Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Apply everywhere --- or should you?

It shouldn't be news to anybody that getting a tenure-track job in English is about as difficult as getting on a major-league baseball team. The job market is tight, the positions are rapidly being converted to adjunct and visiting positions, and there are more eager young grad students out there than you can shake a stick at. (Please don't shake sticks at the grad students. It only annoys them.)

So as I have been working up another year's worth of job applications I have been mindful of the advice drilled into my head: apply everywhere. You cannot be picky at this time of your life. You won't be able to tell if you'll love it there from the website or the job ad. Apply everywhere. Myself, I have been an application- sending machine, tossing envelopes at any job I seemed remotely qualified for.

I have seen fellow job-seekers be chided for leaving off schools in undesirable locations, with religious missions, with heavy teaching loads, schools with no name recognition. "You can't afford to be picky; it's easier to get a job if you have a job." It's understood now that no one ends up at their preferred level of school on the first time out and you have to work your way up. Apply there anyway --- you can "write your way out." While my department is still snooty, assuming that only students who get R1 jobs in desirable locations are a "success," they at least recognize that we don't get these kinds of jobs on the first go-round.

It's a buyer's market. Search committees can pick among hundreds of equally-qualified and brilliant applicants who do pretty much the same thing, so they think of the most exact "fit." Evidently us job-seekers are supposed to work to fit in exactly but not think about how the institution should or could fit to us.

Like I said, this is standard job-market advice at my school. But a recent dust-up over junior faculty who go back out on the market suggests that this is not as simple as it seems. All I've gotta say is that the whole profession should be talking more openly about how common it is for people with a job to go back out on the market, the "ethics" of it, and how it makes people feel. Because my department is openly teaching its students that this is standard business practice, not a sign of self-centered pomposity. Within the UC system itself it is common for us to "poach" junior faculty back and forth --- this is a major way our department moves up and down in the rankings. (Score two years ago: lost two, gained one. This past year: gained one.) When we lose someone, we are sad, (and it can be a huge inconvenience, especially for grad students, if this someone was supposed to fill a gaping hole in our studies) but it is hardly unexpected or described in the language of betrayal.

And this trend is just another sign of the crappy job market and larger structural patterns at work. The structure of the market itself is pressing junior faculty --- who don't have much "choice" in their jobs or locations before this stage of development --- to wait until they have jobs before considering their own desires and needs. If the "front end" of the system is structured to grant all the flexibility to the employers and none to the applicants, then it is not surprising that once applicants have jobs and some element of power they start seeking flexibility. It's like Maslow's hierarchy of needs, transposed to the employment world --- someone who is starving and unemployed (ahem! hello!) can't be picky about location or security or job quality, but as those lower needs are cared for, the job holder can move on to the more intangible needs and desires.

I like to think of myself as a pretty easy-going person who's happy pretty much anywhere and loves to teach and learn about a lot of different things. But I won't really know if I can thrive in any specific job until I get there. Right now my desires are for a paycheck. And some health insurance and retirement might be nice too. Once I have that I may be able to figure out what I really want, as a scholar and as a person. But I simply can't apply to only the places I am sure I would love --- the job chances just aren't that good. And I can't soul-searchingly ponder whether I could make a lifetime commitment to each and every school I am applying to --- besides the time constraints, there's the fact that I'm going to get a huge number of rejection letters, even if I do get some job offers, and the more I am invested in working at a school, the more heartbreaking each rejection is.

The old labor phrase goes, "we want bread and roses too." Is that too much to ask? Is there something wrong with the idea of searching first for one and then the other?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The letters, they are out

...well the job letters, that is. I'm still trying to get all my letters of recommendation lined up so I can send out my dossier everywhere. (Sigh. I've been sending out apps for deadlines starting Oct 1 --- do you think I've been tossed from all those searches already? Scowl.)

On the up side, my applications are all out. Almost all. I have a couple left with questions that I've emailed the search committees about. And a couple I just found on Friday but haven't dealt with yet as they have December due dates. And the postdocs I am still contemplating. Well, so actually, that means I'm not done at all.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Choose Your Identity

I don’t do things in the abstract. Ironic, considering how much I love theory. But for me, I need concrete examples, models, texts, things. I am far more intrigued by the mechanics of, say, eighteenth century nosepicking devices, than platonic ideals or taxonomies of poetic forms. Material things, with their heft and density and smells, count for far more with me than disembodied or universalized concepts. Hell, I am distrustful of universals, grand narratives, blanket pronouncements and bombastic generalized advice. Yes, I understand the irony here.

Before I return to my earlier topic of applying to grad school and talking about money, I’m going to tell a little story of what my advisor told me. I don’t know if it would help people to hear this earlier or later, whether it would help them to decide about grad school or impart too much information and stress too early, but it worked for me. And it’s what I’ve got.

When I officially asked my advisor to be my dissertation advisor, I only had the vaguest outlines of a topic. So vague, that I could tell it to her in a couple sentences. “Mmm,” she said. “Interesting.” Then she asked me a couple basic questions --- when? how? etc., but I had already exhausted my knowledge of the topic with those first couple of sentences, and I had no clue what my argument would be or where it would go. In fact, I was stumped. I had no clue what to do next or how to start researching my project, what a dissertation prospectus should look like or what I needed to do and what I needed to know in order to write one.

Instead of telling me where to go, what to do, how to start writing about it, my advisor told me to go wander ______, the largest bookstore in town. “What shelves do you like?” she asked, “Someday, this project will be a book and it will mark what kind of scholar you are. Where do you want to be shelved?”

She took a critical work off her own shelves and turned it over in front of me. “What key words will be up here?” She pointed to the category titles running along the top of the back cover. “What will this say?” Indicating the author’s one-line bio. “What methodologies, what theories, will appear on the back? If you were going to write the back blurb, what would it say?”

To be honest, this was partially exciting and partially terrifying.

And overwhelming. But concrete --- I could see books I cited and see publishing lines I liked, and suddenly I had models to think about and work from. I had my advisor’s book, and my advisor herself to model myself against. I didn’t have much of an answer then, and truthfully, I don’t have anything thought out at the level of “blurb” now. But in the back of my mind I had something I could always be thinking about, working on. It seemed very much a process of incremental improvement and clarifying. Every book I picked up, I was conscious as I began my dissertation research, was a potential model or a rejected one.

This process has been helpful to me in thinking through my own work --- would it be helpful at the front end of grad school? For choosing a program and the process of applying? I still have no fucking clue what should go into a statement of purpose or what they should focus on. But if the point of grad school is to discover what sort of scholar you will be and what sort of scholar they will mold you into, then perhaps thinking about this early on will help.

To close with a story from another prof here, who would clearly be named Dr. Crazy if that moniker weren’t already in use in the blogosphere, this prof ---- let’s say Dr. Nonsequitur ---- used to always blurt out in response any random comment I’d make, “That’s your second book.” Once, looking at the 5 of us TAs in the front of the lecture hall, Prof Nonsequitur told the undergraduates, “Your TAs are so smart. You look at them and see people; I see a whole bookshelf of future ideas.”

