With many people, academics and others, heading off for their summer holidays I thought the roller coaster analogy is quite apt. Looking for a permanent position in academia is very much like being flung about on a fairground ride, as this recent article shows. While fortunate others such as myself enjoy a relatively stress-free few weeks doing research and gathering teaching materials for next year, those in the job market are on a white-knuckle ride.
Laura Malisheski’s article highlights the problem that if you are desperate for a job, you will take anything that’s offered even though it might not be ideal for you. Who’s going to turn something secure down after years of living near the poverty line as a student and part-time teacher? You could very possibly end up taking a job where the teaching load is too heavy to do any research, or where you have to move hundreds of miles from friends and family. But despair will set in especially if you are looking for work for this coming academic year and, as the saying goes, ‘beggars can’t be choosers’. Malisheski claims that you will spot many of the key warning signs at interview, so make sure you keep alert for signs of internal tension within the department for example.
Realistically though, people rarely turn down job offers. Last week a friend of mine whose first book has just been published went for a job in a city where he didn’t want to live. He really didn’t want to relocate there, but would have done so in order to get a secure position and was rather disappointed to find that he hadn’t got the job. However, this coming week he has an interview in a much more desirable location, with other more encouraging opportunities in the pipeline. More concerning is when there seem to be no jobs at all coming up in your field, or you are applying for hundreds of positions and not getting any interviews at all.
Malisheski argues that it could take several years to find your feet at an institution that you love. Not everyone wants to stay in their first permanent job anyway, having all sorts of reasons for moving. So if you can bear another few years of instability it’s worth taking a job that may not be perfect in order to simply get on that career ladder. And to all those people looking for work for September…good luck!