Monday, March 10, 2008

What's the Use in Trying, When Nothing's Going Right

I am spitting fucking mad right now. I can't believe how fast I get spitting fucking mad as soon as I start dealing with more fucking job applications.

As I've mentioned before, my department secretary needs us to address the envelopes our letters go out in, because all she does is stuff the envelopes and drop them in the campus mail bucket beside her desk. Okay, fine. But that's not all she makes us do. She won't stuff any envelopes if they don't come along with a nice printed list of the names and addresses of all (and only) the schools she's got the envelopes for in the particular batch she's dealing with. What does she need that list for? Who the fuck knows. (It's not the same list my supervisor and the placement committee get.)

Well, an hour ago I was typing up that fucking list. Then I tried to print it on the shitty printer us grad students have to use. Then the printer fucking bailed. Repeatedly. It took me so long to get this fucking list printed, that by the time I was done, I was sprinting to the office to give the list and the envelopes to the secretary before she closed the office at 5:00. I wanted her to have that crap so she could send out my letters tomorrow, without me having to come into the department just to give her two fucking envelopes and a piece of fucking paper.

The secretary saw me running, locked the office door, and then refused to answer when I knocked. Because it was--by the office clock--5:01. All I wanted to do was hand her two fucking envelopes and her pointless fucking list. So they'd be there for her tomorrow.

But no. Instead of tomorrow being uninterrupted writing, I get to come into the department to deal with this bullshit.

Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.

57 comments:

Anonymous said...

You should try being nicer to "the little people" -- bring the secretary some chocolate or something, especially if you're mailing out more than a few applications.

But it wouldn't surprise me if your dept. secretary (they like to be called "admins") doesn't like you, given the hostility and general ill-temper I've seen in your posts. So again, perhaps there's something wrong with you as a person , some personality flaw that you don't see (that may come through in your interviews?).

Also, "I tried to print it on the shitty printer us grad students have to use" is gramatically incorrect; "we" is the pronoun you're looking for.

philo said...

I think this is why the academic job market is like a seasonal job in its own right. It can be very time consuming and banal, esp. with respect to repetitive tasks and the ruthlessness of deadlines. And on top of that, no one pays you to do this work. Maybe it's more like an internship where you pay to enjoy the experience.

Anyhow, sorry about that, PGS. I've had days like that. May have one later this week, come to think of it...

Anonymous said...

What do you mean by "the office"? Her office? Or is it that grad students don't have keys to the department?

Anonymous said...

recent article in the Canadian Press:

It hurts when you call me professor
They've got Ph.D.s. They're paid like fast-food workers. And they're your teachers

TheRealTroll said...

It's the sense of entitlement that makes people vomit when they read this blog. Not just the idea that the world owes you something, but the idea that EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN IT owes you something and should be devoting their lives to realizing your heart's desires.

I'm afraid the success of this blog has done nothing but increase your sense of narcissism and is providing you a sick reward for your endless wallowing in victimhood.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

ICK!

Sometimes administrative assistants use what little power they have in really absurd ways.

Sisyphus said...

:(


Hang in there dude. Soon this too shall pass, or some such profound shit.

Anonymous said...

wow, 2:33 and 3:44 are approaching the platonic form of "concern troll".

weird. in the case of 2:33, I think it's pretty clear that there is something wrong with that author as a person, to wit his horribleness.

2:33 is clearly someone who thinks of "the little people" as the little people. and they know it, 2:33, they know it, whether you try to bribe them or not.

Anonymous said...

To the authors of the acid laced comments above - there's no indication from the post (or any of the posts for that matter) that PGS has treated the "little people" (why are you using that term?) poorly or that he has a sense of entitlement beyond feeling entitled to some minimal courtesy that everyone is entitled to.

Maybe those making comments like these should look in the mirror. I think you jerks are projecting. And yes, I ended a sentence with a preposition. Suck it.

ted said...

Anon 2:33:

You're an ass. People complaining on a blog gives you no insight on how they treat people in real life.

Anonymous said...

Please stop leaving crappy posts on this blog. For those of you who don't like reading about the daily toils of grad school, please just go away--I'd hate to see PGS et. al. disappear because of a few scumbags.

Seriously.

Anonymous said...

PGS, I feel your pain. Grad school is frustrating, and the job market is hard, and small discourtesies make it that much worse. But you can't afford to get angry; there are better things to spend your emotional energy on.

Anonymous said...