I have to admit that felt kinda nice. I wonder what the back of all those books will say?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Applying to Grad School in English? Show me the money

This post is inspired by a conversation over at Dean Dad's. I think I have already written about applying to grad school (short version: for god's sake no!) but I have a different angle I want to think through here. I might have drafted something about this and not posted it yet, but if I repeat myself, my apologies.

First, I'm going to be a big dork and quote my response from over at DD's.
Ask yourself what you really want: why do you want to go to grad school in the humanities or social sciences? What do you hope to get out of it? Is it ok, in your opinion, to spend 5-10 years studying and doing a PhD and not get a professorial job on the other end?

Because, as other people have said, it is incredibly difficult to get a full-time, non-adjunct job as a humanities professor. Even if you do get a job, you are limited in terms of where that job might be, and they don't pay all that much. Seriously, think about this. It seems like an easy decision when you are 22 and all your friends are working for just above minimum wage as Starbucks baristas while they "find themselves," but as you get older you will want more stability in terms of your paycheck and living situation, possibly want to start a family and think about retirement. But you will only be partway through a long time of angst and financial precariousness and will either have to soldier on through for a long time or quit the program.

That said, you should choose schools not only based on an advisor you want to work with, but also on their funding packages and job placement rates. Ask the graduate admissions counselors for your targeted departments about these numbers, and be prepared for them to put the most positive spin on their response. I bet you that the faculty you try to contact will not have any data on this, and in our dept., they want to hear from students who have been admitted and are considering attending, but not before.
Yeah, sorry about hogging the comments DD!

So people applying to grad school right out of undergrad, who are young, are also often inexperienced in the ways of money and support --- typically their parents paid, or helped pay, their way through undergrad, and they might have had jobs, but were not reliant on their jobs to eat in a serious and fear-inducing way. (I understand this is not true for everyone, but I am not the only sheltered middle-class kid in my grad program.) College and right after, especially for the humanities and artsy type students, is a time of bohemian existence --- travel, working various shit jobs, holing up somewhere and writing a novel or some god-awful poetry, and in your early twenties you are resilient and unafraid, able to take on partying, all-nighters, and laugh in the face of not being able to pay your rent. So --- I include myself in here --- you might not have thought about money or your future career much, and you might seem puzzled that every time you talk about going to grad school people start ranting about money and the job market when obviously you are going there to talk about Art and other Deep Things and isn't it a little bourgeois to be harping on a steady paycheck in the face of Matthew Arnold, yo?

Ah, but now you must consider the other element of grad school: time. I like to say that, since grad school is about twice as hard as undergrad, it should take twice as long. Of course, that is only because I plan to finish during this, my 8th year. (Think I'm slow? Talk to the rest of my cohort for a wake-up call.) Plus, I went to a crappy MA program (the only place that accepted me the first time out) which helped make me competitive enough to get into this semi-crappy PhD program (more on that later). So I will have been in graduate school of some form or another for an even 10 years. Bite me, ok? The discussion of whether this is fast or slow, or public vs. private school, can wait till another time.

This means that, if you follow my 8-year-plan, you will be ending your twenties and entering your thirties as you finish grad school. Many things happen over the end of your twenties, regardless of your life situation. Your metabolism slows down. You start living a quieter life (more or less). You suddenly think kids are cute and want to have some, or possibly actually marry someone. Your old dreams of starting a punk band while squatting in an Oakland warehouse living the bohemian life suddenly seem ... uncomfortable. (Ok, I'm just jealous of Cool Scientist Friend's life ---- I was never that cool.) You start wanting to buy a house, and worry about having a retirement account. You are just different and interested in different things 8-10 years later.

And even if you don't fully succumb to the American-Dream-white-picket-fence ideal, you start to get tired of living like a grad student and being treated like one long before you finish your program. It gets old, scrambling for new funding every few months, and shuddering and closing your eyes whenever the student loan reminder comes in the mail, and planning everything --- or putting things off --- based around whether or not you will file or get a job or move back in with your parents. (Don't laugh! At some point it will seem attractive.)

So, to sum up, when you decide to go to grad school, you need to think not only of your early-twenties self, but your later-twenties/thirties future self and what s/he may want. What if you change your mind and want kids? How much debt are you willing to take on? Will you be willing to live in family student housing, or have roommates, or live in a slum, 10 years down the line? How many years can you eat beans and rice and not take a vacation? How many side jobs are you willing to take on for extra money? How long will you take shit adjunct work before you walk away from the whole thing? Is your family going to be able to help you out a bit, or will they be needing help in a few years? Will your 30s-self be pissed at your 20s-self when you finally graduate 50K in debt, with no job and no benefits or retirement fund started up?

And you need to think long and hard about whether you'd be ok with not ever landing that permanent job --- that's what I'm thinking about constantly right now --- and realize that even if you promise yourself that you won't get sucked into the whole "I must get a tenure-track job or a certain type or I am a personal, moral, and academic failure" --- even if you swear you won't fall into this thinking, remember that the pressures to think that way, to invest in that mindset, will be around you constantly.

I mean, sure, going to grad school isn't the end of the world. But if the worst-case scenario --- not to mention the medium-case scenario --- horrifies you and doesn't look like what you want, then don't apply. Think about it long and hard.

And the title of this post? I have a second part coming up. The second question you'll need to ask yourself: why do grad schools want you?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

"evidence of teaching effectiveness"

(Yech! It’s hot. I’m hot. Not as bad as yesterday (90 degrees) when I was dressed up (yay boots! ugh sweat!), but it is still strangely hot for October. Bleah. In other news, the fire up here is contained, though I don’t know about the rest of the Southland. I’m debating whether to go to a cultural event tonight (heat=laziness) and I sent out 6 apps, I think, plus 4 or 5 yesterday, so I'm barely making it along my timeline so far.)

So I have been rolling along through my applications, doing the “easy” ones with early deadlines and leaving the ones with “extra” stuff for later. So now I’m calling on the internets for help again: “evidence of teaching effectiveness”??? What do they want for that? And is it going to be boring and annoying to put together? Because I don’t do well with heat and annoyingness; I may as well go to that performance tonight then instead.

I poked around a bit and some sources of online advice suggest a “teaching portfolio,” including everything from sample syllabi and course assignments to a letter by someone who has observed your teaching. Other web sites say “just bundle up all the narrative comments and statistical breakdowns of evaluations for the classes you have taught and send those in.” WTF!?!!? These must be for Fancypants McPanterson grads who have taught at most a couple classes. I have 6 years of evaluations from about 4 different departments doing vastly different subjects, some of which have nothing to do with my actual specialty and others that have nothing to do with the kinds of jobs I am applying for. See?:

(A view of my miraculous library cube/room --- have I mentioned how much I love librarians and my library? It's true! They love me so much they let me have a room with a door that locks --- better than some of the departments I've TA'd for, I tell you! This lets me go to the bathroom without packing up my laptop and every thing I brought every freakin' time. And yes, I have had thefts from the TA cubicle farm, so I am not merely paranoid. Well, I'm paranoid on top of being justified in this case.)

