Archive for March 20th, 2009

Browsing the backlog of the Chronicle Careers page can be incredibly depressing.  It seems that for each person who has concluded a successful search there are two that are still looking for an elusive tenure track position.  For every Ann Harpold there are two Emily Peters.  Ann gives candidates hope, stating:

In September, I will be starting in a new position at a great little university, located in a small city within driving distance from my family and my husband’s. The position sounds as if it was written for me: It melds my interdisciplinary interests, and allows me to teach highly specialized small seminars. And my new colleagues are friendly, warm, and intellectually engaged.

Emily begins with a warning:

This article is not for the faint of heart. It asks you to endure my recounting of four unsuccessful years spent searching for a tenure-track position in the humanities. For those of you in need of a happy ending, be advised: I don’t get a job in the end. I don’t give reasons for why I’m sure to get a job this year. And I don’t realize that I’m better off outside of the ivory tower.

Thankfully, Emily doesn’t invoke Candide, and her account is among the closest I’ve seen to my own job market approach.

For Emily, the market is chaos and individual candidates cannot be faulted for their failure to receive a job in any given year.  Many who vent on the Sociology Job Market Rumor Mill (Forum for 2009) don’t seem to realize this, feeling entitled to a job because they see “less qualified” others having success.  Personally, I began my job search with the belief that I had no control over the process and I think this helped me maintain my sanity throughout.  As Emily argues:

Just think about the random nature of the academic job market. Can you control the number of jobs that are listed in a given year? The specializations a committee requests? Can you control who retires or switches jobs? Who your competition is? And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Can you control whether prospective colleagues think you’re funny or enjoy your company? Whether they want to hire a man or a woman? Whether someone at the college you’re applying to attended your alma mater? Whether the department chairman wrecks his car picking you up from the hotel for your campus visit? (Something like this happened to me.) The answer is clearly, No. The world is chaos — and it’s not your fault.

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