate didn't use the F word? Maybe the other candidate didn't ask fellow applicants to kiss his or her behind? Maybe the other candidate didn't have such a sense of entitlement? More specifically, I was also going to say that colleagues want to see that you're passionate about teaching. If you could prove to them that you are currently teaching -- part-time, one class, online classes, night classes at a community college, anything, and in spite of all the difficulties -- they would appreciate it.
  • Another way of looking at it: You asked an honest question -- "What did I do wrong?" -- and they gave you an honest answer: "You don't teach." It's no secret that it's easier to get a new job if you already have a job! This is true everywhere, not just in the academic world. Get a teaching job that doesn't pay for daycare and work your way up to a better job. Use your savings to pay for daycare, use your husband's money, take a loan. That's what we all do. You invest in your career. It's nice to get a good job right away, but in most cases it just doesn't happen that way.
  • I'm not really good advising people about their careers. I just want to say that being this a “venting page” some rage is understandable. Some answers and comments here seem to forget that fact. It is not nice to pontificate about collegiality in a way that is not collegial at all. Again: this is a venting page. We all need such a space just to keep ourselves together and do not tell people around us unpleasant things. I think that instead of harsh judgment, we can offer here some sympathy.
  • ^^^Yes. While the OP may be bitter, this is the place to put it on display. I quite doubt she throws f-bombs around during interviews or tells people to kiss her ass. Although if she did, I might like to have her as a colleague, and I'm not being sarcastic. For once, a real person.
  • OP here. I assure you, no f-bombs were thrown in said campus visit. I was on my best behavior, just (mistakenly perhaps) under the impression that this was a page where folks came to, you know, vent about our frustrations. I love what I do- that's why it's frustrating that I don't get to use it right now. I would love to work with non-traditional and/or underserved communities...I've applied for those jobs, too. I don't at all look down on them. I think the bitterness interpreted in my post in person would be understood as passion for what I do. That much has been noted by people I meet and former students. But I only have so many resources at my disposal right now- could I get a loan to subsidize my career when I already have nearly six figures out for my education? Point me to the banker who will do it. Therefore, I am dreaming up as creative solutions as possible to do the things I want to do. In the meantime, to the poster who asks if I ever thought it would be "easy," I assume you mean getting a job. And yes, I did, when I started years ago on this path. By the looks of the other forlorn posters in similar situations as me, with no gainful employment, I'm not alone. I also don't think I'm the only one who didn't get an accurate picture of what life would be life, postgraduation. Would working towards tenure suck? Yes. No mystery there. Would getting a job be as disheartening as the rest of the doctoral experience? No mention of that. Ever. Is it my fault somehow, some personal failing that I didn't get a job? Perhaps. That's entirely possible. But please, don't lecture me because I'm frustrated. I've beaten myself up enough about this to get it from a stranger.
  • Vent freely, but remember that this is a public space. People will comment on your posts, criticize you, disagree with you, lecture you.
  • I feel it's less about what the OP calls her "personal" failures to get a job and more about her shock that it's *this* hard. And--news flash--I can vent just as much about this obvious entitlement and bitterness as she can about the market. Have I struggled right along side everyone else in getting a job? Sure thing. But what does taking it personally do? (The OP does that when she muses that men with kids certainly don't have this hard of a go of it. Everyone thinks: "Well, duh. Welcome to the patriarchy." Same thing with musing about those who have chosen to NOT have children. Taking it THAT personally.) The OP is sabatoging herself by internalizing all this frustration and hatred. She'd be better off channelling that energy into finding alternate careers that may support her future academic goals. I think too many academics hold on to the identity of "academic" beyond its shelflife. If all she's ever done is school, then she might be in trouble. But if the OP has experience in other fields that she enjoys, she might think about transitioning to the private sector. There's no shame in saying, "This job market sucks, and I refuse to play this dumb game any longer." Instead, she's looking around for other places to lay blame, when the blame is so thoroughly integrated into the system that it's intrinsic to it. She can blame Assistant Professors who are greedy, or men with children, or childless/free women, when the blame is on the system. I don't think anyone really thinks the system if "fair" or easy to break in to. I mean, when I started my journey 10 years ago, everyone told me that the stats were against me. Something like 50 percent finish and 50 percent of those left get jobs.
  • As long as we're at it, I'd like to point out that women who have "chosen" not to have children ain't exactly free-wheelin' hussies living the Love Boat dream. First of all, that "choice" is really a matter of circumstance, most often "putting it off" until it's not a "choice" at all anymore. 2nd, if you have kids and those sorts of family obligations, I'd like you to look at your little one-toothed darling and tell me you'd toss her back into the sweaty sex soup from which she came just to get a TT job. Really. Because if you actually would, I have a solution to all your problems, darlin. Sarcasm aside, I frequently think about the fact that I will be one of those lonely old ladies filed away in nursing home waiting to die without a single heir to give a shit when I'm gone. I made certain choices in my life and I deal with them. Tell me when you're old and failing and your grown children are bringing around their grandchildren to see you for the holidays and your dinnertable rings with laughter and the future of your genetic destiny is dancing around your ankles if you'll REALLY wish you'd spent more of your life writing academic papers and attending conferences, or department meetings, or soul-sucking one-on-ones with plodding, entitled grad students who misspell your name. That said, I don't have to change diapers, deal with tantrums, or stay up nights worrying. I can strut around my house naked smoking weed, if I want. Life is full of tradeoffs, and we have to remember that every time we choose to do one thing, we choose NOT to do several others. Accept your choices and play the hand you've spent the last couple of decades drawing and discarding to arrange for yourself. Whatever it is, it's probably not that bad: enjoy it and don't make yourself miserable by desiring things you can never have.
  • OP here, again. Just to jump back in, yes, I'm aware if something's put out in the public, someone will disagree with me. I'm not a child. I can stand up for myself. I made my choice, which was to get a PhD AND have a family. If that destines me to NOT land an academic position, so be it. I never, ever, evereverever had my heart set on ONLY pursuing one line of work, postdoctorate. Maybe that's why I focused on grades rather than research, nailing one part of my education over another. I chose what makes me happy. And damn, if this wiki is any indication (of anything other than what we're willing to spout at other people anonymously), than I maybe I shouldn't choose to set down a path that leads to certain disillusionment and bitterness that I did not make the right choice somewhere along the way. The one thing I know is that I do not regret my children. I do not regret a happy marriage. I do not regret getting an education that challenged me and that I enjoyed. But perhaps more than most, I am not set on doing "one" thing the rest of my life. Fueling my frustration is 1) thousands and thousands of student loans that have to be paid back...eventually, 2) not getting a job anywhere, and finally 3) not being able to discern what I can do to be better at this job application process so that I can remedy 1 & 2. I finally turned a corner at the beginning of the year, realizing that I should not wish away my life. So I enjoy my time with my children- my mother was not so lucky to be able to stay at home with me. I feel fortunate that I can, and fortunate to have the education that I do- because, again, no one in my family has been so fortunate to complete an bachelor's degree, much less an advanced degree. But good vibes and wishy-washiness does not erase the reality of my situation, as stated before. So...there. And finally, I think we do buy into a system that forces us to think we have to choose one lifestyle over another. For such highly educated people, I think we may not be so smart. Someday, that has to change.
  • Let me offer a suggestion, perhaps a bit late to help. Have you considered online teaching as a way of keeping current? I was in the same situation as you for the past couple of years--My first year on the market, I didn't land a tt job. However, my wife's job is just too good to give up to chase 1 year visiting appointments, and since the adjuncting offers I got would barely cover the cost of gas, let along daycare, we decided I'd stay home with our daughter. (On a side note, the advice to get a loan to pay for day care is just about the stupidest thing I've ever heard. Don't turn the job hunt into an extremely expensive, depressing, and unrewarding hobby. And yes, a system that allows departments to pay colleagues so little that they have to worry about child care is most definitely screwed up. That's not whining--just ask the same department chairs who lead the charge against non-academic employers that do this). Anyway, I took a gig teaching online classes, which has allowed me to work from home during my daughter's naps (and during the occasional kiddie movie--don't tell my wife!). Some people will run it down--search committees may, too--but it's proven to be a great choice and a lot more rewarding than you might think. Check out higheredjobs, which just added an online jobs section, or, or just cold call colleges and universities. CC's are a good bet, or even your old department. I can totally relate to the conflicting feelings about staying at home; either choice is not an easy one to make.
2011-03-21 I'm so thankful for a venue to vent about the job market. What disturbs me most about it is how people assume that I, as a faculty of color, will automatically get a job. Several of my colleagues tell me that there is "special money" to get me hired, or that hiring me "won't count" as a departmental line. I've been unemployed for a year now. Every on-campus interview I've been on that asked for someone who studies/teaches "culture," all chose to hire a white person who studies race. I am not upset about the fact the SC chose to go with someone else who was a better fit than me. However, it does continue to irk, I mean, piss me the fuck off, that people will suggest that my race somehow guarantees that academic life and the job market are easier on me. I know that there are positions specifically oriented towards academics of color. But let's not forget that the academe is predominantly white, predominantly male, and predominantly straight.

In addition, some positions that seek out faculty of color "provide mentoring" or "start as a post-doc to guarantee future faculty success." How condescending is that? I don't see any positions written to re-school racists, homophobes, or sexists. Do you have students who are sent to you by other faculty simply because of the color of their skin? Are you invited to sit on every committee to rubber-stamp decisions as "diversity approved"? Have you had an editor tell you that an article was not written in "proper English" simply because of your name (even though reviewers said it was very well-written)? Have you had students ask you if your use of college-level vocabulary was English? Have you had colleagues admit openly that they were racist? I could go on... And somehow I'm supposed to teach effectively, publish, etc. yet not bring up the "race card"?

The burden to deal with racism is still on the shoulders of faculty of color. Racism, homophobia, and sexism are real, ongoing problems. Please think twice about invisible privilege and venting about how there are "so many" positions written for people of color. You wouldn't ever want to trade skin color with me. --KN

  • Amen! In most cases, the assumption that one's race/color/gender/sexual orientation automatically gets one in the door only reveals how entitled the speaker feels in the first place. This is my second year on the market and I have applied for and/or interviewed for multiple positions that went to whites (men and women) and other races. In every case where I lucked out on even getting an interview, I've seen the position go to someone who was simply more qualified or a better fit for the department's teaching coverage and research focus. This is a tough market. Period.
  • I agree that the assumption that things are "easier" due to diversity measures forgets the reason those measures are necessary to begin with. And I have watched several job searches that had female and POC candidates go to young white men this year as well. A friend of a friend started this blog recently, hoping to collect these kinds of stories and shed light on continuing discrimination in academia:
  • Does anyone else feel like most people in academia have a very narrow definition of diversity? I was the first person in my family to go to college and I came out of a pretty horrible school system. To my knowledge, no one from my hometown has ever gone to an Ivy League university (nor did I). My parents knew nothing about how to pay for college, where to look for help, or how to help me with any problems that came up once I was enrolled. I stumbled thorugh the undergraduate experience and managed to get into a top 25 PhD program only after completing a terminal M.A.

However, it took a lot of time to catch up with the students who had been better prepared for college and did not have to worry about how they were going to pay for it. No one seems to be very interested in talking about the obstacles that PhD candidates from working-class backgrounds have to overcome. I have been invited to four on-campus interviews, and when people ask me about my family, I tell them the truth: I come from a working-class family and my parents do not understand what I do. No one ever says, "Oh I understand, I was the first person in my family to go to college as well." It's much more common for them to say "my mother or father (or both) is/was a professor at ......."

What I would like to see is some sort of appreciation for the struggles associated with coming from a working-class family, regardless of one's race or gender. At the end of the day, no one seems to really care about what I can bring to their department as a first-gen. college grad. Thoughts?