In the above photo, you will notice my zillion-pound stack of evaluations. If I have to send all that, I’m going to break my back down at the post office. Do you seriously want me to read through all that and summarize all of it? That looks like a fucking dissertation project right there. Hmm… just do the most recent class(es), you say? The problem with that is that our department loves its shiny and new students, only to cast them aside as they grow older and less cute. This leaves the school with large packs of semi-feral advanced grad students who scavenge on the edges of the campus, snatching at whatever leftover funding might be available in odd places while snarling rabidly.

Case in point: after much scrounging I finally managed to get one (1) TAship offer for this fall --- in the environmental sciences dept. Now, I think I can teach pretty much anything at the introductory level: it’s about being able to read better than the students and have discussion-leading skills, no? But I actually turned it down, despite it paying for my fees and health care and keeping my loans down and seeming interesting and fun, because I thought I needed to focus all my time and energy on the job market and finishing (hah!) the dissertation.

What all this means is that the most recent classes I have TA’d or taught are far outside my field, and the ones within my field are back from when I was not as good a teacher. (I should hope I have improved over time, at least!) So, what to send? How to reflect all this crap? Where can I find some magic job market gnomes to compile this information for me?

So, internets ---- what should I send to prove that I have not only taught, but taught “effectively”?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Little help here?

My cat is stuck under the couch.

In fact, he keeps getting stuck under the couch, and not being able to get out unless I upend the couch and lift him out. If I don't, I have to listen to scrabbling noises and his piteous mewling. The netting/backing/whatever on the bottom has come loose in one part, evidently, allowing Timido to get in, but not figure out an egress.

As you can see, he's working on that part. I don't really appreciate the puffs of nasty netting stuff accumulating around the apartment though. And now it looks like he may have a scrape on his leg --- is it from getting stuck under the couch? Is it the reason he keeps going under the couch? People, I do not know. That is why I am taking pictures and asking the Internets.

So, Oh Wise and Powerful Internets, how do I keep my cats from driving me nuts? I don't have a staple gun to fix the netting hole --- should I get a staple gun and new netting and try to fix the thing? Try instead to remove the netting stuff completely? (do I really need it?) Try to wall off the underside of the couch somehow? This couch I got used back when I started my first grad program, so I understand it's total shit, but I had planned on waiting to get anything new or fix anything until after I get a new job and move, as it's probably only a year to go. And I just made an appointment for the cat checkup for the 5th --- is this a sign that Timido is trying to find a hole to crawl in and die somewhere? Or that he needs cat therapy? Should I try taking him in earlier? And will I ever be able to own anything nice in my house again?

My life ---- so pitiful and yet so filled with tiny frustrations.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Application Update and your InaDWriMo questions answered

Presents update: Please send me your snail mail addresses, oh future-present-getters, to academic.cog at so I can send you things! Or, more accurately, forget to send things while I run crazily about under deadlines.

Job Applications update: (Oooh, it looks so official with the bold header!) I sent out five more apps (plus the ones that went out Sat and Sun), which is good, but I was supposed to send
out seven today to make up for the slowness of yesterday. But I think this was the big squeeze day and the rest of the days will move faster.

Today was "write all the letters to places too good to have you" day. You know, those Fancypants McPantserson Universities, where you are encouraged to direct your application to the major inventor of a theory or the most eminent and famous critic of a big author. The ones where you look on their website and remember all the times you applied there to grad school and didn't get in. Where, when you mention a job ad to people in the department, you find that everyone, even all the junior faculty, are applying to it. Where you look to see what "holes" need to be filled by this job and you can't find any. Where you try to see how you could fit into the department and you find a collection of yourself; there's enough people who do your thing and have your exact interests to fill a dissertation committee. And you would love to re-do your dissertation under that committee. Truly, this is a humbling experience.

But you don't want to not apply --- what if a miracle might happen? You don't want to waste your shot. So you click here and click there, trying to divine who might be leaving and need to be replaced, and you attempt to spin yourself this way and that to present the parts of your research and your interests that are not already covered in the department, but in a way that still sounds sexy and interesting and still vaguely like you. I tell ya, this is a hard and tiring trick. I hope I'm almost done with the crazy elite job apps. I still have a lot left, but I'm cranking away at them.

And why?

Pre-InaDWriMo Update!: Because I'm going to be writing up the wazoo next month, and I don't want to be wazoo-ing and sending out job apps, so I need to get those out of the way. You all had a bunch of questions, so I'll answer them here.

Neophyte says: But I wonder, with sue who, whether I should be cheering from the sidelines or running after you with a whip?

--- Hmm. No, I think I can do my own drill sergeant impression. Think more like the crowd cheering on exhausted marathoners. You can hand me cups of water and shout "Go Cog!"

Voncookie says: Consider the challenge accepted! (But can we have a day off for Thanksgiving?)

--- Short answer: No. Longer answer: It's your challenge; do what you like. If you don't make your words one day, I suggest, you have to write more the next day. Words should actually have something to do with your project and mean something when strung together. (Unless your diss is on flarf poetry, I guess.)

Sue Who says: So are we blog commenters supposed to be kindly and supportive, or ferocious and drill-sergeanty?

--- Can you be snarky and supportive at the same time? I quite like that.

Fretful Porpentine says: You know, I always thought there should be a month like that when I was writing the diss. (But wouldn't, say, January be better than November, when all the end-of-semester and job-market madness is in full swing?)

--- Ah, but, you see, you are gainfully employed, while I need to pump something out before my U will allow me to be exploited as adjunct labor any further. (Thanks, guys!) So, I have nothing else to do in November besides, uh, force myself to write a chapter. And I think it will need brute force. Thus, if I get all my apps out really early, there's actually a lull period in the job market process. Or, if we base this on my experience last year, there will be a couple requests for more materials and then a deafening silence. So I've gotta distract myself from the waiting somehow anyway.

Belle says: My last three chapters took all of two weeks to churn out, as I was really into it and enjoying what I was doing. My readers all said they could tell I was having fun with those. But the rest? Lordy, it was like shitting boulders.

Be nice to yourself. How about 10,000?

--- Lovely image there. Well, I have three chapters completely written and done and accepted by my committee. I have two to go. I've been pulling material and working up an outline of some sorts back in summer, so it's not quite as dire as may seem. And while I agreed to 15,000 words, my advisor has certain rules and one of them is that a chapter must be 50 pages. No more, no less. So actually that's 12,500 and I have an outline and some preliminary crap written --- but the 15,000 works out to the nice round rate of two pages a day. I may keep that as my rate and then not work every single day of the month --- as I've already agreed to visit people the 1st through the 4th and then at T-giving.

