Job Market Thoughts - Teaching...

So, two more applications out which puts the grand total at 17. I guess I really am hitting the market. Some people might ask whether it's smart for me to apply so broadly, and what follows is my rationalization on it.

For those who're curious, my field isn't quite as glutted as English, though my areas of research and focus are fairly popular, with a lot of people interested in it, though it's no longer THE hot topic. That's meant that competition for the same position changes - right now it's tougher than it was four years ago but it will probably be easier again three or four years from now.

One thing that I've not seen people address elsewhere - maybe it's not true for other fields the way it seems to be for mine - is that the job market itself is also fairly cyclical. The year I cam out, there were a number of jobs in my area, and the following year - when my visiting was ending - there were almost none. Having watched the market for awhile now, there seems to be a 3-4 year cycle of jobs. This would be one more factor in that junior faculty migration that's been mentioned previously.

I've also seen a few questions about the notion of academic pedigree and how important it is. It seems to me like there are a few factors that play in. One is certainly the field your in. In fields that are glutted, pedigree is going to help. In fields that are less so, pedigree will matter more if you're shooting for the Research I jobs than elsewhere. I came from a fairly new program - roughly 10 year or so of Ph.D. graduates when I came out - in a popular but not yet glutted field. That meant there were a couple of things I could do to strengthen my hand in the market. The first, which I didn't do, would have been to come out with my dissertation in hand. The second, though, was to turn up at every interview (whether they asked for it or not) with some thoughts about how I would teach the courses that I knew no one else wanted. In most fields this seems to be the intro courses. It also meant I could apply to a variety of departments - small liberal arts places and the bigger prestige sorts of places.

Going into the market now, several years in, the strategy seems to have shifted. I feel like, having taught in both a visiting and now at a SLAC, one of the things that's going to help me is the fact that I've got a proven teaching record across a variety of courses (and a lot of them are still the less popular ones). And I've been able to develop some edgier courses to try out that let me apply for some of the more cleverly specific jobs that might have been tangential to where I was in terms of research several years ago. I also get to play up the fact that I've worked at both sorts of places - most of it at the SLAC level but also that one year at a Research I.

Of course, I'd like to claim that much of that was actually strategy, but really so much of the job market seems about how you can best express what you've learned and can carry with you from the experiences you've stumbled, fumbled, and fell into.


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