II. Now, Right Now Sunday, Feb 27 2011 

II. Shaping Your CV, the Early Years

You’re in a program now, working toward the Ph.D. (or M.F.A., though many of us creative writers have sorrowfully accepted the pragmatic reality that an M.F.A. doesn’t really qualify many for jobs at teaching universities (that need Ph.D.s for admistrative hoopla.). And an M.F.A. without a few books doesn’t make anyone terribly attractive for jobs in R1s either).

Something like five years stretches out in front of you, at least, before the job market becomes a reality. Typical grad student policy is to therefore not think about getting a job for at least four years. At that point, some recognize thin cvs and ask some pointed questions about how to flesh it out.

My simple thoughts here: the first day in a terminal program is the first day a student ought to start planning for the job market. Once the first seminar paper has been written (or even just planned), the first conference proposal should go out in the mail. Really.

Now, there are two schools of thought on graduate student publication. The higher-minded one, often espoused by esteemed senior professors “teaching” at R1s, focuses on quality. Work for one really well-placed article by graduation, and you’ll be in good shape. Emphasize quality of venue (PMLA, perhaps, or at least the top journal in your subfield). The other school of thought emphasizes getting stuff out there. A lot of stuff, to a lot of places. And hope something sticks.

I’m a believer in philosophy number two, which I recognize as a bit, shall I say, overly practical. But the market is tight, you know? And sometimes bean counting makes the difference in first cuts — in a stack of 300 applications, three articles seems to often trump one magnificent one.

Lest you think I’m too cavalier in this philosophy, I offer a few guidelines. I don’t think we should all just be sending stuff off willy-nilly. Instead, we should think quite carefully about fit and placement. Some seminar papers are okay, but not stellar…and there are journals for that. Some seminar papers are awesome, or at least have the potential to be revised into awesome. These are worth trying to get into big places. What I’m suggesting is a sort of conservation of intellect. Don’t let a seminar paper be only a seminar paper. There’s no doubt it can work as a conference presentation at a regional, or even a grad student meeting. And it’s likely some quick revision can get it ready for a lighter-weight peer reviewed journal. But that descriptor is key: be sure to send only to peer-reviewed places, because no volume of publication in hackish venues will help.

I think about this philosophy in the spirit of my first newspaper editor, who eloquently described the smallness of my offered salary: this is A ball. For those not into baseball, this translates into a recognition of status. For that job, pay was low because the job was decidedly minor league, a place to begin for a person without much experience. Some time there could lead to a promotion to AA ball/newspapers, and so forth on up to the top levels. The value of time spent at low pay is measured in experience, in learning the business and preparing yourself to do well later in a career.

I think it’s the same in academia. To be blunt, most grad student work isn’t really very earth-shattering, and probably rarely deserves space in top journals and conferences. I’ve been to too many conference panels where audiences were forced to sit semi-politely through lame grad student, theory-laden junk that somehow got on the program, thanks to a tightly written abstract. I’d say it’s better to have that material presented at lower-level conferences, were the insufficiency of the work fits the general profile of the venue. Now, that sounds a bit, um, snippy when I write it down — let the crap go to crap conferences. But I don’t mean it like that. I mean to say that certain conferences and publications carry an expectation of polish, while others are more developmental in nature and are open, forgiving, and helpful for uneven work. They exist for the same reasons as A ball, to offer a place for developing talent (or, as with baseball, the Crash Davises of the world) to work on the fundamentals. Build experience. Get comfortable.

For my own CV, I began with…well I began with nothing the first time around. Which is why, when I came back to work for the Ph.D. I ultimately earned, I began with a consciousness of CV. I knew I was trying to get a job, so I started with that goal. Early on, I applied for and attended grad student conferences in far flung places I  thought would be interesting. Then I moved to regional conferences where, to be honest, I stayed. Having attended national conferences, I much preferred the vibe and openness of the regionals. I felt like my work mattered there, could receive fair attention and criticism. On the national stage, I imagine much of my work would have been savaged (perhaps rightly so), since it was still forming and deepening. The regionals allowed me to receive construction feedback and encouragement, and gain viable CV lines. AA ball, I guess, maybe AAA. Even better, I found that the regional conferences are run by regional associations, which often have regional peer-reviewed journals — perfect venues for the publication of revised versions of conference presentations.