Adjunct Whore says: i wrote in chunks of 5 week deadlines. i put it on my kitchen calendar and i met every fucking one as a result.

you can do this, pressure is good. only remember that if you don't meet your precise goal (15k words) that you can meet it maybe december 15th, which still kicks ass.

--- Yeah, my plan exactly. If I make this commitment and only get a really shitty draft out in a month, or only half the chapter out, that would still be fucking awesome. The thing with InaDWriMo is that I can be a quite competitive person, and if I harness that to push me into a good momentum, the actual word count hardly matters.

You know, as soon as I took on this challenge (and started playing "Rocky" and the Monday Night Football theme songs in my head) I immediately got back to work on my applications, despite having been tired out and quitting work early before. I have high hopes that this challenge will be just the thing to pump me up when I don't feel any point in working. How can I say that now?? It's InaDWriMo!

(I think part of the enjoyment is the way I've decided to pronounce that acronym.)

Los Angeles is Burning

When the hills of Los Angeles are burning
Palm trees are candles in the MURDER wind
So many lives are on the breeze
Even the stars are ill at ease
And Los Angeles is Burning

A placard reads "the end of days"
Jacaranda boughs are bending in the haze
More a question than a curse
How could hell be any worse
The flames are stunning
The cameras running
So take warning!

----- Bad Religion

Evidently the Southland is aflame. You want to know why Californians aren't more religious? Because we see the signs of the apocalypse all the time. Earthquakes, wildfires, mudslides, drought ---- I'm sure we saw a hail of locusts recently but I don't remember when. Catastrophic disaster is a California way of life. Of course, it also means we are stupid and don't learn from our past mistakes. We think we can build houses for millions of dollars on steep slopes, in woody canyons filled with dry chaparral, or beachside in the age of global warming, and then refuse to take any of the precautions that scientists and the government suggest (which includes the advice not to build there at all). I'd wish ill on people but if Hurricane Katrina taught me anything, it's that in a disaster, the poor people will suffer while those who wanted all the rules changed get away with things.

Anyway, there's a fire going near here --- again. I thought I blogged about the massive wildfire we had here a few months ago that turned the sky dark and made cool yet freaky mushroom clouds of smoke, but I can't find the post, so I won't bother to link to it. Just take my word for it that we had a big fat fire in the summer, and now we have another. I wish I had taken a picture of the sky yesterday, because it was chocolate. Not LA smog, not Mexico City smog. This was chocolate. Turns out that we had some huge Santa Ana winds pick up and grab all the soot and silt from the burned-out acreage and dump it on us, and in the course of all that windiness it started another fire, so now we have fresh ash and old ash drifting down on us and creating a mess everywhere. It smells like peat moss, only much drier. And smokier, of course.

I hadn't realized that they issued a "no exercise" warning (sweet! they should do that every day!) today or that it would count for swimming as well, but I went swimming today (first time back in about a month of craziness) and felt awful. I had to quit way early. That'll teach me to get off the couch! So I've been a bit lightheaded and yucky for the rest of the day. But not unproductive! I'm going to give that a whole separate post.

(This pic is from the old fire, not the current fire. Gotta keep all our disasters straight!)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Because I need a challenge: It's InaDWriMo!

Continuing my pattern for the weekend, I got a late start and an early stop today. I have 3 more applications together and sealed. I have a cubic fuckload left to do, and furthermore, I need to go visiting people in just a short while, including a trip to see my family and watch my niece being theatrical in the school play (Midsummer Night's Dream. I think she's a fairy or elf or whatever. Basically an extra.) That means I need to really crank out these shitbags (that's the metaphorical term; I understand that the whole "flaming-bag-of-poo-on-the-front-porch" practical joke is not conducive to getting me a job, regardless of how much the image of some search committee trying to stamp it out pleases me.) and get them all sent before Nov 1. Argh.

But the only way to get my butt in gear is to truly freak out about (or procrastinate from) the next deadline! So I've got new dissertating deadlines set up! If working under immense pressure is what it takes, pressure is what I'll have! That stupid rock! I'll turn that fucking lump of carbon into a diamond! The largest diamond in the world! Mwhahahahaha! And I'll kill anyone foolish enough to fly over my secret diamond lair --- oh wait. Sorry. Got a bit carried away there. Anyhoo,

Over at Dissertation Boot Camp and Brazen Hussy's they are planning InaDWriMo, or International Dissertation Writing Month, modeled after National Novel Writing Month. So everyone who accepts the challenge chooses a word/page amount for the month of November and starts writing away. As Brazen Hussy describes it:
Here's the deal: It starts November 1 and ends November 30. You set your own goal (totally up to you), and keep a word meter or word count on your blog to track your progress. (here are a couple of word meters.) You can only count the words written in November. You can get as competitive and trash-talking as you like (*cough* see Weezy for an example). At the end, the winner... well, the winner gets the pride of a job well done. Or maybe I can send a postcard. But it won't be from Australia.
So my goal for November InaDWriMo is to crank out 15,000 words, which I calculate to be about 60 pages, or my whole fourth chapter. (Gulp.) That means about two pages a day, for every day of November. (Holy fucking shit, what am I getting myself into?)

Stop it, cog! Quit yer whining! You're taking on a challenge! You are going to kick everybody's asses because you love kicking ass! You are going to rock that chapter and be soooo glad afterwards that you got through it so fast, or even through a shitty draft of it so fast. You are going to prove that you are the studliest ... well, cogliest ... dissertator ever and you are going to burn through those pages so fast there'll be treadmarks and the smell of burning rubber left behind! And in order to meet your challenge goals, you're going to have to finish those applications double quick! Now get a move on, maggot! Shoulder that pack! Pump those knees! Ready, go! Go! Go! Go!

(What have I gotten myself into? What have I gotten you all into? You might want to be careful visiting around here in the near future.)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Ok, not *that* Zen

Dear Cog ----

It's great that you have internalized a sense of peace and comfort about the job market, but you still have to apply for all those jobs you picked out. You didn't do jack shit yesterday or today ---- not only did you ignore your job market stuff, but you didn't do any dissertating either ---- so let's get on it and start finishing some of those fucking apps!

You know, they say a little bit of stress helps us get things done. Don't get too relaxed on me now.

Intellectually yours,

The Superego

Friday, October 19, 2007

Job Market Zen

Ok, if you're in the mood for anger and bile and general job-market ranting, stop reading now. I'm going in a slightly different direction today.

The other day I went to this Thing. And at this Thing, we discussed being on the job market. As women. 'Cause it was a wimmenz-type Thing. (I was planning on not going, but Cool Scientist Friend called me up and wondered if I'd walk over with her and hang out. Between being at my least-caffeinated level of the day and wanting to support someone who really is practically the only woman in her dept., I changed my mind.)

