the job search: keep on truckin’

March 16, 2011 at 10:46 am Leave a comment

Over half a decade ago now, I decided not to pursue a Ph.D. in English for many reasons. One of them was the terrible specter of the job market upon completion of my degree. Ironically, I then chose to go to library school after the recession started–a career path without much better job prospects.

I’m still glad I chose not to go down the path of a Ph.D. in the humanities–there is a whole subgenre of blogs devoted to persuading potential humanities professors not to get a Ph.D. (or what to do with your degree once you’ve graduated and can’t find a tenure-track job) and the topic comes up regularly in the Chronicle of Higher Ed.

One such article, by the pseudonymous author Sally Rocket, was published online yesterday and parts of it struck me as being extremely relevant to library science grads–you could literally replace “Ph.D.’s in the humanities” with “new librarians” and it describes perfectly what so many of us are experiencing:

“Much ire has been directed lately at those “mad as hell” Ph.D.’s in the humanities who naively entered into a tanking job market and seem to feel entitled to tenure-track employment. What rarely gets mentioned, however, is the fact that almost no job candidate actually expects that a Ph.D. will, in and of itself, result in a tenure-track position.

We are told, however, that there are certain things we can do that will make us marketable. We’re given to believe that if we start presenting papers at conferences and meeting the right people, we’ll be well-positioned; that if we publish, we’ll be strong candidates; that if we publish in really excellent venues, we’ll rise to the top of the applicant pool; that external grants and awards will distinguish us; that lots of teaching experience at different institutions and service to our profession will make us the complete package.

And we’re given to believe that we will be unstoppable forces on the market if we can do all of that and learn how to charm search committees.

Then, when a job candidate has done all of those things and doesn’t get an interview, never mind a job, there may be some cause for being mad as hell. In my experience, most job candidates aren’t mad. They’re spent. And they’re sad. And they’re scared.”

The author’s story ends happily; after three years on the job market (during which she was employed as a post-doc), she has finally secured a tenure-track position as a humanities professor. How? By continually striving to make herself a better applicant–through “writ[ing] another article, get[ting] another fellowship, develop[ing] another course, join[ing] a committee, go[ing] to a conference, and return[ing] to my job materials with a frank assessment”–(and not giving up in the face of repeated rejections).

Lesson: Keep on truckin’. I know I’m not the only 2011 Emerging Leader to still be on the market. Participating in this program–and doing all the other stuff our exceptionally awesome, super-involved cohort is doing–gets us one step closer to the holy grail of full-time professional employment.

Aside: I would love to find out whether other post-recession ELs feel their participation in the program helped them find employment…

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Entry filed under: emerging leaders, jobs, newlibrarians.

Have you served on an entry-level librarian hiring committee lately? notes on “Influence When You Don’t Have Power or Authority” webinar

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