Post Academic

What I shoulda-woulda-coulda been doing for the next academic job cycle

"Winter White Russian Dwarf Hamster in a hamster wheel" by Doenertier82 (Creative Commons)

I’ve been recounting my experiences on the job market this past year, to commemorate receiving my final few rejection letters over the last week.  Now let’s hypothetically imagine what I should be/would be/could be doing to get ready for the 2010-11 academic job cycle/hamster wheel, since part of the academic life is always feeling like you’re behind even if you might be trying to plan ahead.  Considering that my interview yield rate was pretty bad this year, these musings are likely to remain hypothetical no matter if my odds would be any better next year or if the job market bounces back from being the worst ever.  Still, there’s no harm in daydreaming and, who knows, maybe it might help someone else who’s still planning on trying her/his luck on the market again.

1. Beg, beg, beg for an adjuncting position: It can’t help my job search prospects when I haven’t taught in over a calendar year and not at all during the 2009-10 academic year.  I’ve tried to teach at least one quarter a calendar year so that I can at least fudge it on my CV, but I struck out this year, in part due to not being asked to teach by the depts I’ve worked for because of the crappy UC budget and in part because I’m not really motivated to beg to work at a pay rate that’s little better than what I was getting as a TA.  The latter wasn’t so bad when it seemed worthwhile for professional development because I got the chance to teach my own syllabi, but those experiences haven’t exactly panned out.  Like when I applied for an adjunct position at another local school to teach a course that I’ve taught before with a real, class-tested syllabus, only to be used as hiring compliance fodder so that the dept could hire its own student it probably planned to hire in the first place.  But hey, I’m not bitter and, anyway, I was probably that guy when my own home dept hired me.

More stuff I could be doing instead of complaining and blogging, below the fold…

2. Finally finish and submit that essay: I’ve been told that nothing helps your CV more than a publication.  But it’s not as easy as wanting to get published obviously, so you better get cracking if you want something more than the dubious “under review” placeholder before you test the academic job waters again.  You know, there’s a time lag between the time you submit an essay and the time it gets rejected…er, maybe accepted.  In my experience, that provisional acceptance–er, ultimate rejection–could take 18 months!  Even a successfully placed essay could take a long, long time to get to that point: the essay I had published a few months ago took almost 2 years in production after acceptance, and that wasn’t a revise/resubmit either.  And that’s not counting the initial 5 or 6 months under review, or the year (at least?) before that when I was trying to place it elsewhere.

So if you want or actually really need that publication, send it to a journal post haste, because you might get a few cracks at getting the piece accepted before you send in your first 2010-11 job applications.  Here’s the math: Send in that essay now and, say, it gets rejected in a “timely” 3 months, you still have 3 months to get it reviewed at another publication in time for late October/early November.  And honestly, is tweaking an excerpt of a diss chapter you’ve already been dithering over for a few years really going to help it that much?  At this point, it’s gonna sink or swim because the research is good or bad, right?

3. Stay networked: I’m really bad at networking, because I just assume folks I don’t really know don’t need to stay in touch with someone they have no vested interest in.  And the folks I do know and like, I’d just rather talk to for the heck of it, no strings attached.  But if you’re less misanthropic than I am, it’s probably a good idea to contact people about whatever it is you would contact them for, especially since the no-signal zone of summer is coming up.  For instance, you could go to, say, the Futures of American Studies Institute at Dartmouth in late June, since it looks like it’s still accepting applications, and have a cool nerd summer camp experience if you can swing the fee.  I went to a theory seminar one summer, which was quite tiring and daunting, but also gave participants chances to mingle with both big name academic celebs and no-name peers baked into the whole thing.  And as for your own peeps, it’s probably not a bad idea to let them know you’re still around and that you might need some advice and help if not during the summer, then in the fall.

Or you could let the summer pass the way it usually does, between finishing your diss/doing your own research, working a summer job, and finding at least a little time to relax.  And you know what, I bet your odds of landing a tenure-track position won’t be that much worse for wear.

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