It was great. It was actually fun, what can I say? I don't know how much it was useful, and how much it was just that I had escaped from the library and the actual process of applying for jobs and instead was socializing with real human beings, but, either way, I had fun. It was also not women-specific in a woman-ly-type way, unless you count the larger point that, hey, maybe women on the market need job advice too, and when you consider that women are socialized to not make a fuss or push hard for stuff like mentoring or advice and that there is still an "old boy's network" in many disciplines, this simple fact is extremely important.

But really, most of it was a basic overview of the process of applying and some tips. Points about how you need to be organized, how you should make specific applications tailored to specific schools (no telling little liberal arts college how much you want to teach grad students), and there were lists of potential interview questions for both you and your search committee, along with a compendium of useful websites. Maybe I'll go put some up later. But note that I am lazy and I do not personally need to check out all those women in science web sites, so I probably will not.

What I will mention here are the points that I found especially true and comforting. That's right, I only take notes on what I already know and agree with. Consider me like your undergrads.

The Presenting Prof (PP) and Visiting Prof (VP) had some great explanations of what you can and can't control in the process. You can send out a solid writing sample, finish your dissertation, bust your butt to get out another article before you send out your applications. You can't control how these materials ---- or anything about you ---- are going to be interpreted on the other side. VP stressed the point that you are not applying to a new, tabula rasa situation. That department has a history, and you are trying to insert yourself in it. But you cannot know the ins and outs of that history before you get there, so don't worry about tripping yourself up. Your candidacy can be sunk by the crazy, unpopular person championing you. Your assumptions about what and how to teach can conflict with those in that department. Your methodology or specialty can overlap too closely with someone else, or not fill a gaping hole that they really must deal with. But the important thing about this is that you are not a mind reader and will never be able to suss out every secret little detail of "fit." So this lack of fit says nothing about you and your qualities as a scholar, and everything about them and their past history.

PP added that beyond history, there can be projection. This also totally made sense to me (I take back many --- well, not all --- of the nasty things I've said about Freud in the past). Depending on the experiences of those search committee members, they may read things into your application that are not really there. To take myself as an example, because of my past history with creepy, touchy, pompous practitioners of a certain Freudian ilk, I might project those past experiences onto potential candidates, were I on a search committee, and I might toss those applications out, not because of their value, but because of my generalizing or projecting onto them. I could do the same with a name, or a university, or a word in the dissertation title. The point is, you will never know what might set off one person and what another person might love, so it's pointless to try and anticipate it. To lapse into cliche for a moment, it's better to just be yourself, and present your own work and interests as accurately and truthfully as you can.

Some people might find this extremely depressing but I found it quite calming and liberating. Can't anticipate it, can't change it; you should just deal with it. So I'm trying to be Zen about the whole thing. (You may have to remind me of this a lot later in the process. Do not be alarmed if I shower you with profanity at that point.) I will work on the things I have control over, and I will not worry about the things I have no control over ---- which includes how many jobs are out there, who else is applying to them, and whether my other committee people ever turn in their letters.

And at the risk of making a long post incredibly long, the other info I found really useful was about after the job talk. I may return to this idea in a later post. But I have never understood how to answer questions after the job talk. This is mostly because our dept. asks very strange questions ---- usually long self-absorbed monologues about their own research with seemingly no point until the tone suddenly swerves up into a question at the end. Leaving me in the audience thinking, "fuck, that's a question? How the hell is the candidate supposed to answer that?" People, I'll need more advice on how to deal with that soon.

VP made the point that you are supposed to engage with the question in a serious way, and to think along with them, regardless of whether you "know" the answer or disagree with their point. It's about showing you are a colleague, she said, and not a graduate student any more who will need to be taught by them. You should never be dismissive of their point, but not be bullied by them, either. "That basically means" I whispered to Cool Scientist Friend, "you have to stand your ground but not be an asshole." "Mmm --- that is way harder than it may seem" she responded.

So, tips, advice? How does one walk the fine line between standing one's ground and not being an asshole? Because unlike the Zen, this is not going to come easy for me.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Update: People! It won't really be sand (well maybe a little bit in a bottle as I find the idea funny) --- I will send something suitably lovely, I promise. There are still possibilities for presents for some lucky people. Sign up, trust me. (Or, you could just shower me with gifts instead; I wouldn't stop you.)

A lot of people are doing a blogging gift-giving thing, and I love getting stuff in the actual real-life mail (except rejection letters and dry cleaning ads). So, in return for something from Adjunct Whore, I post this:

By the end of the calendar year, I will send a tangible, physical gift to each of the first five people to comment here. The catch? Each person must make the same offer on her/his blog.
I promise it won't be my collection of rejection letters and junk mail. How about sand ... you like sand? I can't package sunlight. Well, I'm sure I could find something appropriately Californian! (No, Benjamin McKenzie will not fit in your mailbox!)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Six! Six applications! Ah. Ah. Ah. Ah.

(Ok, you tell me how to spell the Count's laughter. Smartypants.)

And with no further ado, here are random tidbits of information that did not seem germane to the previous post:
  • It's fall! That is, it's a California fall ---- which means the undergrads are wearing skinny jeans with their ugg boots. Instead of the usual hot pants or miniskirts. Actually, it means that it drizzled on Friday (yay!) and was cloudy and overcast and chilly today (yay yay!). And, there's that wonderful acrid smoky smell in the air I associate with fall. No clue why it does that, though.
  • I have, indeed, sent out six job applications. Technically, I am not done with my letter or abstract, much less the writing sample, because Advisor told me to show them to no one until she had signed off on them. However, she's not really clear on the deadline timelines I have. That is, I sent four of my apps out on Saturday at the Fedex place because they were due across country today, Monday. The other two I Fedexed out last Monday to get them there Wed. All I have to say is, early application people, you suck! That is why you get draft job materials without the patented Advisor Seal of Approval on them. You should be properly ashamed of yourselves.
  • I will stalk my Advisor and various committee members tomorrow, as that seems to be the Magical Convergence Day for them to be on campus. I hope to actually connect with everyone I need to connect with and be told that at least certain parts of my materials are done. Then I can play with the copy machine and make a big pile of stuff for later use.
  • I have many many more applications to send out, some of which do not actually ask for a blood sample and seven-generation genealogy. (Actually, that would be more fun to do --- or make up --- than a statement of research goals or official transcripts.) Some of them are Hail Mary passes (hello, ivies), some of them are more like hockey passes (as in, WTF are you playing ice hockey on the football field for? This job's not for you.) and some of them seem to want what I do. We won't get into the ways in which the departments themselves or the geographic locations may let me down, as I have not allowed myself to look very closely at anything yet. I can't be picky; I need a job. And besides, I seem to spend my spare time here, in my living room, on the couch, on the internet, and I could do that pretty much anywhere.
  • At my other-job-related party on Sat, (there was much socializing and snarky jokes. You should have been there.) I tried Belgian double chocolate beer. Not bad at all. I'm not such a big beer fan, though, so my number one criteria is that it should not taste anything like beer. Then I am happy. Unless I have already had enough to drink that I can't really taste much of anything; then I am fine. Unfortunately, I still have like a half case of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer (hipster ironic drink of choice) that someone brought to my last party. I'd have another soirĂ©e to get rid of it, but I'm afraid someone else will use that as an opportunity to dump their leftover Coors on me. Can't have that.
  • Um, yeah. Other job. Have I mentioned I'm a girl who just can't say no? Gah. I can't say anything about it except that I'll be really glad when the second Tuesday of November rolls around, you know what I mean. Unfortunately, the slogan, "If you don't do it, who will?" seems to only work on me. Thus the inability to dump this job along. Well, considering you are unemployed right now, you say, a second job would really help you out! Um ... yeah. Did I mention the unpaid part? Why, yes, I know I am an idiot. Can I interest you in a valuable learning opportunity? No?? If not you, then who? If not now, then when?
  • This one isn't directly from me, but students? TMI. If you are sick, you can just write that in the email. You don't need to describe your sweats and sprints for the bathroom in visceral detail. Unless this is a secret trick to get whatever you want? "Dude, just gross out the teacher and she'll be unable to read the email any further and she'll give you the extension." Or maybe it's a secret TA conspiracy? "I don't believe you were sick, Mr. Johnson --- unless you tell me every symptom in graphic detail!" (disgusting email courtesy of the grad student mailroom.)