PGS,

I take it you didn't bother applying to the Georgia State instructor position which requires candidates to email all their application material as attachments, INCLUDING the letters of reference. Since I'm sure they intended to say that the candidate must arrange for the DEPARTMENT to EMAIL the letters (this interpretation is reinforced by the fact that did not give ANY postal address for the mailing of letters), this requires you to arrange with said administrative/secretarial/clerical/executive assistant for the emailing, as attachments, of these letters of reference (unsigned of course unless you--or said administrative specialist, rather--run signed copies through a scanner and combine them into a single attachment and email to the right administrative specialist at GSU. Yeah, right.

Anonymous said...

You do need to cool it on the dept. admin hating. I assume that they have spent the better part of the last 4-5 months sending piles and piles of shit out for grad student and getting piles and piles of shit in from undergrads. Sure, that's their job, but guess what, they are stressed out and overworked just like you, dearheart. So suck it up, then bring her the file tomorrow with a fucking smile on your face. The very very very last shitlist you want to be on top of is the shit list made by dept. admin. folk.

Anonymous said...

in my experience it helps to make out with the dept secretary. Then she'll be much more likely to help. Of course, if you're not willing to do what it takes, that's not the market's problem.

Anonymous said...

I would concur with the other trolls and wanna-be trolls (this time). There's no reason for your dept secretary to treat you that way if you really made an effort to be nice to her . Small tokens of appreciation are always appreciated, if you're genuine about it. And they go a lonnnng ways, in my experience.

jp said...

Let me float a tentative hypothesis: your department has serious issues, up and down the board.

Anonymous said...

"You're an ass. People complaining on a blog gives you no insight on how they treat people in real life."

Why do you say that? What's your proof? (See, in philosophy, you need stuff like that.) Even if true, when you describe real-life events--whether ranting on a blog or in a conversation--you can learn much.

Imagine this: a little old lady (call her "A") smacks a philosophy grad student (call her "B") with her granny purse. Is there anything you can infer from this scenario? A reasonable person would guess that B did something to offend A.

Of course, A could just be plain crazy, as some old ladies are, especially those who smell of cabbage. But knowing something about philosophy grad students (being one now and following the many blog posts around the APA that suggested we were social retards), we can safely assume that this is not the case.

Anonymous said...

4:46 said:

2:33 is clearly someone who thinks of "the little people" as the little people. and they know it, 2:33, they know it, whether you try to bribe them or not.

If the first claim were true, then why is "little people" in quotations? This usually indicates that the author is using someone else's parlance, that is, language with which s/he does not typically use.

As for the second claim, that just sounds like simple rationalization for not wanting to treat secretaries nicely and givimg them something nice for their thankless work. I'll bet you any amount of money that they will NOT see it as a bribe, as long as you're not already a proven jerk or offer such in an obviously disingenuous way. And of course, you need to give it some time in between said gift and your next request for help, at least a day or so and ideally more than a week. Asking for help right after you proffer a gift is, of course, transparently a bribe.

Go ahead, try doing something nice tomorrow with your own department secretary... assuming you're smart enough to work in academia, which is a big assumption, since your post was "retarded".

Anonymous said...

I am sorry about that. I, too, have found the support staff unhelpful at times. I always wondered if it was because I was a peon grad student or if they treated the TT faculty the same.

Anonymous said...

I know full professors who are hated by the dept staff and vice versa. Some folks just rub people the wrong way.

But also, most if not all the secretaries I've ever met don't have much going on in their lives, so they might sub-consciously WANT to have some drama to make the day go by. They might actually be hateful people.

...but it can't hurt to be nice to them. Kill them with kindness. If that doesn't work, just kill with your dissertation.

Anonymous said...

When I was on the market a few years back, our admin. asst. fucked everything up--sent my apps. to the schools another student was applying for, sent mine to his schools, did not include all of the stuff she was supposed to include, etc. The real pain in my ass was that she did not seem to care--told all of us we shouldn't worry, we would get jobs eventually.

Sure, you can try to blame the grad students when the support staff fucks up, but might it not be possible for them to fuck up? Is it asking too much for them to do their jobs, and to do it well? We were not asking her to do us any favors--just to do what she is paid for. If I have to suck up to someone to get them to do her job, then she is not a very good worker.

Oh, and to those of you inferring that PGS must be at fault--wtf? Seriously--what the fuck do you know about the specifics? Nothing? Then shut up, won't you.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:38

As a TT faculty member, I can assure you that faculty can get the same kind of 'work to rule' treatment from the staff, and I've also found that faculty members are much less likely to get such treatment if they don't take the staff for granted.

Anonymous said...

