The Perfect Candidate

Posted by sepoy on August 10, 2004 · 3 mins read

One of "things-to-do" for this academic year is to "go on the job market". I quoteunquote them because that is how they appear in my visual cortex. I am ready and prepared for it. I compiled a portfolio with my course syllabi, some choice student ratings ("best teacher I've ever had" and "can't get enough of THAT") and a teaching statement ("the classroom is a space of mutual learning and trust"). I picked a prestigious East Coast university as my very first application. I don't know much about the history department there but I think the place is cool and I would love to work there.
Truth be told (and if it can't be told on my own blog, where can it be?) I am hestitant to commit to this job-seeking thing. I have certain financial and social obligation that prevent me from just taking what comes my way. And I really have no academic profile that would merit a better position. So, my vague idea is to publish the diss. and then hope for a star review in NYT, and then have hiring committee camp out in my backyard. Works that way, no?
I am kinda sour on hiring committees lately. There were 4 job searches I have been following this year (people I know and departments I know) and in each case, the best scholar did not get the job. In fact, those who landed positions did so on the basis of "contacts and relationships" and "italian designed suits" and they promptly used the offers to get better deals at their current establishments. What a bunch of idiots are these hiring committee people, I say to myself. Can't they see when they are being played? Still, I urged calm restraint in my own case as I was not too invested in it this year. It's just a learning experience.
My calm exterior was shattered yesterday. A job posting came from UofMyDreams looking for ME! I mean not me, personally, but the criterias could not be more fitting. So, I placed an email to scope out the possibilities of me becoming my wildest dream. The search committee is comprised of GoodHistorianWhoGetsNoProps, HugelyOverHypedTheorySpoutingAnthropologist and WildlyEccentricSociologist. I know these people. I cannot fathom the thought of them picking ANYONE. The contact said that I could be a good candidate if I "can make myself visible this year, gladhandling at all the conferences".
Oh dear god.
I will not be able to live with myself if I did not give my best shot for this position. I WANT this job. I have NO CHANCE of getting it. It is not even a matter of qualification because I can see that the search committee will never agree on anyone (she is not a "good" historian, he does not know theory) so they will go for the second or third pick. sigh. why did I chose this as my career?


tsk | August 10, 2004

you's a history ho! have fun "gladhandling", remember it's $50 in addition to your normal fee. of course, i haven't entered the real job market yet myself, so look for a "code whore" label above my head real soon.

Ikram | August 10, 2004

Gladhandling and 'visibility" are necessary for getting a job in ay field, not just the one you have chosen. I don't think the academic job market is unusual in these areas, I think academics looking for jobs have unrealistic expectations. Everybody has to play the game.

Brian Ulrich | August 10, 2004

I think the need for connections and such bothers academics more because our job market is so tight. If I were a stock broker, I might not get the exact brokerage firm I wanted, but would still wind up somewhere. In academics, you might wind up in shadowy adjunct-land. Good luck with this! With any luck I'll be there in a couple of years.

sepoy | August 10, 2004

First of all, there is the slight glaze of "my research overcomes my personal grooming" factor. as an academic, i am more sympathetic to the argument that my research agenda and my credentials should be enough to judge me. not who i know. Secondly, as Brian states, we don't have that many jobs and the abyss of adjunct-land terrible to contemplate. of course, i should qualify that by saying those of us in m.e. or s.a fields have a better chance lately than someone who does early modern europe. so, i count my blessings. still the job market is insanely competetive and positions are scarce at top-tier schools - and at the UofMyDreams...none after this hire for a long while - barring some godly intervention. i am buying an italian suit and kissing babies, no matter what.

Andrew Reeves | August 10, 2004

Look on the bright side. You're not in a field like medieval studies in which when a professor dies/retires, the position is simply eliminated.

Kiddo | August 12, 2004

hmm strike n+1 against doing a Ph.d.