NCA on the Job Market

I’ll have to say I cringe every time I use that word “market” when referring to a job search in academia. So, I’ll avoid any further use of it here. I will have to say, though, that in some ways, last weekend brought back not-so-fond memories of my days in corporate America. The entire weekend for a PhD student searching for a faculty position at NCA feels in some ways like one big meet-and-greet, “please-hire-me” extravaganza of the most exhausting kind. You hope that you will have preliminary interviews set up with some of the schools to which you have applied. Then there is the job fair, where many schools willingly sit there waiting for you to appear, ready and willing to talk about yourself. If not, though, you spend the rest of the weekend trying to get face time with people from those schools to “sell” yourself (oops, caught myself again using the commodification metaphor) and your expertise to them. Going to parties, therefore, is not near as much fun as it usually is, because you have to be “on” the entire time, ready to talk when someone appears. In fact, you really have to be “on” no matter where you are, since you could run into anybody at any given time. And it’s pretty tough to be “on” when your feet hurt and you are exhausted and hungry from not having had a decent meal in two days.

Sounds terrible, doesn’t it? To be truthful, it really wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t that bad partly because we have very dedicated faculty members who are willing to bend over backwards to help us meet people, going out of their way to introduce you to those they know, even going to parties with you, talking you up to everyone they know. It isn’t like that everywhere folks – just ask students from other programs. For that reason, I made some very key contacts that I really needed to make over the weekend. I also scored an interview on Saturday. So, all-in-all, I had a good run for what was referred to as “what will be your hardest NCA ever.” The other reason it wasn’t that bad is because I got to meet some really great people, and have some really engaging intellectual discussions about my work and theirs. This is what it’s really about, whether you get the job or not. These are people who are indeed interested in your work, and could very well be people you will want to collaborate with on future projects. In addition, talking to all those folks really made me think more deeply about who I am as a scholar and what I want to do. I can’t express how important it is to keep that in mind.

The best advice I can give to my CRDM brethren who will be doing this at future NCAs is some advice my amazing advisor gave me – be true to yourself and your scholarly identity, remember that you are smart and talented or you wouldn’t even be there, and lastly, keep it all in perspective. Making contacts at NCA is important, but it is likely not going to make or break your chances of landing a job. In short, take it seriously, but not too seriously. I’ll end off with this quote from my man Aristotle – “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” That pretty much says it all.

Anna Turnage, 2010

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