Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Empire Writes Back: A Cog Responds to the Job List

Dear Job List:

Where is the love? Why are you so enamored of that stupid century instead of my own, infinitely more fascinating century? And WTF is up with all the calls for poetry esp. after everyone has told me all along that poetry jobs were as hard to find as theory jobs? I guess you're looking out for Fellow Grad # 1, as well as Friend Who Graduated Last Year, for the century on the other side of mine, but still, send me something interesting, ok?

Dear Tiny College,

Do you really expect to find someone who does Shakespeare, colonial American, and digital literature? (*or the equivalent.) Couldn't you have figured out what you wanted before you posted the job ad? And why is it that the smaller and less-heard-of the college, the more hoops (teaching philosophy, demonstration of teaching experience and excellence, statement of research interests, and originals of transcripts from all college levels) do you ask us to jump through? Seriously, Tiny College I Have Heard of Before only wanted a letter and CV for the first cut.

Dear Tiny Paperless College,

Bless you for your attempt to make a paperless job search!!!!! Your request for us to email a letter and CV, with the notation that you will ask for us to email a writing sample on the second round, will accumulate you much karma. May you never get another paper cut again!

Dear Cowtown College,

Nobody loves you like I do! Why have you posted the wrong job ad? Seriously, you want someone who does my research, not that silly century that shall not be named! No one but me knows how cool you are --- I've actually been to your campus for a summer program and loved it! Now, do I send you my application now, or will you pull the JIL ad and write me a new one first?

Dear Research University(ies),

Funny how you have advertised for exactly what I do, but at the Associate/Advanced Assistant level. Can I apply anyway, or would that lead to your people pointing and laughing at me at every one of our future field conferences? Look, I have a PhD! It's shiny! Ooh, ooh! Look, PhD in hand! --- well, not right now, but I could roll my chair across the room and put my hand on it if you so desire --- Oh, why do you have to raise the bars just as I finally clear one? Or are most R1 job ads really looking for someone who's already put a couple years in their "starter job" and has submitted a book manuscript, and you are the only ones to openly admit this?

Dear Magic Job Elves,

So I'll leave the choice up to you: you can either work your magic pixie dust over the job list and make some dream jobs appear, or you can rewrite my revise-and-resubmit for me, which I have had no interest in or ability to revisit for several weeks now. Maybe you can brew up some eye of newt potion that will make me love that piece and want to work on it instead of being absolutely bored by the topic and stymied by how to revise it? I'll make you your favorite cookies --- or leave out a fifth of bourbon; just let me know your preferences.


Dr. Curmudgeon said...

On behalf of someone who'se worked at a tiny college you've never heard of - albeit in a different field - I thought I'd offer some bit of explanation for our questionable (and I do agree with you that it is) behavior.

The rationale here is that we have to get everything we can so we can move as quickly as possible because we're competing with all those other places you have heard of.

The reason it's questionable at best is that academic systems are almost inherently unable to move quickly, and often some of that information doesn't get reviewed.

I'll keep my fingers crossed for your search.

gwoertendyke said...

ugh, my stomach hurts just from reading about the JIL. i will conjure every good thought and some pixie dust for you and your neglected field. i don't know why people aren't hiring more in your field, actually, because students always want to study it.

medieval woman said...

Hee, hee - it's only the first week! The cream doesn't come out for another week or two...your Magic Job Elves and my Job Gnomes/Band of Ninja Warriors need to get together and go for margaritas...

kfluff said...

As my good friend used to say: it only takes one. Seriously, it's true; so bide thee well.

My favorite ad is the one that asks for everything AND the kitchen sink (ie., undergrad transcripts. UG?!!! Would you also like my kindegarten report cards?)

D said...

Do you think there are adjunct Magic Job Elves? I hear they've fallen on hard times since Agnew busted up their union.

Good luck, god bless!

Susan said...

Love this. We'll hope that the job elves get to work for you. But as to the R1, I would say that the one(s) that say that they want an advanced assistant/assoc are the honest ones. It may be that the requirements for tenure are such that they know almost no one would make it if it were a first job.

Anonymous said...

Ah, a paperless job search. What genius! I stand amazed that anything good could come out of the MLA/JIL black hole -- but I think that's it!

Renaissance Girl said...

ha. as i may have mentioned elsewhere, i freaking hate the JIL.

Dr. Crazy said...

This is such an excellent post, Sis. This year does seem particularly bleak across fields, which I hope is some small (if cold) comfort. In other words, seriously: it's not you, it's the list. But more will be posted in the next week or three (this year I feel like the list did go up a bit early), so there is hope yet.

Also, what Susan said about the advanced asst./assoc. hire at the R1. The reality (I think) is that many of those jobs are that even if they don't advertise that way - and also that what they're looking for at the advanced level is a person from just a lesser R1, not a teaching school like mine. YMMV, but that's what I've seen.

Steven Pierce said...

I think it's a mistake to assume too much uniformity between job ads. Institutions, departments, and search committees vary. The same phrases can mean very different things. It's also a mistake to assume nefarious agendas; incompetence and lack of organization explain a lot. It's not much of an excuse, but it's an explanation. At any rate, trying to parse job ads for hidden meanings isn't a good idea. The best rule of thumb is to take the phrasing of job ads seriously. If they ask for particular fields or particular levels of experience, assume they mean it. When they're asking the impossible (specialties in Chaucer, ancient Greek philosophy, and quantum mechanics), you might apply if you've got some of those. The ad might well mean they haven't decided what they want or they've got needs in all of them. But the search is also likely to get ugly and unpleasant. You need to decide how much you want to work at that institution given evidence they can't even write a coherent ad. Still, good departments can run crappy searches.

Oftentimes the thinking behind advanced assistant/associate jobs *isn't* that it's going to be so hard to get tenure. It's that they want someone with experience who can hit the ground running--someone who can immediately contribute to a Ph.D. program, for example. An A.B.D. would have little shot in such a search and might well be eliminated immediately. But top-tier R1s often hire A.B.D.s as well as advanced assistants.

It's a bit of a lottery, and it can be pretty inscrutable. And there's lots of bad behavior out there. But it's much less systematic than it appears from the outside, and much harder to predict. That's hard to keep in mind when you don't have a job and desperately need one. But the best course is to behave as professionally as you can and to keep in mind that much is a matter of luck.

Dr Write said...

This is hilarious. Because it's true. I'm not really on the job market, but I like to read the ads. They have gotten crazy (teach fiction writing, post-colonial literature, with secondary specialty in ethnic studies and/or rhetoric & composition and/or play writing). I'm not sure who is qualified for these jobs.
Thanks for injecting some levity into these hard times.
I love your blog!