Hey, let's talk it up in here. The best part of the wiki is the discussion . . . or the venting, whatever you want to call it.

Has anyone else noticed how many jobs went straight to on-campus, or have bypassed AHA interviews in some other way, and quite a few have made offers already here in early-to-mid Dec.? What are we to make of this trend? (12/10) Is it really a trend? I figured the early straight to campus fall hiring and bypassing of AHA tended to be typical of particular type of schools. It may be that the some of the phone interview movement may be prompted by the economy, large applicant pools, etc. (12/11)

I personally think this sped-up market is partly due to the economy, because my department normally does AHA interviews, but they are skipping right to campus interviews for their non-U.S. opening. Candidates for that position will be coming on campus at the very start of the spring semester. (12/17)

Is there any interest in a wiki-count?

  • Early America: 1
  • US-19th: 2
  • US-20th: 3

-- Ok. Too early in the season to require any venting - at least over the job market. How about interview prep? In a phone interview for a SLAC last year (first year on the market, and the only SLAC position I applied for) I was asked some questions which, in retrospect, I should have seen coming.

Q) What experience do you have with SLACs? A) Zero (Doh!)- I'm a product of the state universities, baby. But I DO have a brother who attended a wonderful SLAC for a semester before failing out and transferring to State U!

Q) Given your lack of SLAC experience (I feel I'm already at a disadvantage), what makes you think you'd be a good fit at a SLAC, let alone our SLAC? A) Well, I enjoy working with students (true story). That, and I stayed in a Holiday Inn Express last night . . .

But seriously, I'm having difficulty formulating a response that doesn't sound lame-ass and canned. Anecdotes? Advice? Scorn??


Oh, honey, you don't need to ask for my scorn, that I give out freely and unprompted. But let's try something a bit more useful. One way to answer "what makes you think you'd be a good fit at X" -- even if you have no prior experience of X -- is to demonstrate that you are aware of what X wants or what makes it tick. You could provide an answer that is built not on your non-existent experience at a SLAC (there's basically no way to make that sound good) but rather on what you know about the demands of teaching at a SLAC. So, you could say that the even balance between teaching, research and service at a SLAC appeals to you because it mixes human interaction, organizational skills, and the more cerebral challenges of the archives in a refreshingly varied order. Or, you could talk about how having regular classroom duties presses you into new research fields; how research appears dull without the ability to share the process and results with students, and the like. So, you're not talking so much about your limited experience, but instead theorizing about work conditions in a SLAC, in a way that should (theoretically) be pleasing to your interlocutors.

The other thing is, always be specific. Have a good anecdote about a pleasing student interaction in which you magically discovered your enjoyment of working with students (true story). Demonstrate how enjoying teaching has shaped your academic career (hint: publish articles about teaching, or say that you are working on that). If the SLAC has a mission statement glorifying the civic benefits of an educated citizenry, say that's a mission that resonates with you. Talk about, even if you have to totally make it up, the alienation you felt in the back row of your 700-student introductory lecture survey courses at State U., and how you scrabbled around in the dirt, raised your clenched hands to the heavens, and declared, "As Gawd is my witness, I'll never teach at at state institution again!"

Of course, this was an easy question for me to answer back in my interviewing days. I was a product of a SLAC, had repeated experiences adjuncting at SLACs, emphasized teaching and pedagogy in my doctoral program and publications, and always intended at teaching at such a place. Due to the ironic workings of the world, of course, I'm not at a SLAC at the moment. But, damn, I interviewed well at them.

And, really, you should have seen that question coming.


