The Academic Job Market, Your Favorite Graduate Student, and You

Certainly, a number of bizarre, difficult, and overwhelming events have transpired over the course of 2020. I don’t even include the pandemic, because I would consider a pandemic more than bizarre, difficult, and overwhelming – the pandemic is its own special category. No, I’m thinking more along the lines of having to switch to online learning/teaching at the last minute, the movement of academic conferences to a remote format, and so much more – and these are just academic events! We are seeing the confluence of a number of structural failures appear within the same socially constructed unit of time. On top of this, many of the structures that weren’t considered to be failing, but let’s say, not top shelf in their operation, are still creakily moving forward. One of these?

The academic job market. 

Now, I need a whole other post on what’s wrong with the academic job market (thankfully, many others have already done that work for me, and I encourage you to read about them) to touch that issue. So, I’m going to narrow that lens for you, and for myself, and perhaps this dissertation I’m supposed to be writing. The academic job market intersects with any of your favorite graduate students as they enter the extremely stressful period of dissertation writing, which usually suggests they are “close” to finishing their degree. Now, you might be like, uh, why are they applying to jobs before they are finished? Well, that’s a great question!

Academic job postings aren’t filled quickly, and the process literally takes months to complete. Some positions will be shared, an entire process will begin, and then be pushed off to a future year because none of the candidates were the “right fit.

Alas, what’s the right fit? Unfortunately, overwhelmingly it’s white, able-bodied, cisgendered men.

This isn’t always the case, but it does happen. Post-doctoral positions are often filled in a similar fashion, and thus involve a number of application documents, and interviews. Given this, you will commonly see job and post-doctoral postings calling for the following school year. An example:

“Posted Fall 2020: The University of Knowledge and Skills Department of Cool Methods seeks applicants for a tenure-track assistant professor for the Fall 2021 semester. Applicants with research foci in Super Cool Methods are highly recommended to apply. Applicants who are ABD will be considered. The University of Knowledge and Skills is nestled in the heart of a quaint small town in a state that will definitely require that you move across the country.”

Essentially, PhD students seeking full-time employment status as soon as they complete their dissertation (sometimes necessary due to a lack of funding) need to enter the job market at the same time as their last “year” of writing. As you might imagine, this makes everything even more stressful, and for a variety of reasons! Now, here’s you, a member of a graduate student’s circle, eager to be helpful and supportive. The graduate student tells you and the world they are “on the job market” and are looking for positions. Perfect! If you come across a listing, you can be helpful and share it with them!

Your support is appreciated. Your eagerness to assist is understood. But having been on both the receiving and providing sides of this action, I am recommending some steps to take before sending that job announcement:

Do's and Don't's for Grad School
Some handy do’s and don’t’s to keep on hand.

Now, if you’ve done any of these and you’re cringing, I will say, if done in earnest, it’s okay. We know! Not only do we know, WE’VE DONE IT TO OUR FRIENDS because, well, everyone wants their friends to get jobs and be happy and financially secure and successful. Should we be sending them academic job postings if that’s what we want? Well. That’s a different blog post entirely.

Thanks for your support – we’ll get through this!

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