All posts by Gene C. Fant Jr.


The Next Step in the Two-Body Problem

Academic couples know all too well the problem of having two bodies involved in the academic search. Let’s suppose for a moment that a couple has located two very good positions at the same institution, in two different departments. One person, however, has administrative aspirations and moves into departmental leadership with significant success. An opening comes up at the next level of leadership, the deanship or even a vice presidency, but then comes the trailing next step of the two-body pro…


Too Many Mentors Might Spoil the Soup

Sarah shared with her doctoral-program mentors the joyous news of her first job offer from a relatively small teaching institution. Several of them said, “What are you countering to their offer?” She was surprised, figuring she should merely be appreciative of the offer itself.

They started peppering her with items she should ask for. Relocation expenses? A research assistant? A library allowance? Travel money? Those were not that surprising as she thought about it, but then they pressed on: a f…


Dealing With the Unexpected

My all-time favorite phone-interview story is not from the job market but from a professor’s radio interview, by phone, to promote a new book. The interview occurred at the same time as a bout of stomach virus. He was terrified that he would lose the long-scheduled interview if he asked for a postponement. He tried to juggle the phone in between the waves of discomfort, speaking as expertly as he could and trying not to laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation.

At least in a phone interview,…


The Graceful Goodbye

This is the time of year when deans and department chairs dread the unexpected request for a meeting with a faculty member about an unspecified topic. A resignation may be coming, and our hearts flutter a bit at the thought of having to scramble to cover classes, conduct a late search, or, worse yet, engage in an uphill battle to fill the position the following year.

I have sat on the listening side of the desk enough to know that while I am sad to lose a colleague and perhaps a dear friend, peo…


Reimbursement Reminders

While there are occasional exceptions, most colleges that extend invitations to job candidates for on-campus interviews provide reimbursement for their travel expenses. Most professional organizations affirm the practice, as does basic good manners.

Since travel involves the expenditure of actual money, I am constantly surprised by how long it takes for reimbursements to be processed in some situations. Oddly, this cuts in both directions: Sometimes visitors take weeks or even months to send in …


That’s a Pretty Big Matzo Ball …

On Seinfeld, George Costanza once tried to decide if he should tell a girlfriend that he loved her, which would be the first time he had uttered that phrase. When he discussed the situation with friends, Jerry warned him that it was a huge risk: the unreturned “I love you.” As he phrased it, “That’s a pretty big matzo ball hanging out there.”

The internal candidate in a genuine national job search faces the same conundrum. If you apply, you risk having your colleagues on the search committee fai…


‘Essential’ Personnel

One of my all-time favorite Dilbert cartoons shows the evil Dogbert making a public announcement that, due to an impending weather event, all nonessential personnel are free to go home early. The final panel showed him looking out the window with binoculars and a clipboard, saying, “The next round of budget cuts will be a piece of cake” (or something like that).

Since we are in the season of weather events that sometimes include the rather infamous statement of “only essential personnel must rep…


Lost in Transition

One of the most difficult things about the job search is the monkey wrench that appears out of nowhere, upending what had been a smooth process. There is no bigger monkey wrench than the unexpected resignation of a campus leader.

When I was on the market for the first time, a phone interview turned into an invitation for an on-campus interview. I could not believe my good fortune and was very excited about the opportunity. Three days before the interview, however, the search-committee chair call…


On Second Thought

“Barbara” was excited to receive an offer for an on-campus interview, her first since going on the market as a very advanced A.B.D. candidate. She dazzled the host department and found the campus to be buzzing with a positive spirit. When the dean called her to offer her the position, she was, frankly, dumbfounded that she had landed a position the first time out of the gate.

A week later, the actual contract arrived by registered mail, her signature being the only remaining part of the process….


A Balancing Act

Not long ago, a friend of mine contacted me for advice. He is an administrator who leads a very active academic unit, but he has decided that the time is right to look for a job at the next level. He’s happy and productive in his current job, but it is clear that he’s ready to move up.

He asked me how he should balance working 60 hours a week and trying to be on the market at the same time. It’s hard, after all, to prepare letters of application, manage requests for references, and, if the searc…