Post Academic

Or maybe you should/could hang in there: “10th Time’s the Charm”

US 10th Mountain Division Distinctive Unit Insignia (Public Domain)

Something happened on the way off the hamster wheel of the academic job market: I came across this column in the Chronicle titled “10th Time’s the Charm” written pseudonymously by Thomas Cranly, who finally landed a job kinda on his own terms after 4 years, 16 interviews, 10 campus visits.  Though Cranly claims his story is most valuable for “its entertainment value”, he is probably being too modest for persevering through the absurdities of the job search and getting some of the things he wanted out of the whole thing–not just a hard-to-get tenure-track position, but also in a place he wanted to live (Florida, in Cranly’s case).

The first-person piece gives a good peek into the rollercoaster that is the academic job search, especially the non-intellectual parts of an endurance test that takes at least as much good humor, physical strength, and socializing skills as obvious smarts.  Actually, you’re probably better equipped to get the job if you possess the former skills, since it’s likely that you’re pretty bright if you’ve gotten this far.  Some highlights from Cranly’s column include:

* Second thoughts over pressing a “Submit” button to apply to law school, which he didn’t, despite his better, practical judgment, because he received a notice that his book had been accepted by a press

* Overhearing a job search committee member saying to himself, “We really need a black man in the department”

* Navigating the different ways one is asked about her/his relationship status, which is at least verboten by the unofficial rules of interviewing (if not the official ones)

* Being urged to buy a rare edition of a book by the search committee

So what if the column turns a little maudlin at the end, as Cranly explains that he *probably* wouldn’t have done it any other way, even if the 10th time wasn’t the charm?

“With each rejection that arrived through e-mail, letter, or just plain silence, my disappointment was mitigated by my appreciation for the temporary jobs I held at the time. I value the 10 years I have spent as a graduate student and as a non-tenure-track faculty member. And I like to tell myself that I would feel the same way, even if I hadn’t been fortunate enough to get a job I desired.”

Though Cranly himself more or less acknowledges that it’s easier to say so when the outcome is a good one, he definitely seems sincere and the way he explains his experiences shows it.  And in light of all the bad news about the job market and the still-abstract idea that only radically reimagining the humanities Ph.D. can save it, it’s good to know that old-fashioned hard work and stick-to-it-iveness can still pay off.

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