the wiki warning for job-seekers
The academic job search is a treacherous feat. Only those who have invested significant time and energy into advanced education can even consider competing for the limited faculty positions that avail themselves every year. Since there are so few people qualified to apply for these positions, the application process is often times a singular endeavor, or at least one where most people in the applicant’s life cannot easily relate. Since faculty and potential faculty are by the nature of their education high-achieving, the job-seeking process is all the more daunting, especially with respect to the competitive nature of many fields. This brings me to my point – the academic jobs wiki. While it may have been developed to help applicants to share information with one-another, or to bolster the competitive advantage one applicant has over another, I am not certain. However, I have personally used the wiki each time I have went on the market. While I have been fortunate in my job search endeavors, looking back the wiki has provided nothing but distress. While I had always hoped for the best among my colleagues, information posted to the wiki always induced fear, panic, and stress.
- “School X has already conducted interviews…I must not have been good enough.”
- “University of Y has already rejected applicants. Why haven’t I heard anything?”
- “Z College is contacting people for campus visits. I haven’t heard anything at all!”
While I certainly appreciate the wiki, looking back I can say that IT IS MORE HARMFUL THAN HELPFUL. The natural, and unhelpful thoughts that creep up during the application process are only exacerbated by visiting the wiki. This is even more problematic since there is no way to really verify the anonymous information on the wiki.
so…AVOID THE WIKI. IF YOU ARE ON THE MARKET AND WANT JOB ADIVCE, GO TO PHDCOMICS
In defense of the Wiki
Yes. Yes to everything stated above. This was my first year on the job market and my third using the Wiki. Each time the Wiki updated and it had something to do with one of the many, many searches to which I had responded, I felt my heart break. Sometimes it was a small break - that I knew I wasn't a strong fit, but I went for it anyway. Sometimes it was a hard break - that I would lie on the floor for an hour in perfect stillness, that I would eat a pint of ice cream and feel both physically and emotionally sick, that I would sob uncontrollably for not advancing in a search that seemed tailor-made for my scholarly profile. It always broke.
I do not mean to downplay the palpable anxiety we have experienced. I am in debt from this degree, and more than once I met my adviser's generous encouragement with bitter tears. You have tenure; you can't possibly understand this situation in this market; are you going to be the one to pay my bills? But I have been dating while also on the market - and, yes, I share this knowing that heteronormativity and homonormativity are technologies of devaluing those who fall outside their purview. Each time someone broke up with me, I felt my heart break. Sometimes it was a small break - because you just knew. Sometimes it was a hard break - and, yeah, the same therapeutic theatrics above. But it still always broke.
In this regard, the Wiki was ultimately helpful. Some people broke up with me promptly and curtly via text or coffee date. Some people strung me along, maybe even responding to texts and phone calls but never commiting to clear plans - or maybe I just heard nothing for what I knew was too long of a time with my fingers still crossed. And sometimes, a third party jumped in and helped me see something I could not because of how much I've invested in this process. Can this third party's word be verified as truth? No. Can this third party help you start to pick up the pieces of your life before you're given the courtesy of an actual rejection? Yes.
The Wiki is this third party. I went to my discipline's conference knowing what to expect, and did not have a reason for fretting about dropped voicemails in the days prior (I still did, but that's the nerves). I had a clear idea in February of what plans I should be making to sustain myself, even though I had less than 40% of the rejections I should have had in my hands. I mean, let's keep it professional: some postings devolve into debates about whose situation is the worst or ranting analyses about academic hierarchies. But we can make the Wiki into a bottom-up process of increasing transparency - especially because we are working against HR policies that constrain search committees from giving us the information we need. In fact, some of the most panicked group-thinks are the postings without updates on search proceedings - information held by people who check the Wiki but do not then contribute. So, to respond to the warning: I would rather have someone help me see the writing on the wall than wait for a response from the void. Maybe you wouldn't. That's your choice to make, but don't, as they say, shoot the messenger.