What can a female candidate do when a SC asks if you have kids or are considering having kids? I know these questions are on the no-no list, but it seems like this happens a lot according to the anecdotal evidence. Are you basically killing your chances to show up to AHA pregnant? 9/26

I showed up to the AHA pregnant a couple of years ago and still got two on-campus interviews. I showed up to these interviews even more visibly pregnant and still got a job offer. I have a friend who had to ask for breaks to pump during an on-campus interview (she had a month-old baby at the time), and she still got the job. So it's not an insurmountable challenge. And, I think, any hiring committee who would discriminate against a pregnant woman might make for horrendous colleagues down the road for an exhausted and frazzled new mom. (9/27)

Can someone explain to me what the "job center" at the AHA is? I'm a little unsure about it based on the description on the meeting's website. Is it only for prearranged interviews (I thought those were conducted in hotel suites)? A place for departments to interview adjuncts on an ad-hoc basis for the upcoming year? And, a related question, when or where adjunct positions are advertised? Desperation thy name is PhD in history. (10/11)

---Some prearranged interviews take place in hotel suites, while others are done at the job center. The job center is basically a large conference hall or ball room in the hotel. Each school has a small table where you are interviewed. The tables are separated by curtains, so there's some privacy (although I've heard people complain that you can overhear the interviews of others; this has never happened to me). There is a waiting area outside of the main interview area where you check in beforehand. It can be very nerve wracking since you're sitting with a lot of anxious people. One of the people from your school will come out to the waiting area and call your name when it's your turn (which is a relief because you leave all those anxious people behind). Some schools collect c.v.s and arrange interviews at the conference, but the two times I've been there only a few schools have done this. In my opinion, it is not worth it to go to the AHA to look for a job unless you already have an interview lined up. All in all, the AHA is not as scary as some people will try to tell you it is. As for adjunct positions, in my experience these are generally not advertised publicly, much less interviewed for at the AHA. You should contact the chairs of the departments you could teach for directly to see if they have any openings. (10/17)

slim pickens[edit source]

How sad is this wiki?

it's not the wiki that's pretty damn sad. it's the invisible hand of the market, giving me the finger. 9/14 - invisible my ass - maybe some of these places should have invested more wisely, spent less on construction, sports, etc. etc.

what is the deal with all of the tenured or chair or endowed chair positions? It pisses me off every time I see a job for a person who already has a job, while those of us trying to get our foot in the door are waiting around. 9/26

Endowed chairs come from earmarked funds -- from a specific donor or fund set up for a specific topic. In other words, the money doesn't have to come from some decimated general fund that all departments are competing for in this dire economic climate. 10/29

I don't think the initial comment referencing these senior posts was meant to suggest that they directly divert funds that might otherwise go for assistant-level positions. It seemed more like a "Why are the rich getting richer?" lament (which I second). (11/1) Donors are usually interested in raising the profile of a specific department by bringing in a big name or making possible a field that the state won't pay for, in the case of a public university.

OP here. My comment was intended to be a jeremiad for the days that supposedly existed when people who don't have distinguished careers could get a job. Second poster, you got it. I'm going to go raise my hands toward the sky and pray for rain. (11/6)

Dates[edit source]

It's very useful is everyone dates their comments. It really helps to know when things are posted. It is also useful, for the sake of quickly keyword-searching a page, to date things in the same way and to write single-digit dates with a zero. In other words, it makes keyword-searching much easier if a comment is not only dated, but dated, say, 10/02 as opposed to 10/2. When a person searches "10/2" he or she will hit every date that begins with a 2, as in 10/21, 10/22, etc. when they are, in fact, seeking a comment posted on October second. Likewise, when dealing with months such as January and February, it is helpful to write the date as 01/10 or 02/10, as this avoids picking up 11/10 and 12/10 in one's keyword search of the page.


Look, I just don't think you're going to get a lot of argument about the importance of dates from a page of historians.

Now, getting historians all to agree on the same method of dating, that's a different matter. 9/14

-- Perhaps I will become the date-keeper. Other wiki sites insist that the dates be uniform. It's much easier that way. 9/17

Anticipating this Year's Market[edit source]

Is it just me or do there appear to be very few jobs opening up this year? This is my first year on the market, and I'm a little unsure when most jobs get posted. Does anyone have any insight?

--It ain't just you. It's late. (09/14)

--It's wretchedly bad so far, especially in 20th century U.S. Far fewer postings than in the past couple of years. (9/14)

--Really, really bad. This year the number of jobs I can legitimately apply for is lower than the number of interviews I've gotten in previous years-for all the good it did me.