While I agree that it is difficult to presume anything about PGS's actual treatment of administrative assistants and other crucial folks in the process, I am nonetheless surprised at what appears to be the rage described. I, too, have crazy days, where all the chips fall out in the wrong places (usually around shopping: go to one store, they're out of the thing you went for, get two other things, go to another store, find that while they have the thing you were looking for, they only have the something better which renders useless the 2 things you just bought, so you buy that, go back to the first store to return those earlier items, but you've left the receipt in the other store, but it's now 5:01 and the store has closed...). But I don't experience the rage, just the absurdity, which is not a pleasant feeling, but nonetheless makes me feel that 2:33 has something right about personality flaws.

Anonymous said...

I think the following single sentence is probably the best advice in this thread:

So suck it up, then bring her the file tomorrow with a fucking smile on your face.

Swallowed pride tastes awful but digests well. (I'm preaching to myself here, too.)

Anonymous said...

speaking as TT in another field, most recent anon person, I can assure you that administrators/secretaries like to think of themselves as the adults, and everyone else as the children: it's that damn "real world vs ivory tower" paradigm. like most folks, they care about the status hierarchy and about who treats them well; like most folks, their interest in making distinctions about the sincerity of such treatment varies....

Anonymous said...

"I assume that they have spent the better part of the last 4-5 months sending piles and piles of shit out for grad student and getting piles and piles of shit in from undergrads. Sure, that's their job, but guess what, they are stressed out and overworked just like you."

I don't mind the mindless repetition of sending out applications. I've actually got the procedure down. And at the beginning of the season I saw some value in doing it, because I might get a job. It's only after n PFOs that I'm getting sick of doing it. AAs are getting paid to do it, and (hopefully) they're in that job because they don't mind doing that kind of work. So as long as they get treated with respect by profs and such, my heart's not breaking for them. And as long as they not PhDs from PGS's program 10 years ago. That would really suck.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I'm thinking that the folks making blanket snarky comments about administrative assistants have never worked as one. I have, and it's not as easy a job as you might think. There are many demands (reasonable and unreasonable) on your time, most of which are opaque to the people who wander in and out of your office. In return, you can ordinarily expect low pay, little respect, and only token recognition. Of course AAs can be unprofessional at times. But so can academics.

I have no idea who's in the wrong in PGS's case, which sounds very frustrating, and I have no problem with anyone venting on his or her own blog. But I sure hope that people are more respectful to their real-life AAs than these comments would indicate.

--TT Prof

Asstro said...

In an earlier life, when I was getting a graduate degree in a discipline more oriented around power than around knowledge, one of my professors once asked me if I could name the most powerful person in the department. I didn't guess correctly, assuming that the chair was the natural place to look; but also wondering perhaps if it was the person with the biggest reputation.

Nope. Neither. My professor's answer was that it was the sweet but insane person sitting at the front desk -- our kind old AA.

Ten years on, I think that's about right. I've wisely heeded those words since then.

Anonymous said...

Any update today on the Daily Show with Your Secretry, PGS?

apriori said...

PGS,

Hang in there. My ugrad, grad, and VAP AAs were awesome! I got my TT job and the woman that was our AA was so bad, that I avoided the main office. When we hired a new chair the most important question was: will you fire the AA? 18 years of this awfulness. The new chair lucked out and she retired. Our new AA is awesome. I would have never guessed how important that was if I hadn't experienced it first hand.

Best advice: make her life easy by doing what she wants. Give her a nice gift for all the hard work she did for you this semester: iTunes are chocolate or something that she likes. And in the future, hopefully, you will have an AA you will want to do nice things for b/c they deserve it.

For those interested: Mr. Zero didn't take me up on my offer!

Anonymous said...

Given my own experience, I think asstro got it just right - the AA often wields the most (informal) power in a department. When that person is genuinely kind and well-meaning, that power can be wielded benevolently. When that person is naturally vindictive, petty, or more generally frustrated, it can be bordering on hellish to deal with him or her. Same goes for senior profs.

Anonymous said...

It's worth asking why some people come along to offer these negative views of PGS. Here are two hypotheses:

1. They hold false views about human psychology that lead them to think they can actually change how people act by saying things like this.

2. Like PGS, they like to vent their negative feelings, and in this case, unlike PGS, they can actually safely dump directly on what they take to be the cause of those feelings.

I favor 2, but I'd bet they're telling themselves it will make some change for the good at least. People who indulge in this sort of behavior tend to have a good story right at hand.

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

TT Prof --

I'm with you on the invisibility of a lot of admin work to people who've never done it. The jobs I had throughout college were mostly pink-collar jobs under various lame institutional titles (with a few more blue-collar jobs thrown in for good measure). Being in an office's hub gives you a far amount of power. I suppose I took a couple of things away from the experience. For one thing, I learned asstro's lesson fairly early in life: be good to the admins. (And "good" means more than just talk--it means favors whenever they're asked for.)

