November 28, 2007

Preparing for the Job Register

In honor of the American Historical Association blog's entry on the AHA annual meeting job register, a list of activities that graduate students can use to prepare for the cavernous hall of intimate cabaret-style opportunities to spend a few minutes chatting with search committee members who haven't told you that they have a raging headache from the environment, even after taking two naproxen tablets. (They took the naproxen. They'd offer to share with you, but then they'd have to offer one to each interviewee in fairness, and it wasn't on the search plan or in the dean's search budget. But if you mention it, they'll probably put it in the budget next year as a requirement for chairing another search.)


Note: Likely fictional items are marked with an asterisk.

  1. Go to the store and spend a good part of your monthly T.A. stipend on the following: a bottle each of pinot noir and white zinfandel, two pounds of dark-chocolate M&Ms, a pint each of Chunky Monkey and Cherry Garcia, a small corkboard, and a bag of hors d'oeuvres skewers.
  2. Apply to 64.7 positions, most of which are in your field and will each attract approximately 423 applicants, except for the position in Fairbanks, Alaska, which will only attract 279. (That position in Hawaii-Manoa has 1493 applicants, including one whose advisor raves about his sterling dissertation on the use of farm-machine imagery in Charlotte Forten Grimké's journals(*).)
  3. Drink half of the white zinfandel.
  4. Beg your advisor and other recommenders to write individualized letters for each position.
  5. Each half of one of the pound bags of M&Ms.
  6. Give up and just ask them to send form letters to your university's career center.
  7. Drink half of the pinot noir.
  8. Realize that the career center caters to undergraduates and slip a $20 bill to the work-study student so that she'll get your letters out that day, two weeks after your request.
  9. Eat half of the Cherry Garcia.
  10. Get told to read Ph.D. in History by a fellow grad student (the one who's been a Russian specialist for 10 years, though you suspect he's really a specialist in staying in grad school) and insist on a bottle of Sam Adams before reading the entry.
  11. Read the entry.
  12. Drink the Sam Adams.
  13. Pay the $65 annual-meeting registration fee instead of buying a few books that you really should read for the fifth chapter of your dissertation.
  14. Read Matt Groening's School is Hell and then the latest Ph.D. Comics.
  15. Eat that half a bar of halvah that you've been saving for a grading frenzy(*). (In truth, you need to go out and buy the halvah, because you finished it off after your college's board of trustees announced that the president's salary is over half a million a year, the football coach's salary is $4.5 million, and your stipend is... your stipend.)
  16. Purchase an airline ticket, because you're not in the region AHA is meeting in and you need the advantage of purchasing early. You don't know if you'll have interviews at the meeting, nor when the days might be, so you have to make reservations to allow you to be there for the entire convention.
  17. Find three other graduate students to share the $200 room for quads, because you don't have friends or family in the area to crash with. You'll all be staying for four nights because you don't know when any interviews might be, so it's as expensive as a solo room for one night.
  18. Buy earplugs because you know one of your meeting roommates snores.
  19. Discover plagiarism in student paper.
  20. Finish off that first pound of M&Ms.
  21. One of your promised roommates gets depressed about the job market and cancels.
  22. Make an "I hate the job register" dartboard with the corkboard, with hors d'oeuvres skewers as darts. The first skewer goes in the bullseye.
  23. Hey! Your apartment roommate ate the Chunky Monkey. Damn.
  24. Bullseye!
  25. Finish off the pinot noir.
  26. Go to the store to get another Chunky Monkey, a gallon of plain vanilla ice cream (for roommate, who will be going to the MLA), and a bottle of merlot. Some food goes with that, too, but you're focused on the job register requirements.
  27. Get a phone call from a search committee member. Score! Who cares if it's on a directional public university campus in the Northern plains with an average high in January of -20 (Celsius) and where the teaching load would be 3/4. It's a job possibility!
  28. Realize that it would be cheaper if you and the search committee who called you would just drive a day and a half towards each other and meet in a diner, than if you both flew out to the AHA annual meeting.
  29. Drink half the merlot bottle.
  30. Your sister calls and asks if you're free on the weekend of the AHA meeting. It's your niece's first communion.
  31. Bullseye!
  32. Go to your department's interview practice session. Get asked questions by your grad-school colleagues about Hayden White. Get asked questions by the faculty about your dissertation. Realize no one asked about teaching, though you're likely to be asked that at the job register.(*) (Oh, you will be asked about teaching at the job register. But if you're helping out at practice interviews, you'll ask questions on teaching as well, right?)
  33. Drink the rest of the white zinfandel.
  34. Check the price of airport transportation, which you forgot to do a few months ago. There go another few books or meals.
  35. Bullseye!
  36. Finish off the Cherry Garcia.
  37. Get calls from three other search committees, but the Perfect Job search committee never called. But hey! Four interviews are better than none.
  38. Your interviews are scheduled on Saturday. No, it's not possible for you to change airline reservations without spending an extra $350.
  39. Go to campus colloquium, "Fractal Nantotechnology in 19th century French Guiana Portraiture"(*). You are there for the most part because you need to eat some cheese cubes and drink nondescript white wine.
  40. Your mom asks if you could visit for the weekend, because your stepfather's not feeling well and she could use the company.
  41. Bullseye!
  42. Go read Invisible Adjunct's blog archive.
  43. Bullseye!
  44. Read Decline of the Tenure Track article in the N.Y. Times.
  45. Bullseye!
  46. Read Joyce Appleby and Nikki Keddie's plea for people to reduce the carbon footprint of academe. Realize you're spending close to a thousand dollars you don't have to pollute the environment and attend a conference you don't like to meet for a little over an hour altogether with people who don't want to be there for the possibility of taking a job that's not really like the job you're preparing for in grad school.
  47. Eat the Chunky Monkey and the other pound of M&Ms, and finish off the merlot.
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Posted in Higher education on November 28, 2007 7:57 AM |