Life After the Job Market

At this time last year, I was waiting anxiously for a large research university in Texas to call. At this time two years ago, I was waiting anxiously for a comprehensive university in Georgia to call.I felt like a lovesick teenager, constantly checking my phone, my email, the department website, anything that would give me some idea of what was happening. In both cases, the offer had been made, and I was second choice. Long negotiations left me in limbo for months after promising campus visits. I must have known on some level that this was the situation, but hope and despair take turns running your life while on the job market; neither has a basis in logic. One day, I was sure I had a job, the next, I was sure I would never get one. Both schools kept me on the hook until mid to late April before finally letting me down easy. The second time, I knew I was done. I accepted a job offer at a Community College and have been making sense of that choice ever since.

I love quit lit. It got me through those final months when I knew I might keep trying indefinitely for that tenure-track research job without ever getting one. Continue reading


Crushing hopes and dreams since 2013

I’ve been an academic advisor, teacher, and research mentor for three years now. I’ve done ok at figuring out the nuts and bolts of teaching and advising, and I’m doing better with understanding how to be there for students as an empathetic ear. As a teacher and research advisor I’ve gotten more flexible about my expectations given the fact that most of my students are non-traditional. Overall, I think I’ve made progress in learning how to be supportive and encouraging of students’ goals, while also realistic.

Each student comes into college with their unique set of abilities, resources, and drive to succeed.  They also come with a set of expectations – perhaps simply of achieving a degree, or of getting straight As in their chosen major, or of getting into a top graduate program.  Many students at my College are high achieving and could fit in at any top-tier university, and they achieve their goals. Others are relatively apathetic… ‘Cs (or Ds) get degrees’; they aren’t going to do that well, but they’ll pass the classes and get a bachelors, also achieving their goals.  Others realize for themselves that they are not reaching their own expectations in their chosen major, and transfer to another department of their own accord.

The students that I continue to struggle with teaching and advising are those that are not achieving their own college expectations but can’t make the hard decisions that entails. Even worse are those whose college expectations for themselves were mismatched with the expectations of the program or the career they have chosen.  Continue reading

Being a shadow advisor

My department has several wonderful faculty, working in a variety of areas, producing great work and supporting their students. There are also a handful of faculty who are not as great: toxic toward their students, condescending, generally hard to work with. As luck would have it, they are all in the same subfield, which I happen to have an expertise in, too. From my perspective, this has been a rather sad discovery: on paper, this is a great career opportunity. I am at a place with multiple famous researchers, who have work that clearly and obviously interfaces with my own, and who would be great people to talk and work with. However, it became clear early on that they are anything but great to talk to, so I have been keeping one-on-one interactions to a minimum and instead have opted for large group meetings and presentations, so I still get the feedback on my work that I require. I’ve also been cultivating interactions with others on and off campus. I feel like I’ve been fairly successful at that, so it’s not what I want to concentrate on in this post.

I feel particularly bad for these professors’ students. Over the time that I have been here, several of them have reached out to me. Some simply looking for a sympathetic ear, someone who can help them navigate their difficult relationship with their advisor. Others needing a confidence boost, after being repeatedly told by an advisor that they were not good enough. With some, I have also begun a more substantive advising relationship, since I have expertise in their areas of research. And this is where it gets tricky: some of these professors are also isolationists–they have told their students that they shouldn’t talk to anyone other than them. So, I have been meeting with students “off the books,” because I want to help, but this entire situation is clearly unhealthy. Continue reading

From R1 to CC: 3 Things I Wish I Had Known About Community College Careers

As of August 1, I am a gainfully employed Humanities PhD. There were many times in my 3-year job search when I doubted I could ever say those words, so I am thrilled to write my first post from a position of relative career stability. My graduate training, however, had little to do with the job I got, so I wanted to write on what I wish I had known while pursuing the disappearing career of English Literature Professor.

Just a few days ago, I was talking with an Art Historian at a nearby university and he was horrified that I had “given up” on the research career I set out to find. He kindly (and somewhat condescendingly) offered to look over my cover letter and CV. I did not tell him that my job materials have been vetted by top scholars in my field; that my job materials got me interviews at two ivy league schools and campus visits at two state research universities; or that my job materials include four publications in top journals. I merely told him no thank you, I am happy where I have landed. So this post is for that well-meaning professor and for those PhD students who think a Community College job will not honor their substantial talents and ambitions. Continue reading


Like many of you, we at TSW were appalled by the response that Dr. Alice Huang gave to the postdoc in the June 1st Ask Alice Science Careers advice column. Science has since removed the column* and posted an apology. Many people have written excellent responses to the debacle, and in some cases have offered a different perspective on what the postdoc should have done**, so see below for the initial list we have compiled.  Also be sure to check out the #dontaskalice hashtag on twitter, as well as the #CrapScienceCareersAdvice hashtag and it’s more positive twin, #GoodScienceCareersAdvice. Started by @mwilsonsayres, both are very useful- one as satire and one as serious advice. Continue reading