On the Academic Job Market, Part 2

Well, folks, it has been so long that I don’t know where to begin this post, so I’ll just dive in and begin somewhere, as somewhere is better than nowhere, don’t you think?

This summer has flown by in a flurry of trips, plane rides, sleepless nights with the kids (ages 3 and 6, both of whom are going through extreme night-waking stages right now), fabulous meals, movies, walks to the park, trips to the pool, hikes, and ice cream runs. I graduated with my PhD in May, after four years of undergrad, four years of M.A. work, and seven years of PhD work, at the ripe old age of 34—better late than never, no? My family came from two different states, I took everyone out to lunch, and I received tremendously generous gifts that will allow me to buy my doctoral robes, or built-in bookshelves for my library in my new home…I can’t decide which.

I really wanted to spend as much time with my kids this summer as possible, so I limited my work hours and yet was still able to teach two online classes, go to a couple conferences, and submit two different articles for publication. This fall, I need to submit two more, and apply to a couple conferences next year that I really want to go to, in addition to revamping the two courses I teach online for CU and adding a few more bells and whistles to the already-extant content.

But, this blog post is entitled “On the Job Market,” so let’s cut the preamble.

Where I last left you, I reported I had a job offer, one which materialized into a signed contract with King University, a very small liberal-arts university in Bristol, TN, 21 hours away from where I currently live in CO. Thanks to all the books I read on the job market, I knew that I could ask for a year’s reprieve from the start date of my contract, and the folks at King amazingly, astoundingly agreed to this request, so rather than start this very week, I am instead here in CO for one more year, beginning in Aug. 2015. This gives me a year to say goodbye to CO and the family and friends I have here, a year to pack up the house and get it ready to sell, a year with my kids, a year to “rest” (even though my adviser strongly recommends I use this year to transform my dissertation into a book, buying me From Dissertation to Book for my graduation gift!).

Sign in Bristol, TN, courtesy of Photo Credit: SeeMidTN.com (aka Brent) via Compfight cc

Sign in Bristol, TN, courtesy of Photo Credit: SeeMidTN.com (aka Brent) via Compfight cc

All of the hullaballo you read about contract negotiations didn’t really apply to my situation, and perhaps I didn’t ask for enough, but a few rounds of emails and a couple long phone calls resulted in a decent starting salary, some travel/conference funds every year, a new iPad and laptop upon my arrival, an office (of course), and some funds for moving. Out of the approx. 10 friends I had on the job market in 2013-2014, four have about the same job offers as I do, two have far better, one turned down the offer she got in hopes of something better last year, one accepted a prestigious post-doc, and two didn’t get any job offers at all. All in all, it was a very successful year for most of us.

So what advice do I have for your job market aspirations?

First, be prepared to succeed, but also be prepared to fail. It’s rather like gambling; either one could so easily happen.
Next, know that you will most likely make a LOT more money if you go the alt-ac route, or if you teach at the high school level. Decide now how important the money is. The reality is, most of us will start at 45,000-55,000, which is a tough pill to swallow after 10+ years of study.

Finally, embrace the digital and the pedagogical. I strongly believe that I was so (modestly) successful on the market due to my digital portfolio. I design and teach classes online, I’ve presented on Web 2.0 applications and digital humanities, I’ve even done some DH projects (as I mentioned before). I’ve focused on teaching during my graduate school years, not on research, and I have experience fully designing and teaching six different courses as instructor of record. If you have yet to choose a graduate school, choose one like CU that allows you to teach literature from the get-go.

If you have any specific questions, you know how to get ahold of me! I would be glad to help in any way I can as you, dear reader, navigate the job market this coming year. Good luck!

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