Boot Lust

Flavia's showing off her shiny new shoes. I covet them. (I'm loving the return to shiny patent leather in juicy bold colors.)

But I don't have any glossy red heels ... yet. But I did get my backordered, asskicking boots earlier than anticipated:

(yes, I am wearing clothes!)

Having such great asskicking boots makes me almost wish I had students this quarter because it would be so much fun to kick them around in these. Almost. I shall have to content myself with striking fear in the heart of the job market and bending it to my iron will.

(If I wore these to the MLA, would I be able to control my urge to smack some sense into pretentious and overbearing search committee members? I might have to stick with more sensible shoes.)

Updated because Blogger is letting me add pics again: Here's another shot showing off the heel for Flavia as well as my cute skirt. Still not the best angle. See why I need someone at home to take photos of me and generally admire my wonderfulness? Here's a better picture. And this is a boot I was tempted by, but ended up not liking as much. (there are many other nice boots on the site as well). Of course, no sooner do I get my boots then I get a catalog from somewhere else and the grass is greener here. Sigh. There are lots of boots I like over there too. Not that I have $400 to spend. Or need a bucketload of boots. Sigh sigh.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Mental Health Day

One of the grads in my cohort used to always miss one --- and only one --- day of each of her grad seminars (we have a 10 week session). Sometimes she was sick, but sometimes she took a Mental Health Day. She might catch up on sleep, or be writing her paper for the seminar, or decide she needed to go see a movie and go out shopping, whatever was going to help her keep her sanity and happiness most effectively.

I've always appreciated that idea, even if I was afraid to use it at times because I was worried I'd be seen as slacking off. Yesterday though, even though I have applications due as early as next week and tons of things still to get done before then, I took a Mental Health Day. I needed it. You could probably tell from the tone of my last post (which I wrote when I was too angry to do any more revising and so it really was more like a Mental Health Day-and-a-Half). I realized when I totally ripped into three different friends (including Dissertation Buddy) who weren't even causing me my problems, that I should take some sanity time and recharge. Grad school work and rest does not always match up nicely with schedules and weekends.

My other job also wound down after hitting some craziness (don't ask) and so I felt that Friday would be a good weekend day, to do nothing in particular except rest and relax. I cooked all morning ---- I tried my hands at red beans and rice, although technically I haven't made the rice yet ---- and alternated that with washing oodles of dishes, although my kitchen isn't particularly clean. I spent a lot of time just sitting around, maybe on the internet, maybe on a newspaper, doing nothing much and not thinking. Then I went wine tasting with a friend. It was nice. It was a good day. I feel like speaking civily to people today rather than disemboweling them for the crime of existing in my presence when I was pissed off. I feel like I can face my job materials once again. Getting dressed to go get a nice coffee doesn't seem daunting.

However, I've been working long days all this week and evidently my cats are glad to see me. They're both curled up on my lap right now and purring and being cute and fuzzy. I can't move. It's very nice. But I need to go in to work on campus today, as yesterday was my weekend. My stash of letterhead is there as are all my job notes. And coffee. I need to end this bit of relaxation and get going back to work. But not quite yet. Not yet.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Yes, I know I should be writing my diss. Or prepping my job apps. Fuck off.

The past two days I have been committing mutilations on a mass scale. Chopping, hacking, slashing --- I don’t know if I am more closely imitating Victor Frankenstein or Orlan. It has been an incredibly frustrating process, mangling my baby. But I think I’ve gotten to a point where I can seek outside help.

You see, I had a chapter, once. It was a good chapter. Very lively and fun. I think I complained a little bit about the difficulties of cutting it down to send off to a journal here. Or at least that is when I was finally done. It is a complex chapter that covers many topics and has many subheadings (those lovely academic ways of avoiding having to write transitions!). It was difficult to cut it as the advice people gave me was that I couldn’t leave out any of the different subheadings ---- just hacking off a limb or two would easily bring it down to fighting weight, I argued, but instead I was told to sculpt it down through plastic surgery, cut out all the fat and filler.
So I did. It was frustrating and tough work, but I finally managed to get it into shape, a shape I was proud of, that flowed and made sense, that was still well-rounded enough that someone could encounter it in a journal and get enough background and a sense of my larger project. It still had bits of sparkle and complexity, but managed to come (just barely) in under the word limit.

Unfortunately, that word limit is very high. (I chose the journal partly because it fits my topic and partly because it accepts much longer articles.) Now, I must chop it down again to fit the various page limits for writing samples. Only this time there is no repetition or fat to cut out.

I had an unsettling conversation with my advisor on Tuesday --- how many ways can you write “frustrating”? I’ve depleted my thesaurus --- one of those weird conversations where you’re not quite sure if you’re talking past each other or not. She argued strongly that I need to send out this as my writing sample, as it is my most interesting and best-written chapter. I was puzzled, as I am in agreement with her (why are we arguing then?). I was pushing for advice on how to cut it down further ---- as in, by half, to hit a 20-page limit.

Do I just leave off part IV? I asked? Oh no, she says in horror, that’s your most interesting part. And be careful not to shrink the close reading passage down too much or else you won’t look “literary” enough to more traditional departments. Well, what about this section? No, no, you don’t want to rip out all the areas that prove you’ve read the criticism. And this section definitely can’t go because it’s so out there and crazy, it hasn’t been touched by any other critics at all. Well, what’s left? All my lovely little lyrical bits and bizarre similes (have I mentioned before that I am Queen of Inappropriate Metaphors?), then? Those are my favorite parts.

It’s like how Anne Bradstreet has that poem comparing her book of verses to a child that has been sent out into the world too soon --- I don’t want to cut any more of it; I love it. All its little quirks and choice phrasings are marvelous to me. It is good. I have distilled down my language to something concentrated and intense. I have made it sharp and in focus. I don’t want to get rid of any more stuff, especially when I think it works as it is.