--The pace of posting reminds me of the off-peak periods 2-3 years ago -- really just a trickle. I do think, though, that there will continue to be some interesting/viable postings through the fall and even past AHA in January. (Just not very many of them.) -- (9/16)

--This year is a complete disaster, especially for 20th-century U.S. There are far fewer positions advertised than in any of the past five years. (9/19)

-- The AHA listings seem completely useless this year -- incomplete and not very up-to-date. Chronicle, too. H-Net is far and away the most thorough. (9/26)--Here, here! H-Net was my go-to source (11/19)

-- Historian of Byzantine/Medieval Art? What are these departments doing? (9/26)

--this is why I quit academe this year. Six years as a VAP (great jobs Tier I research and little ivy SLACs), got screwed twice, and found almost every place full of petty potentates or miserable jerks, and had a couple of experiences so horrific that the stories don't seem true. Now, the job market is like academic Verdun. Not only do I advise not sticking your head out of the foxhole but beat a retreat. Let someone else be the Sassoon of this generation. GET OUT. The situation is only going to get worse. Anyone smart enough to get a Ph.D. is smart enough to do something else and the university as community is a mythical place. If I knew now what I knew seven years ago, I'd be deep into my second career which would come with probably less BS and certainly more money. 11/15

--It's amazing how roughly 1 out of every 10 US History graduate students do Early America and it seems that 9 out of every 10 jobs is in Early America. (10/2)

--I am a nineteenth-century American type--put a fork in this year--its done. In my field its horrific. 00:03, October 7, 2009 (UTC)-- Yep...very discouraging (11/19)

Do graduate programs talk candidly about the job market?[edit source]

Just wondering--as someone who finished grad school a dozen years ago, and as someone who has a tenured job now--if graduate programs today talk candidly about the job market? I felt very much on my own, although there were supportive fellow grad students and a few supportive faculty. This wiki provides far more detailed information than anything I heard back then. It still seems like the profession acts like a guild.

Can someone tell me what VAP stands for?-- 21:57, October 26, 2009 (UTC)

Visiting Assistant Professor

When I started six years ago, I was told by a grizzled and too-faux-cynical-for-his-own-good DOGS that "you run yourself ragged putting out six conference papers and an article, and you'll end up with a position in the sticks. Some life." Sounded okay to me. Four articles, ten conference papers, and five semesters as an instructor of record later, I got out and scored a single on-campus interview (granted, this was 2008-09). So, I think it's probably rare to hear candid advice. I'm not sure if it's because candid advice is bad for business, or they've just got their heads in the sand (hey, it worked out for them, right?). Probably a bit of both. -- 20:35, November 2, 2009 (UTC)

I agree with the last poster. Depts. and some select, often cynical or already-marginalized individuals, and others with real heart, do tell it like it is -- "the market is bad"-- but beyond them, by and large, at least in the U.S., the institutional processes take hold of grad training (especially post-comps) and serve together to make it seem as if because it worked out for the individuals in dept. X it CAN work out for you, so just keep teaching, writing, publishing, presenting, taking assistant-ships, vaps, etc. Candor and much-needed real talk and actions regarding effective strategies to find and secure employment (from publishing to networking, to how to market teaching, much less writing and revising materials etc.) are very often given short shrift or none at all in the late stages of PhD training, a time when all of that sort of thing is long since over due. In short, the training today is probably just about the same as it was when the original poster posed her/his q. That said, the wiki and other kinds information and discussion that we are now tuned into and channeling via new technology (blogs, email) have made appreciable if modest differences in transparency, even if the result is just to expose the farce and absurdity of the "job market" - 11/3/09

In my experience it is a mixed bag. What I struggle to understand is the economics of higher education, and how they dictate the job market. There have been remarkably few articles in the Chronicle and other type publications on the hows and whys Departments are not hiring.