There’s a lot of self-consciousness in this kind of CV developing, but I think it is an important sort. Little value comes about from uninformed professional activity, from blindly sending stuff off to prestigious venues that will likely reject it, or from ignorantly sending material off to places that will publish anything at all. Instead, the development of a CV can complement the development of a career. And this is really the purpose of all this work. This is your part of the conversation, hanging out in the little clusters along the wall who aren’t the focus of the party, but who still have good things to say. Amicable chat there gets you ready to walk up to the superstar and say, “about that idea you proposed…”

Suddenly An Expert Wednesday, Feb 23 2011 

Okay, so this might fit neatly into the category of insufferable advice. But since I’ve finally experienced the sensation of a successful tenure track search, I’m going to start a brief series of experiential narratives. I don’t mean to suggest that I’m really full of specialist knowledge on job hunting, since I firmly agree with the point of view of academic randomness. When 250 (or more!) people apply to each and every position, just making the first cut is akin to sliding all of your chips onto red. Preparation and polish matter in the bet (the academic, not the roulette), but luck and circumstance are certainly significant players.

Maybe most of all, I write to figure out. I’m not quite sure how I came to this moment in the world, a holder of a prime position that actually excites me. So I want to relive the process in text, to experience, filter, interpret just what the heck happened. I know, as well, that a lack of information generated the most anxiety during my job search, even though I had a doctoral advisor quite keen on search stuff and quite willing to offer input. Still, all of that material came from someone firmly ensconced in a named professorship, so despite generosity and knowledge, there was always a layer of separation even there. My writing, I think, comes from ground zero. Having just gone through the process, I’m hoping that my experiences might help relieve the information void in some small part for other searchers.

So, here are my intended topics:

I. Getting Started

II. Shaping Your CV — The Early Years

III. You Too Are An Academic, Right Now

IV. The Rhetoric of Job Letters

V. Apply, Apply, Apply

VI. The Wiki

VII. Conference Time

VIII. Wait, Wait, Wait

IX. Big Candidate On Campus

X. The Offer


Without further ado:

I. Getting Started

My career in post graduate education did not follow a linear path. After my MFA, I left academe for awhile, took gainful employment elsewhere as a professional cobbler of words, got married, and eventually found myself drawn back in. I taught for a little off the tenure track and decided to get a Ph.D. I quit that program after one semester and fled academe again for several years. Though this might seem like an odd “start” to a fruitful academic search, I really do believe this is point A on the flow chart. So bear with the apparently non-search material to come.

Immediately preceding this failed re-entry into the academic life, I weighed three options for doctoral education. I had offers from a mid-ranked literature program, a highly-ranked creative writing Ph.D. program (which, as things went in those days, meant the school itself was a low-mid ranked graduate program overall), and a top-5 Rhetoric and Composition program. Each offered me assistantships, something every doctoral student should make an absolute rule at this junction in a career. Not having support means you’re not among the top dogs in a program. And that means spending a lot of time and energy trying to become a top dog, without much guarantee that will happen. The quick message here: if a place doesn’t offer money, just don’t go. Just don’t. Ever.

Having spent significant time away from the academic lifestyle, I decided to go into this process systematically. I researched the schools, and I actually paid good money we didn’t have to fly out and make campus visits to the programs. We lived on the East Coast. One school was in the Pacific Northwest, another in the Southwest, the third in the Midwest. But I figured it was a good investment, since I would be spending five or more years earning the degree. I wanted to know what was what. The schools, for their part, all seemed a bit surprised that anyone bothered to do this. But each was accommodating in its own way, setting up visits with students and faculty to help me get a feel for each place.

And these visits told me everything I needed to know…if I’d been paying attention.

Northwest lit program introduced me to students. The program director toured me around campus, bought me lunch, made me feel like he wanted me to join the program. Plus, I found the campus to be lovely, green, well-funded, friendly, in a cool college town.

Midwest creative program introduced me to students and faculty. The program director drove me around the city, showed me interesting sites, talked about the success of its graduates. A few students took me out to dinner at a local gigantic Serbian fish fry, then out for drinks in a parked rail car that had become a bar. After I returned home, the graduate director called and offered me a little extra grant money, to sweeten the t.a. offer.

Southwest, high-ranked comp program set themselves apart with the phone call offer. They had a place for me in the program, but they needed an answer in a couple of days so they could make an offer to someone else if I would’t come. I flew out to see the school, where they allowed me to sit in on a class. Where I had to introduce myself to some students, who were nice enough. The city was beautiful, though — sunny, warm.

