Category Archives: On the Market


A Sense of Camaraderie

November can be a long month for academic job seekers, perhaps the time when academe seems coldest. With several fields holding their national conferences shortly after the holidays, many applicants will know in these first weeks of December if they will have an opportunity to interview. Until then we wait and practice the morbid algebra of the market: x ads minus y internal candidates, divided by the number of qualified applicants equals … well, it’s not pretty. In the anonymous space of job wi…


Beyond the Teaching Statement

I recently traded application materials with a good friend who, like me, will re-enter the job market this fall. We read over each other’s standard cover letter, CV, etc., both to proofread and, at least in my case, to steal a glimpse at the competition. My friend is an articulate and passionate communicator, and I know her teaching to be engaging and effective. She’s the type of professor I always hoped for as a student and most respect as a colleague. I’d like to take one of her classes now.



You Didn’t Get the Dream Job? Relax: You Still Have a Job!

“Jacqueline” was reasonably happy in her tenure-track position and had just passed her midtenure review with glowing evaluations and strong affirmation from her department’s leadership. She found her department’s collegiality quite encouraging and enjoyed a decent quality of life on her solid but not stellar pay.

Heading into Christmas break, she noticed an advertisement for a position in her specialty area at an institution near her family and many of her lifelong friends. The institutional cha…


Why You Need a Mentor

Do you have a mentor? Not an academic adviser, but a true mentor—someone who has an interest in helping you develop your career path, combined with the seniority and perspective to be helpful. In my opinion, every college student and every professional needs one, and it’s preferable if you don’t report directly to your mentor. A mentor can explain the subtleties of your chosen career path to you, and can help you navigate rough spots along the way.

I called my undergraduate mentor when, in my se…


From Scholarly Scaffolding to the 3-Second Rule

This afternoon a friend of mine will be giving a job talk as part of an on-campus interview. She has done this several times before, but since she’s tackling a new topic, she gathered a group of colleagues last week for a trial run. My friend is an exceptionally talented scholar—that was abundantly clear in her talk—but, as specialists in criticism, our little focus group came up with a number of notes to improve her already compelling presentation. Several of those “advanced” job-talk ideas wer…


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…


Job-Market Conspiracy Theories

A few weeks back I wrote about the experience of knowing someone in a department that was hiring in my field. I was interested in thinking through how one might make ethical use of inside information, but in the comments section the conversation widened to include all sorts of hiring conspiracies: token candidates, sham searches, etc.

Even though my own experience contradicts some of those theories (that phone interviews are never serious, for one), I can’t help but shiver at the sheer volume of…


When Words Get in the Way

When I was in kindergarten, my parents were called to the local school offices because the district speech pathologist had diagnosed me as having a speech impediment: my Southern drawl. We had moved to a small town near Buffalo, N.Y., from southern Mississippi. Both of my parents had very strong accents, and the cultural stereotypes against us came out very quickly, even affecting my mother’s ability to secure a part-time job. The speech discrimination drove my mother the craziest, especially on…


The Insider

Since I am just a few months into a two-year postdoc, this fall I’m pursuing only a couple of dream jobs. As it turns out, a good friend of mine was recently hired at one of the institutions that has caught my eye, so I called him up before sending off my application.

Mainly I just wanted to ask if he thought I would stand a chance. Since the position is open rank, I know senior scholars will be attracted as well. After all, the school enjoys a wonderful reputation in the field, is located in a …


A Passion and a Paycheck

Rob Jenkins’s recent warnings about the tendency of politicians to reduce community colleges to “job-training centers” strike me as particularly apt in the aftermath of Wednesday night’s presidential debate. Despite their “passion for education,” neither candidate seemed willing to imagine higher education as anything more than a means to a credential.

When President Obama spoke of community colleges’ preparing their students for “the jobs of today,” it was clear he meant simply a trade and a pa…