Like much of graduate school, if you want an answer or inside knowledge you need to push the issue. My advisor is very candid about the job market, but I also prompt such comments from him. We had a very frank discussion about how it was not worth 10-12 years of graduate school in the Humanities only to become an adjunct making very little money. (Yes, I know many will disagree with that, but I'm not with you.) I'm in a supposedly top-10 US history program, where we're brainwashed into thinking that anything other than an academic job is failure. I made it quite clear to my advisor that there were far better ways to make use of my education than underemployment in academe and that I would be seeking other work if I did not land a tenure-track job within three years of receiving my PhD. He was quite pleased. He also told me that when people say "a job is a job" that they're dead wrong. "A job is a job" is like saying "a life is a life." We are, therefore, in agreement that, while I will apply for every job I can this year, I will not take a job that will not further my career aspirations. (Assuming that I get any offers, of course.) No matter what happens to someone in the academic job market, I thoroughly believe that you should not let yourself become a victim of limited opportunities in your field. It's a great big world and there is a lot you can do (and a lot more money to be made).

AHA vs. Phone Interview[edit source]

I got a call for an AHA interview yesterday. Since this is the only AHA offer I've gotten (others have been phone interviews), I asked whether it would be possible to do it over the phone. The chair seemed amenable to this and said he'd be back in touch with those who wished to go this route. In any case, it seems as though the offer is currently still on the table. Am I dooming myself here (or have I already)? With a toddler and a spouse who has been the sole breadwinner since adjunct work is nearly impossible to scare up in my area, I simply can't justify spending upwards of $500 on a 20 minute interview if there's any possible way around it (apologies for anonymously airing my depressing laundry--you're with me, though, right?). I also know I'm not exactly in the driver's seat in this market. Is it conceivable the chair would be sympathetic to this? Or should I suck it up and plunk down the money? 19:50, December 3, 2009 (UTC)

I just went through this exact situation....toddler, husband and all. My committee supported my decision to ask for a phone interview, as it was financially and logistically impossible, especially for a first round interview. Spending that kind of money at this point wasn't an option for me. Make sure you show your enthusiasm for the position and have a thought out and decent excuse to relay to the SC. There are benefits to a phone interview-notes in hand, comfort, etc., compared to the bad- not being able to see their reactions, having your toddler screaming in the background. I hope this helps. Best of luck!

- I have twice asked for phone interviews in lieu of conference interviews (in different years), on the grounds that I was not planning to attend the conference (there is no need to explain the reasons for your non-attendance to the committee). In both cases, the committee accommodated my request without a complaint, and in both cases I subsequently was invited to campus. There is no problem with asking for a phone interview. (12/4)

- I don't think that requesting a phone interview in lieu of AHA necessarily torpedoes your chances. On the other hand, it's also true that phone conversations are almost always more awkward and weirder than in person. If you present yourself well in person, and you really want to make your case and sell yourself for the position, it may be to your advantage to do it at AHA. The reality of the situation, though, is if you have just one "cattle call" interview, arranged late or in mid-December, you may have to shell out several thousand dollars to fly across the country and meet for fifteen minutes with a tired and crotchety group of interviewers. Hardly worth the expense in time, money, energy; I feel that some search committees understand this, though not all. You've been placed in a difficult position by an evil, stupid, dated institution. Welcome to my world. (Note to first poster here: don't call this an "offer," -- that word is, in the jargon, reserved for an offer of a position or a contract, not an interview. You might end up confusing people, or worse, freaking out or offending the committee, if you refer to an invitation to an interview at AHA or on campus as an "offer".) 12/9

- The AHA interview process has become a "poll tax" of sorts inflicted on graduate students and recent graduates, most of whom are quite poor. The AHA's persistent refusal to allow individuals to attend at reduced or minimal cost just to attend scheduled interviews is nauseating. A phone interview, or video conference interview would save Universities thousands of dollars (although it would annoy senior faculty who enjoy their highly-paid junkets to the "big city") and, more importantly, would save the poorest members of our community thousands of dollars. It would make the academy more equitable. The AHA's insistence on holding its annual only in the country's ten most expense cities is just further reason to hate the institution. Are places like Boston, LA, WDC, NYC, Atlanta really the only options? Would it really be that hard to find enough hotel rooms in Kansas City, Chattanooga or Topeka? The panels themselves are rarely useful or ground-breaking any longer, most are full of self-congratulatory "papers" delivered by so-called senior historians that are usually little more than retrospectives of previous work or silly forays into whatever methodological approach is popular. The remainder of the panels usually feature boring work by graduate students from nearby institutions, rarely anything worth the cost of the trip.