  • Sadly, in the US, "minority" means "visible minority," and "diversity" means "visible diversity," and they both mean "When I look at you, do I know that you are not white?" with the occasional "not a man" thrown in. Very few people in this country see class or sexuality as falling within diversity because these can be and often are not obvious to others. They don't win any points with people just looking at the faculty.
  • How about we make hiring decisions in academia based on credentials relevant to the position and leave your personal baggage (whether it's race, gender, social class, political leanings, etc.) out of it?
  • I agree 100%. That would be great! My reason for posting was related to the positions that I have applied for that say the U of Whatever "is an equal opportunity employer, committed to fostering diversity in its faculty, staff, and student body. Applicants are invited to address in their cover letters how they might contribute to the promotion of this diversity." My working-class background is all I've got to talk about! It would be great if we kept our baggage out of it, but as long as job postings ask us to discuss it in cover letters, the baggage will continue to play a role. I believe I'm generally wasting my time discussing what I have to offer because I don't think departments really value my type of diversity. Alright, enough complaining--I need to go apply for a few more jobs.
  • It's a little depressing/frightening/maddening to me that racial oppression (among other forms) are referred to as "baggage" by PhDs... (x3!!!!!!!)
  • Wow! My academic experiences have taught me that while my colleagues and professors my spout rhetoric that suggest an understanding of the social and cultural forces that impact historically underrepresented and marginalized groups, such rhetoric is often empty and suggestive of the lack of any real interest in those marginalized people. Every now and then I forget that, but it always comes back to slap me in my face. So, thanks again for reminding me of it Mr/Mrs. Leave Your Personal Baggage Out Of It. I wish I could. It is impossible to ignore how what you call baggage has shaped me and my path. My baggage walks though the door when I do. It is evident when I speak and when I discuss my investment in academia. I do not think it is helpful to our scholarship, to our students, or to any institution that we serve to pretend that post-racial liberalism—or any other philosophy that seeks to mitigate or ignore the very real impact that class, gender, socioeconomic background, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation has on our lives—is valid. These factors have a real impact on how we are perceived and how we perceive ourselves.
  • It was a poor decision for me to reuse the term baggage, but I def. feel like I carry my past around. I, too, wish I could leave my past out of it, but mine is also in my voice and comes out in the things I have to worry about on a daily basis. Thanks for the thoughts.
  • I agree 100% with the OP. Anyone who says the job market is easier on minorities or women is delusional. And the condescending behavior the OP describes is disgraceful. I also agree 100% with the poster from a working-class background. If academe was serious about "diversity", it would recognize that coming from certain backgrounds is just as much of an impediment to academic success as race, gender, etc. I think having a diverse body of faculty is super important: the people educating our students SHOULD be bring a variety of perspectives to the classroom. As it is, so many departments consist of people from privileged backgrounds teaching a group of people from privileged backgrounds. How are these kids are supposed to learn about cultural difference living in a bubble?
  • I finally just got my first t-t job at age 50, although I've had a series of decent adjunct jobs. Over the years of applying to positions at universities and museums, I've seen jobs that I've applied for, and in fact most of the jobs in my field (art history) go to young white men. They're often European to boot. I've got the same, if not better, qualifications than most of the successful candidates. So yes, I've felt somewhat discriminated against, as an older woman who did not attend an Ivy League school for college, although I went to a top graduate school (and although I wouldn't say my background is working-class, it's definitely lower-middle). But I can't pretend for a moment that my experience of 'discrimination' even approaches that of a candidate of color. To suggest that it does would be offensive, in my opinion.
    • Congrats on the T-T job. That's quite an accomplishment in this market. I never said I felt as though I had been "discriminated" against, only that I don't feel that departments value the sort of diversity I bring to the table. I agree with the above poster, though. Socio-economic diversity is not part of the conversation right now. No one seems to be trying to say that racial discrimination and socio-economic discrimination are the same thing, at least I'm not. I just feel like most people in academia don't understand how my background has affected my path to the PhD. Once again, congrats on the job.
  • I interviewed at a department with only one minority faculty. It wasn't only that the department was racially homogeneous (very much so, indeed), but also that a great majority of them shared the same cultural heritage. Their new hire also shared the same heritage. I am not sure if that is a coincidence. The dean joked during an interview that the department was "too Anglo." No, it wasn't that Anglo, but he probably wanted more of "his" people and that was their new hire.
2011-03-07 So, how long is too long? I interviewed early Jan and the univ has not decided yet. I sent one email inquiring and they got back saying "soon" but that was a month ago. Are they struggling with budget issues? Are they scrapping the search? I have been given no timeline for a final decision, and my supervisor tells me to focus on the defense and not worry about this. Easier said! I am wondering what options I have, at this point. Should I write once more and inquire? Knowing one way or the other would provide closure and let me go from ABD to PhD with an easier mind. On the other hand, I don't want to appear too pushy. Any advice, wiki-ers?

YES: STAY QUIET & keep waiting.

Same situation here as the OP, so I can sympathize: the wait is PAINFUL. But your supervisor is right: focus on your work and getting your degree. Whatever you do, don't bug the search committee! You don't know what the situation is. Maybe they're working down a list. But if there's even a remote possibility they might turn to you, they won't send an official rejection until someone accepts an offer. Do what you must (keep searching, applying) to get at least a temporary position for next year, but otherwise be patient and do your work.

3/17: Your director is right: Don't email the SC. But don't think that you'll receive a rejection right away. I'm just now receiving rejections for jobs I know for a fact have been filled since December and January. (Because they were filled by good friends. My advice: focus on the revisions and focus on seeking out other job opportunities. New jobs are listed for some fields in a sort of rolling-admissions style. Make sure you're on the most relevant list-servs and boards. Start emailing old friends. Join Facebook groups. Some jobs pass word-of-mouth weeks before they're officially live.

Good luck!

  • OP here: thanks for the advice and encouragement. I do have no other option but to wait. Perhaps SC is battling its own position with the powers-that-be in this financial climate, so I am inclined to empathize (although I keep wanting to jump on a trampoline to justify my racing heart!) O well - another job year, another attempt ...

3/23 Hang in there. There are plenty of reasons that you haven't heard yet but are still very much in the running: funding issues, protracted spousal hire negotiations,a death in the family of a search committee member, attempts to get approval for 2 lines instead of 1. These are all situations I've heard of this hiring season from friends and colleagues on both sides of the search. Until you get a rejection, especially if you did a campus visit, assume your candidacy is still being considered.

2011-03-07 After doing a campus interview three weeks ago, I was excited to receive a call from University of X. But, all they wanted was to ask me the exact same questions they asked at my on-campus interview. E.g. "What can you teach?" "What are your strengths and weaknesses?" etc. Seriously, what have they been doing in the weeks since I was there?

  • Sounds to me like they are deciding between you and maybe another candidate. Perhaps a couple faculty felt as if you wouldn't offer some kinds of courses, while someone else would, and they needed some clarification? I was on the market last year and am now on the other side of things this year, and have learned that the vote to hire someone can be close and thus come down to small details. Also, some rounds of on-campus interviews take three or more weeks just because of schedules of candidates or deans.
  • You're right. I didn't mean to suggest that three weeks was too long (I actually expected longer). I guess I was surprised to have them re-ask me my strengths and weaknesses three weeks later, as that was asked while I was there. If I were unclear when I was there, I guess I expected clarification questions before now. I hope you are right about the decision-making process!
2011-02-01 I tested the job market last year, which resulted in a low paying, not full-time adjunct position (minimal benefits). This year I went on the market in earnest and had two conference interviews. I prepared very well for them, though they didn't result in campus visits. My current adjunct position the Provost wants to cut (I get paid slightly more than the regular adjunct fee because I teach 4 classes/year, this way he could save literally a few thousand dollars - very frustrating). I was looking at adjuncting in several different universities as I live in a large metropolitan area. But then a job came up in an elite private high school with AP classes, senior seminars of my choosing (I'd do something like what I'd do for 300-level classes at the university level, but with less expectations) and only a 4 class/year load for three times my current salary. It was gut-wrenching to decide to apply because I love my research and it would be leaving - for next year - academia where I've worked really hard for the last 8 years. I emailed my adviser to ask for her to serve as a reference over a week ago and nothing. She is on email all the time - when I got interviews for university positions she'd reply within 2 minutes. We have had a great relationship and she's been very supportive thus far. But, I'm taking her not responding as a sign of her non-support and like I failed. I learned earlier this week that I had a campus interview (full day of interviews and teaching demonstration) and let her know about this and again said that I hope that she'll support me. Still nothing. I know that it's not a university job, but it's close and given the current market where no one is getting jobs, it's not like I'm an aberration by having no prospects. I don't like that some academics see university or nothing. I know that this hurts our department statistics, too, perhaps a concern, but I'm a human being who has been demoralized by this job search and need to start making money after 8 years of a laughable salary. This seems to me a good alternative...

  • I know the support of random people on the internet isn't as good, but I support you, dammit. A very good friend of mine was faced with the same choice about 5 years ago: teach advanced classes at a posh private school, or continue grubbing along on adjunct work. She chose the adjunct work because she "couldn't think of herself as" a high school teacher. Her life has been, for the past five years, nothing but misery. She's had to change employers too many times for me to count. She got run out of one job for daring to get sick (she was really sick, in a hospital, etc., but it didn't matter: their adjuncts aren't allowed to get sick!) -- and at least once a year she finds herself in full-on crisis mode just to pay her mortgage and car note. Hindsight is 20/20, and if she could do it over again... choose a good life. What other people think doesn't matter. Choose happiness. Choose security. Choose to be appreciated!!
  • You can always do research, but you can't always land a job that pays. It might be harder to get published without the university letterhead attached to your name or attend conferences without an understanding employer, but paying the bills and having a quality of life is by far better than pursuing a dream that often doesn't end well these days.
  • Give her the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes people are realy busy or have family matters to attend. I got kind of mad with a friend that did not answer me several emails just to learn that he was in Haiti working with a relief effort! Unless you did something bad to her, or asked her in the last minute for the leter, or something really annoying, chances are there is a good reason for her delay in answering you. In the meanwhile get a letter from somebody else and do not second-guess yourself. You have a great opportunity to pursue a career and get a paycheck.
  • I second responses 1 and 2 above: I support you, and you can always do research. I've been working as an independent scholar for many years because of unusual family circumstances, and after I got over my own discomfort with having no academic affiliation, I found it's not as difficult as one might fear. I've been able to publish in top journals and with major publishers. I've regularly presented papers at conferences with a competitive selection process. I've worked on projects with prominent senior scholars in my field. And I've even sat on dissertation defense committees. One thing that was important for me was to stay involved in professional organizations in my field. Even big organizations like the MLA and AHA offer opportunities for volunteers on small committees-you can network with the employed, who then often help out with invitations to conferences or to participate in publication projects. All if you can swing some of this alongside your day job. But you can still be a very legitimate scholar without a job in a university setting. Just be proud of your work (as you would be anyway), and don't think you need a university as your employer to validate your scholarship. It's their loss!
  • To above poster, I am extremely interested in your approach, as I am considering a similar path. I have a PhD, a book contract, and will be unemployed soon. I am thinking about working as a freelance translator and write a book in the meantime. There are a couple of funding opportunities for my project. But the money isn't good. Did you take any other "day" job for extra income or do your publishing activities yield enough? Your response is much appreciated.
  • Response to above questions regarding life as an independent scholar: First off, let me emphasize that this career path evolved directly from very unusual personal circumstances—probably not unique, but definitely unusual. At the moment there is no day job, although at times there has been. My partner has a predictable income, not great, but predictable, so we always have that to bridge the gap between my gigs, should it be necessary. My income has come from a wide variety of sources: I’ve done lots of freelance translating and editing, and you’re right, the money is not great. There is a huge demand for such skills, and I could take on many more such projects, but I try to limit the translating jobs since I find it cuts into my “verbal energy” for my own work. I’ve also had various fellowships and grants, some multi-year and some together with colleagues, which regularize the income for a certain period. And then I’ve done other freelance projects: conference, seminar, and other field-specific event organization on a case-by-case basis with local (sometimes not-so-local) universities and research centers. Invited lectures kick in some cash now and then. The actual income from publications yields only a small fraction of the mix. Make sure you have a good tax accountant if you’re not well-versed in tax law for royalties and other irregular income! However: the fact that I’m hanging around this wiki shows that I haven’t entirely given up on “real” academic employment. Our situation has shifted in recent years, and I could now consider a traditional academic job. I began sounding out the market this year and nothing panned out, but that’s okay, since at the moment, I can continue indefinitely as I have been since finishing the PhD.
  • Thanks for your response. I am in a similar situation, I may have to relocate due to family matter. Money certainly seems to be a problem. Then, there is that question of institutional affiliation and social standing. If I am productive as an independent scholar, I think I can get over it soon. But it's good to know how things went with you.
  • Really, the lack of affiliation is hardly ever a problem. I have borrowing privliges at a state university library nearby, and free JSTOR access through the alumni association of my graduate institution. And what's social standing? Sometimes other scholars are dismissive of me when they first learn I'm independent, but that usually changes quickly once they become acquainted with me and my work.
2011-03-04 Oh, my. I just got a bona fide case of the LOLZ. I'm one of the lucky ones. I got a great TT job at an R1, starting last year. This was after applying to 50+ positions, one of which was at Regional University of the Deep South. Today, a full 16 months after applying, I got an email: "Thank you for your interest in the position of Assistant Professor of X at the University of X. Unfortunately, you were not selected for employment in this position. Please do not let this discourage you from applying for other positions that interest you. Your application will remain active for twelve (12) months and can be updated during this period by logging on to and clicking Edit application.

We appreciate your wanting to become a member of the UofX employee community, and wish you success in your job search.


Department of Human Resources"

...awesome! Wow!

  • Yeah, I dunno. Your post isn't really a vent. At least not the kind that I come here to read to try and feel better about not being alone on this terrible job market. Kind of made me feel a bit sucky here, since the only thing that makes your late rejection letter funny is the fact that you have a great job now. The letters I'm getting—-and they also include letters from last year's applications, so I guess that's just something that happens--well, they're just not funny at all. I'm thinking that it probably wasn't your intention to make people feel bad, but so it goes.
  • My response was different. I like being reminded how arbitrary (or contextually contingent at best) these decisions are.
  • ...and I got one today, from a school I applied to almost two years ago. In order to jog my memory, the school reminded me that I applied to (and this is exact) a "position of XXX." I know the job market is bad, but I didn't apply to porno jobs.
2011-02-01 You know what sucks? Canadian hiring laws. I was informed by the SC chair of a Canadian research university that while my portfolio was impressive and most certainly fit their needs, they simply could not even interview (much less hire) a foreign candidate unless they could prove that they were unable to hire a Canadian citizen first. As a Canadian friend of mine working there explained: "They'd have to hire a qualified A.B.D. before they can hire an American with a long track record of excellence." Wow. Sure, it's their prerogative to help out their own-- I get that, whatever-- but what chaps my arse is that the same rules don't apply in the states. I'm in a smaller humanities field and one of the few open job goes (ironically) to A CANADIAN, fresh out of grad school! Ugh. I can't win. Blame Canada.