After my visits, I drew up a detailed pro-con chart. The first two programs rated high in fit, feel, enthusiasm, my own academic interests, stuff I discounted as a bit flaky for decision making. The third school trumped them via its national ranking and, equally important, the near 100% placement rate for composition grads. Naturally, I accepted that post. Call it money over love. Call it pragmatism. Call it realism. Call it market awareness.

Call it a mistake.

Within a few weeks after starting the program, I knew I was doomed. I hated the field. I didn’t want to make composition my life’s work. And it was clear I was just another one of many graduate students in the department. Remember, the offer was as impersonal as they come: if you accept, you can come here. But let us know if you won’t, because we have other warm bodies waiting. Makes no difference to us.

I dropped out after one semester, which was the right thing to do. It took me many years to reconcile myself to actual academic desires. And on that re-entry, I chose a school for the “wrong” reasons: they seemed to want ME as a student, offered me a nice fellowship because they were interested in ME and my work, and the department seemed to get along with itself. It was a small program, without a grand national reputation, but the faculty were strong and approachable. And I liked them.

Truly, the choice of a graduate program is the first step to a tenure track faculty appointment. This is both obvious (duh!) and not-so-clear. Certainly, graduate program matters as a cv line, but in the end satisfaction and happiness, I’m convinced, matter a lot more. Certainly for life they do. But I think your quality of work is deeply affected by your quality of life.

Choosing a school based on its ranking is the worst possible thing to do. For one thing, ranking is somewhat irrelevant on the market. Sure, there might be some administrative pressure to choose folks with name brands (I’m looking at you, Christopher Newport!), but in the end “fit” comes about from interesting research agendas, good teaching, and hard-to-pin-down personal dynamics. Basically, a program has to be good enough to not be a deal breaker.

Academic work is a life thing, somewhat consuming and often isolating. Weathering through five years of doctoral work without a decent life, regardless of an institution’s rank, yields little. At the end, you come out on the other side unhappy, likely jaded, and probably without enthusiastic scholarship. The myopic choice I originally made was bad both mentally and pragmatically. It wasn’t a field of study I liked, it wasn’t a place that would make me the best me, and it wasn’t a place where I could be happy. If I’d stayed, I know the actual work — the dissertation, presentations, articles — would have been lifeless and disengaged. They might have been “good,” as in well-placed and effective for my vita, but they wouldn’t have been representative of work I actually cared about.

Many in academe will pooh-pooh the notion of happiness. They will extol the virtues of workaholicism, bean-counting, and exhausting focus. But I don’t think these attributes make for good professors. Instead, they make for miserable people, fractured departments, and all the horror stories we hear about institutional politics, back-stabbing, and careerism.

What I’m saying is kind of basic: when you choose a graduate program, you’re also choosing what kind of academic you want to be. It really does matter, because this is a human field. In the end, I entered my final (successful) graduate program with an attitude of personal commitment. I knew it was the right place for me. If the market didn’t agree, then I would accept the consequences of having no job and find something else to do. Selling myself short wasn’t worth it because, well, it’s me. I like me. And there are no market guarantees in the end, regardless of how great the Ph.D. program might be.

Oddly, in the end, the market agreed with this point of view. And I got the job I most wanted.

Off the Contingent Shift Tuesday, Feb 22 2011 

I can think of few smaller pleasures than this: three times in the last few days I’ve received rejection letters for job applications. Each time, I smiled, knowing I’d secured the tenure track line I’d most wanted. Academic anxiety blooms fullest right now, with campus visits, offers, rejections, and new (often less enthralling) postings all churning together. And I can easily recall the weak trembles of other seasons: each rejection hinted at another year on the contingent track, teaching full time without permanent hopes. Other people, I know, felt such rejections even more deeply. No job at all. Ph.D.s gaining dust. Faint hopes beginning to flicker away under the foul breath of a cruel, over-filled job market.

Now, I rest easier. I avoided the inevitability that pummels so many. Now, the rejections that continue to dribble in (and believe me, they come from the greater bulk of 50+ applications this year, on the heels of 30+ last year) work only to emphasize the absurdity of the market. One great job, at a great school, with a great reputation, wanted me more than anyone else who applied this season. The others want me not at all. And that includes the department where I currently teach (in a visiting position), where my application didn’t even make it past the first cut.



Visually represented below:

Recently, on The Academic Gig Monday, Feb 21 2011 

This is a new bloggy space for, admittedly, a blog no one ever read…ever. The previous incarnation came from the position of a non-tenure track professor, looking to find the almighty permanent job while finishing a dissertation (and tending to a new baby). These things have all changed — got the job, finished the diss, now tending to a toddler.

