Saturday, November 19, 2005
Job Search, II
Here we go, kiddies. In a couple of weeks, GayProf will be one of three candidates for an “on-campus” interview at a southwestern university. This means I now have a 33 percent chance of being able to leave Texas. You may recall, I have every intention of becoming a Perry-evacuee.
Currently, I operate totally based on self-preservation. After all, I don’t want to be somebody who endlessly complains about their job and nasty colleagues, but is too lazy, or makes excuses, about not trying to leave.
While we are on the subject of my resolutions, I am also going to make a better effort to keep my little bloggy from being too morose. Sometimes I need to vent, but lately I have been feeling overly toxic. Perhaps the blog isn’t the best place for that.
“Wait, GayProf,” I can hear you calling out, “We care about you. Don’t bottle-up your emotions. We unquestioningly worship you as a deity who can answer all our prayers. Glory to GayProf in the Highest.” Okay, maybe you are not saying that last bit – yet.
Seriously, I do appreciate all the good wishes from posts where I was down. While I offer no absolute guarantees (GayProf can be fickle. Well, I call it fickleness, my psychiatrist calls it “bipolar.” Pfft – whatever.), I will try to keep my personal perniciousness limited. After all, there are so many other avenues to direct my perniciousness (politics, popular culture, the academic world). What? I only said personal perniciousness – it is the Center of Gravitas, after all. Read another blog for sunshine and flowers.
So, let us chat again about the academic job search process. Nobody tells you in graduate school, but your dissertation is really just a five-hundred page job application. Universities across the nation decide which positions they will be filling all at the same time in the early Fall. Each department then advertises in their discipline’s major journals. For each discipline, there is usually a national convention where departments send search committees to conduct initial interviews. What makes my interview with southwestern university unusual is that they have decided to bypass the convention and move immediately to the “on-campus” interviews.
Still, what would such a conference interview look like? Glad you asked. For history, this meeting occurs in January. The search committee selects about ten people for an interview at the conference. The lucky applicant gets to sing his/her little heart out about why they are the bestest historian ever, ever. You suddenly become Ron Popeil as you discuss the merits of your research: “Do you want to know about urban history? My work takes place in a city!”-- trying to look positive, smiling often, “Oh, you want somebody who can teach rural history? No problem! I meant to say that most of the people I study lived on farms before they came to the city. Did I mention my research is self-cleaning?”
If you pass this test, you move onto the bonus round: the on-campus interview. During this grueling process, you come to the university and meet every faculty member in the department individually. It may surprise you, and I hope I am not giving out secrets of the profession, but some academics don’t have what we call “people skills.” Most of these individual meetings, of course, are pleasant. Sometimes, though, they can drag on forever. It is in these instances that we realize that we have met a MAD-C (Middle-Aged Disgruntled Colleague). Every academic department has at least one MAD-C. Just as a coincidence, most MAD-C’s happen to also be white, straight, men. I am not saying -- I am just saying.
MAD-C’s constantly harass the department head about how unfairly they are being treated. Having been granted tenure some twenty years earlier, they long stopped doing their own research. Thus, MAD-C's have plenty of time to fill their day.
One MAD-C in my current department, for instance, recently spent his day going through each faculty member’s operating expenses. He even double checked the current cost of printer toner to ensure that we were paying the least possible. Perhaps he imagined that the department would give him the discrepancies out of gratitude. Unfortunately, and totally predictably, he found no dishonesty among the faculty, at least in their use of paper clips. Still, he is confident that somebody is screwing the department and he remains vigilant.
During interviews, MAD-C’s use their individual appointments to harass the job candidate by informing him/her that they must “defend” their research strategies. Usually the MAD-C has never even looked at the applicant’s file, rather they are pissed off that the department isn’t hiring their best friend for the job. Still, the candidate must accommodate MAD-C if he/she wants that job.
Next, you are whisked off to the dean’s office. The dean is the most important person during your day because A)he/she can hire or not hire you regardless what the department votes and B)he/she is usually the only person who will tell you what your salary would be if the university does hire you. This meeting will also probably be the last time you ever talk to your dean one-on-one again. All of this fun is capped by a presentation on your research. The department’s faculty gather, pretend to listen to your work, and ask some questions that are more related to their research than yours.
Of course, I kid. I am quite thankful to even have an interview. It is a competitive market out there. Let’s just hope I have some employment options outside of Texas.