But I'm aware that those jobs also left me with a slight lack of tolerance for not-so-great admins. I have friends who've been wait-staff, and they've got an even more extreme version of this. They're visciously intolerant of shitty waiters--because they've done the job themselves and they feel like they know a reasonable minimum to expect.

I don't exactly feel that way. Most of the time, it's pretty easy to shake these little things off. But sometimes you're having a crappy day, and all you need is for someone--even a single person--to return a small favor. . . .

Anonymous said...

Too little info to go on.

I'd agree with those who say that you oughta try to do nice things for the department assistant because they are typically treated like poop. However, there's no guarantee that this will work. Our department admins started a campaign against an entire generation of grad students because one grad student stole copies my first year. Really crazy shit ensued. No phones, no more copies, they appropriated an office over the summer when the department chair was out effectively taking an office away from the TA's. At one point, I saw them refuse to give a VAP a key to the mailroom since he'd be leaving in a few months. I guess he had to borrow the key attached to a hubcap. I can only imagine that this was the result of years of abuse and neglect. (I had heard that years previously a muckety muck had left a package on the department admin's desk saying he had thought it might be a bomb and that she should certainly call security. He fled the building. I'm guessing this was urban legend, but seeing what I saw I can't rule this out entirely.) The candy, the cards, and the chats at that point really did little to change things. I think they only hated me slightly less than everyone else after years of campaigning and trying to make nice. Maybe PSG was in my shoes. However, I wouldn't under any circumstances try to get into their office near closing time. In my years of tending bar and making coffee to help pay for grad school, I liked little more than denying someone a drink because they were ordering a nanosecond after last call. It was even better when it wasn't really time for last call and no one could call me on it. Those were a sweet two minutes.

Anonymous said...

Hang in there, PGS. We all have our moments of insanity.

Also, as this and other threads might show, there are all kinds of people: some are helpful, some not; some are mean when they blog anonymously, some are kind; some of your colleagues and future colleagues will be jerks and at opposite ends of the political spectrum, others will be lifelong allies. To expect otherwise is setting yourself up for disappointment.

As the song goes: "You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have The Facts of Life, the Facts of Life."

Anonymous said...

Good lord -- we send out all our own applications. Nobody helps with any aspect of it. Not the processing, not the arranging, not the coordinating, not the mailing, not the payment. And my references stuff and mail their own letters too (although in their case, at least the department pays for it -- not so with my apps). I am amazed and jealous that you have an administrative assistant who helps you with your applications in ANY way. I know you're frustrated, but at least in this respect, you don't know how lucky you've got it!

Anonymous said...

If only Mrs. Garrett were here. She'd know what to do.

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

Anon. 11:08 --

Uh, I took myself to be pretty clear about this, but the only the things my dept secretary does for my application is send the stuff I'm not allowed to touch--my letters, which my committee would otherwise have to send themselves. So it saves them work, but doesn't save me anything.

Anonymous said...

Off-topic, if I may:

Of all the applications I sent out in the fall, around 30% have not yet sent me a PFO. I know that some of these jobs have already been offered to others, but there are some that have not. I was wondering: appr. how many of these departments might still hold on to my dossier on the off-chance that no-one else accepts and they might call me?

The reason is this: to my surprise, I've been contacted some time ago from a dept. that already rejected me, offering an interview for a visiting teaching position. (Isn't the person they did hire supposed to teach these courses?) Since I already accepted an offer, I was not interested, but I'm curious.

Anonymous said...

"I don't mind the mindless repetition of sending out applications. I've actually got the procedure down. And at the beginning of the season I saw some value in doing it, because I might get a job. It's only after n PFOs that I'm getting sick of doing it. AAs are getting paid to do it, and (hopefully) they're in that job because they don't mind doing that kind of work. So as long as they get treated with respect by profs and such, my heart's not breaking for them."

Your heart's not breaking for the admins even though their job sucks. They don't mind doing that kind of work? Right. Talk to one sometime. See if he or she loves her work.

But let me get this straight: your poor little heart IS breaking for yourself because of the disparity between you and the admin: you don't get any money for sending out applications SO THAT YOU CAN GET A FUCKING JOB.

Shut the fuck up you arrogant, miserable, entitled piece of shit.

Anonymous said...