A long radio silence ensued during the past several months, thanks to some level of anxiety/superstition/fear of jinxing chances for my inside hire. Which totally crashed and burned anyway, much to my good fortune — the job I got is SO much better than the one I thought I was a shoo-in for.

Here’s what you missed, in case you wonder:




I rode with a friend to a golf course last week, and the return trip focused on labor issues in contemporary America. The friend happens to be a lifelong railroader, a track layer for most of his career who is now a union boss. I happen to be a union member, but in a decidedly less physical milieu: I grade papers, while my friend drove spikes and heaved ties and rail.
Certainly, these are tough times for labor and labor-friendly politics. Despite a supposedly ultra-liberal in the White House, few politicians seem keen on being seen as pro-worker. Bad for business, right? This point, of course, was exactly what my friend and I discussed. Paying an extra two dollars for a shirt, as a consumer, is a small price to pay for a healthy, vibrant domestic labor force. Sure, that might take money out of the pocket of the owners (read: the very rich), but that’s a bad thing only for the small minority of very rich people in the country. Further, the notion that a pro-labor position is bad is a horrid vestige of Reagan’s trickle-down economics, which never really trickled much.
In any case, beyond the enjoyment of the chat, two interesting thoughts were spawned from this conversation and other recent events:
1) Faculty unions are strange ducks, and I think they need to stand up more for labor in general. At my university, for example, cafeteria workers organized. The food vendor (not the U — a contractor) refuses to recognize the union. This is, likely, illegal or, at least, not something unions should be pleased with. But the following two lines will display the official faculty union response to their fellow laborers: 

And that’s the strange duckiness. Faculty unions for whatever social-class reason (and it has to be that) aren’t too keen on getting down and dirty with union membership in general. They only want to protect their own collective rights. That’s fine in of itself, as a union is intended to protect its membership. But labor should defend labor. And when low-wage workers at its institution are being treated poorly, a moral union should take visible, demonstrative action. The faculty are the ones who have actual power, with or without the union, and so they should stand up for those without power.
To make things worse, there are many in academia (particularly the humanities) who like to think of themselves as pro-labor. But they didn’t step in to help in this case. And I imagine very few of them care much personally about, say, railroaders not being allowed to take lunch breaks. In theory, sure. But socially, actively, effectively? That’s another story.

2) The state of labor and liberalism in general allows Americans to think that the current Recovery Act (whose signs sit beside so many road work projects) is somehow similar to the WPA, or that it constitutes some kind of big government socialism. Hardly. The WPA gave work, and often “useless” work like mural painting and folklore gathering, to individuals. As a result, the nation received both better roads and bridges, and more beautiful buildings, post offices, and cultural knowledge. To me, that’s a brilliant make-work program: work and pay go to individuals who need it, and the nation receives tangible and equally-important cultural benefit.
The beneficiary of the current program, however, is more corporate. Yes, working stiffs get more hours on road crews, but these road crews are largely private contractors. The government is not paying the workers; the government is giving contracts to private business who trickle it down to labor…who are likely not unionized in many cases. So, that’s a big difference.

Labor may not be gone in America, but it sure needs some friends.



Who needs a life?

A recent article in the Chronicle discusses the problems of the “f-word” in academic departments, that word being the family that results from the verbal application of the other f-word. Among other things, the author mentions a supposedly outrageous case where an applicant found that a high-powered research department allowed its faculty the latitude to engage outside pursuits. Specifically, the author mentions the horror of one faculty member talking about how a book project was delayed because of work on a deck restoration. This, apparently, is what is wrong with academia, that people might accept such slackage. From the article: “especially during the tenure-track years, the personal must to some extent be sacrificed for the professional.” 

And that’s what I think is wrong with academia. The point of view of this article is not uncommon, is likely in fact the expectation. Faculty like to strike their breasts and moan how they work sixty-plus hours a week, then spend all summer on research projects their teaching delayed. But they like to do so publicly, establishing a definite reputation for overwork and dedication. Professors have it so hard, they imply, even as they claim to recognize their “privilege.” Professors work so much more than other people, they imply, at lower pay than they could earn in the private sector. Which is, of course, a stretch: a lot of professors would never make it in the private sector despite their intellects. Just one problem they exhibit as a rule: slow work. Two months to respond to a chapter for review is acceptable nowhere but academia and slush pile publishing. Heck, two months is long enough for Grisham to write another novel.

