On the job market?

First of all, Barnard has a late-junior to early-associate position, in urban sociology. Let me know if you know someone who might be appropriate.

More generally, if you are a graduate student on the job market, here is some advice for you:

- Now, today, as soon as you can, make appointments with faculty in your department to tell them that you are on the job market. This includes faculty you are friendly with but who are not on your committee. Chat with them about what your topic is/was and your findings, etc. You can often pitch this as ‘I was hoping I might get some advice from you. I’m on the market this year, and I’m trying to situate myself professionally. Do you have any guidance you might offer?’ The end point should be to remind them who you are and that you are on the market. You will also get opportunities from this to work on your 2-minute pitch.

- In the next couple/few weeks, or perhaps after you definitely know where jobs will be posted, start to email faculty from schools you think you might be interested in applying to. ‘Hi there, Professor X, we met a couple years ago at the OOW section reception. I’m on the market, and I’m wondering if there might be a time to schedule in a coffee or drink or just a quick chat with you at ASA.’ If they are on the search committee, great. If not, you want to learn about schools as well as to let them know who you are. 3rd party introductions are good here, and essential for some of the fussier schools (see item 1).

- There are lots of places to get advice on things like CVs, cover letters. My suggestion is only that there is an inverse relationship between fancy formatting and substance. Be Thomas Keller here – call your dish PB&J and have it be great, rather than calling your dish tournedos de boeuf and having it be hamburger. A stark CV with little on it may seem kind of crappy, but a fancy CV with little on it is an instant no.

Another suggestion here is to take advantage of the mail merge tools in MS Word or whatever its equivalent is for you. It may or may not be worth your while to create multiple iterations of who you are for different kinds of schools. I am inclined towards the belief that you are who you are, and your life will be easier with a single packet (including writing samples, materials for everyone even if they don’t ask for them), and then spend time finishing your dissertation or what have you. Because a) it already takes a long time, and you want to get it out in one or two waves and let the process do its thing; and b) you will not go far with a presentation of self that really differs from what you are comfortable with in order to persuade schools to hire you. If you do, prepare to wear that presentation of self for the next few years.

- The job market is a crap shoot, and you will likely face no other (or at best few other) areas where interval-level differences are transformed into categorical differences like the job market. Everything conspires to make you believe it is all about you – a referendum on your work, your life, your personhood. I can not tell you enough times that it is somewhat about you, but only a little. Departments argue, come to consensus, change their minds, interpret their needs and yours, are slow, have key committee members be sick the day you are being considered, and the list goes on. This is the one time in your life to be a good institutionalist and know that agency in the academic job market is overrated. Agency in the academic job market is overrated.

That’s it. I am sure you can find others who have better and more advice, but this is what I can offer without even knowing anything else about your situation. Be lucky you’re not having a child – my best friend told me that not only did they get overwhelmed with advice, but they actually started getting advice about the advice: ‘You see, man, you gotta know how to take the advice…’

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