I was just discussing this very issue. Why doesn't the AHA come on out to, say, Akron or Youngstown, Ohio and hang out for a weekend? For anyone to protest that there's nothing to "do" there (there's not, really) would only prove how inconsequential and irrelevant the institution has become - other than as an opportunity for TT professors to blow off steam and as a method of raising revenue from those who can least afford it. What really chaps my ass is hearing professors talk almost proudly of the debt they accrued while on the market, as if it's some kind of badge of honor or rite of passage. I mean, WTF?--as someone from a smaller city (the size of Richmond, VA or Colorado Springs, CO) this dedication to the big cities is so frustrating. I'm spending a fortune (12/17)

Also, why do we have to travel to the coasts? Those of us in the "fly-over" states always get the shaft 12/17

  • I have to totally agree with this part of the Wiki. I had an interview at the AHA last year and thought I would be a good scholar and attend some of the sessions. What a rip off. Had it been a movie, I would have asked for my money back. As it was several of those in attendance pointedly got up and walked out well before the conclusion (noticeable since despite the gi-normous size of the room there were only a handful of us in attendance). And, I was so disgusted by the whole thing. Why should candidates have to pay to register to attend interviews at the job center? Don't the interviewing schools pay for their tables? And, while I loved DC, it was painful trying to pay my expenses to go. It's no "badge of honor" to talk about the debt you accrue. Rather it's a sad commentary on the whole experience of academics choosing the Humanities. We fucking slave to write essays and books in our "spare time," pick up extra overloads to help pay down our student loan debt, and try to figure a way to pay for our kids' soccer program while people with a 2 year degree from a JUCO earn as much or more with less hours of work each week (no kidding--our local paper ran an ad showing what people in the community make--a dental hygienist fresh out of school had a starting salary higher than my tenured professor husband's--he has 8 years on the job.) And, then we are asked to bear the cost of our own interview. It is DISGRACEFUL!!!!!!!!

-I agree with much of the above, but there is a major advantage to having the AHA conference in major cities. It's much easier to get flights in and out of these cities. I've attended conferences in small cities in the so-called fly-over states and wound up spending extra money in hotel costs, because for all intents and purposes the airport closed at six. Or, I attended these conferences and wound up with extra travel time and costs due to canceled flights. Now, if I see a conference is held in an inconvenient city, I don't go. I've flown to the AHA and flown out on the same day in order to avoid hotel costs. That's only doable in big cities. Larger cities also have more hotel options. I'm attending the AHA this year, but I'm staying in a hotel that, due to an internet deal, is 1/2 the nightly rate of the lowest-priced AHA conference hotel. I highly suggest not staying at one of the AHA hotels unless you're hell bent on schmoozing. Also, reserve your non-AHA hotel months in advance and make sure the cost is refundable should you wind up not attending the conference.

  • Um, the "flyover states" have big cities with big airports, too. Cleveland, Minneapolis, Detroit, Pittsburgh, all spring to mind - plenty of hotel space, and they're all hubs. As someone who lives on one of the coasts, I'd rather meet in the middle than endure the long flights, jet lag, and high costs. I definitely see the appeal of San Diego in January, but if a university-subsidized "junket" for full profs is the goal, maybe the AHA should just meet in Vegas every year, like so many other conventions? (I'm only half-kidding - Vegas flights are cheap!) (12/20)
  • I had the Las Vegas thought too. You could alternate with Orlando. Both have good weather (well better than New York in January), tons of flights from everywhere, lots of hotel rooms and convention space. (12/21)
  • Essentially, to sum up, no one location will please everyone. Grad students and unemployed PhDs will likely be inconvenienced the most no matter where a conference is held. It seems most professional orgs try to have some geographical diversity and be responsive to weather and travel concerns by moving their conferences around but having them mostly in larger cities. This may be all to say that depts. should always give the option of a phone interview if someone isn't/can't attend a conference.
  • The issue is not georgraphic diversity, but rather that, in its selection of venues, the AHA operates much like a guild, framed in such a way as to make the process of entering the sacred precints as expensive and difficult as possible. My point above was that there is no real justification for holding the annual on a rotation of the country's ten most expensive cities to visit, nor is there any reason to require the most indigent among us to cross-subsidize the junkets of senior faculty. Why must a fresh graduate pay the cost of travel, lodging and registration for one interview? Is the AHA so hard up for cash (or for that matter so poorly fiscally managed) that it must extract this pound of flesh so we might enter their golden halls? The AHA is a democratic institution, we the oppresed should storm the halls next year and make these changes. I, for one, promise that when I reach a position where I am on hiring committees I will lobby hard to cease AHA interviews and take advantage of video-conferencing, or use off-site and free venues at the host city where folks can just attend the interview.