So maybe the workaholicism is a function of guilt or perception management. Professors stay all hours so they seem like they work hard. I think, however, a lot of it has to do with desire. Some professors like to work all hours, enjoy spending time in the lab or the stacks or at the computation board (does that exist?). The problem, then, is one of empathy. An individual overworks and succeeds, so a colleague decides to similarly overwork. Because of the growing multitude who accept that work ought to be that way, who actually enjoy cutting themselves off from outside pursuits, and who often only marginally increase their own quality of scholarship by working that way, the stated demands of a position (say, teach four courses a term, serve on department committees, present a paper every year or so, publish a paper every few) are ignored. One workaholic publishes one book, claims to be the hardest working scholar in the department, then looks down on everyone else who doesn’t wish to give up their lives in the same way. Over time, a creep toward over-commitment occurs, creating a phantom culture that denies the potentiality of healthy out-of-work time. I mean, really, isn’t there more work you could be doing?

And that, in essence, is the human crisis of academia, which closely follows the human crisis of U.S. labor in general. If X amount of work is good, then 2X is better, and 3X is better, and so forth. It’s the Puritan work ethic melded with the Capitalist credo. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop that don’t make as much money as possible, so work harder so you’re not a sinning poor person. No one, anywhere, should feel that family, home, or personal life needs to be sacrificed to any extent for the professional. Such sacrifices no doubt increase the profit margin for companies, for universities, and for psychoanalysts. People struggle when they work too much, when their lives become stuck in a living-to-work cycle. Balance is necessary, and should be an easy function of modernity. We’re technically more advanced than 100 years ago, 50 years ago, 10 years ago, so we ought to be working less, enjoying more free time for poetry, literature, nature, deck-building by grace of our increased efficiency. But, instead, we work more, to exponentially increase output and institutional profit, just so we can pay for $100 a month cell phone, and $50 a month high-speed, and $100 a month cable, and on and on and on.

Me, I want to work in a department that builds decks. Goodness knows the one on the front of our house could use some time.



Wooing From the Inside

It’s like trying to convince an old friend you’re really dating material. Constantly awkward. With the opportunity for epic crash-and-burnability. 

But maybe they’ll give me the new position anyway.



Nailed It/Blew It

My perspective: totally rocked the M.L.A. interview scene. Handled every question with grace, verve, and intellect.
Their perspective: guess not, if the wiki’s right — no campus visit for me.
Good thing, though — I’d have to change the name of the blog if I got on the tt.



Hmm, wrong degree, I guess

How appropriate is this job?: 

“Concentration in rhetoric and compensation, and/or a background in business/professional/technical writing preferred…”

I added the boldface. But isn’t that kind of the thing in the current market? That’s what the universities want to hire, someone well-versed in the rhetoric of compensation, who can explain how an adjunct-only future faculty will best serve the needs of civilization and the arts.

Do you need a Ph.D. for that concentration, though? Or some kind of Dark Arts doo-hickie?



Lion tamer curiously absent

Teaching, or trying to, late afternoon. No one seems to have read/understood the essay on tap. Eyes turn outside. 

To a man riding a unicycle.

To a group stringing a tightrope between trees.

To the unicycle guy starting to juggle.

Says student, “Do we have a circus club?”

Hard to teach twenty feet from the bigtop.



I have a cold.

That’s it.




1. Raked leaves this weekend. Leaves. Leaves. Leaves. Lot of ’em. 

2. November means job application deadlines. Means two days after each deadline I’ll start wondering why no one has called yet.

3. Thanksgiving recess is only a few weeks down the road.

4. And the semester ends only a few weeks after that.

5. Not that I’m counting.

6. Why has no one called yet?

7. What else can a dude do with an English Ph.D.?

8. Because no one has called yet.

9. Frosty mornings are upon us, and I have no garage.

10. More leaves fell over night.



Neurotics on deadline

Job season. Early-career academic. Instant neurosis. 

Normally, I’m a pretty even-keeled dude, maybe even bordering on unflappable. I mean, I’ve witnessed birth from the front row, so shaping a job letter seems like small potatoes. Even so, and despite a general strain of optimism and confidence…

…well how can you stay that way when 1) the general economy is in the bin; 2) the humanities tenure track outlook has been dire for, oh, 150 years; 3) the dissertation committee seems to want to exact a because-they-can slow down; 4) 100 applicants for a single job would be a miracle, since it’s likely to be double that (if I can believe what I read); 5) I believe (too much) what I read on various academic blogs around the cyber-cooler.

