Posts Tagged ‘Job Market’

Last year, my department submitted a request to run a job search this year.  The fact that our request was denied means that there won’t be any posts about us on the Rumor Mill this year but it also gave me a bit of insight into the other side of a search.  In part, our search was denied because we were not able to sufficiently demonstrate “need” in comparison to the other departments that were trying to argue for their own needs.  In our case, we were trying to add somebody who could teach core courses (intro, methods, etc.) rather than trying to replace somebody who left us with a gaping hole in our curriculum (which is partially how I got hired).  In the eyes of the administration, this made our search less pressing than those proposed by others, especially in tight economic times.

If we are eventually allowed to run a search in the future, I wonder how the justification that we use in arguing for our departmental needs will affect our ability to hire, or even interview, strong candidates who are not exactly in line with that need.  While lots of candidates are told to apply broadly, this suggests that applying to small schools that are looking for areas of specialization that are not directly in line with their own may not be productive.  Of course, this will remain conjecture until the powers that be allow us to conduct a search.  Unless our needs change, it could be a while.

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I’ve been tracking the transition to life as an assistant professor since last fall, so it is always interesting to see how others are dealing with their own transitions.  Along these lines, pitse1eh’s recent post provides a nice perspective on the transition from a research-focused grad student to a teaching-focused professor (especially since I was never a research-focused grad student).  The whole post is recommended reading, but at the very least you should heed the message that I have reiterated in a number of my job-market posts:

Lesson Learned: Issues about what type of job do you want (R1, teaching college, etc.) is a fundamental concern that needs to be addressed as soon as possible in your grad school career.

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Interview season is quickly approaching for the five schools that are hiring sociologists this year.  If you are fortunate enough to land one of these interviews, you don’t want to blow your opportunity by doing something stupid while eating a meal.  I always thought this was the kind of thing that graduate programs told their students, but given that others I know had vastly different graduate school experiences, I suppose it doesn’t hurt to pass this sort of information along.  With this in mind, a recent Inside Higher Ed post has some helpful advice about what to do (and not to do) while eating with potential colleagues.  Some highlights:

Choose an item priced in the middle range of the menu offerings. You need not order the least expensive, but do not order the most expensive item. Accept menu items “as is.” Refrain from asking for substitutions or asking that ingredients be excluded.

If you choose to drink any kind of alcohol, be sure to drink slowly — and be mindful of your drinking. Have a glass of water along with your beer, wine, or mixed drink. Given the circumstances of interviewing, remember that you may be tired, possibly hungry, and perhaps nervous — all factors that have implications for consuming alcohol.

To this I would add not to eat anything complicated (crab legs) or likely to fling sauce on your interview attire (spaghetti).  In the case of alcohol, the advice I’ve received is to let others order first and follow their lead.  You do not want to be the only person at the table ordering alcohol, but if somebody orders a bottle of wine for the table there is some social pressure to join in.  At one of my interviews last year there was about a glass worth of wine left over at the end of the meal and I was encouraged to take it with me to my hotel to unwind before the next day’s interviewing.  I did.

Even more important than what you eat and drink is this piece of advice:

As a job candidate, you will be focused on wanting to make a good impression and getting the offer. However, remember that you too are conducting an interview. Sharing a meal with prospective colleagues offers an opportunity for you to consider if you want to work with them. Here are some questions to consider:

  • What is their rapport?
  • Are they respectful of each other?
  • Do they seem to get along well?
  • Are they collegial?
  • These are people you might be working with closely for many years. They need not become your close friends, but you do want to have a sense of working successfully with them as colleagues.


