The Incredible, Impossible, Unguessable Job Market

Nov 06 2012 Published by under Uncategorized

these demands are entirely covert, completely unguessable, and totally ridiculous, if not impossible

An apt description of what it's like on the academic job market. I personally am enduring my second rodeo. Last year had some highlights, but obviously not enough since I'm doing it again this year. There's plenty of advice out there for postdoc/grad's who are wading for the first time into the deep end. (The most comprehensive perhaps being DocBecca's aggregator). I thought I'd add a few notes about what it's like to join in the annual tradition of fretting over never getting a job.

A lot of organization and other tedious things.
Applying for jobs is tedious. There's no avoiding that. Your personal level of tedium will depend on a few things. How many jobs you apply to. What range of positions you apply to? The range of "delivery methods" requested by the search committees. Yes, there will be one job that wants everything printed out hard copy, in triplicate carbon paper and mailed to a P.O. Box.

A lot of educated guesses.
What are departments looking for? How good a fit am I for this position? How long until they make the short list? Will there be phone interviews? etc. And if you don't get the position you'll have no idea if your application just barley missed the cut or got trashed in the first minute. You have to get comfortable with the idea of not knowing things. Which can be tough for people used to collecting as much information as possible.

The wiki, web trackers, and other treacherous things.
Though you will be quite busy with applications and the usual responsibilities there will be time for the mind to wander. Especially during the "applied and now waiting for contact phase" which is the worst part. You will probably develop a bad habit. Checking the job wiki, looking at your website stats, looking up CVs of your competition. The wiki is treacherous, and full of misinformation. I avoid it. My web counter on the other hand is like an addictive drug. I know that some person(s) from one university I applied to have been routinely checking my website. Enough to get my hopes up, but not actually useful information. This is how it goes.

A lot of waiting. Not much communication.
Other than the usual thanks for applying email and HR demographic request there won't be much communication. Search committees do not generally send updates "Just wanted to tell you that your app is in the maybe pile. Looks great!". Contact usually only happens if you land an interview (phone or campus). Rejections come slowly for various reasons. For the most part you'll be left having to interpret radio silence as a de facto rejection. Doesn't exactly make things more fun.

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