That has been the question of the week back here at my dept. It's the first thing out of the mouth of all the grad students I talk to, it's the first thing I ask anybody who I knew had stuff at MLA, the jobs placement director emailed us urging us to give him any and all updates and to come in and talk to him, and two faculty members accosted me in the mailroom to check on my progress (plus the one who was anxious to know about Potential Future Star's progress rather than mine).
I tell ya, I thought I was "over" this whole first-round job thing. I had forgotten that everyone is on campus a lot more than usual the first week of the term and, what with us bringing out candidates of our own, everyone is keyed up and excited to get some updates. I think also that the relatively phenomenal success of the people who went on the job market two years ago has wound up the faculty into a higher level of expectation and pressure of how our dept. can do, of the prospect that we might be moving up the rankings in other departments' estimation.
(I'll stop and make a snarky side note here to point out that the two-years-ago group who went out was really really large for us, and the vast majority were on second or third job rounds, although our big "coups" were all ABDs out on the market for their first time. The entire department has conveniently forgotten last year's group completely, because we were a smaller group and none of us got any jobs. So conveniently, in fact, that you'll notice that the job placement page on the web site was just never updated and our year's "stats" mentioned (which would bring down our placement rate). Future grad students, assume that your potential departments are "accidentally" and not-so-accidentally lying on their stats pages to look good for you. You'll really have to dig to get an accurate picture of their placement record. Oh yeah, and the two people who got no job offers at all from the two-years-ago group and who have quit academia are counted under "decided not to pursue academia" not "couldn't get an academic job for five years of trying come hell or high water," But I digress.)
So, at least the people who were all at MLA have been very sympathetic and ask me if I've heard anything since and how Round Two is going; others (ok, read younger) have come up to ask me if I have more or less flyouts than other grad so-and-so, and get this pretend sympathetic look with a bit of a curl to their lip when I have to explain that I was out of those races long before the MLA round; it makes me really want to punch them in the face. It will be interesting to see how these brand-new cohorts see the dept and themselves since all they have heard is about the magic and glory of the two-years-ago job group and they haven't been told much about the crappy job market structure. Now I can see why some of the innocent questions I asked my first year here really set some of the long-time grad students off on a rant; I have already ranted to several of the newbies about exactly how glutted their market is going to be. (You've already heard older versions of these rants on my grad school posts.) But really, someone from here thinking they will be able to play offers from Harvard and Yale off each other really needs a smackdown. Especially when it is implied with this "oh, and I so deserve it" tone and expression on their face.
But we have some odd dynamics in that cohort that run way deeper than a bit of attitude and I already knew that. And expected these types of questions. (I told you about how my mom wants me to stay in the area so I should call up Bk and Stanford to slip in my resume, yes? Yeah, I can handle cluelessness about the market.)
No, the encounters I'm currently worrying about from today are with profs. In addition to the three profs who talked to me earlier this week, I saw my advisor, clearly stressed and in a whirlwind of last-minute copying and juggling piles of books and readers. We said hi I and turned to talk with/get something from a staff person, trying to clearly signal that I was not currently stalking her or waiting to grab a bit of her time. (see? we have our ways of communicating.) I was surprised then, that she slowed down enough in what she was doing to let me know that she was about to go teach, but ordinarily would be having office hours at ____ and _____ and that I really really should drop by next week, once things have settled down. Hmm. This is new (usually I have to very overtly seek her out). She likes her space and expects her students to be very self-directed. So, I guess she just wants a post-job-search update? It's kinda weird, especially when I had to really push at her to get one of these meetings last year. Either she's turned over a new leaf, or I just happened to be in the right place at the right time for the first time in about 8 years, or something has come up. Meh.
Almost immediately after that I get pulled aside by Professor Indomitable. (I think I have talked about this prof before under a different name but don't want to go back and check it.) Prof Indomitable is very sweet and tries to be helpful, if somewhat overbearing. This time Prof Indomitable knew about the results of my job search and wanted to know what I was doing to make my materials better. "Have you had an outside person read your letters? Maybe something is wrong with your letters." Prof I. then suggested a bunch of other things I need to do, and closed with, "because, you know, even if you are finished and have publications next time, if there's something you don't know about that's screwing you up it won't make any difference!" Ah, thanks, thanks again for your usual mix of sympathy and bluntness. Heh. This prof says people have my back and are watching out for me, which cheers me up. On the other hand, I was also roasted for my slow publication record, compared unfavorably to a couple stars from the two-years-ago job group, and had my dissertation topic pooh-poohed. You know, that one-hand compliment/one-hand cutting down to size move reminds me of my parents a lot. Which is probably why I am not working with Prof Indomitable on my committee.
But, anyway, venting over and now I guess I'm back to work. (On that front, I am so tired. But I've been better at taking a break and then managing to get back to a second round of writing on the same day. Let's see if that translates to a faster pace.)