Post Academic

What the guy on the airplane wants to know about academia

Posted in First Person,The Education Industry by Arnold Pan on July 22, 2010
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Recently, I was on a flight and became embroiled in a conversation that spanned the entire four-hour homebound trip.  Those who know me will know that I did not initiate the chit-chat, since I try to look as surly and petulant and indifferent as possible around strangers, often with earphones in.  Anyhow, the chatty guy next to me started talking to me about sports, which I enjoyed, and we eventually started talking about our jobs.  Of course, I let him take the lead and just asked questions so 1.) I didn’t have to talk a lot and 2.) I was actually interested in what he did.  About three hours in(!), I figured it would only be fair and neighborly of me to offer some quid pro quo and tell him about my own professional life, since he asked–hey, it’s probably good practice for a mumblemouth like me, too, to be engaged in a conversation where I’m talking a little about myself, but making what I say seem like it’s about my audience.  After all, isn’t that what an academic interview is all about?

So, I figured I could talk about basically what I blog about: the academic job market.  We started with him being surprised–or, “vexed” in his words–that I could train for so long for a Ph.D. and not have a job.  For all the talk among academic-types about a general ressentiment against us smarty-pants, I do think your average joe respects those of us who’ve strived to get our advanced degrees.  In some ways, I think we misperceive what misperceptions about academics are out there, something that I learned in the course of my flight-long talk…

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