Thursday, May 05, 2005
The Meat Market
Jennifer's post on the teaching market was excellent. I can certainly second the recommendation that one consider applying again if an initial foray is unsuccessful. That was my fate, and I ended up doing fine. A lot can change in a year -- not only on your C.V., but also in terms of teaching needs in your field and state university budgets. It is also good advice that one be flexible about where one ends up, although that perhaps raises the earlier questions mooted on this blog (or blawg, or...whatever) about gender issues.
A couple of other remarks, culminating in an utterly semi-earnest proposal. First, you may notice at the annual AALS hiring "meat market" that teaching candidates are shy and lacking in self-confidence...not. (A phrase which should properly carbon-date me circa 1991.) I found that many of the folks striding purposefully around the trusty old Marriott Wardman Park, or chatting in elevators or huddled around the Starbucks outlet, "suffered" from a surfeit of confidence and glibness. I confess I found it a bit intimidating; I'm a light-under-the-bushel guy. Yet, having succeeded at the meat market, you will return to DC for the new law teachers' conference and note that most of those people are not in the room. So take heart.
On the other hand, I think the meat market conference, with its brief interview slots -- and seemingly it is always the interview preceding yours, while you wait outside the room, that runs 10 minutes late and is punctuated with uproarious laughter and applause -- does place a certain premium on glibness, which is unfortunate. I have heard a few times from friends on faculty elsewhere, often at good schools, who invited someone back on the strength of an interview only to find the job-talk a dud, and wonder why they were so keen on the candidate in the first place. This is not said with any bitterness, I think, since I succeeded at the process (perhaps I'm more glib than I thought!) and love my institution. But glibness is an unfortunate aspect of the process, and faculty hiring committee members ought to be on their guard. I'm not alone in this view; Martha Nussbaum thinks so too (see the Spring 1998 issue), so I must be right! A choice snippet from Nussbaum:
Thus a certain type of individual, who combines obsequiousness with glibness and agressiveness, is disproportionately (and disgustingly) in evidence in the academic hiring process of the legal academy.
Present company excepted, to be sure.
go to the cocktail party at the meat market. I know of at least one person who landed his job (and ultimately moved up the law school chain on the strength of his writing) there, with a school that had not even interviewed him. I did not have that experience, but did find it helpful in talking further with an instititution I'd interviewed with. If you're like me, though, you'll find it a difficult experience.
Herewith some instructions modeled on my own approach. 1: Enter cocktail party. 2: Observe crowd. 3: Begin sweating. 4: Obtain drink. 5: Continue sweating. 6: Circulate through room. If legs still working, repeat. 7: Flee. Administer cheesy televised movies and ice cream as needed.
Third, let me advance, not quite all seriously, a suggestion to ease the difficulty of the cocktail party and break the ice. At the 2003 conference, there was a fire alarm at around midnight on Saturday night. This brought a gathering of profs and candidates out onto the hotel grounds, with their social guards (and, more disturbingly, their pants) down to wait for the all-clear. This is an excellent equalizer and a great time for job discussions ("hire me and your Dean need never know about the Mickey Mouse slippers") or general scholarly camaraderie ("Professor Tribe, I know it's an awkward time to bring it up, what with you in your jammies and all, but what up with volume 2 of the third edition?").
In fact, I chatted with someone who blogs on this very site, and let me just say -- splendid robe. May I suggest that at future conferences, the AALS formalize this happy accident with an annual "accidental" fire alarm. (The hotel might get suspicious on after a while, but we can keep a secret, right?) We could distribute drink tickets, or make s'mores. Really, when you and the hiring committee are both in skivvies, the pressure's kind of off.
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Love the post. Doubtful it will land anyone a job, but love the post!
Posted by: amosanon1 | May 5, 2005 7:58:26 AM