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My Own First Person

30 October, 2004

My Own “First Person”

Ok, I have no time to blog, and I’m feeling snarky ever since reading Mary McSmugness’ efforts and knowing that the Chronicle liked her better. Snark snark snark. Actually, there are probably pleanty of good reasons I didn’t get chosen, just like the job market’s kind of a crapshoot. But you know what? I got me a blog, and I can publish my own stuff. So there. Without further adieu, I give you my own “First Person.”

The ads have started. So far, it’s not looking too promising. Two jobs I fit really well, and a few more that I could fit pretty well, but won’t apply for. I won’t apply because my advisor has two candidates on the market, and he quite rightly doesn’t want to write letters for more than one candidate per job. It cuts down on the openings, but I trust him on this. I’ve known people who were in departments where the reigning expert and advisor would choose one candidate a year to receive his patronage – at least for any jobs he thought worthy of his students. That one candidate would put in for all of the jobs in the field – even if they weren’t really suitable. Needless to say, the advisor had a very high placement rate, since pretty much all of the ‘chosen ones’ got jobs. I like my advisor’s way better. The three of us sit down and decide which jobs are most suitable for which candidate and work together scouting the ads. Still, I do wonder how long this can go on. How long will my advisor be my advisor? There’s a good answer to that, because really, he’s more of a Doktorvater – now a colleague, but always a mentor. This is my second year on the market, though. The reality is that, as my advisor’s students finish up, his patronage will be more and more divided

I’m lucky in some ways. Last year, I applied for about ten positions and got one conference interview, which went well, but not well enough. I’m currently employed on the second (and last) year of a replacement contract at a community college. That means that I’ll have both full-time (albeit contingent) and part-time teaching experience at several colleges. The full-time work has given me the opportunity to demonstrate my collegiality and flexibility in developing new classes. I’ve served on committees, collaborated on program assessment reports, and can get good recommendations from colleagues and administrators with whom I’ve served. I’ve also asked for peer teaching evaluations almost every quarter, to add to what are really pretty stellar student evaluations. On the other hand, teaching a new prep every quarter with a three-course teaching load, in addition to serving on committees, has meant that I’ve done very little in the scholarship area. I can only hope that I can explain myself well enough to get an interview – and then impress the search committee.

You see, I’m not so sure I look that good on paper. In some ways I do (Ph.D. complete, coursework and teaching experience in a fairly broad range of historical periods, plus a non-Western field, prestigious dissertation fellowship), but in others, I’m lacking. My publication record is not what I’d like – a couple of book reviews in e-journals (peer reviewed, at least) that I’ll be turning in this summer, and a dissertation that is complete, but nowhere near book ready. I’ve got some really good ideas for articles, but nothing more than outlined. No conference papers. The desire is there, but as a contingent faculty member, I haven’t been able to make the time to do all the things that a person with a single job takes for granted, if difficult. What I have done is expand and improve my teaching abilities. It’s something that’s very desirable in an adjunct, but I’m not sure how it plays out for the tenure track. I’ve also spent some time out of academe and come back. On the one hand, the jobs were in hi-tech start-ups, and I’ve got the web- and other software skills many institutions now want: I’ve designed and taught online- and hybrid classes. On the other hand, the, “We needed to eat and so I made a conscious decision to put my family’s needs above my own desires for a time, but now I’m back, because this is what I love,” rationalization for leaving and returning to the academy is one that many search committees don’t buy until they meet me.

So I admit it. I’m nervous. I’m writing a column about looking for a job, knowing that friends and colleagues will most likely read it. I’ll be fodder for comments on weblogs, because these columns and their authors always are. I’m okay with that, because maybe, just maybe, someone on a search committee will see this and think, “This is someone we can work with. This is someone who cares about being a good faculty member on all levels. This is someone who won’t give up. This is someone who deserves a chance.”

5 Comments leave one →
  1. 2 November, 2004 6:18 pm

    Good luck 🙂 I admire you for continuing to try.

  2. 2 November, 2004 10:11 pm

    I think this is going to be your year. Keep your chin and your self-esteem up up UP. You’ve earned it.

  3. 3 November, 2004 1:51 am

    Thanks, M (aka YC)! I hope so. Let me just get the rest of the apps out …

  4. 4 November, 2004 9:36 pm

    Sorry to come to this so late – I’d planned to comment earlier, but then the world’s been sort of distracting of late… First of all, let me say I’d have much rather read your columns than Mary McSmugness’! Although the Chronicle may well be of the bad-press-is-better-than-none mindset. 😛 And second, best of luck with the job search. I think that it so frequently depends on who’s reading your application and what they want to see – there are certainly schools that don’t care about the teaching/service/collegiality stuff, but there are others that do. My strategy (not helpful now you’ve sent off applications, I know!) for dealing with the publication stuff would be to hit it as hard as you can in a cover letter (and ideally in letters of recommendation, if possible): “yes, there’s a gap in my productivity. It’s there because I’ve done this, this, and this [i.e. teach 3-3-3 loads!] instead of publish, because I’m committed to academia (and teaching) and this was the path available to me. These activities have given me valuable skills x, y, and z; as for my research, I have a clear focused agenda that looks like this.” And then describe in as much detail as you can (given the constraints of a job letter!) what exactly you plan to do in future and how you’re completely prepared to hit the ground running once you have a position that will allow you to do so. I think a lot of committee people do understand the restrictions placed on someone by jobs that don’t allow for research, and your overall experience will look good to them; some people won’t get it, but there are lots of reasons why lots of us don’t get certain jobs, over which we have no control. Anyway, blather blather blather – my fingers are crossed for you!

  5. 5 November, 2004 12:57 am

    I’ve still got apps to go, so thanks!

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