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02 August 2007 @ 05:38 pm
the insecurity of security  
No, this is not an interesting post about American military empire-building in the name of "freedom." Sorry. It is rather a very neurotic post about the academic job market. Yes, a snoozefest to most of you, but the cause of many sleepless nights and stomach aches for me lately. See, I am about to go on the job market. While tenured jobs in academia are probably the only remaining places of guaranteed job security left in the country, the academic job market is probably the most insecure place one could be if they were unemployed. I don't know what other disciplines are like, but anthropology is notoriously difficult. I know people who have had their PhD for several years and have been lecturing for a pittance, getting rejected cycle after cycle. And there is no rhyme or reason to the thing. And of course now I am going to be competing with these people who have years more teaching experience than me, and probably a lot of publications and grants as well.

You never know if they choose based on your letter, your area of expertise, who your advisor is, or whether they know your name through some network. And you never really know what your professors are saying about you and whether they are representing your work in their rec letters accurately.

So basically, I have 2 pages to sum up the last 5 years of my life in a way that makes my dissertation that nobody but me cares about stand out from 200 other dissertations that nobody but their authors care about. Oh, and I have to devise syllabi for classes that don't exist, write a teaching philosophy (what?!), and pull together three chapters of the dissertation that are good enough to send out as writing samples. Arrgh.

I am NOT prepared for not getting a job. The thought of living in Irvine for even one more year, of lecturing boring classes and making no money, it is just too depressing. And it is not fair. In most other jobs (and all of the other ones I have had) if you are good and you work your ass off you can get ahead. In this market, plenty of great people get nothing and plenty of people who don't know how to teach or even write have tenure-track jobs. Again, no rhyme or reason.

And the scariest part of all is that I LOVE being an academic. I cannot imagine doing anything else. I love teaching, I love writing, I love being a nerd. And I think that my discipline is greatly lacking work on the Gulf. And I think I am pretty good at what I do.

I'm not willing to let it go, and I'm not sure if I have the capability of weathering years of failure. And that is the insecurity of job security.
Ask a stupid questiondubaiwalla on August 3rd, 2007 01:55 am (UTC)
I am NOT prepared for not getting a job.
Then don't not get a job?
(Anonymous) on August 3rd, 2007 02:02 pm (UTC)
I'm sure you will do well on the market! but, nonetheless, it's a stressful process, one we have so little control over. the randomness of it makes it that much more stressful, not to mention that for some of the better jobs they receive no less than 200-300 applications! in the end, it is so subjective there is very little one can really do to land that perfect job, or even the imperfect one. but I will say your adviser does have a lot of say. in the end, it is all about networking and creating visibility for yourself. as a grad student one's ability to publish and network are limited and thus one must rely on their adviser to get them through some doors.

also, be confident and remind everyone how your dissertation and approach to the issues will change anthropology for ever! :) Quietness and humbleness in academia are a fast track to becoming an adjunct or a taxi driver, not tenure-track....

the most important thing - remember to laugh!

enjoy the ride,
ext_58164 on August 3rd, 2007 11:11 pm (UTC)
You are a star. The world just doesn't know it yet.

ok, ok... I am biased. But that doesn't make you any less brilliant.