How Many Years Should One Try To Find a TT Job?[edit source]

I'm currently in my 4th year on the job market (20th Century US) and have no interviews this year for the AHA. I have had several TT interviews in the past and have been steadily employed in VAPs since I took my doctorate. Book is very close to contract, multiple articles, good teaching reviews, etc. I have done everything that we are supposed to do and it is apparently still not good enough. At what point does one decide that enough is enough and find another career? I know this is a personal decision, but I'm looking for new ways to find silver linings in this cloud.

Good question, although as you said, this is eventually a personal decision. I am in my 5th year on the job market, have been employed as a VAP at a RI university with a 2-3 teaching load, and my field is the 20th century US. My book manuscript is complete, and it is getting published by a good publisher next year. Like you, I have a good teaching record. I am still on the run for 2 schools this year, although I am reasonably cautious-there is a huge distance between getting an AHA interview and accepting an offer. Here is what I think; I will continue to do my best as a scholar and a teacher, because this is too important for me to give up. As much as I am disheartened by not being a "regular" member of my department, I still love what I do. So the question is: can I be happy if I were to be a VAP for the rest of my life? Do I like being an academic enough to live as a VAP forever? I don't know the answer yet, but I think these are real questions, because there are, indeed, VAPs with 30 years of career. And, contrary to the mainstream view, many of them are productive members of the academe. So, one thing I began to do about a year ago was to work for more respect and recognition for people like us. The culture of disregard & disrespect for VAPs needs be abolished. There are, I think, different ways of doing this, but my way heppened to be a union for contingent faculty (see the Chronicle for more information). This has been a step toward self-respect. But then, I am not going to stop applying. I just don't want to keep on doing it with an idea that what we have done, and are doing, as VAPs, fall short of what TT faculty does, just because it is so defined by universities. Probably I am not really answering your question, and I don't know my answer either. But what you said made me think of these things.

Do people really have 30 year careers as VAPs? My issue isn't respect or the fact that someone else is doing less work for more money/credibility, it is this constant scramble to find employment every year. I have forgotten what it is like to go into the holiday season not worried about checking the voice mail five times a day for interviews. I would love to go into April certain that, come August, I will actually have stable income and not have to file for unemployment. It is depressing when you hear of a friend whose book has been reviewed in the New York Times failing to get an on-campus interview for a gig with a 4-4 teaching load. I guess I/we are all better off than the Chrysler worker whose plant was shut down, but with so many more individuals coming out of grad school it is hard to see where all of us will go.

But what makes someone whose book has been reviewed in the NYT suited to teaching 4-4? There's no clear correspondence between the two. If anything, the 4-4 job is going to be looking for someone with demonstrated dedication to and success at teaching, not (or at least not primarily) publishing.

Re: the question about VAPs: Yes, there are people who have been VAPs for 30 years. Some have dealt with job insecurity every year, while others have so-called "rolling appointments," which are renewable every 3-5 years contingent upon the continuing existence of the position and favorable review. For those who have rolling appointments, being VAP does not mean forgetting what it is like to be able to enjoy the holiday season. For those who do not have such an appointment (including myself), it is an entirely different story.

Please add this US History job to the job page. There is also an Europe specialist needed. They just opened and needs the widest disemination in this poor job market. Thanks https://www.ohiouniversityjobs.com/applicants/jsp/shared/frameset/Frameset.jsp?time=1262810520121-- 20:47, January 6, 2010 (UTC)

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