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    I know that in the current economic climate the title of this post seems ludicrous, but I did it.  The two job offers I note in my summary of job market success did not overlap.  I had to turn down the first before I received the second.  Obviously, I would have preferred to have the offers at the same time, but I felt at the time that I made the right decision based on the information I had, and I was happy to accept the second offer that I received.  In order to make the following clearer, it may help to think of the four liberal arts schools where I interviewed in the order I visited them:

    • School 1: Visited in week 1
    • School 2: Visited in week 1 immediately after School 1
    • School 3: Visited in week 3
    • School 4: Visited in week 4

    I received a job offer from School 1 on a Tuesday the week after I had completed back-to-back campus visits at Schools 1 and 2 (if you value your emotional stability, I would advise against back-to-back visits).  The visit had gone well, the faculty were friendly, and I thought that I could be happy living in this area and working at School 1.  The problem was School 1’s desired time frame.  They wanted me to respond within a week but I had already scheduled interviews at Schools 3 and 4 and felt that it was unfair to me and those schools to cancel the visits.  School 1 extended the deadline, but only by three days (to the end of week 3).

    The new deadline meant that I would have to respond to School 1 on the day I completed my interview at School 3 (clearly before I would hear from them about an offer) and before my interview at School 4.  If School 1 would have been my dream job, these timing issues may not have been a concern.  Unfortunately, while I thought I could be happy there, the teaching load was a little higher than I desired.  After discussing the issue with my advisor, he supported my belief that I should probably turn down School 1’s offer.

    For me, the biggest issue was pressure.  I felt like School 1 was putting an extreme amount of pressure on me to decide before I had finished my scheduled visits and I didn’t think that I would be happy with an acceptance in that situation – I figured that accepting an offer is supposed to make you excited, not angry.  My advisor also pointed out that, given the teaching load, it would be hard to publish enough to get a different job in the future if things didn’t go as well as I anticipated.

    I waited until the day of the deadline to call School 1 back, figuring that if I had heard by then that School 2 didn’t want me and if the School 3 interview was a disaster, I could still accept the offer.  I didn’t hear from School 2 but the School 3 interview wasn’t a disaster and I still had the School 4 interview coming up, so I told School 1 (from the airport) that I was had to decline their offer because of the timeline they had given me.  At that point, I had no idea if I would receive another offer, but I still felt like I made the right choice since it was my choice and accepting would not have been.

    Another factor for me was that before visiting my order of preference was School 2, School 3, School 1, and School 4.  This order was confirmed by my visits, though there were some aspects that made School 3 preferable to School 2.  I received an offer from School 3 on Tuesday of week 4 while on my way to School 4.  They wanted a decision by early the next week.  Thursday morning I called School 2 and was told that they were “pretty unlikely” to offer me the position.  That, coupled with the higher teaching load at School 4, sealed the deal for School 3 and I called them on Monday of week 5 to accept after negotiating via e-mail.

    Other than having to turn down an acceptable offer, the strangest thing about this experience was that I felt incredibly pressured by School 1 when they actually gave me more time to decide than School 3.  Because School 3’s visit was near the end of my interviews, however, I felt like I was in a much better place to make a decision.  I’m not sure how I would have responded if the order was reversed, though I might have been more inclined to accept an early offer from School 3 because of the lower teaching load and better resources.  In the end, I guess everything worked out for the best!

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    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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    So you’ve gotten a job.  Congratulations!  Celebrate a bit (then stop procrastinating and get back to work on your dissertation).  One thing that those of us lucky enough to receive jobs probably haven’t dealt with yet is what we’re going to do about the courses we’ll be teaching in the fall.

    In some ways, this question reflects all of the reasons that we wanted jobs in the first place.  My future department recently contacted me to tell me which courses they would like me to teach in the fall and to ask when I wanted to teach them.  The idea that I had control over my schedule was foreign to me and I didn’t quite know how to handle it.  After regaining my composure, which required looking at the department website to see how others had structured their schedules, I suggested some times that were accepted by the department.  The scheduling process made the fact that I have a job for the fall a lot more real, and reminded me that I need to get back to work on my dissertation.

    Thankfully, my fall schedule was free of surprises since I had discussed the courses that I would teach at my interview.  Because I only have one new prep (and this course is at least tangentially related to my interests), I don’t have to worry as much as some others in my position.  So far I’ve checked out the syllabi of others and requested a few desk copies of relevant books, but I’m sure that things will get more hectic (thankfully, I’ve got the power) as the time to order books and finalize my own syllabus approaches.