Now, I don’t think it looks too good. Its proportion is off, its limbs are all wobbly and distorted, it has scars and visible stitchings and gaping holes where there should be an ear or an eye. I have a lot of things on my plate right now and my advisor, despite repeated remindings, is not cognizant of the fact that I have already sent out applications and have at least another 10 due before the first (and that I need to get ALL of them out as soon as possible, before I go out of town.) I did not follow her advice. She said, sit down and reread the whole thing holistically. Think about what you really need, what you really want to say. Rewrite whole sections to boil it down or reframe the direction. Figure out which are the sexy bits and which are the dull dissertation bits. Perhaps you’ll need to re-arrange the order, to get the page count down as far as you need to. Really think deeply on how to revise it. And then, once you have it cut down, send it out to a journal right away, to get something on the publications section of your CV. (Uh, don’t you remember that I already did this??? WTF???)

Well, I don’t have the time and don’t have the patience. And I wanted more specific directions on where and how. So I slashed and burned like a cattle rancher chopping through rain forest, or perhaps a psychotic chainsaw-wielding maniac (ooh, I should get a pic of Christian Bale in here. Nah, too late.) I was ruthless. And sloppy. I’ve turned my copy around back to Advisor already, as she said she wouldn’t work on any line-by-line readings for improving the quality until I had done the cut down. So, here it is. Have fun with it. I sure didn’t.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

ick, I'm sick

I have been feeling cruddy all week now ---- right on the edge of a cold but not blowing up into a full-fledged attack just yet. I blame my sister and my dad, who both have colds and who I talked to on the phone this weekend. (What? Reality should be no limit to good blaming.)

Feeling crappy, of course, does nothing to help with the craziness of the job market, which is now in full swing. (Know how I know? Today I just got a rejection letter from last year's job run ---- fuckers. Isn't it in the middle of your fucking next semester already? Haven't you already posted two jobs for your this year's search? Gah. I cough all my germs in your direction.)

So, I have sent out some stuff and am in the mad dash for finalizing more stuff and everything hits the fan almost immediately. I have to try and get a bit more done before collapsing, but in the next day or so I'll bring you a post about hacking up your babies. Till then,

Yours in aches, pains and general job-market bile,

Sunday, October 7, 2007

A Few Quick Links

First, I must say: I hate deadlines! Arrrrrgh! I have something almost done that I have to send off before tonight. Unfortunately, it isn't even job related. But it must be done. (side note: do conference papers have to have, um, endings? or can they just stop? 'Cause depending on my time limits, I may take the "run off the edge of a cliff" approach to the ending.)

So, I am busy tootling along these days, but didn't want you to think I had forgotten my lovely readers, including my newly-met delurkers. Yay, readers! I owe you an update on writing the teaching philosophy and on how my dissertation is coming (rather than going up the hill, it's looking a lot like this:

Yes, everything is coming back at me right now.)

But I thought I'd take a couple minutes to point at some other great posts by fellow grad students under pressure. Grad school? Why yes, it feels like this:

To summarize: both adjunct whore and Mano are currently writing their job application letters, which I am behind on revising (see above pic). Adjunct whore discusses the tricky genre that is the cover letter, while Mano succinctly boils down all the advice on the cover letter to highlight its frustration (is it coincidence that she has recently found a gray hair? I think not.)

Still related to the job market, "maude lebowski" can tell you what it feels like to read through the Job Information List when going on the market. It took me a while to realize that I wasn't having caffiene overload --- literally, my heart rate speeds up uncomfortably whenever I page through the JIL site. I had thought I was drinking too much coffee until I did it first thing one morning. It's almost as bad as after the time I had a severe allergic reaction and they shot me full of ephedrine. I thought I was about to have a seizure. (thanks for not telling the patient
what you're injecting, emergency room folks!)

And I missed the window of opportunity to bitch about funding and its tenuousness back when Ancrene Wiseass and Half an Acre had such good things to say a few months ago --- basically how much it sucks to try and eke things out until the first fall check comes through. But Kisha over at the 10-Year-Plan has just written about one of my top peeves: how much time and effort we spend just applying for our grad funding, time that we could spend on our actual research. In related news, go check out this NYT article on "trying to get Ph.D. students finished faster." Oh, there's a lot there for me to rip into when I have time.

But time? Who has time? I have to write a thing and prepare to apply for jobs and scrounge up some funding for the rest of this year. And I need to buy some food and clean this filth hole. Don't even get me started on time.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Hello, who are you?

Ah, the problems of being on the West Coast! Evidently everyone has been having fun participating in Mofo Delurk Day while I was hard at work. Or, perhaps, hard at avoiding my conference paper by obsessively organizing and re-organizing my job materials. And I don't mean the content-related materials, like the CV or letter or dissertation abstract. I mean the envelopes and labels and pens and things, thank you very much. Hey, it keeps me calm and is soothing --- as my brother the engineer likes to say, I needed to up my serotonin levels. Of course, I think he needs to admit that he feels overwhelmed and depressed and perhaps, shocker, talk to someone about it, but as an engineer he thinks the mind and body are machines that should be treated solely with medication or quick fixes.

But enough about me and my silly brother! Today is all about you! Yes, you --- the lurkers who have been reading my blog (I see you over there when I check on Sitemeter!) and do not comment. Come out come out wherever you are and say hi! I've been linked to by big fancy places recently and my blog traffic has gone way up, so I know I have some new readers. Stop a bit. Introduce yourself. Say hi. Have a virtual cocktail or something. That? Don't look over there ---- that huge messy pile is my dissertation research. I can shovel the piles of dirty clothes off the sofa and find you a seat, even. Uh, don't make too much contact with the seat --- I don't know when I last cleaned around here. Let me open a can of chickpeas for you! ... cause that's all I have for you to eat around here right now. Unless you'd prefer to eat job application materials. Or pencils? I have pencils.

Because, really, it's all about you ... you, and me being hospitable to you. I'm trying very hard. I'm thinking that I need to actually get the book from one of my new favorite writer/actress/comediennes/whatevers, Amy Sedaris, to more fully hospital-ize you and make my place properly spiffed up. Here, have some chickpeas. Because these chickpeas? They are sending you a message. And that message is I like you.

Seriously, if I could hand you a roast fowl the way that woman could, I would. Leave me some comments!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Eating Crow

I hate to admit, after all the fun with yesterday's post, that I got an email response from a committee member and went in to her office hours today, and then caught my advisor in her office hours and made an appointment for Thurs (as she was frantically trying to eat lunch and prep for class --- part of me was sympathetic, but part thought, "you do know that people need to be able to come to your office hours and actually talk with you, right?"). So after all that complaining, it's raining advice and I'm actually getting help in moving everything along.

