Thursday, December 6, 2007

Time for Mock-ery?

Er, mock interviews, that is?

Pseudonymous Grad Student over at A Philosophy Job Market Blog has been prepping for interviews and asking for advice for a while now (and I keep trying to be helpful and making everybody seize up with agony instead; I seem to be producing that effect inadvertently a lot these days. Maybe instead of giving Bizarre Metaphor Advice on the blog I should just STFU?). More recently, both Bardiac and Tenured Radical proffer their own helpful hints about preparing for interviews (TR even has a handy crib sheet for what to say when the search committee calls you!). I also just got an email instructing the grads to email all their job materials and availability for next week if they want to schedule a mock job interview with the placement committee.* I guess the time is ripe for me to create an interview parody. And apparently this is the time to start my preparations, run through my little diss spiels, practice answering stupid and not-so-stupid questions.

(I seem to be having the Battling Seizure Robots effect on people lately.)

Or is it?

I have had no calls, no emails, no interview requests. Nada. I have accumulated a nice little pile of rejection letters, though. (Wait, I mean crappy, puke-filled Letters of Doom. I should put them in the litter box and make the cats pee on them. Ahh. I feel better already thinking of it.)

If the wiki of evilness is any guide, I'm out of exactly half of my prospective places already. (And a lot of the WS jobs left to hear from are not really what I do, on a humanities to social sciences continuum, unlike the one that requested materials). I'm feeling like the wallflower at the junior-high dance, watching everyone else get picked but me and my chances slip away.

(Not a dance scene, exactly, but otherwise apt --- I've never been able to finish watching this film, it's so painful.)

I'm just feeling like I was in exactly this same place last year --- oh wait, because I was! I didn't get any interviews last time and I really think that this year will be a repeat. (Side note: Dissertation Buddy is on the market for her first time out this year. She keeps saying that she will feel like an utter failure and total fuck-up if she doesn't at least make it to the interview stage ---- "Just one interview, that's all I really want," she says ----- and when I point out that I didn't get anything at all last year, she says yes, I know, apologizes, and then five minutes later is talking about how much it sucks to not even make it to the interview level on the first year out and she really hopes she will make it that far. She's great, but not always the most aware of others.)

So do I even bother with scheduling this mock interview shit?

Last year, I could tell I was out of the running everywhere and so refused to practice the interview (got shit for it too). There is something nice to being eliminated so early --- I spent the week leading up to christmas being sad and getting over everything, and then went home and had a nice visit with the family. I didn't have to spend any time prepping interview questions or frantically researching schools or writing out a job talk, just relaxed and then got back to my chapter.

Of course, that was my first year out, and there were definitely tears and depression before I got to a zen enough state to go back to my work. This year is my second attempt and the stakes are higher (thanks for reminding me, Dissertation Buddy!) --- as in I haven't been able to secure teaching and have been subsisting on loans and I have to file and walk this spring, have to. And who knows what I'll do to eat and pay rent next year? My dept. has told me I'm SOL for adjuncting next year and I just recently got some "favors" from my other departments; that makes me suspect I've been put on the bottom of the list and they'll want to spread work around to some of the others graduating with me.

But most important, everyone constantly talks about how "you're supposed to do better" on subsequent years out. Supposed to do better as in, this narrative of progress, or moving to the front of the line and getting your turn. I don't see why, though, if they simultaneously claim the process is "a crapshoot" or like a "lottery." I thought the whole point of gambling and probability was that past results have no relation to future performance.

I don't know about that; just that I'm feeling pretty shitty about now. So do I sign up for a practice interview run that I probably won't even need? Gah.

* As far as I know, this year's job placement committee excused themselves by moving to other countries, leaving everything in the laps of the previous year's committee. I have no clue if there'd be people in that mock interview room, or crash test dummies dressed up like professors instead.


Ancrene Wiseass said...


The job market: it means nothing. It means everything.

Either way, it sucks.

Maude said...

well, i've apparently regressed instead of progressed. last year--less done (only one chapter almost written), fewer dinky pubs, and only seven apps, and i got an interview. this year, almost done, more dinky pubs (encyclopedia silliness) and six times as many apps, and as of yet--zilch. i really don't want to go through this again next year. sigh.

gwoertendyke said...

there is no way around the feeling shitty: the job market sucks, is designed to make you feel worthless.

on the mock interview part, i would say that you should do it, provided there are actual professors and not test dummies. the more you talk the better the chance of sounding secure in your knowledge.

AND, it is still too early to count yourself out. hiring committees are still meeting, you could hear up until the 20th. i've heard some come in later.

resist despairing yet--

in terms of next year: i would start looking on the chronicle for spring adverts--there seem to be more and more every year.

i know none of this actually releives the sense of crap that is the market, but i'm trying to stay positive myself.....

gwoertendyke said...

welcome to the dollhouse is absolutely one of the most painful movies ever....that, and happiness.

