Friday, January 15, 2010

Jobs - Redux

There have been quite a few jobs-related articles on IHE and in the blogs lately that deserve linkage and comment. I'll put those below, after pointing to the jobs category where I group articles I have written in the past. The series started with a pair of articles that looked at the supply side (focus on the cycles we have seen over the past 50 years) and demand side (focus on where the jobs and will be) for physics, but much of what I describe is being lived today by folks in history and humanities.

The biggest difference between physics and the liberal arts area is probably that 2/3 of Physics PhDs have always ended up working in industry, with only a short (but very significant) period when the vast majority went into academia. Significant because it resulted in a faculty that remains woefully ignorant of where most of their students will get jobs.

Now, on to the articles.

1) There is a fantastic article in IHE this week about hiring at two year colleges by an English professor. It is the perfect complement to what I wrote some time ago about getting a job at a CC, and pretty much proves my thesis that science and humanities are looking for the same thing at the CC level. There is a huge overlap between the suggestions in that article and the ones in mine, and both emphasize the difference between applying at a CC and what is expected at other types of colleges and universities.

As he said, you must know what we do and what kind of students we have (particularly if you are going to teach composition or algebra or general education classes) if you hope to have any chance of getting a job at a CC. And I will add that I think one of the comments in that article is from someone totally ignorant of what we look for. Having been an adjunct at a CC is NOT the kiss of death. Quite the opposite. Just as med schools want students who have seen the pukey side of a hospital so they don't quit two years in when they discover they have to spend all of their time with sick people, CCs want to hire people who know exactly what they are going to be dealing with for the next 20 years.

2) There was also an earlier article (Part One on 'The Two-Year Option') where Hurley (an English prof at Diablo Valley College) goes into some detail about why he finds the CC environment such a good fit. Like him, I think I have a terrific job that is quite different from what I thought might be my career goal, and like him I find my students an interesting group.

3) For the back story about the job situation in the humanities, history, etc, check out these articles from IHE: History and English and links therein. To me, this is all deja-vu of the situation my older friends and colleagues faced about 40 years ago, as detailed here. Only they had it worse, because their job odds went from 90% to 1% in just a few years, and stayed very low for a decade. And if you read that article you will know why I find comments about Boomers offensive: that pipeline got blocked by the generation that earned a PhD when the first Boomers graduated from high school and stayed in those R1 faculty jobs for 40 years or more.

I think I left something out, but that will do for now.

UPDATED 16 January:

Thanks to Dr. Crazy's blog about bleak job prospects (which contains links to two other articles on that topic), I know remember that I left out Dean Dad's blog about why undergrads go on to graduate school when the job prospects are so poor.

4) Dean Dad wrote a great analysis saying that it is the loss of a clearly legible path to other careers that leads high achievers to pursue the mostly dead-end path to a PhD in the humanities. I can see that, because there is quite a bit of truth to it even in physics, and physics is a field where there are jobs that clearly use physics even if faculty and career advisers don't know about them. It is much less clear how you would get a job in industry with a history degree than with a physics degree.

5) And read what Dr. Crazy wrote from the English end of the world (linked above, as well as what it looked like to Tenured Radical and Historiann from the history side.

6) Sort of unrelated, sort of related, I just read Malcolm Gladwell's article in the January 18 issue of The New Yorker about entrepreneurs. (Only the abstract is available on-line, but it gives a really good summary of the article.) The thesis (drawn from descriptions of some very successful businessmen that, like Ted Turner, have usually been described as gamblers) is that SUCCESSFUL entrepreneurs go after the sure thing. The unsuccessful ones are the gamblers. Gambling on a faculty position in the humanities at an R1 or Ivy where you teach one small class a year for a six figure salary might fall into the latter category, because even a job at a CC or at a regional comprehensive (what Dr. Crazy describes) is far from a sure thing and FAR from the "life of the mind" those students are gambling on.

I'm really glad my niece did not go to graduate school.


The Thomas said...

Oh, but she is "sort of" in the process of going to Graduate School, but its to be part of an evil MBA track program.

Seeing as, once you have a position in industry, an MBA is more accepted for continuing advance (of an ordinary employee) than other graduate degrees.

rented life said...

I am applying for CC positions in my own field and have been following your trail of links. Thank you. It's hard to try to combine what everyone says when writing a letter or teaching statement, but the more I read, the more I understand. I've been adjucting at a CC for a little while now and my Dean thinks I'm fantastic for the students, a sign I take to mean I'm going the right path.

Thanks again for all the links/info!