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Having had other things on what I'm coming to think of as my summer plate of misery, I haven't had much time to troll the blogspace. Too bad, because I'm coming in on the tail end of a conversation taking place over at NKotH and Reassigned Time, and I wouldn't have even noticed had it not been for a stop over at Debbie's. Bad blog-reader!

Interesting to me, mostly because (as I've mentioned here before), I'll be on the market once more this fall, and I had the opportunity during my Iowa swing in June to talk about it with family and friends. I'm in a different situation, though, because I'll no longer be applying to junior positions, which leaves me much more at the whim of the market than I was when I left my first position to come to Syracuse. Advanced positions that are neither (a) endowed chairs, nor (b) administrative ladder-rungs, are few and far between, and that's what I'll be looking for. I've also got some personal preferences that will narrow my options even further, most likely.

But I was also conscious, as I was poring over comments, of the fact that I was one of those job-changelings--I left a position after 4 years in order to take my current position. To be fair, though, 1 of those years was a temporary, fill-in gig, after which I was hired (after a full search) to stay in the position. I was similarly conscious of how quickly conversations like these can go south, in part because any time you're mixing generations and disciplines, you're going to have a lot of people speaking from a very limited set of experiences and generalizing those to the "job search," which is common across all disciplines only in the most general of senses.

Which is not to insult anyone participating there. And I'm not going to pontificate as though my generalizations are somehow more accurate than anyone else's. What I will say, though, is that our institutions function in such a way as to encourage us--all of us--to test the market as frequently as is emotionally possible, and none of us should apologize for doing so. The starting salary for assistant professors, at every institution I've been at, has risen faster than the actual salaries. That's the phenomenon known as compression, and what it means is that there are economic incentives to be the new kid as often as possible. I've been on search committees where we hired new assistant professors at a higher salary than I myself was making. Not exactly a morale booster, that.

If for no other reason than that, no one should apologize for going on the market. And that's because "going on the market" means only one thing: if everything goes as planned, then all the applicant will have by springtime are options. Deciding to leave an institution, to me, is a different decision altogether, and involves issues like loyalty, commitment, contentment, etc. And if NK and DC had announced their intentions to leave their home institutions, come hell or high water, then some of the response they got might have been more warranted in my eyes. But it's a mistake to assume that people who are going on the market are necessarily leaving. If I were to choose to leave Syracuse, that would be a long, complicated, difficult decision. Choosing to put myself in a position to have to make that decision, by applying for other positions? That's just smart.

The other point worth raising is that the job search also requires a great of emotional labor, energy, time, and cash. There are people I know who would rather stay in an average situation than go through all the trouble of the job search, and that should say something. Hours and hours of preparing materials, investing attention and hope, the price of attending an annual convention and/or fronting the costs for campus visits, new clothes, submitting one's self to the evaluative gaze of strangers--the job search is often a demoralizing process, without any real guarantee of success. No one deserves anything other than support when engaging in that process.

Yeah, that's all.


I think you're right on the mark here: the system does encourage people to be on the market quite a bit, certainly as a not yet tenured faculty person, and I would agree money has a lot to do with it. Your salary for the rest of your time at an institution is based on what you come in at, so if you can get a better deal elsewhere, yeah, it's worth looking.

And looking is also what can get you something you want where you are at: money, potentially, but also something else. Which is what happened to my wife and I, and which is also why we're probably not going anywhere for a long time.

In my department, I know that the chair has encouraged some faculty to apply for positions so that they could get an offer, and so that he could then have a bargaining chip with the administration to get that person a raise.

The encouragement to apply was not so that the person would leave, but for the reason you note: to better one's options.

Well said, C. And Jeff's comment is really interesting, because I have never quite heard it put so directly. I mean, that's obviously the way it works, but for a head/chair to encourage so explicitly, dang.

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