    Rob Weir at Inside Higher Ed has some additional advice for new professors:

    • Relax.
    • Don’t reinvent the wheel.
    • Ignorance can be bliss.
    • Say goodbye to grad school.
    • Haul blocks.
    • Black and white goes with everything.
    • Ratchet up, not down.
    • Function follows form.
    • Be clear and fair. (The rest will follow.)

    Like me, you may have thought that you went into higher ed so that you don’t have to haul blocks, but Weir explains his advice in more detail in his post.  I’ll keep this advice in mind as fall approaches.

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    I know that the current economic state is difficult for those on the job market, but imagine how hard life is for unemployed investment bankers.  Please donate to the charitable organization below so that they can afford to go Galt.

    Vodpod videos no longer available.

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    I have attended a number of talks over the years focused on getting a liberal arts job.  Because I did not attend a liberal arts school as an undergraduate, I took every available opportunity to learn about the expectations and intricacies of these jobs, from applications to faculty meetings.  There are several sociological liberal artists who have a tendency to appear at these talks, among them Ed Kain from Southwestern University and Keith Roberts from Hanover College.

    Because I have seen him give several such talks there have been several times that I’ve heard Roberts tell an audience of grad students that he does not consider applications from students that include syllabi less than 20 pages in length because he takes this as a sign that the applicant does not care about teaching.  I remember sitting dumbfounded the first time I heard this, wondering alternately what would fill a 20 page syllabus and why I thought I cared about teaching when my longest syllabi were less than ten pages.  Inevitably, Roberts disclosed in the Q&A that his syllabi include all course assignments and that students with shorter syllabi could add an appendix with their assignments and class exercises so as not to end up in the “I will not even look at your application” pile when applying for a position at Hanover.

    Unfortunately for me, the sociology department at Hanover was not hiring this year.  If it were, I feel confident that Roberts would have placed my application in the “to be considered further” pile based on the number of times I’ve heard him speak.  For every other job application, however, one cannot be so sure what the hiring committee is looking for in a syllabus.  A good way to avoid this problem is to write good syllabi in the first place and then include assignments and exercises when sending them with your application packets on the job market (just in case!).

    With this in mind, Rob Wier has written a brief guide to a good syllabus on Inside Higher Ed.  The most important part is this:

    A good syllabus is the organizing structure of a course, an unambiguous statement of expectations, and a professor’s first line of defense in disputes over policy, procedure, and grades. Your syllabus should lay out what you expect students to do, why you want it, when you want it, and what happens if students don’t comply. Assume nothing and spell out everything. The more you put in your syllabus up front, the less you’ll have to negotiate or explain later.

    Update: Amelia at the Contexts Blog has posted some resources from the University of Buffalo.

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    As the job market season approached last summer, those in my department who were planning to go on it gathered to discuss the process.  One of the topics was the Job Market Rumor Mill blog, which looks, for 2009, to become a job market forum.  Regardless, opinions varied from “it is a worthless time waster” to “it is a pit of negativity that will consume your soul.”  The consensus was that it should be avoided and, quite possibly, LeechBlocked.  Nevertheless, I visited the blog daily before successfully getting off the market.  Recently, Drek unwittingly described why I visited the blog, and why I still check in on it from time to time in its dying days:

    Recently, I have noticed some rather lengthy threads here on [the Job Market Rumor Mill] that are filled to the brim with misunderstandings, false attributions, hurt feelings and general foolishness, mixed in with nuggets of true wisdom.

    Besides, I like to procrastinate.

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    Anomie has posted some links to resources with advice for academic job interviews.  Included in her post is a link to another list of questions to ask.  I would add two caveats to this list:

    1. Know your audience.  A number of the questions are geared toward research universities, so you should obviously refrain from asking about graduate courses if there are none.
    2. Be sure you aren’t asking questions should be obvious to anybody who has looked at the department web site or read the job ad.  At some schools the teaching load can be a mystery, while others state it in their posting.  As I’ve said before, ask questions that show you know these obvious things instead (I see you have a 4-4 teaching load.  Does that affect the publication expectations?)

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