  • I am a US citizen and was hired at a Canadian institution two years ago. They advertised the job and invited four candidates for a campus interview. I never met the other three candidates but I heard that one - a Canadian candidate - gave a poor presentation and was not liked by the committee. They are certainly supposed to look at Canadian candidates first but if you meet their requirements and are the best candidate they should be able to hire you. They may not want to deal with the paperwork but there is an agreement called NAFTA which allows certain professions to bypass some of the immigration rules - this agreement if between the US, Canada, the UK and, I believe, France. I hope this will not deter you from applying to jobs in Canada.
  • Ok. This (OP) is a lot of tosh. It is well-known that in the last 6-7 years, the top Canadian schools have very consciously followed a strategy of hiring US graduates. All you have to do is check the department's website and this will be pretty clear. I am not sure why some SC member would say something like that to you (perhaps to assuage you? but then why would they bother?) but it's a myth that the legalese that comes in job ads of Cdn universities ("preference to Cdn citizens/PR only") is phatic and means nothing more than fulfilling a legal formality. So, like the above poster says, don't stop trying for jobs in Canada: if you are a US graduate, your chances are way better than they are for the Canadians!
  • NAFTA is the North American Free Trade Act, and it is between the US, Canada, and Mexico. Since the UK and France are not in North America, they are not parties to the agreement! The UK and France, as members of the EU, must hire any qualified EU citizens as they would their own, and the UK might have some additional agreement with Canada because of the Commonwealth, but the US is not involved in that. UK immigration laws can be quite restrictive for US citizens (check out some of the discussions on the postdoc fellowships page regarding the various Oxbridge postdocs)--they have a complex point-calculation system to determine eligibility. As an American who has lived many years in three different European countries, I can assure you that NAFTA will not help you get hired in the UK or France. But it should help for Canada, and I know whole departments in my field at Canadian universities which have an American majority among their faculty. For Canadian universities hiring Americans, where there's a will, there's a way.
  • 4/3: I am an American working at a Canadian university. Legally the only obligation of Canadian employers is that if a qualified Canadian citizen/permanent resident can be found for the job, then they must offer it to Canadians first, before making a foreign offer. In practice, for academic jobs, the government interprets this law as follows: if a Canadian and a foreigner are equally qualified, then the Canadian applicant must be given preference. As you can imagine, the actual effect of this regulation is that it has no effect whatsoever on academic hires. No two applicants ever have the same CV. My actual firsthand experience as both an applicant and with hiring committees is that, if the university claims they were required to hire a Canadian, they're not entirely telling the truth. They're just saying that to make you feel better. (There may be a kernel of truth, in that a non-Canadian hire genuinely does involve more paperwork. But paperwork alone is never going to make a university settle for a lesser candidate; at most, it would be a tiebreaker.) Also, as a point of information, NAFTA makes no difference to the university. NAFTA does help YOU personally, if you are American and you move to Canada (it makes getting permanent residency and moving slightly easier -- for example, Americans in skilled occupational categories can get a work permit at the border, without having to apply for it beforehand), but it does not directly affect the hiring process from the university's standpoint.
2011-03-2 two major hiring/interview violations were committed during my campus invite. To report to HR or not?

  • If you already know you don't want the job, or it was offered to someone else, then I think you should definitely report it--in fact, it's your responsibility to do so! If on the other hand you might still want to take the job, responsibility or no, it may be a good idea to be practical about it and keep your mouth shut. Sucks either way, sorry you had to go through that.
  • Can you be more specific? And violations according to whom? Do you mean the Federal Equal Opportunity laws? Were you denied the position based on your race, color, religion, sex, or national origin? Your age? A disability? Did someone simply ask if you were married? That, in itself, is not a "violation" according to any law. Bad protocol, yes, but not illegal. You need to tell us more.
  • would love to be specific but they may be reading. then again, I should not care. the questions was clearly a violation--used on my state's eeoc website as what cannot be asked. don't want to get anyone in big trouble. it may have factored into why I wasn't offered the job. I don't know. I also don't want to be super dramatic. but they (one person) did two things.
  • I don't think there is a harm in saying it.
  • A few considerations: 1) Do you have a reasonable chance of being hired? If yes, wait it out and see what happens. If no, decide if you are more upset about feeling slighted and/or whether you feel you were denied the job based in part by how you responded to those two interview violations. Chances are, as mad as you feel and/or as unethical as you think the violations were, it's not necessarily a matter that will be improved by legally pursuing either. 2) Some academics are very well connected. Some also have the equivalent to a black list where, if you make that list, no one will hire you. It sucks and it's unfair, yes, but contemplate the backlash effect. Academics should be mature adults, but in reality, that isn't always the case. 3) You're anonymously posting your dilemma as a question for the wiki. You might already know what you want to do, but if you really have to anonymously ask, it suggests (to me) that you, too, have considered--perhaps even fear--the consequences. Thus, I'd wait to say anything unless/until your situation is safely situated from possible retaliation.
    • Could you tell us more about that black list? I suspect that I am one of the blacklisted names. I had several job interviews this year with all rejections. Same happened last year. They all said I came off at the top of their list, but faced difficulties in extending their offers. Two years ago, I had a major clash with a big name in my field. Every university I interviewed asked me about this person. I avoided the topic all together, but the result was always the same. I am starting to believe that I am unemployable.
  • You mentioned above that you were not offered the job. If you truly feel that what they asked you factored into their decision, then I think you should say something. If the questions were asked in private, away from the rest of the search committee, then the other members might want to know that they have Professor Loose Cannon in their midst, because even if you don't pursue legal action (and there really doesn't seem to be an upside to that course of action), someone else may very well do so. I will say that in almost every job interview I've ever had, I've been asked inappropriate questions, or I've been asked questions that, while in themselves relatively innocuous, almost forced me to divulge information that I didn't necessarily want to offer up on my own. I've never done anything about it, but it's never been terribly egregious. Yes, I have kids -- they might as well know that right off the bat. But if they asked you about sexual orientation or something like that, then I'd at least make sure that someone, HR or whoever, knows that it happened. They'd thank you, I would think...eventually they'd get into big trouble. Just my two cents.
  • I believe this is why we have a "Universities to Fear" page. Anonymize your experience to the best of your ability, but hang their bad deeds around their necks like a burning albatross made of tire rubber.
2011-02-28 It is hard to be half of an academic couple where one person gets a job and the other is empty-handed! Where we were both, once, struggling grad students, now one of us has an awesome TT job and the other is reassessing his/her chops to do this long-term. It's tough that even good news leads to all these other difficulties.

  • And I hate to tell you, but it only gets harder. Happy to have kids, but they really hamper geographic mobility, which is already limited by the first tenure-track job. I get the prestigious national awards, but can't land the job. Partner gets tenure-track and hates it, but of course won't leave in this economic climate. I hope you're on the East Coast where there are a lot of colleges/universities in a small geographic area -- even if they're not in the same state -- and interesting non-academic opportunities are more plentiful than anywhere else in the country. Good luck!
2011-02-27 Just wanted to vent to SCs who tell you how awesome you are and then don't invite you for an on-campus/offer you the job. Had an interview on the phone with a department chair, who praised every single aspect of my application, from research to teaching to the way I provided them additional information. She told me I was their top choice for the job and I'd fall in love with University Q when I came to visit and if I had another job offer or interview I should let her know so they could move on this quickly. And then... nothing. Other people wiki-posted they got interviews. I'm pissed because I fell for it. It's highly unprofessional to promise a candidate something in an interview, and even worse not to follow through. And this comes on top of an on-campus interview in which the chair basically promised me the job, only to have the SC offer it to someone else. At this point, I'm wondering if it's me?

  • I don't know if it's you, but it's very common. The department chair identifies you as her favorite candidate, but she's not the boss. The decision must be made by the committee and approved by the dean. The chair is often outvoted or vetoed.
  • Or to have a Dean promise (verbally, only) that a candidate's spouse would be hired once the "new program in [spouse's field] opens up," only to find out later that the program had already been scuttled due to budgetary constraints.
2011-02-01 Attention wiki job hunters--it's just not possible that EVERY search is a sham, or EVERY job goes to an inside candidate. Sometimes there's just someone better than you for the job, or the SC didn't carry out the search the way you thought they should. OK? Ok.

  • Excuse me, did we miss something here? I don't recall anyone on this page complaining about sham searches or inside candidates (or hardly anyone). In a few cases on specific pages, yes, there were apparently very clear cases of inside candidates and sham searches (Fordham 20th c. Brit / Irish springs to mind...). But most people here are lucid enough not to indulge in paranoid blame-seeking for why they're not getting job offers. We know it's an impossibly tough market right now. The behavior of most SCs seems opaque to us. But we're not hallucinating about non-existent insiders or fake searches. WTF??!?
  • OP, who said "every" search goes to inside candidate or sham search? Read it right, please.
  • OK, now time to re-title this the 'Hyper-critical discussion of relatively off-hand comments page' or the 'Don't post here if what you have to say isn't iron-clad' page. Excuse you, yeah, you missed something here. No, no one said that every job is a sham, and if you read carefully, I'm not claiming they are or they did. It's only that on the pages I read [which, perhaps, you don't? b/c personally I never read anything but my own field's page and post-docs, and if you're honestly looking through Gender Studies and Chemistry and Philosophy and Sociology and Theater and...well, maybe you're just more into the wiki then I am.] there are now suspicions about many? several? most? of the jobs. Maybe you're not hallucinating about non-existent insiders [WTF??!? I guess I'm hallucinating about non-existent hallucinators], but my point is that other people are. SC behavior is opaque, b/c other people's behavior is never transparent. It's not an 'impossibly tough' market--it's about as bad as it's been for a long time. One job for every three applicants = standard. Drama down, everyone.
  • "One job for every three applicants = standard." In which fantasy land? It has NEVER been that easy. Maybe if you're applying to Hogwarts Academy. Fast forward to the 21st C: 270 applicants for one QWGS position at McMaster U. That's the new standard. And yeah, it's about as impossible as it gets, except for the lucky lottery winner.
  • The good thing to come out of all of this is I more clearly than ever see this as a waste of time and energy.
  • By "this" do you mean the venting page or this wiki in general?
  • Re: Hogwarts- I see they have that Professor for Defense Against the Dark Arts position listed yet again this year (it's on the wiki "Interdisciplinary Studies" page nine-and-three-quarters). They sure seem to have a lot of turnover in that job. Maybe someone should add it to the "Universities to Fear" page?
  • And Snape was the inside candidate for that job for years, never got it, and is now dead. Tragic. Just goes to show being the inside candidate is no guarantee.
  • Do you also tell friends their dating partner's dumped them because someone better came along? This is something frustrated people say to help deal with rejection. Let them cope.
2011-02-24 I was set to graduate, and very motivated about that after years of graduate studies. But now, with this difficult job market (religious studies), I decided not to graduate this year. This sucks, as I fulfilled all my requirements and finished my dissertation. In addition, it doesn't make family life easier. Part of the problem is that I still have to hear back from several applications, but it seems little progress have been made. Surely these SC's know time is of great essence here?
2011-02-23 Both a vent and a request for advice. This was my second year on the market (my first with the PhD in hand) and, miracle of miracles, I managed to land three campus visits for t-t positions. However, I've just learned that I came up short in each case. I'm not so bitter about my failure to get one of these jobs- I have only one year of teaching experience and my publication record could be better- as by the fact that members of the search committee failed to notify me that they had offered the position to someone else. In each case I found out that the job had been filled via the wiki rather than via a personal phone call or email. Realizing that SCs often wait to notify other candidates until an offer has been accepted (thus leaving them the option to offer the position to the second person on their list), I refrained from contacting the search chairs until two weeks after reading the wiki announcement that an offer had been made. Upon receiving my email, the search chairs gave me a "sorry, but we decided to go with someone else" response. Nevertheless, I am a bit flabbergasted as to the fact that I had to email them. It seems that it would behoove a SC to keep finalists informed of the process of the search. Perhaps they would have contacted me in due course, but how long should one wait? In any case, it reaffirms my belief that tenure can have a detrimental impact on one's inter-personal skills. Has anyone else had this experience? How much of a chump should I feel like for having gone 0 for 3 in campus visits? Is McDonald's hiring?

