Thursday, December 12, 2013

5 Years Ago Today. Xxxxx Goes on the Job Market.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Xxxxx from Xxxxxxxxx On The Job Market.

I am not convinced I even want to do this. Xxxxx is not my "real" name, nor is it my "blogger" name. It happens to be the name of my BFF from grad school, and she's letting me use it.

I'm not a big fan of this site, but recently I was turned on to a few posts that I thought showed some promise. So I've been checking it out. When you posted a few of my pieces - for which I was grateful until I saw the "funny" titles you gave them - I never imagined the vitriol with which my very modest suggestions and ideas were met by your following of depressed academic goons.

So, I'm surprised you're interested in my voice, and I decided to take you up on the offer purely to show the other side of things. Perhaps I'll learn something from the process. Perhaps you'll learn something from me, as long as you listen and not judge.

My first posting will be on the job market. It's a pet peeve of mine how poorly junior faculty are treated. Your abominable "gumdrop unicorn" dustup from last year showed a great deal of what's wrong in our profession. Talented young blood is forced to stagnate. The deadwood rules, and people like me hop to a new job as soon as we have the wherewithal. And then of course we're blamed for that as well.

But, that's too bad. The truth is that my generation of teachers IS the future of the academic profession, and we WILL be the powerbrokers of universities and colleges for the next 25 years or so. So what we do, how we handle ourselves, and the courses WE chart will make the American academy what it will be. You don't like it? You don't have to. Attrition is a wonderful tool. Step aside now or later. It makes no difference.

So, I'm on the market this year, despite the fact that I'm at a decent enough state university now. But I'm on some kind of treadmill-track nobody told me about. I strive and achieve - even publishing a book in my third year! - and I get little or no notice. If I weren't so kind, I'd say my colleagues are jealous of me. Oh no, not little ole me, the junior faculty member with the WORST OFFICE IN THE BUILDING.

Yet, that's how it's gone. So I've got my application in at several excellent SLACs nearer my home in the northeast. (Oh, I went to [a famous private uni in New England], in case you're wondering.) And getting back there or its environs are what I'm eager to do. My BFF got a job in counseling in [that city], and my mother and father still live nearby. But any school within a morning's drive will suffice, and at 30, I think I've got more than enough credentials to pick and choose a job. I suspect - and my dissertation advisor [an extremely famous British Lit scholar] confirms - that I'm doing exactly the right thing, searching for a department that will welcome me, my scholarship, and my leadership, not a department where I'm simply a cog in the wheel.

But the market is tough. When I took my current job, I applied to several nondescript schools just like it. Some were wowed by me, and some could care less. I knew then I was looking at the wrong academic homes. I didn't trust myself to shoot for the highest level of schools, and I kick myself to this day about that.

But I've thrived here. My student evaluations are higher than anyone else's in the department. (Don't ask me; I just know.) My students love me. I have four peer-reviewed articles, and of course my book, which was a quantum leap revision of my dissertation - which I was told was of publishable quality from the start.

But if you will allow, I'll chronicle the market this year, starting with my upcoming visit to San Francisco at this year's Modern Language Association meeting. I'm not only taking on interviews, I'm also presenting a paper on [a scholarly look at a current reality TV show]. It's sure to turn a few heads. From San Francisco I'll report on the conference activities, the networking, the schmoozing, the panels, and of course my job interviews.

Just for record keeping, I've applied to 12 asst. level jobs and 2 assoc. level jobs. I will push hard on any of the asst. level jobs for those positions to be converted to assoc. level, obviously, having the background I have. I only have one interview set so far, but it's a slow year - what with Thanksgiving being so late and all. This week all of us job market folks should hear the good news of those deadly (but sometimes fun) hotel interviews.

Thank you for this forum. I look forward to checking in regularly.


  1. I don't like to flame people on intarweb forumz, but thankfully, this post is from five years ago, so the chances are low that the original author will read my comment:



    1. I'll agree with that descriptor.
      From my own experience on various search committees, only a wanker would apply for a job advertised at the Assistant Prof level, and then at the interview "push hard" for the job to be elevated to an Assoc Prof level. "Pushing hard" would basically involve stating "I'm so fucking good, it should be obvious to you that I don't deserve this job, I deserve one even better at a higher rank!"
      Such an attitude also displays rank amateurishness in how academic job searches work - unless you are at a uni with a pot of gold lying around unused, going to the Dean to "push hard" to elevate an Assist Prof slot to an Assoc Prof slot, and the larger budget allocation that has to accompany that, is a waste of time.

  2. Upon seeing this, I wanted to say, "Stop kicking Katie, she hasn't been here in a long time." Then I read what she wrote, and I take it all back.

    My favorite part is:

    "My student evaluations are higher than anyone else's in the department. (Don't ask me; I just know.)"