Dr. Crazy said...

Oh, Sis, the job market just SUCKS. Sending a big hug your way right now, and come MLA time make sure you find me so that a) I can buy you a drink and b) so that I can lead you to all of the free drinks that I know about (and oh, I know about many, many possibilities for free drinks).

SEK said...

Apparently my comment was the proverbial wrench in your cogs, so I've posted it at myy place.

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

Hey! *I* don't want you to STFU! Philosophers are just a spazzy bunch. . . .


kermitthefrog said...

Eugh, sorry.

Renaissance Girl said...

Would it help you to know that our search committee hasn't yet got to the point of requesting interviews in some searches?

k8 said...

The stress is getting to me, too. I just learned that my normally very good blood pressure level is not longer normal. I am officially hypertensive and I blame the job market and what I now refer to as "the wiki of doom."

I hope you hear some good news soon!

Shimmy said...

Do the mock interview, absolutely. When I was on the market, I felt the same way: the mock interview seemed a cruel reminder of the empty voice-mailbox where calls from hiring committees should be waiting.

But the mock interviews not only helped me visualize what I would do in real interviews (and these will come . . . you have to persist in this knowledge that they'll come) but, more important, they helped me make the job search seem less occult-like and more like a regular down-to-earth interview.

I'm sure others have said this, but that first interview really is a question of whether or not you'll seem like a good "fit" and decent colleague -- and, at many schools, is a question of whether you're really as committed as your letter suggests to continuous creative/scholarly endeavor, innovative and engaged teaching, and way-too-much committee service done with a painless smile on your face. As a graduate student, so much time is spent on the dissertation that it's easy to forget that search committees are made up of such eclectic, often competing, interests that they have no choice but to be pragmatic and focus on the bare-bones aspects of the job in question: production in your field, teaching, and service. And to test to make sure the candidate would be sane enough to bring to campus and introduce to one's colleagues as a finalist and, possibly, someone to launch onto the tenure track.

The mock interviews were crucial for me in this way. They calmed me down and helped me find ways to transition seamlessly in real interviews between discipline-specific questions on my dissertation and more nuts-and-bolts questions like, "What do your students say about your first-year composition courses?"

As an example, in one of my first real interviews, the Provost went from a question on my dissertation to this one: "What are you reading these days? Not for your dissertation or anything, but for fun." It was an outstanding question -- a wonderful way to get insight into an applicant's personality without asking a too-nosy question. I wouldn't have been prepared for such a leap -- from dissertation to a discussion of the great novel I'd been meandering through on my subway rides to school -- if I hadn't gone through a mock interview with my professors. (Footnote: full disclosure, I didn't get that particular job. I didn't really like that Provost, even though I thought his question was great, and I think he didn't feel he clicked with me, either.)

Everyone will have different advice on this, I'm sure, but I hope this helps. Also, as adjunct whore said, search committees can wait till the last minute sometimes to send word about who they'd like to interview. We just notified our interviewees this past Wednesday. I once received an interview call two days before leaving for MLA. And, yes, do check out the Spring listings -- great jobs do get posted after the usual MLA season.

Flavia said...

I can only say what everyone else has said: both that many schools haven't made calls yet (and that some will wind up doing phone interviews instead, or that jobs will appear suddenly in the spring) and that the job market is an evil, unfair, random beast. But SEK's now said all of that better than I.

Like Dr. C., I'll see that your drink glass doesn't go empty.

Thinking of you.

Servius said...

Hey Sis,

Thanks for visiting our pad, and all the best with pre-MLA, MLA, and post-MLA crap. We will be hanging out in Chicago the week after you, so let us know where the best dive bars and non-conference-hotel eateries are!

Your Latin Lover

Sisyphus said...

Thanks for visiting our pad,

That was quick; not a few minutes after I clicked over! (I was getting referrals on the sitemeter.) I'll keep tabs on bars and food to pass along, but I'm also lazy and not very inclined to venture out into the cold.

Still thinking about the mock interview thing. We'll see if I have to sign up Mon. or can wait.

Thanks for the comfort, noises of sympathetic disgust, and drink offers. They will all be taken up in due time.

PGS said: Hey! *I* don't want you to STFU! Philosophers are just a spazzy bunch. . . .

Ok then. It was one of many incidents. Your description of being mugged by interview questions was funnier than I described it. And Eng lit types are neurotic and tend to over-analyze everything --- as I'm sure you know with the future mrs future dr dr whatever her name is. (must be fun getting the spazziness and neuroticness to mesh well together!)

medieval woman said...

/tardy comfort/

Does it help at all if I told you that my second year out I had the most interviews and actually did the worst I think? I've only ever gotten one job offer - and that's all it takes.

You *will* be okay - but I'm thinking of you a lot!