  • Look on the bright side: at least you HAD several campus visits. I had none. If you're a chump, then that makes me an untouchable. Next year I hope to achieve chump status. But of course you're right, the behavior of the SCs is inexcusable, absolutely rude and inconsiderate. Sorry you had to find out about the offers to other candidates through the wiki (and thank goodness the wiki exists, otherwise you'd still be waiting for a call!)
  • I second the comment above. It's reprehensible that the SC didn't have the decency to keep you informed of the process. I can almost sympathize with their reasoning, but like most people, I flat out disagree with their piss poor communication style. While it's a bummer to go 0 for 3, that's still 3 more chances that many of us have never had.
  • First of all, three campus visits is a great sign that things will work out soon. So take that for what it's worth. As for the SC's behavior, if in fact an offer had been accepted than not notifying is deplorable. As you observe, however, is is common and not unreasonable for departments to keep candidates in the dark until then. It's hard to tell from your description which is the case.
  • It's possible they have a policy of not sending out official rejections until the contract is signed. It's possible that he told you what he told you as a courtesy, because he had reason to believe the contract was "all but" signed (ie: the candidate offered the job squealed and cheered on the phone). If they're only waiting for the post office to make it official, but have a policy of waiting for it to be official before sending out word... well, you get my point.
  • I think that three campus visits is a great sign! It means that you do excellent job with your dossier and your convention interviews. It may also suggest, however, that you need to work more on your job talk performance. Get some more experienced scholars to look at it, get mock job talks organized. You are very close! Sooner or later something will work out. Good luck.
  • I had a campus visit 5 weeks ago - still haven't heard a thing from the search committee, but someone got an offer according to the wiki. It's amazing how much more stung I am by the lack of courtesy and respect from the sc than I am by not getting the job (and it's a job I really really wanted). Here's my question: who's to blame for the lack of common decency? Is it the sc, just the chair, the university, all of the above? (In this particular case, I know of others who had an interview but did not have a campus visit, and they still haven't received an official rejection - it's disgusting, really.)
  • To the poster above--I think you may be jumping to conclusions here! Remember that they may not have notified you because you are their second choice, and were it not for this wiki, you wouldn't even know that they have extended the offer to someone else! Of course, if that person accepts the offer and the department still doesn't give you the official rejection, then you have every right to be upset. Good luck!
  • (to the person just above, who replied to me) Thanks for the positivity! It's nice to hear supportive feedback that also acknowledges reality. If I am their second choice and it comes to that, I'll surely take it! Given the time line involved, and other factors, I'm pretty sure that's not the case here. Based on my experiences and the experiences that have been posted here, I've completely lost the expectation that sc's will ever contact you in a timely manner about anything other than good news.
  • I feel you, OP--I went through something similar. Am ABD with tons of teaching experience but no publications, and I got one campus visit this year. I aced it from start to finish, and I still didn't get the job (according to the wiki, that is--the SC still has not contacted me since my visit a few weeks ago!). I was pretty miffed that the school didn't have the decency to let me know I'm no longer in the running, especially since they have been very communicative with me thus far. I don't know if you feel like you aced your fly backs, but I can tell you that, even if you had, it doesn't always matter. Departmental politics, individual personalities, prior experiences, and all kinds of biases often play a huge role in who ends up getting the job. You should feel immensely proud that you even made it to this stage (I did, because I was expecting nothing!). It can only get better from here. It has to!
  • I had a similar experience at a touchy feely liberal arts sort of school. Spent three days there, did an incredible amount of work for them, talked to everybody. "We are all about people and community here!" and all that. I didn't get the job. No problem. But I also didn't get a rejection. Come on people, have some guts. Pick up the phone and call and say it didn't work out. Or if you are too chicken, send an email. I think the truth is that this sort of communication just isn't required any more.
  • I would rather get a rejection by email, even at the interview stage. No sense in getting my hopes up when I see the strange area code on my phone only to be told, "It's not you, it us..." Once an offer has been made and accepted, I can't see why a simple prompt email wouldn't suffice. I'm still waiting to hear back from two jobs that have already finished their searches (according to the wiki).
  • If they have not told you anything, it might be that you are their second or third option. In this though market, we can all assume that most people who arrive to the on campus visit will be very good, and decitions are dificult. The department might rank 3rd you but might be also happy with the 3 candidates. Each offer gives at least 2 weeks to each candidate. So if the first took two weeks and said no, and then is the turn of the second who will take another 2, and even after he/she might say no too, and so you might still be in the run. I think that no SC wants to say you a no before the contract is signed. Of course there are rude people, but you should give them the benefit of the doubt. You can send if you want a very polite email leting them know that you would appreciate that they let you know when they have news, reminding them that you are still interested in the position, etc. Hope it works out.
  • OP, this happened to me last year. Now with a year of experience, I was lucky to get 5 visits and 3 offers. Obviously you were hot with the interviews, so next year should be better. BTW, SC are only as quick as their president, dean, schedules of the SC and how long it takes the first candidate to accept or reject. Some people need the full 2 weeks to make such major life decisions that will affect relationships, children, quality of life, etc. And some SCs have busy deans and presidents. I got one offer 3 days after the visit and in another, a month after. At one place, it took me a full week to negotiate terms by email, and in the other I spoke directly to the Provost on the phone and we negotiated the terms in a 20 minute conversation. It just depends.
2011-02-21 I like reading this page this time of the year, when the stress level is the highest. I particularly like reading comments that bash obnoxious members of SC. Of course, there are kinder ones, but there are also terrible ones.
2011-02-21 Dear SC,

Please do not send me e-mails telling me to "feel free to contact <name of dept. adm. asst.> or <name of SC chair> if you have any questions" if you in fact have no intention of answering such questions. (Which were concise, relevant, not frivolous, and directly related to the search timeline, not like "so are you going to hire me?") Or was this another way to sort out idiots inappropriate for employment in your department? The ones who blink and dare to ask a question are immediately eliminated? It pisses me off that this job search process reduces intelligent adults to pitiful supplicants who are simply ignored by those in the privileged position of employment. Makes me feel like a fly flicked away by a lazy dash of a cow's tail on a hot summer day. That makes you, dear SC, the herd of cows huddled together, complacently chewing your cud. With best regards, Yet another annoying job candidate

  • I'm adjuncting this year in a large metropolitan area. A nearby college is looking for adjuncts for next year and it seems that the dept chair looked at my place of employment's website and sent both non-tenure track people an email asking if we wanted to pick up another course at her college. This is a place to which I applied for a TT position in the fall and during the course of this search I'd emailed with a very pertinent question (not "do you know whether you're going to interview me yet?") to which I never received a response. When I emailed her with some questions about the adjunct position, she emailed me back in 10 minutes, I emailed her back several hours later, and then she emailed back 5 minutes later. All of this for a class that would pay $3000 (major exploitation), but for the TT position with a real salary, nothing. This system is so messed up in so many ways.
  • As another prospective job seeker on the market, there are no reassuring words for how this system reduces us to accepting almost anything we can get. In my situation, I also adjunct (for $1650 a class) where a TT position opened up; the SC was kind enough to respond to my questions. However, the gist was "thank you for your interest, but you're not qualified for this TT position." Interesting. I teach 5 sections per semester (for the last 2 years for this same school), 3 of which will be the EXACT courses the TT position requires the new hire to teach each semester. Suffice to say, things will get a lot worse before they start to get better. Unless things quickly improve, I'm considering a career change.
  • It is neither shocking nor a scandal that adjunct faculty would be considered qualified to teach undergraduate courses at an institution that would not consider them seriously for a tenure track job. A tenure track job entails membership in a department and a commitment on the part of the faculty to mentor and promote the candidate through tenure and beyond. In contrast, an adjunct position entails no more a commitment than putting someone in front of a classroom for one semester. A tenure track line is a rare and coveted opportunity for a department to fill its ranks and hire a colleague; an adjunct position is by definition temporary and off to the side of the goings on of departmental life. Obviously, I cannot speak to the individual qualifications of the previous two posters, but nevertheless, this is the way the system works and it's not entirely irrational. Blame not search committees or chairs trying to fill adjunct slots. If you want to blame anyone, you can start with universities for not hiring enough junior faculty or state legislators for not funding higher education or wall street for getting us into this mess.
  • To the last (troll) poster: You seem to have misread the entirety of the 2 posts above. The problem that particularly the first respondent mentioned is that SC are not responding to emails and this person demonstrated the frustration of learning that the SC is not simply the type who doesn't respond to emails. That person also wrote "this system is so messed up," not blaming the search chair as you wrote in your response. Concerning your remarks about whether someone is qualified for an investment as a TT faculty member, what gives you the knowledge about anyone else's qualifications and whether he/she might not be a great, productive colleague? This is the VENTING page, where people should be able to VENT without being judged, belittled (by someone who has no earthly idea whether the person's credentials), or admonished.
  • Wow, merely disagreeing with or qualifying the substance of a post makes one a troll? I know the posts were about email manners, but they were also about how galling it is to be deemed qualified to adjunct but not for a TT job. Both posts were. And finally, I believe I pointed out that I was not judging anyone's qualifications. The point was simply about the adjunct/TT disjunct, and thus about part of the very substance of the previous two posts. Sheesh.
  • I'm going to agree with ^^ here. No judgment of qualifications, and a very true, very pertinent comment that 'qualified to teach the same courses' doesn't mean 'qualified for the TT line.' That is entirely possible. I know, in my case, that I crush the classes I'm teaching here, and also that my CV wouldn't be enough to get me a TT job here. I'm ok with that. I think its a little horrendous that universities work like that, but I also see the logic in it. I'll also say that replying to email responses to something you sent is one thing, whereas answering every email that comes in about a TT position is quite another, and in particular writing to ask how one is doing on a job search ['are you going to interview me'] is not the best form. Again, another mark of a horrible system, but in general, if they're not calling, they're not interested, and if every SC chair had to answer every request for that kind of info, and that kind of request wasn't discouraged, it could get pretty overwhelming pretty quickly. Department chair is a pretty lousy job, especially in the middle of a search, when everyone's needs and desires and deadlines converge on her--admin, faculty, applicants, etc, all wanting everything handled right according to their own specifications. I would be frustrated in OP1 and 2's situations as well, but maybe understanding how and why these things happen can mitigate some of the frustration...?
  • Although I often hear that institutions have different criteria for their adjunct vs. TT faculty, I rarely see this distinction made clear in practice. I know of far too many adjuncts who advise student theses, represent their departments in university events (conferences, colloquia, etc.), win distinguished teaching awards, and develop original programs/courses to support this idea that schools have one set of people that are "suitable for teaching" v. another who are "suitable for participation in the department/university."
  • Thanks to the poster immediately above. I serve on committees as an adjunct, give departmental lectures, and advise students. I'm about to begin advising a master's thesis. I teach both undergraduate and master's students. The myth of my lack of qualification looks like an attempt to justify the continued exploitation of contingent faculty. I am as qualified or more than my tt counterparts. TT positions are scarce because it's cheaper to hire adjuncts, not because the tenure track has some kind of special ontological status. And no, troll poster, the system is not rational.
  • "Troll" means intentional instigator, side-tracker, or obfuscant, and that doesn't apply to whoever posted five items above this one. Moreover, I think we all agree that adjunct [which now means not 'adjunct' but 'disposable,' if only i/t/o hiring and funding] faculty get a bad deal. There are also anecdotal instances where the adjunct-tenured divide is a distinction without a difference. That doesn't mean that there aren't valid reasons why someone hired to teach courses would be ineligible for a TT job that covers those same courses. I'll also say that, myself included, everyone I've ever worked with in every job knew how to run the show better than the management, and could tell you about the rank injustices perpetrated upon the little guy. When I TA'd, students agreed that I should have been teaching the course. My point is that there are significantly different perspectives to be had further down the line. That's not an argument that we should assume some sort of Liebnizian 'this is the best possible universe' or complacently decide that 'everything happens for a reason' or that we should blindly trust administration. My dog in this fight is that there are ways of looking at things that make me furious, and there are others that don't, and I don't actually believe that fury, when manifested in the form of unactionable resentment over things over which one has little control, is noble or obligatory. It's just battery acid on the soul, corrosive and painful and only damaging, ultimately, to me.
  • If no one got upset about injustice, where would we be?
  • No one should ever accept an adjunct position, not unless it's at Harvard or you're a future or former president. Outside of those rare situations, the taint of the label "adjunct" is harder to remove than the taint of the label "crack whore," and has roughly the same effect on your chances of being hired.
  • I'm the second guy who originally posted. To the above comment: rejecting employment won't change the system. If I didn't accept the adjunct position, someone else would. Meanwhile, myself, like many others like me, would have spent years upon years working towards a PhD to basically give up from the start. It's one thing to criticize academics and pontificate about the disparities involved, of which there are many, but on the same token, some of us have already invested too much of our time, our life, and more effort than could ever be quantified to turn down an adjunct position just for some moral high ground. In theory, I agree with you; accepting the adjunct position perpetuates the very exploitation I have fallen victim to. However, in reality, I'm trained in academics and that is what I have chosen to pursue. While I don't like getting passed over for a gig I feel I am equally qualified in being considered for, I don't have the luxury to just walk away either. Consequently, there may be a stigmatized label in what I do. It sucks. But honestly, am I to just give up completely? What else can I do? I could start somewhere else anew, but I run the same gamble of where I currently am: fighting for stable long-term employment in whatever form I can secure it. Still, what I find especially instructive in situations such as mine is that often the most negative and least supportive people I hear similar sentiments from seem to come from two distinct camps: 1) those already in privileged positions who have either not endured the same process I'm facing or have simply forgotten what it's like fighting for crumbs, or 2) would-be competition aiming to strategically situate themselves in a better position. Whatever the case may be, as disappointed and frustrated as I am, all I can do is keep fighting the good fight; I'll always encourage everyone else to do the same. In that sense, I'll happily take my "crack whore" status and continue to work towards my goal. It may be a futile effort, but the alternative is no less satisfying either.
  • I'm the one who made the "crack whore" comment -- and I admit I made it in a moment of not-too-well-considered annoyance at our national job situation. It was not a nice thing to say and I apologize. Personally, I would not take an adjunct position because I'm considering the long game. If keeping a toe-hold in academia means that 10 years from now I will have no career, then my toe can hold itself somewhere else. Personally, when I finished grad school and could not get a real job, I found a very cool job outside academia that I knew would look good on my CV and provide me with a great topic of conversation during interviews. I did that for a year and it worked to get me a f/t instructor gig teaching classes in my area. I got f/t experience, volunteered for things in the department to build the "good colleague" and "team player" parts of my CV, published my butt off, and in the end it paid. IMHO you have to have a long-term plan, and adjunct positions are not a good part of any long-term plan (unless, as I said, you're doing it at Harvard or something). Depending on your field/area there are very cool things in this world you can do to make yourself a more impressive candidate outside of academia: in private industry, among non-profit charities and activist groups, in local/national government, and so on. And there's always the Peace Corps. But taking an adjunct job just to stay an academic is eating the seed corn: you're sacrificing future growth to a present-day meal that's not so nummy anyway.
  • Regarding the adjunct vs. TT discussion: I don't believe people have mentioned that there are other criteria, especially in the humanities, for landing a TT job. At many (most?) places, being a fabulous teacher with experience teaching a variety of courses is not enough. Even to land the job, you must be recognized in the field, through publications, conference papers, and even service to the field. Particularly with so many qualified people on the job market, institutions can aim high when they're hiring someone for a TT position; they can bring in someone who can fairly quickly slip into the role of colleague, without having to go through the trouble of mentoring someone to move them from teacher to established scholar. I find many adjuncts are far better teachers than tenured faculty -- they have to work harder, they're often younger and more aware of cutting-edge developments in their field -- but if there's not much on your c.v. besides teaching, it's going to be difficult to be seriously considered for anything TT in this type of tight job market.
  • Wow, last poster, I'd NEVER thought of that--you mean I have to publish and present at conferences, too? And maybe win a few grants? Sincerely, Adjunct with 2 refereed articles in top humanities journals, winner of 14 external fellowships, and conference presenter/invited speaker 12 times over. (oh, and I'm still ABD)
  • I'm not suggesting that I'm giving anyone new information (although depending on the program, at least in my field, some schools actively discourage people from publishing, etc., until they're done -- mostly to make their own graduation stats look more impressive), but up to this point, in this particular thread anyway, the emphasis has been on teaching -- in short, if I can teach circles around everyone, why aren't I getting a TT job? I have come across many people on the job market who really don't have much beyond teaching experience, and sometimes not even that. I'm glad that you have an impressive c.v. And just so you know, I'm an adjunct too, with credentials/publications/conference papers/service that would put most tenured faculty to shame. And a PhD to boot. And I still don't have a TT job. So I'm not lording it over the rest of you--just bringing up a point, however obvious, that had not yet made it into this conversation.
  • I'm going to start my comment with a disclaimer: academics is slowly but surely imploding upon itself in the humanities. The hard sciences has it's share of issues, too, but insofar as the humanities are concerned, the market just doesn't exist for full-time employment. Adjuncting is becoming the norm for many people. If you love academics, have high hopes of landing a TT job, and so forth, humanities or not, rock on. But if you take notice of the writing on the wall, the life of the mind is a wonderful thought with little footing in reality. If you consider the time it takes to earn your MA, PhD, acquire teaching experience, conquering the politics and gatekeepers of getting published, the out-of-pocket expense to pay for conference-related pursuits, etc., on top of endless CV expectations, nothing short of being well connected, this industry is hopelessly antiquated. Rising in the ranks, if you even get your foot in the door, is beyond unrealistic. While for many I'm saying nothing new, I'm chiming in because it really does seem like many previous posters have bought into this system, hook, line and sinker, very much demonstrating gambler's fallacy; continuing to invest more time and money into a losing effort, believing that they will eventually win or at least break even. Still, some will point to the select few who succeed anyways, very much like a token contrary to the norm, truly convinced their lucky break just might happen if they teach more, publish more, do more, etc., etc., while often failing to have anything to show for their hard work. While my comments appear pessimistic and anything but supportive, I'm just absolutely astounded how so many "smart" people continue to pursue this career aspiration, seemingly unaware of the endless obstacles they are up against. One wonders, from the outside looking in, why our society still continues to believe that more education, in part validated by a costly piece of paper, is the fast-track ticket to success, financial stability, etc. Without pontificating ad infinitum, it's just not surprising or even remotely plausible in expressing reiterated claims of "this sucks!" or "this just isn't fair" by the disappointed and unemployed when there is hardly anything new in what I'm saying, judging by market trends, for easily the last 50 years. I truly wish everyone the best, but until academics all but eats itself alive, it seems as though there will still be enough willing souls to sacrifice their future for a system that fails to reciprocate in kind.
  • Word UP, last poster. And thank you. This is exactly what I needed to read. I am DONE. D.O.N.E. I'm getting out of this stupid game. I gave it my all. I spent 8 years getting my Ph.D., 3 years on the market, and I'm done wasting my time. I'm 30, not 70. There is plenty of time to change careers. Screw you, academia. There has to be something else out there. Yes, I love teaching and yes, I love reading, but you know what? I would probably also love feeling like the people I work for appreciate me. Other things I would enjoy: job security, health insurance, living wherever I want, and earning more than 30K a year. EFF YOU, IVORY TOWER!!!!!!!!!
  • Amen!!!
  • Good for you, DONE! You aren't asking for too much: A living wage in the here and now, a job that pays you enough to avoid literally dying/going bankrupt because you can't buy healthcare, not living in an almshouse when you are 70. (And FWIW, I don't think you are entitled to this merely because attained the highest professional degree for your industry.) I think the smartest people don't enter academia anymore in the first place. The second-most intelligent people see the screw job for what it is and leave. The rest of us? It seems to me that we are complicit in our own suffering and that of others competing for these crumbs. At some point, it becomes a matter of self-preservation, common sense and even ethics to not take the adjunct job. I want to hear from people like DONE who are laughing all the way to the bank.
2011-02-21 The troubling trend of saboteurs deleting posts here continues. I've just reverted a deletion of a lengthy and excellent exposé of the pro-Ivy bias in hiring. The saboteurs has an IP from Chicago, and I can only assume that s/he comes from a certain heavyweight university in the windy city named in the exposé. To said saboteur: by deleting posts you're only validating the points raised. It's a futile attempt to hide reality, as I and other vigilant wikiers will revert your deletion and denounce your cowardice.