And that’s the problem, innit? All these academic blogs, written by border-line despondent junior professors, all bitter about something. And they have advice for those on the market, and it’s usually presented in the context of things-I-see-on-the-search-committee-that-turn-me-off. Plus the big kicker: each is different. Tailor your letter to the job, they all say, but then each suggests different ways to do it since, of course, each is a different individual with different outlook on the process.

So I extrapolate, and figure that of, say, five people on a search committee, there are five different desires and perspectives. And, since this is academe, no two academics have the same opinion. So each committee is comprised of five new people with five new desires and perspectives. So, say 20 jobs are in the app attack. Um, that’s 100 different people, each unique and beautiful and angry and picky and overworked and not into going to MLA and tired of the whole administration deal that turned this search into the wrong one and wouldn’t we be better off hiring an Early Mongolian Pop Culture Specialist instead of a Late Cretacious Vegan Theorist.

Thus the neuroses, the checking of blogs and wikis and individual university sites, all in the effort to somehow stumble on that little crumb that makes it all so clear.

Please, hire me and save me from myself.



Against the tide

That time of the year, post-mid semester, when freshmen seem to regress. Dumb stares, unread assignments, complaints about workload, emails about having to miss class to catch up on other work, random comments in the middle of discussions about having to leave early so really will we be doing anything important for the rest of class. 

Maybe we should teach a class — College 100: How Not to Piss Off a Professor

But, in the middle of it all, engaged faces nodding in astonishment as they hear, apparently for the first time, a criticism of America’s patriarchal past. And that’s why we do it.



Thanks, I was aware

Journal 1: rejects an essay twice, the second time sending a chastisement about not providing a s.a.s.e — which of course they had already used on the first rejection. 

Journal 2: rejects an essay four months after I’d pulled it from consideration (as it was published elsewhere) — a kind of immature “you can’t pull it we rejected it so there” move, I guess…just a little slow.

Academia, where civility and attention to detail are passe theoretical constructs.



You mean it worked?

Quiet, late-day class. They’re bright students, but they’re burnt out by the end of the day and, hard to ignore, not terribly enthused at the prospect of English 101. So today I tried a different lesson style, forcing them to rewrite portions of a difficult and admittedly dull essay they’d read. Honestly, if I’d been in the class, I would have hated the assignment.
An hour after class, I got an email from a student who wanted to change the topic of her first essay, because the in class work opened up a new avenue for her.
Whoa. Who knew that would work?
Just when you think you’re at the wall, out of ideas, accidental inspiration.



Wiki vs. Credo

The wiki makes it hard to maintain the credo — and if you’re on the academic job market, you probably know the wiki I reference. There aren’t many fuller, more deeply wounded collections of exploded psyches, more Signal 30-eque displays of shattered confidence and rickety anxiety. Contagious, of course, even when I rather like the looks of my cv. Yet, even as an optimist, I recognize how many other nice-looking cvs are out there, and how often nice looking cvs head directly for the bin. The wiki just makes me think of that more, which makes me doubt my training, my ability to finish my dissertation, my goals and futures in the biz. And all because one or two people report having received “application received” letters from jobs I’ve applied to. Where’s mine!? I sent that app a whole two days ago! 

Calm down. Retreat to your corner. Think pretty.


Fancy a credo?

You don’t know this, since Contingent Shift is brand new, unseen, and insignificant, but two posts have been deleted. The first two, in fact. But here’s the deal: the world has plenty of world-weary, snarky, biting academic blogs. I like those well enough — they’re funny, help hide my general anxiety at all things academic, and often hit uncomfortably close to the mark. Still, I don’t think this blog needs to be another in a long line of bitter/sardonic/angry ones. And that’s what the first two entries were.
Thus the credo, that Contingent Shift will try to keep it nice, despite the obvious and well-understood non-niceness of that particular academic identity: non-tenure stream, year-to-year contract, full-time, survey course teaching minion. But that’s a heck of a lot better than latte maker, or minimum-wage book slinger, or grossly underpaid t.a. I have insurance, retirement benefits, decent salary, an office (shared), computer (with squirrels running the processor)…er…guess this blog can’t all be on the nice-nice.
But, here it is: a fresh job season awaits. 16 apps out. More to go, even if the listings seem sparse so far. From the optimistic view, though, I seem like a fit and, until rejected everywhere, I’ll assume I have as much a shot as anyone anywhere. Let the snickers behind my back begin.