  3. So, how's that working out for you?

  4. The sidebar of her blog still looks to me like:
    Don't steal plagiarism
    My writing is for losers

  5. Cal just texted me this: "Hey, make sure you put a disclaimer on that Katie post. She says that's not really her, blah blah blah. The provenance of all her posts has been denied. Jesus, am I still afraid of her?"

  6. I live just across the river from Xxxxx. She's still at that school, which is a decent school. She has tenure. And she had an amazing set of dating stories over the past year, all told breathlessly on her blog. Oh, but of course that's not necessarily her. But you get me.

  7. Hiram, yes! There's new dating news this week on it. And her destruction of that poor plumber she dated earlier was awful and ugly. Her "fans," though, gave her lots of support. It's an odd page, for sure. She occasionally writes really smart stuff about higher ed. But other times she natters like a 12 year old.

  8. "The truth is that my generation of teachers IS the future of the academic profession, and we WILL be the powerbrokers ..., and the courses WE chart will make the American academy what it will be."
    The irony lost here to the author is that every generation has said or thought the same. And they found, a few years later, an even younger generation grasping at their heels some rungs down the academic ladder. But, having become wise, they taught their juniors the law of survival of the fittest by stepping on their fingers. (I am pretty sure Terry Pratchett used this metaphor at some point).

    1. Everyone in my department is between 45 and 52 and there is no one looking to retire anytime soon. They might have to skip a generation when they do finally hire.

    2. Cindy has a very good point. Also, we've got a huge baby boom echo generation that sat out the recession in grad school coming on, and the baby boom generation, with all its money and political power (and characteristic self-involvement) very much invested in seeing its offspring settled in the good jobs the little darlings obviously richly deserve. Those of us caught in between these two juggernauts (both of which celebrate youth, but define it somewhat differently than we may*) may have an especially difficult time moving out of the best-we-could-find jobs (whether tenure track or not) we took in hopes of maybe doing better later.

      *Among other things, there's an interesting trend in women's hair color these days. Most (but by no means all) boomer women color their gray. Many (but by no means all) of my generation (very late Boomers/early X) are choosing not to. So we've got the very old (Depression babies and before) with gray hair, a "stripe" of boomers trying to stay youthful, and a rising tide of Xers deciding to age a bit more obviously. It's an interesting mix, and, I think, at least somewhat indicative of what's going on inside the heads the hair covers.

  9. A traditional horse or donkey is always acceptable and some kids like a dragon or the currently favorite cartoon character but for my money, Katie is my favorite pinata for a comment thread.

    I've occasionally run across some of the stuff I wrote years ago and not all of it holds up well. I'll give her credit, this one is as strong as ever.

  10. Oh man. I think I know someone who could be one of her groupies.

  11. My goodness. I think she's actually mellowed. And the family story (or at least the details that get mentioned/emphasized) seems to have changed a bit. It's a bit more working-class-hero-ish and a bit less New England these days (not that the two are mutually exclusive).

    Or maybe it really is two different people (but I tend to trust those who've had more direct encounters on that question. Who, of course, leave open the possibility that it really isn't her. At least that's the official line.)

    One thing: unless she's completely delusional (about something other than the state of the job market, viz. "at 30, I think I've got more than enough credentials to pick and choose a job"), she does publish. Which only suggests that one does need to look beyond the c.v. to figure out if one is getting a colleague one actually wants to have.

    Speaking of which, Ben -- I suspect she (or people like this, however many of them there are out there) gets good reviews on TSTSNBN (whether written by her or her students, who knows?).

    1. She occasionally included identifying details that were not hers, and that is not uncommon for any pseudonymous blog. The PhD degree does come from exactly the kind of institution she claims in the post above, but the "family" stuff varied, even in posts on RYS that came to me - indeed - from this person. It didn't bug me. Most community members here and at RYS modified details for some protection.

      Oh, and her RMP "rating" is 3.0, but the last couple of years (post-tenure) have seen some scathing comments (late to class, talks too much, obsessed with sex, disorganized). Her more positive comments focus on her knowledge of the material, her willingness to help students revise, and (um, you all know this is coming) her "passion" for students.

      I know she'll write in, Les, so I'm sorry.

    2. Well, I'm not sure her particular brand of crazyness is necessarily incompatible with being a pretty good teacher (much of the time, to many if not all students -- which is pretty much the best most of us can aspire to anyway). I have a relative who probably shares a similar diagnosis (and yes, I think there's a diagnosis), and I'm pretty sure she, too, was a pretty good college teacher (she's now retired), if perhaps attached to some of her students in less-than-entirely-healthy ways.

      Romantic relationships are, however, a bit trickier for such folks, but/and there are some effective treatments (basically, variations on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) out there. Just in case anyone might, you know, be interested.

  12. Wow! I think she should run for DA PRESIDENT OF DA UNITED STATES!!!!!

  13. The job market is such a mess. Good luck to him!