Here is the troll's IP:

  • Note from admin: thank you for drawing attention to the problem. This IP has been temporarily blocked for removing content from pages.--Una74 20:24, February 21, 2011 (UTC)

Deleting messages is disgusting, but also to add some reality: I'm from a top 5 University and applied to 12 jobs : 0 response, my friend of the same university applied to 20 jobs: 0 response...Don't assume we get all the jobs...Not at all.

2011-02-19 I know it's definitely not popular or politically correct, but I'm starting to get the feeling that being a Caucasian male is a hindrance to my search for employment. Not only are there several "opportunity hire" positions out there in my field which are designated solely for minority and women candidates, but I also tend to get the sense that white men are looked down upon as not adding to a department's cultural diversity, regardless of how polished their CV is. I'm not trying to start a debate about affirmative action or "discrimination against Whites," but c'mon... let's be real, in this 21st century, in our diverse American society where we're poised to have "minority majority" within the next decade or two-- are these kinds of hires still necessary? I know I'm likely in the "minority" here, but I feel like it's a little unfair.

  • Honestly, I think the market just stinks for everyone, no matter what their identity might be. It's tempting to look for a reason, any reason, to try and explain why one didn't get a job. It's certainly better than confronting the possibility that your research or teaching or, shudder, pedigree or personality aren't up to par. It's none of those things, OP: it's not your research, your teaching, your personality, where you got your degree, or your status as a Caucasian male. Or it might be some indiscernible and random combination of some or all of the above. You can't know, and you can likely control very little of what it is about you and your work that results in a hire or a rejection. The market is just a fickle and unpredictable lottery in this climate. And it's anecdotal evidence, but of the five positions for which I've been a finalist in the last two years (and I'm a woman), three of them have gone to Caucasian males instead of me, and in each of those cases, I had a better publication and teaching record than the candidate that got the position. I just hated the way the process made me constantly question what was wrong with me, and I hope that you can find some way to realize that there is likely very little about you -- from your work to your identity -- that can be empirically correlated to your success or failure in this particular job market.
  • I haven't read a more empathetically and convincingly written response on wiki for a long time. Kudos, respondent. I agree with the perpective too; the benefit (or otherwise) of being anything in this market is an analytical chimera. The factors that align in procuring one a job are beyond prediction, except in the most nebulous and recursive way: a good CV, top letters, publications, and lots of luck. So what's new in that prognosis? Nothing.
  • Faculty at R1 here. "Caucasian Male" is right up to a point. The market is horrible, except for in AF/Am, Po/co and ethnic literatures. In these fields, demand outstrips supply by a considerable margin. Moreover, many searches in these fields will really only hire minority candidates. Beyond this, there is no discrimination against white male candidates, and white women are in more or less the same boat. As the previous writers says, it's about CV, publications, timeliness of project and a good amount of luck.
  • I've assisted/observed a few searches at an R2 in the past few years, and I can back that up: a BritLit position garnered 100s of applicants (and went to a white man, incidentally, but I don't think that had much to do with it), meanwhile two ethnic-related lit searches garnered (after weeding out the BritLit and AmLit people who should not have applied at all but who were probably desperate enough to send their CVs to anything) around 20 applicants. In both cases the ultimate hires were members of the minority or from the country, yes, and not white men, but the biggest difference imho is that they sent their CVs and right away had roughly 1-in-20 odds of landing the job. The BritLit applicants had more like 1-in-300.
  • It's different in English, I'm sure, but I hear the same complaints in my field (theology/religious studies), particularly from men who think women get hired unfairly/more easily. This is in spite of the massive disparity between men and women faculty in our field. I hear it from men in philosophy as well, which is also heavily male in its faculty. I don't buy it when men in male dominated fields complain about this.
  • Well, since I recently had an on campus interview in a department that was entirely populated by white males and they hired yet another white male, I don't really buy it either.
  • If you lump every other race and women and gays, into one single category and put white men into a single category of their own it would seem like the minorities were always getting the jobs. Now lets compare the number of Chicano men who got jobs to the number of white men who got jobs on last year's market. Do you see where I'm going with this?
2011-02-17 So, I don't know if this is a rant, I do know that I have one of the single most identifiable IP addresses in the world, and I really don't know if this is going to make me feel better. I didn't go to a top tier school, and I don't have a bunch of publications, because I finished my diss. while teaching a VAP and an overload and it's only been done two months, plus I have kids and I'm just not that excited to be ON all the time. I don't think I 'deserve' a job, and I've know for a long time now that getting any kind of job was actually less likely than getting one. I didn't apply for every job possible--the last 1 year vap that wanted official transcripts from my grad and undergrad schools, I just couldn't bring myself to essentially pay a $25 application fee for a chance at a 1 year job. I teach well, most of the time, and I really care about students.

It's nobody's fault but my own, and so here it is: I feel immensely stupid for spending all this time, other people's money, my family's patience, and the best years of my adult working life, on a long shot that if it pans out will just barely crest me above the median income. I am exhausted with waiting to hear anything about any of the jobs I applied for. It all begins to feel like prayer--I really don't know if anybody's listening, I very rarely see anything I can call results, but everyone says you have to keep doing it. At this point I would like to just hear some rejections, from the crappy schools that aren't even going to take a look at me. And all this time people keep saying it will work out, something will come through, don't worry, but here we are in February, with maybe 6 jobs, mostly vaps and postdocs, to apply for, and I haven't even gotten a second interview. For anything. Then I make the mistake of reading the Chronicle and the consensus opinion is that a year off is as good as the kiss of death on an academic career. I have no delusions, never had, of being anything other than a workaday professor at a reasonably good SLAC, and it just is inexorably coming down to: it's not going to happen. If someone had been nice enough to tell me that not getting into an Ivy actually means you're not good enough to make it, I might have saved myself the trouble. Now I just feel kind of stupid and hopeless and helpless, like an utter fool and a sucker for ever believing this could work, and completely at a loss as for what to do next, except write a midterm for tomorrow and spend the last dying ounces of my love of academia on what we all know is a barren field--students.

