An Idea

I have wondered about all these posts put up by people who did not get or have not yet gotten tenure track jobs and are disappointed because they were told they surely would. We, of course, were told we surely wouldn’t and I have wondered who is now telling people they surely will.

It occurs to me that it may be done so as to form students who actually can be professors — for it is my crowd, now a tenured crowd, who were told we were likely to end up as adjuncts if anything. We were valuable as teachers and as contributions to statistics — number of degrees awarded — but we would not be valuable once finished, we were told. We were mere by-products of this research machine, wherein certain ivy-crowned boy-stars shone brightly.

This assessment of our likely futures was actually not realistic, because many did in fact get jobs. It also did not set us up to do well, to take our work seriously, to think of ourselves as professionals. So perhaps there is a worthwhile, if slightly misguided reason to lead people to believe that yes they will. What do you think of my hypothesis?


6 thoughts on “An Idea

  1. At my grad school, we all acted like the job market did not exist. Mentioning your CV, trying to build a CV through publications and conferences was considered bad manners. I wouldn’t say that anybody promised us we’d get jobs. The issue was simply not mentioned in any form or manner. I think that this approach is even worse than the two you mention because it creates an unrealistic bubble away from anything that the real world might offer.

    1. I think that was how my graduate institution (UC Berkeley, a public Ivy that shares a lot of characteristics with Harvard-Yale although I did not realize it at the time) had been earlier on, and that they got criticized for it, so they were now telling us in a rather hamfisted way that there was no future.

  2. I think they weren’t told “You will get a tenure-track job.” I think they were told, “If you do X, Y, and Z things, and do them well, you will get a tenure-track job,” and were permitted to draw the conclusion from this that academia is some kind of meritocracy where excellent work is rewarded.

    1. And I’d comment on that post, if Blogger weren’t broken. But what I’d say to this student who doesn’t have an overall vision for his career but has a five year vision to finish the dissertation and get a tenure track job is: that many such jobs may actually be antithetical to whatever his ultimate desires are.

      I should really write a post responding to that one — when I have time –.

      Elements are that by just planning to get a tenure track job you leave yourself open to the winds of fate. You have to make more detailed decisions about what your goals are and what you need to sustain you in the meantime. You can’t let yourself get sucked into “a tenure track job” and then “tenure,” which is what happens if you don’t watch out.

      Very importantly, you can’t internalize the idea that if you do everything right, things will work out. And you have to keep on thinking about what you want for your life, even if that isn’t orthodox (orthodox being academia at all costs, in any tenured condition).

  3. I think I was always told that it was a crap shoot. My professors made the point that there was the possibility of a job if I was willing to go anywhere (which I don’t think I am). I’m up for trying to get the job, but I was always realistic about why I was in graduate school and I’m not willing to make the job be the “end all be all” of my life.

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