Monday, August 11, 2008

No Soliciting?

Just something I'm curious about....Do people solicit academic employment? By solicit, I mean the following scenario: no position is advertised (or necessarily open), yet a job candidate forwards a dossier to a school in the hopes that he/she might be considered "available" if something should come up.

If this sort of thing happens, do you think people have any success at this? Does it depend on the kind of school being solicited? For example, what about a small school in Town that Attracts Nobody (located in State Where Many Don't Want to Live), which would consider a candidate from a strong R1 school a "good hire"?

Does this kind of thing happen only in my tiny imagination? I'm sure it does...


mom said...

No, no soliciting. It won't work and actually runs the risk of making you seem desparate (=kiss of death).

The academic job market is stupid insanity...

Sorry Academama. You'll find a good position, keep plugging away.

Jennie said...

Yes, it happens, I know people who have done this. But not for a tenure-track position. The appointments were temporary, or indefinitely renewable at the lecturer level. At least at my school, a permanent faculty member cannot be hired without publicly advertising and searching.

Tenured Radical said...

People do -- as chair I receive letters and vitae al the time from people moving to the area who are looking for adjunct work -- can't recall if I have ever hired one.

But when I was first looking for adjunct work I solicited and it succeeded. Really. I wrote Baruch College, in Manhattan, and the next thing I knew the chair of the department called & hired me for four courses, two sections of US, 1865-present, taught back to back, each semester.

That's how I learned to lecture: tried it once -- if it didn't work, I had 15 minutes to fix it and do it again.

Anonymous said...

Just for adjunct work, and if you adjunct for a school (or are a Visiting Assistant Professor), it is generally the kiss of death for a tenure line at that particular institution. Not fair, totally bizarre, but familiarity does seem to breed contempt when it comes to regular, tenure-track employment. I'm in the job I have now because they chose not to interview the guy in my field (with many more pubs and experience teaching here for two years). He went on to good things, but was pissed off they didn't even interview him for this job. It was awkward working with him for the remaining year he stayed with us because I now had "his" job -- and choicer class assignments. Academics are rarely "temp to perm", as people are in the business world.

I did a mass mailing for adjunct work the year I defended and had dozens of calls for work --literally, I lost track at about 35 schools, and I ended up with a very nice gig for that year. I was living in NJ, so a huge adjunct market but virtually no local tenure lines. Several of the places had considered me for a tenure line the previous year and some remembered me from that earlier search -- they even had useful suggestions, and commented about how I'd been a good candidate but lacked enough post-grad school teaching experience, etc. It was helpful. I felt much more encouraged about my second run at the market, post-Ph.D., when I had a year of adjuncting under my belt at a very good school. Between daycare and the commute I made NO MONEY at that job, but if I hadn't taken it I doubt I'd have had the luck I did have the following year on the market. A year of teaching outside your "home" institution is a very, very good thing.

VAP positions are the best thing, if you can swing it, but those are hard to come by unless you are geographically unrooted and can pick up and go for a year. They rarely if ever lead to a tenure line, but they are more prestigious than adjuncting. Good C.V. filler, if you can't find a post-doc that works for you. Geography is always the killer thing here; there's work in most places, but you have to be willing to move to get it, and the work is lousy (little pay, few or no benefits).

My inlaws can't get it in their heads why I don't just send my c.v. to the English Dept. at the U of Michigan, so we could move to Ann Arbor and be near them. It boggles their minds to think that it just doesn't work this way!

Thank God... Michigan is great, but the inlaws, ugh... I'm happy to be a few states away, to be honest.

Good luck with the search! Adjuncting really isn't a bad thing so long as you are comfortable with the limits you put on it. Do it for a year or two if it works for your family, but be willing to reconsider if it doesn't. I gave the market my One Last Shot and found a tenure line, but I knew that I'd be looking for a non academic job that spring if nothing had come through for me that year. You can easily slide into adjunct hell and perpetually believe that Next Year will be THE Year. The longer you adjunct, the less desirable you will be on the market. I really do think there's a 2-3 year window after you defend, and if you are pushing that much longer, you are perceived as "stale" and everyone assumes there must be something substandard about you if you couldn't find a tenure job faster than that. Untrue, unfair, stupid, but I've seen it happen. This is my experience in English, anyway; it is likely different in other disciplines.

This is why it is good to put off defending until you are in a good place to enter the market. Most people do not find work before they defend (some do, but most don't), and so there's at least a year post-diss when you need quasi-professional employment. Try to keep the pubs rolling along during this year, which is really tough when you are adjuncting. You want a few things in print and a few things under consideration when you hit the market -- not too much, not too little. It really is a frustrating game!

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