  • You went into the humanities! Did you really expect to graduate with marketable skills? Did you really expect employers to compete for you? We do what we do for fun, for personal growth, for the sake of education, for a million other reasons, but not because the prospects of finding a job are promising! We're lucky if we get an offer, but in many cases we don't. That's just the reality of the humanities, and you knew it from the very start. If you wanted to make sure you got a job upon graduation, you should have studied nursing or physical therapy or engineering.
  • Nowhere does it say that the poster "went into the humanities", unless you're inferring this from the easily-identifiable IP address (I didn't look). To the OP: the only way out of this for me was to start making alternative plans early in grad school: make sure I have a resume, that I keep it updated, that I keep an eye out (and occasionally apply) for interesting non-academic jobs, and that I feel empowered to walk away whenever I choose. There are huge numbers of people in your situation. This is far from the only messed-up sector of the economy, but there are other things you can do, and I think you do deserve to feel empowered and entitled to leave and do them. The academy is going to pay heavily for chewing up and spitting out this many people; in fact it's already paying, although this does you no good to hear. I can't give more specific advice than this, but I wish you well, and I predict that 2-3 years from now you'll be a lot happier, wherever you are. (K12 teaching, maybe?) But in the meantime, don't let it devour your sense of self-worth, and don't spend your time looking backwards. Lastly, for some reason, if you post this sort of thing anywhere on the internet, you will attract comments like the above. In fact, that one's pretty mild. I recommend avoiding all of it: the Chronicle, Inside Higher Ed, this site, "post-academic" blogs... the toxicity is really high.
  • I feel for you, OP. It's brutal out there and made all the more crushing when you're on the market, teaching loads of classes, and trying to raise a family. But I think you might be throwing in the towel a little early given that you're only two months out from finishing the diss. Because the job market the last two years has been so awful, it's flooded with PhDs dating back at least until 2009. In many cases, these folks have -- like you -- been teaching a ton. Many of them have also been publishing a ton. Some of them are from Ivies and some of them aren't, but a lot of them have CVs that would have nearly gotten folks tenure a decade ago. For what it's worth, I also think that a "reasonably good SLAC" these days will be looking for a candidate with a record of excellent teaching and good scholarship. And they will most certainly not take kindly to a candidate who views their students as a "barren field," although I sympathize with how soul destroying it can be to teach students as an unrewarded contingent faculty member. Finally, it may be cold comfort but lots of places don't send out rejections until they have completed their search because of the bureaucracy of HR departments; and who knows, they may not be rejecting you yet because they're still considering your candidacy! So hang in there! And best of luck whatever path you choose!
  • To the OP: I understand your grievances but what's the point of venting about the obvious? Yes, it's hard to get a job at a good SLAC. Tell us something we don't know.
  • To the previous poster: Why does the OP need a "point" for venting? I shudder to think how stiflingly structured your life might be if even something as venting requires so much forethought and originality. I hardly think you "understand" the OP's grievances, if by understanding one means empathizing and offering a shoulder to cry on. The whole "point" of this thread, if there is one, is to allow the brightest minds of my generation a safe place to rage at a deeply dysfunctional, secretive, and unfairly discriminatory hiring system. Who do you think you are by coming here and passing judgment on other someone's way of expressing their grief?
  • Re: the above (last 2 comments). A-friggin'-Men! That condescending poster was a total dick. Seriously.
  • Well, as it turns out a few helpful things came out of this for me, the OP. 1. I am an obvious humanities flack. Meh. I plead guilty. 2. The 2-3 vitriolic responses sounded exactly like the negative voices in my own mind, and so 3. the people who chimed in to refudiate those nastinesses have helped me to try to recognize as such and ignore the negatives. I really don't feel like students are a 'barren field,' but time spent on teaching and improving it is so difficult to get recognized--otoh, I actually didn't start doing all this for recognition, but because, as #1 above put it, I loved it. Thanks so very much to EVERYONE who contributed. And FWIW, on the days when I'm not so hopeless, I try to offer similar helpful commentary in contradiction of others' despondency.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming.

2011-02-15 Thank you, College X, for giving me exactly 36 hours to plan a teaching demonstration. While I do feel incredibly thankful and lucky to have a campus visit in the first place, the fact that you have waited until basically the day before I'm schedule to arrive to tell me what I will be teaching is not really giving me the warm fuzzies. Also lame: the fact that you are being so deliciously vague in letting me know what I should teach. What's that you say? I should choose "a topic that interests me" and spend "some time" showing the audience--which may or may not include undergraduate students and "may or may not include faculty besides the SC"--teaching it in "an engaging way"? Oh, goodness, THANK YOU for being so wonderfully specific. Also, I really appreciate the fact that you wanted me to know that there might be "some AV equipment" available. I'm going to bring an 8-track cassette. Hope that's cool. I'm assuming that you "may or may not" be there to pick me up from the airport and that we'll be spending "some time" getting to know one another in the car. You can ask me questions such as "how is stuff?" and "where is that thing?"

  • You complain about having the freedom to teach whatever you want? You complain about academic independence? You complain about having been selected for a campus visit? You complain about the fact that the search committee cannot force colleagues or students to attend your teaching demonstration? You complain about the fact that they encourage you to be interesting and engaging? Would you also like them to e-mail you their comments on your teaching demonstration in advance so you would have time to prepare for their questions? Would you also like them to hold your hand while you teach?
  • Dude, back off. The OP isn't complaining about freedom or about having a campus visit. Are you trying to say that anyone with some good news can't also complain about the bad? Being told that someone may or may not pick you up at the airport sucks. Having no background information about the people you are supposed to 'teach' sucks. To the OP, I had a similar experience with teaching, and the sc acted like it was totally cool to just teach whatever. I kept thinking that if I want the class to go well, I need for the students to not be bored because the material is too advanced or too basic, so I need some info about these students! The sc really did not get why that information might be important. I guess the only consolation is that your competitors are likely in the same boat as you.
  • Being told that someone may or may not pick you up at the airport indeed sucks, but that's not what the OP is saying. That's not what the OP was told. The OP "assumes" that would be the case, which isn't exactly positive thinking. Nothing wrong with bitching, complaining, assuming the worst, and wallowing in hateful fantasies, but you won't get hired with that attitude.
  • OP here. Look, I was just VENTING here on the VENTING page. I know I'm lucky blah blah blah. I'm not going into the visit with a negative attitude. I'm going to be Captain Upbeat Optimistic Grateful the whole time. I was just hyperbolically VENTING out some initial frustration here on the VENTING page. Calm down, folks.
  • OP, please vent when you want to. That's the whole point of this page. I prefer your venting to some smug SC telling us to see things in perspective because he'd "been there," while admitting how messed up the search process could be. Ah, that fake humanism: "We tried extremely hard to make the process humane..." I would rather hear it from a butcher.
  • So, how did the teaching demonstration go? Were you able to pull it off with only 36 hours to prep?
2011-02-15 This isn't a rant, but you may wish to hear it anyways. I am about 10 years away from the PhD, and am now not only hired, but running a search at my university. we tried extremely hard to make the process humane for the candidates, not merely because we know that we are turning away some very impressive people, but also because I personally spent four painful and occasionally humiliating years looking for my first permanent job. It's an awful and terribly inefficient process, and breeds not only misery, but also mediocrity. With a bit of hindsight, I would have to agree that many, possibly most searches are somehow an inside job. Not that they necessarily have a candidate chosen, but they do have a predilection to certain grad schools, which is why you might an academic department populated largely by Columbia (for example) products. The point is - and please DO take this to heart - IT ISN'T YOU, IT IS NEVER YOU. Very little of even a well-run job search is strictly driven by quality of the candidates. And, again, with ten years of rear view mirror vision, I can say that people who get a great job right out of grad school often become mediocre academics. A period of wandering in the desert, or even better, a good postdoc, can add a lot of depth to your research.

Please, please, please, consider a career change as a strategic move, but do not do it because you despair in yourself. In fact, don't despair in yourself in the first place!

  • Wow, thanks for this post. This is exactly what I'd been thinking. This is my 2nd year on the job market from a 'mediocre' university, but I won more national level fellowships than most other grad students in my discipline, which seems to me to be a better indication of one's scholarship since Fulbright, etc. committees are more concerned with the project than the university's name. I know I made a mistake going to the school with one of the best programs in my field, but it's at a non-Ivy League so getting a job will be an uphill battle. It's sad because I really feel like I belong in academia, but the practical issues of needing to eat and regain my self-respect are pushing toward leaving academia.
  • I also want to say thanks for this. It is damn hard not to despair. I have PhD in hand, I did an innovative project with a fancy advisor in a top program in my field at a nationally ranked university. I have many semesters of teaching experience with stellar course evaluations. My last supervisor told me I had the best references she'd ever seen. I have one peer-reviewed article, a couple of book reviews, two book chapters in the works, and a book contract. And that's not even everything. I'm also apparently nice. Everyone who works with me tells me they like me and I'm just what they'd like in a colleague and someone should hire. Then they keep me on as an adjunct. I cannot even land a campus interview. There's really nothing else I can do but send out more apps and wait. I can only do that for another year before I'm living in a box. Despair seems like a logical next step. That said, it does help to hear this. It's hard to even consider a career change if I make it about me. If I suck this bad, why would a career change help, am I right?
  • My last SC said that he wanted to make sure I was treated humanely. But he was delusional. If I remember correctly, his team acted like a little mafia gang, rude and condescending. Most of the time, I was treated like a research informant--to feed the SC's own book project. But the real candidate was someone else; I knew that from the very beginning. There are ways to find this out. I knew that I was never taken seriously, though I had a better CV than their golden boy, whose only merit seemed like he shared the same heritage as half of the department. He was also mediocre enough to make the SC feel good about themselves. Funny, how some SC's manage to waste your time, money, and energy this way. But don't do that again to anyone else. It reflects badly on you. We are not that gullible.
  • A former colleague of mine was on a search committee at a top R1 this year. Evidently the offer went to and was accepted by a doctoral candidate at a fancy graduate program, but whom has no publications. The candidate who got the second most votes did not come from a "fancy" graduate program yet had PHD in hand, had several publications, reportedly gave the better research presentation, and came off friendlier than the candidate who got the offer. WTF?!
  • Dear OP-SC, please don't say things like, "A period of wandering in the desert, or even better, a good postdoc, can add a lot of depth to your research." There is no good in wandering in the desert. Or are you being nostalgic because that was your history and you couldn't possibly think that others should have it better? The wandering period is often spent in teaching loads of classes and running around looking for jobs. It doesn't really help your research. BTW, one way for SC to treat their candidates humanely is not to interview them at academic conventions (MLA, AAA, AHA, APSA...) AND ask them to give job talks on campus; it's unnecessarily costly, especially if the candidate was dragged into a sham search. Use video skype or phone to do the initial interview--now that's humane.
  • Like the above poster, I am not at all soothed by the OP. I mean, seriously, how is 'it's not you it's me' supposed to help? You know what would help: to get a prompt rejection that assures me that the sc picked the most qualified candidate and that I failed to meet that mark because of X Y and Z. Then I could actually use that information to improve and put myself in a better position the next time around. Oh, but now you assure me that 'qualifications' boil down to where you got your degree and who you know. And you, OP, are happy with this system? All your post indicates is just how dysfunction academia is. In what other field would you hear the hiring committee openly state 'we don't care what you do or how well you do it, we just want to make sure your advisor was someone who got hired by an ivy league school'. (Yes, I understand that other jobs may hire people based on their alma mater, but they don't tend to brag about it.)
2011-02-15 I keep noticing that vents are getting erased. Just wondering if they were erased by the OP or if the venting page is going a little haywire. I'm asking because I would be interested in knowing the responses to some of these erased vents.

I'm 26 years old in an interdisciplinary humanities field. I know I'm young, and more than that, I've been taught to be humble and gracious throughout my life, so "ranting" hasn't been a particularly-condoned response to my frustrations in the past. But at the risk of seeming like I'm being a bragger or whiny, I could really use some empathy and/or advice. Since being a Master's student back in 2006 through finishing my Ph.D. this spring, I've published a lot, including books. I've taught for five years in introductory humanities coursework, as well as public speaking, English comp, etc., and I've sent out 60+ job apps (relatively small compared to many of you, I know) and have received 53 rejections to date, no interviews. Am I doing something wrong?? Is the interdisciplinary background absolutely killing me here, and is there a way to overcome that? I get the feeling that I'm being perceived as "not specialized enough."

Additionally, and I'm ashamed to admit it, but this job situation is giving me a serious identity crisis. I've always wanted to go into teaching and research at the college level to help inspire others to see the world in new ways, and I can't even get my foot in the door to do so. What's more, I feel as though (when I do) I signed up for some big pyramid scheme where there's no way to fully succeed-- and I don't know how I feel about entering into a career path where some of my success may be determined by how many other young bucks I can get to come along for the ride :\

  • I feel for you, but at the same time, you write as if there are guarantees in academia. I've seen too many colleagues who believe they have done everything correctly only to fall flat on the job market and indulge in their despair. And I've seen some colleagues who are perceived by those who've fallen as not having taken the proper steps, or not having intellectually rigorous projects, score very good TT gigs at SLACs. (I come from a top-ranked interdisciplinary PhD program, by the way.) There's no way to know who will succeed and who won't. It's fantastic you've been so productive, and the challenge for us all this this boat is to continue to be productive and "to help inspire others to see the world in new ways." You don't need a TT position to do that, and you have to remind yourself that even if you land another kind of job in publishing, or administration, or even if you freelance it, you can still figure out ways to write, teach, and impact the lives of others through knowledge production. Having a TT job definitely helps, but it's not the only way.
  • (OA) I appreciate the words, and I see what you mean-- but for as long as I remember, I've wanted to teach. I got out of public school teaching after feeling the effects of No Child Left Behind with the hopes of bringing my enthusiasm to a college. I don't really even know where I can put my skill sets to their best use outside of academe that will also be fulfilling. Haha, maybe I should just go see a psychologist!
  • I do have a little advice for you, which may or may not be applicable. I am in an interdisciplinary humanities field as well, and I do think that someone with degree in hand, that many pubs and 50-plus jobs to apply for should be able to get an interview. I have been getting many more job opportunities since filing, and I don't have your record. My suggestions are: leave the date off your BA for some applications so you seem a little older when you apply for some of the smaller jobs at teaching schools and have someone you trust vet every document of your dossier at least once to make sure you are conveying the right tone to each school. This is very important. Also, some of the small schools like someone who seems a little older because they assume that person will want to settle in an area longer. Use the fact that they aren't allowed to ask your age in your favor when you do interview. If anyone comments on your age, or how young-looking you are, just smile and say "I'm older than I look" and make sure to dress conservatively. A friend got her PhD at 25 and walked right into a supervisory position in admissions because she carried herself like she was a few years older. No one considers how young she is until it slips out in conversation among colleagues.
  • (OA) Thank you very much for the advice! I suppose that I hadn't considered age to work against me. Funny thing is that I actually want to spread roots somewhere :) In any case, I appreciate it-- I overlooked that possibility and will take your advice on the "older than I look" line as well as getting a proofreader. I did that at the beginning, but began to feel like I was overburdening advisors and didn't want to take advantage of their generosity. I'll go back to it now that it seems a bit harder out there!
  • I got my tenture track position at 27, and I want to second the suggestion that you have an advisor you trust vet every aspect of your portfolio. You should send a copy of all your recommendations to that advisor- you can't read the letters, but an advisor can and can tell you if one of your letters is scuttling your chances. Also, you really need to have someone look over your job letter very carefully. If your cv is as impressive as you say, you should be getting at least a couple of interviews, and that the fact that you haven't suggests that you may not be marketing your project as well as you need to.

