I keep trying to write this post, and I keep quitting because it just seems too obvious to bother saying. But what the hell, here it is, obvious or not.
Doing the job market this year was a lot easier for me than doing it last year. Partly, it was just because I'd been through it before, and kind of sometimes sort of knew what to expect. But the biggest thing by far was having a different placement committee.
Longtime readers have heard my stories about the Old World Septuagenarian and Evil Columbo: how they didn't know what our application pckages would actually have to contain beyond a CV, letters and a writing sample; how the Old World Septuagenarian just stared at me in puzzled silence when I asked questions using words he clearly thought were made-up gibberish--words like "student evaluations" and "teaching philosophy"; how Evil Columbo never seemd to get tired of telling us happily over and over and over again just how easy it'd been for him to get a job; how they both disappeared at the end of the semester, leaving it to other faculty to tell us what was actually going to go on at the APA. Every meeting with them left me and my office mates feeling helpess, completely adrift, and screaming mad from frustration.
This year couldn't have been more different. The official committee, Placement Committee Senior and Placement Committee Junior, as well as some other junior faculty, walked us through every step. Both PC Sr. and PC Jr. have an actual sense of how the job market's worked since the fall of Saigon. Fuck, PC Jr.'s even done it in the last few years. But also, when PC Jr. didn't know something about, say, what exactly the department sends out with our letters, he found out and explained it to us in a timely manner. He even met with me when I was working on my spiel, to give me the chance to bounce some ideas off someone who doesn't really know my work. That was a really menschy thing to do.
And PC Sr.? I can't know for sure what goes on behind the Senior Faculty Curtain of Tenured Mystery, but what I do know is this. Last year, it was my job to hound the senior profs on my committee for my letters, many, many weeks after I'd first asked for them. And you know what? Senior profs in my department aren't super-happy about having grad students trying to impose deadlines on them. In fact, they recoil in horror at such a profound upset of Nature's just and true order. But this year, it just never came up. Maybe that's because this year, my committee members were all just ahead of the game with their updated letters. But maybe it's because they had one of their colleagues--insead of some dipshit grad student--reminding them what's what.
But more important than all the bullshit logistics was their kindness. From our first placement meeting, PC Sr. was preparing us for the coming circus of cruelty and failure. And at placement meetings--or around the lunch table or in the hall or wherever--PC Jr. has been unfailing in his encouragement, understanding and sympathy.
I'm immensely grateful to both of them.