On choosing a job

The Chronicle now says we should “embrace our inner North Dakotan” and I disagree with most of the old, tired platitudes they reiterate in their article.

But then, I am apparently unusual in that I know what I want and what I want, I want for realistic reasons, not for merely conformist reasons or prestige, and in that I not only can move to very different places and understand them well, I also enjoy this and am energized by it. I also do not find that my tastes have changed very much, ever (the article says, as people will, that one thinks one wants one thing, but discovers one wants another; I am more aware of my actual preferences than this).

Was there ever a time I did not want red shoes, an apartment in a large city, and weekend visits to the country? Was there ever a time I did not prefer dry climates and large institutions? Was I ever not research oriented? Did I ever not find snow acceptable? And on and on, I have never changed.

The post I should write, but do not have time to write now, would expand upon my objections to the piece, but would also discuss the subtler ways in which it speaks to truths.

I am just coming from lunch with a new faculty member who was convinced of numerous falsehoods, e.g. that it must have been for lack of money that a certain position was not filled (not true), another position must carry a salary supplement because if not, why would anyone do that job (there is no supplement, but those who do this job have reasonable reasons to do it). I kept saying: you have not fully understood how things work. Some of the dark conclusions you are drawing are false, and they are also causing you unnecessary stress.

So my essay would also be about adjustment and interpretation, but in a very different key.




Filed under Banes, Da Whiteman, Theories, What Is A Scholar?

12 responses to “On choosing a job

  1. Ed Hart

    I look forward to reading your upcoming essay completing or expanding the ideas on pros and cons about searching for a job and The Chronicle’s article.

    Yes, I would agree that I know what I want and the real reasons and, therefore, if what I want is not achievable in North Dakota or New York City, I will apply for jobs in none of those areas.

  2. I looked at that article and, bleh, it’s so stupid. All of these things have been said a hundred times and most of them are not even true.

    Maybe I should blog about it, too.

  3. What a dumb article. It would discourage any sane person from taking up the academic life if they believed a word of it.

  4. Z

    I am glad you see how dumb it is!!! If you look at the comments thread, you see people fawning over it. And those are the people who make me tired in academia.

  5. Z

    And I see now what it is that bugs me about it — it makes the same senior faculty gesture that was made to me when I had good reasons to want a certain multi year job over a tenure track one, nobody would even entertain my reasons for this, and good reasons to reject one book proposal for another, again nobody would even entertain my reasons although they were again good; I really did need more information, information at the next level or next step, and all I really got was a version of something like “shut up and obey” (when the question was more like, how much latitude to I have to negotiate with an editor and how does one do it, etc.).

    This is what I need to work out, in the end, my own internalization of obedience, because on these occasions I was still too cowed, I guess, to press, or keep looking for someone who would actually answer the questions. (That is why it is so good for people that the Internet exists now.)

    • Why I left my last college–shut up and obey. You can’t possibly know anything and how DARE you assume that our college and other colleges have similarites! Our college is a unique little snowflake with special problems just for us. No one else has that. Yeah, that on top of a tenured faculty doing all she could to thwart any progress I made at doing what I was hired to do (write new classes, add to the program so if can offer a more diverse-and accurate–education for students needing to transfer,). ugh. I’m not, never have been good at shut up and obey (especially if it’s not good for the students).

      And who doesn’t want red shoes? I mean really?

      • Z

        Yes. I worked at a college like that. Really not something one wants to get used to.

  6. Z

    I am thinking of these things because I am in beautiful N.O., the scene of many crimes, but where I would have liked to stay, and I am riding waves of nostalgia. Am I a self sabotager or do I just keep refusing to take that final step to autonomy? I think it is the latter. I have the feeling it is what I am doing in life now, at this late date, and I am out of sorts because I am still terrified.

  7. Z

    “It would discourage any sane person from taking up the academic life if they believed a word of it.”

    This is exactly it. The pedantry, fatuousness, conformity, and so on. I’m not saying you can’t have a cool life and do interesting things in lots of places, but I don’t want to have to deal with colleagues this condescending.

    Many of the people in the comments thread speak approvingly of the benefits of being a big fish in a small pond, as though this were a natural desire. This brings me back to one of my earlier, breakthrough perceptions about the kind of academia I don’t like: that of people who aren’t as interested in their subject as they are their authority.

  8. Z

    Here is one of the comments on the original article, not by me, pasted in, that I should refer to in my projected, longer, how to choose a job post:

    With the experience I have had, I think that my advice would be somewhat different. Where you live and work can have a huge influence on your productivity, not to mention your happiness and sanity. I was tricked into accepting a position in what would normally seem like a find (a Florida “State supported” University), only to discover that the position they had hired me for–to start a program– was not being supported, the insitution was falling apart, there was no hope of improvement, and almost everyone there was (and is) looking to get out. SO here is some more concrete advice: 1) make sure you are being dealt with honestly and look carefully at the faces of the people around the campus. Are they happy? 2) Avoid states like Florida, Wisconsin, California that are in the process of destroying their systems of higher education and worse, destroying the lives of all State workers. Having parts of your pension stolen and being told your discipline is worthless is not a matter of adjustment. 3) look at the retention rate of the students, the retention rate of the faculty, and ask the last time anyone received a raise. It can tell you a lot. Finally, notice if people seem to be friends with each other, socialize, enjoy each other’s company and whether there is an academic and intellectual environment that seems to be consistent and on-going.

    Leaving aside those who will undoubedtly acuse me of whining in an environment where most are conftonted with taking contingent jobs or nothing, I still maintain the right to complain about an environment where faculty are not appreciated, intellectual work is not respected or supported, and one has to wonder whether the institution can survive another year of budget cuts. These institutions, to boot, cannot attract decent administrators (who would want to come to an institution as a dean or President knowing what we now now about what these states want to to with higher education?) The article assumes and environment that existed perhaps 15 years ago. As far as I know, North Dakota is one of the few states that is still actually supporting higher education. The real question these days is, is the agita going to be worth it? Will finding something outside of higher education be more constructive? Should one look at public institutions at all, given the choice? What do you do when you have discovered that you were lied to, and being a good team player who didn’t want to hold up a line, gave the job you already had away with the assumption that you were leaving with the intension of staying at the next institution? Things are rough in HE these days– the article just feels dated and lacking a certain realistic understanding of what exists and the direction of HE in the public sector.

  9. Pingback: An evolving post. Toward my post on choosing academic jobs, this is a post on the penchant for scolding in academic culture. | Mictlantecuhtli

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