I swore that I was Not Dealing With the job market or even thinking about it until I finished teaching my summer class. I lied.
Having caught up on my bloglines, I was left with the choice of either reading random internet sites or grading student essays. I guess I could prep tomorrow’s class along with the grading. Obviously, I chose option c) blogging on my non-random blog, about the above interdicted topic.
The Job List is not out yet (tho’ jobs are starting to appear in the chronicle and inside higher ed for affiliated departments I could possibly cross-apply to) but Famous Postdoc Positions in the humanities have permanent websites, and many have been updated with the “theme” or “topic” for the year. I can peruse them right now, all the while wondering: would it be worth it?
Let me immediately make clear that I am not turning up my nose at the pay or even teaching loads (50k would be unimaginable riches compared to a full teaching year here for grad students. Even the ones that offer 30k are the UC equivalent of two grad students.). I can handle teaching multiple sections or even multiple courses because of all the teaching I did here --- though I have heard that certain postdocs are really exploitative adjunct positions in disguise and have met several people now who went back on the market after teaching a 3-3 or even 4-4 load of business and technical writing at a certain place only to get another postdoc or nothing. (So I fear that some of these positions are a ladder downward, not upward onto the tenure track.)
No, what really concerns me is the draining nature of the application process. Postdoc applications are more specialized and resemble fellowship apps. (You may need a special type of letter and additional statement of how your work intersects with the theme in addition to a standard statement of research, for example.) The ones at the Big Ivies and Elite SLACs also charge an application fee (usually $20 or $30) to scare off the hordes. And the UC system has a postdoc system, but you need to find a sponsor at another UC to mentor you, as well as prove that your work enhances diversity in some way. Mine arguably might, but I don’t, and I think I’d get put at the bottom of the pile because of that.
Most worrisome are the letters of recommendation, which I presume would have to be different from job letters and specially tailored to each postdoc position. I try not to unduly piss off any committee members and asking them for 8 million different hassles of postdoc recommendations would seem to needlessly use up my store of social capital. (Advisor capital? Grad-schoolian capital? Help: my Bourdieu is across the room and I can’t get up.)
So, considering that applying for postdocs would be more time-consuming and committee-pissing-off than the usual job application, I thought I would ask you, the blogosphere, and whoever else might listen, if going for these postdocs would be worth it.
I should add one more thing: I’m not sure you’ve heard of my school, or my department. Seriously, do the Big Ivies only consider grads from the other Big Ivies? (I just read an article citing Lacan and his use of “the Big Other,” which my phrase reminds me of, and so I’m keeping it for amusement and appropriateness.) I should go see if any have lists of previous awardees. If they only take students from Cambridge and Harvard, then I shouldn’t even bother.
Last year I applied to one postdoc, because the topic was quite close to my own, and it was at a committee member’s alma mater. (Connections, you know? I can hope.) I made it to the second cut and they asked for another writing sample. They also sent the request as a list to the 24 other people from the second cut, rather than blind-carbon-copying it. That’s how I know there were 25, and that me and the other person here who worked with said committee member were the only people from a public school; the rest were grads at Big Ivies.
Finally, while some postdocs are due on D-day (November 1 seems to be the deadline for job applications) and some are due in early December, quite a lot are due almost immediately. So I need to make this decision right away or else it will be made for me by the passing of time.
Gah. On the one hand, I'm all "maximize your time investments!" and on the other, "desperation is staring you in the face! Apply to everything! Now! Go, go go! I don't care if you're not in an economics department; apply to that job too --- apply, apply, apply!" It's amazing that I actually get any teaching prep or writing done over all this mental shouting. But listening to this inner fight has exhausted me and so I'm going to put the decision making all in your hands. Heads or tails? Up or down? Stay or go?