But I must explain why I wrote the post, and tell you all the story (one of many; ask me over a drink sometime) about last year's job market run. You see, all of my committee members were at least a month late getting their letters in. All of them. I had a bunch with early deadlines, like September 15, and about 10 sprinkled throughout October, and I thought asking for letters back in June with gentle, frequent reminders in August would be enough lead time for them to get things done. This meant that I got to be very close with the lady who runs the dossier service (we don't use Interfolio but a campus-specific office thingy over at Career Services), as I went over every single day, I think, of the month of September, asking if my letters had been delivered. I finally had to stand guard over one committee member and watch her write it when I finally tracked her down in office hours. Then I walked it over. I think it was Oct 20 or so ---- I had time to send out all those November 1st deadlines without using the extra-expensive rush option, but I assume that I got tossed for all those earlier jobs.

This was not a good experience to have one's first run on the market. This time I am considerably more Zen about the whole process (as a knowledgeable veteran rather than a confused complete newbie) and am surprisingly unworried; I can remind the committee members but I can't write their letters for them. If it happens, it happens. If not; I did everything that was within my control. I vaguely remember being incredibly anxious and jumpy last year, and felt powerless and helpless. I didn't know how to do anything or what my materials should look like and I got very spotty help looking over drafts ---- plus I was sure that somehow everything about my life would be ruined if I didn't somehow get those letters over to the career center.

This time --- eh. It might be a self-protective tactic, but I haven't been spending that much time on job stuff. I have a letter and diss abstract that were good enough to send out last year; if no one has time to work with me on these materials I can just send 'em out again. Ditto on the letters ---- would a search committee really notice if the letters hadn't been updated? It's not like last year where I had nothing to send if my committee members forgot to write the letters. And now that I've been through a whole round of rejections I know what that feels like and I know I'm going to get rejected from most of the places anyway; it's not like getting dropped from a few for not having a complete application is going to change the end result of my run that much. (I just need one job offer, after all.) I haven't even been looking much at the ads ---- I scan them and anything I remotely fit, I print and file away in my binder, writing up a little note on my Excel sheet of deadlines. No searching websites or poring over Craigslist to see if it's in a cute neighborhood this time ---- I kept getting invested in places and then being crushed. This time, let's save the crushing disappointment for only the places that ask for materials or interviews.

While I'd like a job ---- I'm not picky; I'll take a job anywhere there's a job, whatever ---- I now have practice not getting a job. Yes, surviving the job market takes practice. I can deal with telling everyone in my dept. that I got no offers, since I had to do that once already; I can deal with writing while waiting, since I've done that too. I can make plans and figure out where my life will go next spring; last year I took not even getting any flybacks as a sign of my unworthiness or a rejection of my work; I've been thinking about this all a lot since then and I've realized that I have other interests, other skills ---- I will not have to move back home and be taken care of by my parents if I can't get a job in academia. (I may do that to get some family sympathy for a week or two after the rejections come, heh! Oh wait, my family is not the sympathetic type.) So, even as I'm prepping for the job market, I'm planning my alternate plans for after filing ---- adjunct or work somewhere else? Aim for CCs instead of four years next year? Or walk away from the professor track entirely? This job, no matter how great the institution is, is not a life. And these jobs have a lot going against them besides all their great advantages. I'm not willing to put my "life" on hold indefinitely while waiting for the perfect job to pan out, because it might never come.

My committee members have all mentioned that they are hard at work on updating my letters or are about to --- I think they feel bad for missing things last time, which they should. Like I said, I took the empty dossier, and my poor showing on the job market, very personally last year, and they know it. I had at least one huge tearful and freaked-out confrontation with my advisor, trying to make her see that I was terrified and frantic because the UC had irrevocably cut me off from any more teaching because I have been here too long, and I couldn't figure out whether to file a 4-chapter dissertation and leave or stay a grad student another year and have to pay fees without any TA fee remissions. At the time I was so angry with her because she didn't see the gravity of the situation --- she kept saying I could get other kinds of work, or adjunct at a variety of different types of schools in the area, and keep my student status. Now, after thinking about it a long time, I think I'm coming around to her point. I can do other things. A lot of people have to put up with sucky and unrelated jobs to help put them through the last bits of school. But, again, I'm still thinking through the costs, and whether it's worth it.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Advisor Watch 2007!

Folks, if you’re just tuning in to K-COG you are in for some exciting times. A low-pressure front moving in from the north, coupled with vast temperature changes stemming from the incoming marine layer means that we are scheduled to see some actual advisor sightings any time now. Our forecasters tell us that we should see sprinklings of advisor sightings and graduate advisor sightings, with even a few committee members, before this front pushes them further into the Southland, where, Academiforcaster Bob tells me, there will be torrents of advisor appearances, it will be, almost literally, raining advisors later this month. Over to you, Bob.

Bob: Yes viewers, it is just as Jim has been telling you. Although we don’t see any actual advisors at this moment, academicorological conditions predict that soon, very soon, we will be deluged in advisors --- and not a minute too soon, Jim, for California has been in a drought of advice and we really need advisors for those thirsty little job candidates to grow! Back to you, Jim.

Jim: Why don’t you explain, Bob, for the benefit of our viewers, exactly how you’ve been tracking the advisor developments. Could we see the maps?

Bob: Of course Jim. Here you’ll see a very promising local map without the pressure systems, but with the advisor clusters marked in green.

Jim: Uh, Bob. I’m not seeing any moving masses of advisors there. Am I missing something?

Bob: We have every confidence that the advisors, despite all evidence to the contrary, are appearing and are indeed moving this way!

Jim: So … we have recorded hallway sightings then, Bob?

Bob: Not a one, Jim.

Jim: What about our email Doppler radar, Bob?

Bob: We’ve sent out multiple missives but have not yet recorded any contacts.

Jim: Coffeehouses?

Bob: Nary an advisor in sight.

Jim: The preschool?

Bob: It’s like a virgin wilderness, free from even the shadow of an advisor.

Jim: Bob, weren’t you telling me that advisors were sighted at the recent department party?

Bob: Uh, no Jim. I forgot to go to that. Sorry about that. But we do have the perfect academicorological conditions for the appearance of advisors any day now.

Jim: But you were at the job market meeting, Bob. Do you have any footage of at least Job Placement Advisors, if not the perfect storm of Dissertation Advisors with Attendant Committee Members?

Bob: Well Jim, funny you should say that. You would think that, with the time of day, the wind, the UV index, the title of the meeting, it would have been the perfect conditions to see some JPAs, but, surprisingly, there were a dearth of advisors present at that meeting. Crowds turned out for the historic occasion but there were only sprinkles of job market advice. … But we have GPS satellites scanning the area and email tags primed for tracking and we are ready to leap into action at the first glimpses of an advisor!

Jim: So, Bob, what you are telling me is that none of our scientific instruments have sighted any advisor activity and there are absolutely no signs of advisors on the immediate horizon … why, then do you think that, contrary to all the evidence, advisors will appear?

Bob: Well, it’s the right season, isn’t it?