Tuesday, April 19, 2011

More on adjuncting and "inside candidates"

Wow. It's been so long since I posted here that I'd almost forgotten I had a blog.

But a friend asked me for my opinions on this post, and when I sent an email response, encouraged me to post the response here.

I've already discussed my experience of adjunct teaching here (just about a year ago!). Short version: I spent six years in contingent faculty positions, exactly the same amount of time I spent in graduate school. I've now spent not quite two years on the tenure track.

So one thing I noticed about the responses to Tenured Radical's post was that a lot of people reacted very strongly to the advice about moving. She did say that you should move for a full-time position, and I'd tend to agree. I moved hundreds of miles for my first, one-year visiting appointment, and then hundreds of miles again when that job ended. And you know what? It wasn't that bad. Moving itself was a hassle, but I experienced a different part of the country, I made some new friends, and I got some valuable professional experience. For me, it was also very useful to get out of Grad School City, where I'd gotten fed up with the frustrations of grad school and had gotten into kind of a social rut. I kept in touch with friends through email and phone calls, as I do now.

However, I'd never advise anyone to uproot themselves for a part-time, poorly-paid, "teach one or two courses a semester" kind of job.

The part of the advice I really want to agree with is the part about not assuming that you will be ideally positioned when a tenure-track line opens up in that department. Indeed, don't put much faith in senior colleagues who tell you that, and try not to convince yourself of it, either. It's easy to do. When I got that first visiting job, I knew that they planned to make a t-t hire in my area the next year. I tried so hard to show that I fit in; I tried to act as if I were on a year-long interview process. I worked my tail off teaching my own classes for the first time, going to conferences, and meeting with students. And then they hired somebody else.

So I packed my bags and moved back across the country to the next job, and a few years later I was in the same position, having a temporary job at a department that was hiring in my area. I had good teaching evaluations; I wasn't a research star, but I had some publications; and once again they hired someone else.

I looked in on the job wiki a couple of times at the height of hiring season, and I still see job candidates convinced that the person on the one- or two-year hire has the inside track. In my experience, that's really, really not the case. Things have worked out okay for me in the end; I think the job I have is a better fit for me than either of the ones I didn't get, but it was really difficult for a while there.

1 comment:

Historiann said...

This is a brilliant response, Clio's D, to TR's post, and I think it's great that you use your specific experience as an illustration.

I also completely agree with you about the so-called "inside candidate advantage," which in my observation has never turned out to be true. I actually think that the so-called "inside candidate" has to clear a much higher bar with the standing faculty. After all--if one were so great, why was one available in May to move across the country to teach courses for a year instead of moving into a TT job? (No one says this, but it's a part of the prejudice that people in one-year gigs face.)

Congratulations again, and I marvel at your persistence and determination!