As someone who has sent ~300 job applications over the last couple years, all I can say is this: know and use Interfolio. It saves time, money and heartache and in this market, we need every last bit of help we can get. I learned about them, here:

It still seems like the most thorough article I've read about them.

Hope that helps!

Hmmmm...Looks like someone at Interfolio is doing their marketing on the Academic Job Wiki. Okay, well, since this is the venting page....I'm annoyed that in addition to the annual fees for using Interfolio, it cost me $40 to send an overnight application. Prices go up if the page count goes up, but you're looking at: $28 for overnight, $16 for 2 day, $12 for priority, and $6 just for then to send an e-mail! On top of that, about 1/3 of the schools I applied to did not accept interfolio / had their own application portals. I continue to use Interfolio because there's nothing else out there. don't get me wrong, it is useful. But the interface is terrible and it gets expensive fast.

  • Seeing as that myself, and probably most, have already sent in the majority of my applications. Interfolio can't help me now. The last thing on Earth I care about is thinking about the job market for next year. Right now I am in waiting-limbo. I don't need any reminders that I have to do this again next year. Particularly from an Interfolio rep.
2011-02-01 This is not a vent, but a request for advice…my wife has been on the job market for two years (history). I am aware of the immense difficulties in obtaining academic jobs in general, but am curious if anyone is aware of it being even more difficult for a non-US/ non-greencard holding person? Her cv is fantastic (I believe I am being unbiased!), with several articles published in top journals, a book under contract and teaching experience at one of the top universities (not located in the US). She was even asked, during one of several pre-interviews, if she was allowed to work in the US. Perhaps I am simply creating reasons why she is not getting an academic job – or perhaps with the surplus of amazing candidates available taking a gamble on someone who they would need to obtain a working greencard for is just an easy reason to scratch them from the list. Has anyone one else had similar difficulties, or any other advice?

  • I'll put in my tuppenny and maybe others can chip in as well. My sense is that the non-US/non-greencard situation is not an issue with top research universities, who can pay for the H1B process by which your wife would begin her T-T. This may be an issue with smaller universities whose budgets are tight-strung. The question whether she is allowed to work in the US is, frankly speaking, illegal, but I have known several people say they have been asked the q by smaller universities and colleges. I was hired as TT last year and my non-US, non-greencard status had no bearing whatsoever on my candidacy, and the Univ. is now asking me to consider applying for a greencard this year for which they are providing the logistical support. It is quite likely that your wife is only a turn away from a TT position, esp. given her record. Jobs in History have been poorer than in other Humanities disciplines, so it is quite likely that a a mix of factors well beyond the ken of her control explains the difficulties she has been having in landing a position. My sense is that in the US, universities are keen to get the people they want and the system is more meritocratic than it is in Canada where top Universities are embroiled in all kinds of politics that force local candidates to look and go outside the border. It's a sweeping generalization, but the dots have been too close and too long in my face for me to to not connect them up! Meanwhile, all good wishes to you and your wife.
  • Many thanks for your thoughts! And good to know that it is illegal to ask such a question- hard to know how to answer that in an interview. They might as well ask if she plans to have a child anytime soon as well. We shall keep going with the US job market. Good luck to you as well - great news about the greencard support from your current job.
  • Just a very quick follow-up. It is LEGAL to ask candidates whether they are authorized to work in the US. It is ILLEGAL to ask what their nationality or country of citizenship is. The questions about being legally authorized to work in the US can be asked through different formats (would you require to be sponsored to work with us? are you currently authorized to work in the US?) Take this from someone who is not a greencard holder or a US national/citizen. Good luck with your wife's job search!
2011-02-01 The academic job search is very disheartening. I have spent seven years of my life pursuing graduate studies and now I am waiting on pens and needles hoping that I will get something….anything so that I can feel justified in the time and money that I has spent. I feel like a dancing monkey trying to get the nice passersby to notice me. I do not want to be mistaken. I love teaching. I love the thrill of learning new things all of the time, but I hate all of the other trappings of academia. I hate pompous people whose greatest thrill is letting other people know how smart they think they are. This should not be what academia is all about. I went to the national conference and I saw many people who were just like me—nervous, fearful, and hoping that their hard work has not been a waste. It is a shame that they expect people who are either ABD or just out of graduate school to travel across the country and spend more money than they have on flights and hotel rooms in the hopes that someone will like them just enough to invite them for a second round of interviews. I also hate that they drag this process out, adding to your trepidation and anxiety about how you will pay your bills during the next academic year. I hate this! Now that I have this out of my system, I will go and watch something mindless on TV before my head explodes.

  • Wow, I couldn't have said it better myself, except that I head back to working on the diss with the little energy I have left because working from Sept.-May last year on the job search to get a half-time instructor position followed by Sept-now this year (including preparing for 2 interviews that didn't result in campus visits, which entailed flying from one job conference to another across the country) has meant that I'm not quite done, my mind is frazzled, and I still am no closer to a permanent job than I was back 17 months ago when job search hell started.
  • i am in the same boat as the above poster, couldn't have put it more accurately.
2011-01-25 I am so pissed: between waiting for responses from search committees and checking the wiki for updates, the days seem longer than the purgatory that awaits Goldman Sachs. What's happening, SCs? Enough with the vacillation.
2011-01-25 What gives this year? There seem to be a lot more Wiki-lurkers than posters. I have been faithfully posting info as I get it, but not getting it in return. I'm thinking about checking out. Do others feel frustrated about this too?

  • My response to this is that I would post if I had any news!! I've sent out 25 apps and have heard ZERO.
  • Yes. Also feel like checking out. Little info, and no class or professionalism from some who do post. Very depressing.
  • Don't check out yet. I agree with you guys that there is very little professionalism and kindness on this site. But for every job that I ever heard back or got interviews (only very few), I updated the status. I believe what is happening is that A LOT of schools which I applied did not even bother to contact candidates not on the shortlist; therefore most of us are left without any information.
  • I have been updating news myself and I know some friends of mine in other fields have been doing the same. Given that it was a "late" MLA this year, it is likely that every step of the process has been pushed forward by a couple of weeks. The waiting is very wearying, but let's all hang in there.
  • Bad year for me, too -- no news to report since rejections haven't really poured in yet except for wiki-jections. I'm also surprised at the number of people who still don't know that this exists.
  • I've been posting on the wiki. I just trust that others are being honest; I hope this is true!
  • I don't think that the suggestion is that people are being dishonest, only that, yeah, it really does seem like there are less people on than last year, although I'm not sure why. Maybe it has to do with the competitiveness and sheer desperation... or are we in the midst of some anti-wiki cultural backlash? Hopefully, as above poster suggests it's because committees are moving slower this year or that the new people on the market don't know about this, although I suspect that is not the case. Wouldn't it seem that a lot more campus visits would at least be scheduled by now?
  • The academic job market just flat out sucks. When I first started my PhD in the Fall of 2007, there was talk about the job market already declining each year. At the time, I laughed it off thinking "poor suckers. It'll pick up in a few years by the time I'm ABD." Well, fast forward to Spring 2011, and my situation, like most people, is worse than it was a few years ago. There are literally no jobs in my field for which I'm qualified for; at least given the criteria search committees have asked for. Still, I applied to 40 openings anyways. Partially out of desperation, partially because I didn't want to give up hope on something good happening, and partially because my self-esteem couldn't handle the thought of spending 4 years in a doctoral program to not even try applying for an academic gig. The reality is that many schools are stringing me along, offering false hope with letters/emails that read "Thank you for applying candidate. The application cycle was unusually strong this year. Consequently, we haven't made any decisions on a shortlist but rest assure, we'll inform you when we do." I'd rather hear "Dear candidate, you have no shot in hell. Thanks anyways." Cold? Yes. But at least it's not sugarcoating reality or giving me the impression I might still have a shot. Meanwhile, all I can do is wait and wonder, hoping for the best. In a sick and twisted sort of way, however, this wiki offers some sense of relief that lots of folks are facing similar anxieties. To the OP, it's safe to say, among other things, that you're not alone in your frustrations.
  • sort of along the same lines, i am also sick of universities taking you to the interview level, have a face to face encounter with you, and then invite the typical 3 finalists to campus without sending you an email letting you know you didn't make the shortlist. a face to face conversation between adults and professionals deserves at least the decency to tell me thanks for participating but no thanks.
  • This is purely anecdotal, but I think there are many of us who have just stopped using the wiki, because every time we log in it makes us feel like crap. I almost never post any more (no real news anyway) and I barely ever lurk. Frankly, I try to stop thinking about each job the moment I send in the app. What's the point? Finding out that someone else landed an interview doesn't really tell you anything-- the invites could be staggered, or they could not. You have no way of knowing. I honestly think you're better off detaching: you'll know you have an interview when the school notifies you, and until that point, you're probably better off assuming you aren't going to get the job. As for the other sections: I know everyone means well, but the only "School to Love" is the school that offers me a tenure-track position, and I've had my fill of "venting" by people with "Ivy League degrees, national grants, impressive publications, and no job." Join the freaking club that us non-Ivy Leaguers have been in for years. I'm so sorry that you're treated like the rest of us proles even though you went to Yale.
  • Ditto comments about how searches are taking longer this year... I think one reason for this is that deans/administrators now have more of a "say" in who gets hired than in years past (because of budget cuts). In turn, waiting for and convincing a dean to approve even on-campus interviews (let alone an offer) takes more time.
  • Last year was my first year on the market (ABD) and I used the wiki religiously and added everything I knew...until I got a campus invite to a top 10 research institution. I found out that I was only 1 of 2 they invited, so I was completely paranoid that if I added to the wiki, they'd know from the IP it was me and that would go against me (the other candidate didn't update the wiki either). The search failed (and, interestingly enough, posted again this year) so now I'm on the market again, this time with degree in hand, and again updating the wiki. But I think that when the stakes are really high, people don't want to reveal the on-campus information. Also, there are very, very few people getting that far and hundreds of hundreds hearing nothing. I still find the Wiki useful, however, in that it shows jobs I don't always see on the MLA job list. It's also a reminder that it's not me...there are so many people out there in the same misery. That's a small comfort. And maybe the existence of the wiki is proof to the powers that be that this system of interviewing and hiring is not working, is cruel, and really should be re-evaluated.
  • Agreed with the above that there are several good reasons for there seeming to be less activity, the two most obvious being that searches are taking longer this year and there are higher stakes to posting information in the final stages (anyone notice that speed with which SC's have quashed bad info this year? Great, but also scary). I would say that some of the lack in posting seems to track with a palpable shift in the tenor of the site, from 2008's "OMG I don't have a job! This is bullshit!" to this year's "Well, I just sent out 40 applications, but don't expect to hear anything. Anyone got a good joke?" gallow's humor. It makes for less (and more depressing) reading, but it's also probably a healthier place to be than the despair and vitriol from earlier (check out the venting page in about February-April two years ago--honestly I would have thought we'd see a disaffected grad student terror cell throwing molotovs into administrators' offices). Anyway, I think this wiki is still a tremendous resource. If you think reading about this horrible job market here is depressing, consider how depressed you'd be if you sent out dozens of applications and had heard NOTHING. This is not only about commiseration and camaraderie, but also facing the reality of this job market, which, combined with wiki-jections, can save us all valuable time and energy which we can put into devising other options. I am still holding out hope I'll get something, and I'll be on the market at least one more year in that hope. However this wiki is very helpful in providing me with a very clear assessment of what things are like out there (not only of the job market but the randomness and injustice of academic labor in general), meaning I am focused on what I need to do to get on with my life.
  • I will admit right now that I have withheld some information for reasons similar to what is stated above: the process has gotten so narrow that it is very likely that I would be recognized by my potential hirers if they chose to look at the wiki. And despite the statements above about people not knowing about the wiki, I have found the opposite: EVERYONE knows about the wiki, including the hiring committees.
  • It has become clear to me from what's going on at my own current institution as well as the places where my friends are at and from the behavior of my potential hirers that a lot of schools are, to save money, bringing in only 2 candidates, or are staggering the notifications and flybacks. I posted information faithfully until I had reason to believe I had made a cut that included so few people that I should not. I think when we look at the wiki entries and see a school that was active UP TO a certain point, we must conclude that the search has gotten so narrow as to become "private."
2010-01-22 As I find out about who got what job I get more and more annoyed with how the qualifications of the people who are hired do not match the job descriptions posted by the school. Do search committees not know what they are looking for?

