e-mail me at billdeg@umich.edu

9/26/2008

job market

Clancy says she's glad not to be looking for a job this year. I second that. I have no desire to hit the market anytime soon. But hey, I'm 34 so I certainly won't say "never again." I will say "not now" as geography, good rhet/comp colleagues, interesting and varied teaching responsibilities, and an environment where I do a good amount of research and writing (moreso than at my first job) all keep me happy.

I had mostly good experiences on the job hunt both times; both experiences, in 2002 and 2005, resulted in jobs. But interviewing and campus visiting often presented reminders that academic communities can be closed and homogenous. This reality always seemed in sharper relief during the interviews than during the actual employment, in large part because I generally didn't mesh well with places that were especially closed and homogenous and thus didn't end up there.

Sometimes it was big and noticable things, such as everybody being white. More often, though, it was little things. The chair driving me back to the hotel and talking to me for like twenty minutes about how great their public radio station's jazz show was. Nothing against this person--she was just being friendly and chatty. But the implication was: "you're an English professor, you must love NPR and jazz." I listen to NPR, but I dislike jazz. And my sense of things was that if I said "Do you know if there's a good old-school punk rock station?" I'd come off sounding like a rube.

Another thing, the ubiquitous, almost mythic question that always comes up about the proximity of a Whole Foods Store. Like the jazz thing, I've got nothing against Whole Foods or people who shop there. I don't mean to imply that shopping there makes a person "closed" or anything like that. It's just that, speaking for myself, there was often this assumption when I was looking for an academic job that I fit this certain image. And I didn't. I love to cook. Cooking is probably my favorite of my hobbies. I can make some mean Indian food and Italian food. I can cook a meal for twenty people, even in the little tiny kitchen at my house. I like to shop at places off the beaten path (love farmer's markets that have reasonable prices, love some of the Arab specialty stores in Dearborn). I just don't like the prices at Whole Foods, that's all.

I'd like to be on the market and ask that question about the local punk rock scene. Or in response to an interviewer touting their town's Whole Foods, say "Where's the closest Aldi's or Sav-A-Lot?" Maybe drop a question like "Is there a Chuck-E-Cheese up in here?"

Probably the closest I came to saying something like that happened at a campus visit to a fairly prestigious Catholic university in a major city. At the time, I was a huge fan of the Arizona Wildcats and the subject of college basketball came up. The faculty members who had taken me out to dinner were talking sports in that very reserved, distant, and dignified way, not so much as fans as much as spectators of a mass cultural phenom. They were discussing Big 10 teams and I was interjecting some comments about the Wilcats here and there. One of them commented that he had not even seen any west coast teams get any national tv coverage. Caught up in the moment, I loudly stated, "Yeah, Dick Vitale gives NO kind of love to the PAC-10." We were at some kind of Asian fusion restaurant and it was like one of those scenes in a sitcom where they play the sound effect of a needle being pulled from a record. Silence. "Err, I mean, the late start times of games converge with the admitted prominence of programs like Duke to preclude the likelihood of national broadcasts of competitions between squads from the Pacific Ten Conference." There, better.

Anyhow, happy to not have to hit the market this year. Good luck to everybody looking for a new gig.

5 comments:

Lance said...

No Jazz? No Whole Foods?

Next you'll be telling us you don't use phrases like "just a hint of dusty cocoa" to describe wines, either.

You call yourself an English professor?

bonnie lenore kyburz said...

AHHhhhahahahahahaa! NPR and jazz. that's hilarious.

Seth said...

When I was on the market in 2002, I had two of those "needle across the record" moments, both of which seem to have made me some friends at West Chester.

I posted something snarky on WPA-L one day, and almost immediately got a long harangue from my grad program director (she was right, in principle) reminding me that people evaluating my applications were probably also on the listserv, and that people who didn't already know me might not recognize the sarcasm.

The day I was on campus at WCU, somebody in the dept at Syracuse was running a workshop on website development for job-seekers. Without having looked at mine in advance, the person running the workshop decided to use mine as a sample. What she didn't know until she loaded it was that instead of posting an actual picture of myself, I was using a jpeg of the Cramps' "Bad Music for Bad People" album cover. Apparently, when she turned to the screen and saw this, her reaction was something like "Holy Sh**! Who's ever gonna hire this guy?!?!"

Turns out that after I got hired at WCU, colleagues who'd been on the search referred to both that specific WPA posting and the Cramps jpeg as reasons they decided they liked me.

If you can't be who you are when you're on an interview, you're in the wrong place.

Steve said...

Well, for the record, we're hiring in computers and writing this year at EMU, and Ypsilanti has not one but two Whole Foods in easy striking distance (and a Save-a-lot, not to mention Mejiers, lots of Arab/Indian/Asian/you-name-it specialty stores), and the campus public radio station, WEMU, has the motto of "jazz, news, and blues."

Man, you talk about the perfect gig. ;-)

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