Mascot for #DevilDiss

Mascot for #DevilDiss
Mascot for #DevilDiss

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Job Market as ABD

As I've written Friday is the next big hurdle in the #DevilDiss journey, meeting with my director to discuss the notes from first half, update on progress for second half which I'm on track to send to them 1 August, and most importantly, get the godfather blessing to go on the job market.
But a couple of things happened the last couple of days that I thought I'd comment on.
Yesterday I had a conversation with a professor about the job market and today I revised my CV and cover letter which I had good templates from last fall, but consulted my department's webpage where I found four and five year old resources.

Both of these drove home a single point, that I have to explain what my job market search will look like, because the job market NOW is not the job market of five, six, ten, fifteen years ago.

The professor asked me why I'd go on the market ABD. That I should put it off. That I should apply for post-docs. That I should take my time.
And none of these things are true.
  • Putting finishing off means another $15,000 in student loan debt, and no improvement in my situation.
  • Every post-doc I've looked at required a PhD in hand before you can apply. Most have deadlines of October. So what am I supposed to do to pay bills and survive between May and October when I am eligible to apply or more accurate, between May and May when the position starts?
  • Why would I take my time? If there's nothing wrong with my drafts, what is the benefit of dragging this our longer than it needs to be?
I understand that I will be competing against people who have PhDs in hand, and are "safe" bets. But I think my publication record and time to degree proves that I am a safe bet as an ABD.

I've also learned that there are degrees of ABD.
There are ABDs who go on the market with barely a chapter finished (which baffles me). Some who are halfway finished (likewise baffling), and some like me, who will have a complete draft and be through the first round of revisions by the time I turn in applications in October.
I think that makes a difference too.
But I do understand that there may be some universities that are hesitant about hiring an ABD. I've done everything I can to alleviate those concerns, including backtracking my entire #DevilDiss writing timeline around having a defense date by the time I interview at MLA, and aiming to defend before campus visits roll around.

The department's resources also say not to go on the market ABD. But my questions are similar to those about the post-doc. What exactly am I supposed to do in the year between graduating and the job market? How are bills supposed to get paid?

What these conversations/resources seem to have in common is a lack of acknowledgement of what it means to be in this situation and not have an economic safety net. Which also points to larger issues in higher ed that often fail to recognize the disparity between people who grow up poor, with no economic surety and not knowing the secret handshake to higher ed, and people who attend prep schools and universities that have pedigrees.

These issues and concerns though make me think of others things.
  • How much will the differences between MY job market and the job market of 6+ years ago when my professors were on affect my chances? 
  • Will I get advice that's not relevant in this new cutthroat market? 
  • Will there be tension when I follow my gut (based on the up-to-date information I've gotten from Twitter, and people who were really recently on the market) instead of the advice of profs?
  • How do I explain the impact of my blogging and Twitter profile to a committee that does neither, and furthermore doesn't grasp how those worlds work?

Don't get me wrong, I respect and trust my committee and director. And their contacts will help. But the nearest any of them to job market is seven (?) years. That's forever in job market years.

I think the best I can do is make sure I continue to share these issues and concerns with my director, and ultimately it comes down to me. I have to listen to the advice, take the notes, but ultimately go with what I can live with. What I think is best.

But don't worry- I'm still pretty sure I'm NOT the one getting out of this mess...but there's always hope!


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