  • You might blame the market for this: higher supply than demand. I have known of schools where candidates hired have no link whatsoever with areas of specialisation advertised; of places where Assoc Profs are accepting Asst Prof positions - surely, the reasons to come down the ladder or go back on the tenure clock are pretty darn serious in their repercussions for everyone; of colleges that are hiring "ad hoc", and so on. Too many variables are at play when one is interviewing; in a way, there is a certain consolation (hollow and fitful, admittedly) in knowing that merit may have nothing to do with success in a given year.
  • I understand how difficult the market is, I just landed a job after two full years of very intensive job searching (with added pressure of two babies at home). In my experience, indiv. search committee members are looking for a number of things, many of which are out of sync with the job announcement, the department's expectations, and most prob. each other on the search committee. I am learning that one needs to look beyond the job description and think also about varied issues that committee members are thinking(remember they are human): covering classes, will this person make a good colleague, are they cool, will they be on my side politically on departmental issues. I got so many rejections, interviews that went nowhere, and others apps. sent that I did not hear from again (very UK). After all that, I continued on and I finally landed one. All I can say is keep at it, put your head down and keep at it. I do hope this helps.
  • One thing I noticed, too, this year is that the people getting interviews in my discipline all came from a small group of schools--Ivy Leagues (and a couple of others like Chicago, Berkeley, etc.). While we all know that a great student can come from all institutions, a lot of what matters to Deans and some faculty members is that they get to brag that they have another Ivy League degree on their website, even if the program is not even well-ranked. It's frustrating for those of us who are from "lesser" schools, and particularly who have done very well at national grant competitions, better than Ivy League students, but for jobs the name of the school matters far too much...
  • Along these lines, I am tired of wasting my time with applications that say "ABD considered," when it quickly becomes clear (sometimes by overt admission) that ABD's are emphatically not considered. Although I am ABD and by applying I have honed my process and materials, in many ways I would rather that schools devise much more specific and upfront ads: "We need you to have a PhD, x number of pubs and/or x experience teaching, come from [preferred tier] of schools, and/or be ready to [teach four straight years of introductory courses/make less than $45k/put up with tenured geezer everyone hates/bend over for the administrator/CEO who wants to run our once proud institution like a Kaplan school in a manner that is anathema to what used to be considered university research or liberal arts teaching]; also we wrote down as many field-specific buzzwords as possible because at the end of the day we are fishing" --or-- "despite our seeming openness to various research areas and interests, we only want [this specific thing]." I understand that this is somewhat of a qualitative process, and in an era of high supply and low demand SC's have the ability to find more or less whatever they want. But there really is no need to make this process so arbitrary and opaque, which wastes everyone's time. Finally, in an era where we have so many resources and instantaneous communications, I fail to see how anyone, anywhere can have a "failed search": you're telling me that in the 100+ applications you sifted through, number four or five on the list who didn't get a campus invite is not good enough to get the job, or wouldn't happily accept an offer that came as late as May if they didn't already have a job? This is absurd.
  • As an ABD myself I totally agree with the "ABD considered" part. I got experience in the process, some interviews, no campus visits, but two months of my time wasted and the feeling that I never had a chance from the very beginning.
  • On the flip side, our advertisement specified that the PhD "must" have been completed by a particular date; 100+ people sent in applications which in the cover letter stated they would defend after that date.
2011-01-09 I've got to address these two comments.

"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....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."

"Scanning the pages here, it seems like there is nothing that suggests a clear pattern as to who gets these interviews and jobs."

Look closer. Most people do not hide their IP addresses, so you can see where they are. (No, I'm not really in Fremont, CA, btw...) I've been on this page a few years and have seen a total of one (1) rejection posted from a New Haven IP address. (Yea, I know, it was probably someone from University of New Haven…) I have yet to see a single rejection post from a Palo Alto, Cambridge, or Princeton IP address, and have seen dozens of “x4” and “campus visit scheduled” and “offer made” etc from each of those places. Terry Caesar's book should be required reading by all the landed pissants on their way to MLA with Georgetown and UTexas and UChicago and on their agendas: Traveling Through the Boondocks: In and Out of Academic Hierarchy

I am from the States and did a phd in Paris. As an ABD I started going to conferences…and at one in France I met a few US-based grad students studying the same thing I was (which is a topic I won’t mention, but after a week they were on planes back to Durham and Chicago to study what I was living). Fast forward a few months, they’re sending out apps to the same openings I am, and getting callbacks. Last I heard from the little group of guys/girls at this conf, one was interviewing at Yale and NYU, another at Grinnell, another Notre Dame. I don’t know where they ended up. I did not have a single MLA callback that year. I had exactly two calls in the spring round of “who’s left?” postings and I ended up with one interview in the capital of Nowheresville USA for a one-year position. I took a job I got from cold calling a university in the French Caribbean…earning 20% of what those jerks were probably taking home, jerks who came to France for 10 days and now teach using that as their basis of “real life” experience in the subject.

Fast forward another few years: I published a monograph--it won an award—have another on contract, a recent international grant, journal pubs, and student evals that are off the charts.

So I decided to send out a few hooks and lines again…and what?..::Crickets crickets:: Who are these SC calling? Each place I applied had a transnational, postcolonial, border studies, etc. focus. I have been abroad since I was 23… I have two mother-tongues and am fluent in a third lang...I work at a university in a French colony…I was plenary speaker at two conferences last year.

They are interviewing these 28-year-old puissant ABDs who went to California or Massachusetts from their suburban SUV-land to study “International Writing” or "Border Studies" or "Postcolonial Studies" (how to even study those topics in Boston surrounded by PhDs with 500-dollar glasses-frames, I don't know...Maybe they had a ten-day trip to a conference in Europe or the Caribbean? May-be!... Maybe they even went abroad for a semester…or a whhhoollee year!) I was working as bar-back in the Marais, driving a cab to make rent, living in flophouses with Algerians and Senegalese former soldiers with stories that would make your skin stand up for a week at a time…while these pampered enfants were sipping Starbucks and crying foul because the wifi was down once in their offices. Then they write up their journal articles and dissertation chapters on “Post-colonialism” (a topic that should be renamed “I read some books about someplace far away and visited that place once”). Then they get callbacks and interviews and jobs and at some point muse reflectively about how hard it's been for them and that they deserve the seats of greatness they currently occupy. They must be great, right?

Ummm, no. It's academia is stooopid.

The Ivy League’s description of “top” people, per their hiring practices, in reality = high social capital. Harvard says they hire the best. That “best” includes not a single person who has studied at a Community College. Just 1% comes from non-top-tier public universities. (See below.) Yay democratic sampling! Come on. Nice definition, folks. Why not up that endowment, pay no taxes, and hire/admit only the rich? Oh, wait, you’re already doing that.

Less than 1 of every 6 Harvard students qualifies for a Pell Grant (BTW, what is less than 1 Harvard student? Harvard (and the academia “merit” system in general) labels the majority of poor people (just like it has labeled me) “bad” and “not as capable” compared to our friends from the suburbs that are often private-schooled (or from a public system that's essentially private-from-poor) and believe in the system's measures, and are otherwise well shielded from reality. There are exceptions of course, but let’s look closer at the rules:

"There's hope for everyone" says the voice from the ivory tower (cited above)...but in reality, oh reality..such a tough subject to tackle when addressing those that live in bubbles of privilege. (Want to be really pissed off? Read this jerk's blog...[ in truth I can't tell if it's tongue-in-cheek and if it is, it supports the case that academic hierarchy should be deconstructed, just like "The Official Preppy Handbook" did a gen ago. Terry Caesar where are you now?)

These are the academic affiliations of the profs in the Eng depts at ivy league schools. (Phd school listed 1st)

Make your own judgments:


Yale, Yale, Rice

Oxford, Oxford, Bombay

Cornell, Princeton, Princeton

Yale, Harvard, Harvard

Berkley, Berkley, Vassar

Harvard, Harvard, Yale

Princeton, Cambridge, Yale

Cornell, Cornell, Michigan State

Yale, Dublin, Dallas

Harvard, Harvard, Harvard

Harvard, Harvard, Pitt

Yale, Yale, Swarthmore

Cambridge, Yale, Yale

Iowa, NYU

Yale, Cambridge, Yale

Harvard, Cambridge, Georgia

Rutgers, Rutgers, Oregon

Chicago, Chicago, Emporia State

UVA, UVA, Stanford

Columbia, Columbia, Pomona

Columbia, Columbia, Brandeis

Yale, Yale, Harvard

Harvard, Harvard, Konstanz

Yale, Oxford, Princeton

Yale, Yale, Stanford

Cambridge, Oxford, Melbourne

Free Berlin

Yale, Perdue, Wesleyan

Columbia, Columbia, Haverford

Toronto, Trent, Trent

UVA, UVA, Amsterdam

Harvard, Harvard, Emmanuelle

Irvine, Dartmouth, Dartmouth

Toronto, Oxford, Cambridge

Total Degrees 93

Ivy 48 (51%)

Public non-flagship 2 (2%)

Non-flagship Phd 1 (2%)

Community College 0


Upenn, Yale, BU

MIT, MIT, Harvard

Upenn, Temple, Hendrix

Cornell, Yale, Yale

UCLA, Cambridge, Harvard

Cornell, Cornell, Columbia

Yale, Yale, Yale

Cornell, Cornell, Mt. Holyoke

Harvard, Harvard, Rice

Upenn, Upenn, Washington U

Yale, Yale, Harvard

Harvard, Harvard, NYU

Harvard, Harvard, Berkley

NYU, NYU, UW-Madison

Yale, Yale, Yale

Yale, Yale, Yale

Hopkins, Hopkins, Hopkins

Chicago, Chicago, Princeton

Princeton, Cambridge, Columbia

Stanford, Stanford, McGill

Harvard, Harvard, Dartmouth

Yale, Oxford, Yale

Princeton, Princeton, Trinity Dublin

Belfast, Belfast, Belfast

UVA, Middlebury, Dartmouth

UPenn, Cambridge, Williams

Brown, Brown, Wheaton


Cornell, UCollege London, U London

UCLA, UCLA, Brandeis

Yale, Yale, Yale

Oxford, Oxford

Cornell, Cornell, Michigan

Yale, Yale, Hamilton

Yale, Yale, Yale

UCLA, UCLA, Cal State Bakersfield

Duke, Duke, Berkley

Stanford, Stanford, Trinity

Stanford, Harvard, Alberta

Rutgers, Rutgers, John Fisher

UC Irvine, UC Irvine, BYU

Yale, Yale, Swarthmore

Total degrees 126

Ivy 62 (49%)

Public non-flagship 3 (2%)

Non-flagship PhD 1 (2%)

Community Colleges 0


Berkley, Berkley, Michigan

Princeton, Brandeis, Brown

NYU, NYU, McDaniel College

Stanford, Stanford, Harvard

U Sussex (Eng), Sussex, North London

Brown, William & Mary, Carleton

Chicago, Chicago, San Jose State (AA)

Hopkins, Oxford, Princeton

Harvard, Chicago, Harvard

Cornell, Cornell, Yale

Yale, Oxford, Georgetown

Texas, Texas, old Dominion (Chicano)

Penn, Penn, UNC Greensboro

Princeton, Northeastern, Southampton

Iowa, Iowa, Cornell

Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz

Hopkins, Hopkins, Wesleyan

Upenn, Oxford, Georgetown

Brown, Yale, Yale

Cornell, Cornell, Ibadan

Wisconsin, Wisconsin, Brown

Berkley, Berkley, Barnard

Yale, Yale, Harvard

Brandeis, Brandeis, Brandeis

Cornell, Cornell, Yale

Yale, Oxford, Austin

Duke, McGill, McGill

Total Degrees 81

IVY 29 (35%)

Public Non-flagship 3 (11%)

Public Non-flagship Phd 1 (3%)

Community College 0

  • This is a super post, and thanks, OP, for the stats and meticulous research. The conclusions, as many of us can attest to, reaffirm some widely believed positions. And it sucks. My tupenny: good work doesn't always get rewarded in time or in measure. The only incentive to do meaningful scholarship is the nature of the work itself. As OP's trajectory shows, edifyingly for us but not perhaps quickly/fairly enough for OP, it is possible to enhance the quality of one's profession and commitment to scholarship, and to let that be the muse. Of course, even as I write this, I am worrying about the next year, my spouse's (non)job, scheduling a visit to the psych who'll help straighten out my post-job-applications head, and living a life...
2011-01-09 Dear Prof Sh!tFerBrains,

I am writing because I was present yesterday at the Wilshire Grand Los Angeles for a scheduled interview for the position of [Blah Blah] at [Blah Blah College]. However, much to my dismay, after following your instructions to the letter, I discovered the hotel did not know the room number and had no record of anyone from [your institution] at their hotel.

Though your actions betray a stupendously indifferent and callous attitude towards job candidates who travel thousands of miles and spend hundreds of dollars to meet with you, perhaps you can imagine my disappointment. Moreover, neither you nor anyone on your staff has tried to contact me since yesterday to explain this unprofessional and, frankly, despicable behavior.

Have a nice day.

  • What an extraordinarily craptastic thing to do to a job candidate. I wish we knew the names of the school and department so that this information would help future job candidates applying to that school's department (i.e., in the event of interviews at MLA 2012). If it were me and I had flown to LA--especially if that was my only interview--I would be livid enough to leave the profession.
  • OP: Thanks to the beauty of social networking, I received a note of apology from MLA Executive Director, Rosemary Feal.