Sorry -- I misunderstood. When you said your letters, I thought you meant your cover letters. Then I guess I should say your faculty have it good. Or maybe your faculty are spoiled. I offered to have my advisers use the reference file service and to do envelopes, and my primary adviser insisted on doing everything himself. The man tailored his letters to each school -- I only applied to 25 places, but still. He felt like the personal touch of tailoring them and sending them himself showed how much he believed in me. He is a god (except for when he sent out one batch two weeks late -- I wasn't even considered for that batch). I got a good job. I will do the same for my students one day. Good luck. I am sorry for little frustrations like that, with your AA. They add up.

Anonymous said...

Despite her haircut, I've found Tootie to be the voice of reason. Mrs. Garrett was a drunk and hugged Jo a little too much, if you know what I mean...wink, wink, nudge, nudge...

Mr. Zero said...

a priori,

Why would I take you up on your offer?

a) I value my anonymity (you could be some psycho) and there is no way to send my dossier anonymously (my writing sample is published; my CV contains identifying information, without which it is completely valueless).

b) I can't possibly have any idea who you are or whether you're even qualified to dole out the advice you're offering (I'd be revealing my identity but you'd still be anonymous).

c)the low, low quality of the advice you've offered up until now.

Am I supposed to jump at the chance to out myself to you for no reason because you offered me some obviously worthless advice? Are you nuts?

Anonymous said...

I am not trying to place judgment on your actions or disposition, just the advice of "get the fuck over it." Let it go boss.

Anonymous said...

two words: dossier service.
One website: www.interfolio.com

Not having your AA manage your references? priceless.

I recommend interfolio. All the grad students from my university use it.
Best,

apriori said...

Mr. Zero,

I will reply from my university account. You will know who I am and can either take the advice or leave it. Plus, I didn't ask for your writing sample. As we have seen on this blog a lot, a good writing sample is not necessary to getting interviews.

I think you have other issues for why you aren't getting interviews. I gave you the list of things that might be the problem with the "reasons" my department rejects people at the bottom of our candidate form.

Hell I might have already seen your file and have a reason you were rejected from a prior search.

One thing I cannot judge is your letters (unless I have them from the search). Sometimes letters are contradictory with each other which isn't as bad as when they contradict what the candidate says in their cover letter.

It happens a lot, and the only way to deal with it talk to your writers and tell them what your cover letter says. Ideally there is a placement officer that reads the letters and looks out for those things.

In some cases, the department AA is that person: be nice to him/her and bad things can be avoided.

But don't let the fact that you don't know me ahead of time deter you. I just think you could use some honest feedback -- which I take you haven't gotten from any search committees.

You have the e-mail address.

Anonymous said...

Someone commented earlier that materials they'd received from a candidate sent via Interfolio had the poor fax-like quality to them. Would anyone else care to confirm or disconfirm that. (For all I know, they were, in fact, sent by fax from Interfolio. Maybe they have that option and it was exercised in that case.)

mr. zero said...

a priori,

I do let the fact that I don't know you ahead of time discourage me. This is a wise policy; I have good reasons for being discouraged, and I think I've thoroughly explained why. I have no idea why you're dying to give me advice (it's really, really weird, BTW), but I'm not sending you my shit. Drop it.

Anonymous said...

It's the secretary's job to mail out the applications? She shouldn't have to be bribed to do it -- assuming you are only asking her to do her job? But if you expect her to work overtime for you (5:01), then some form of extra compensation (or begging) is appropriate.

Warning! Lecture follows: If you're going to be demanding of others, then you must apply the same standard to yourself. She could legitimately make the same argument about you. She could say, "Instead of getting to go home and do some uninterrupted writing I have to stay here and deal with this crap". It is disrespectful to expect other people to accommodate your lateness, as if they didn't have important things to do, themselves. But if do want them to accommodate it, then you'd better develop a more humble attitude...practice begging and groveling.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Mr. Zero,

I have a bag of candy and some puppies out in my van. We can take a ride to my playhouse down by the old abandoned quarry. It'll be a hoot.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:30, two points.

First, bite me. Second, learn to read. I didn't mind sending these out when I thought I'd get a job out of it, but so far I haven't and since the odds are increasing that I'll be doing this without any recompense even at the end of the process is why I'm down. That was my whole fucking point, asshole.

By the way: "See if he or she loves her work." Are you stupid enough to think everyone's entitled to love their work? Some people do, but most don't. That's why they call it "work" and not "happy cheery fun time." I think everyone's entitled to respect and decent working conditions, and probably that's about all most people expect when they take a job as an AA.

Anonymous said...

Mr Zero,

My advice to you is to give up and teach high school English.

Mr. Zero said...

Candy!? Puppies!? Why didn't you say so? Let's go!

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm . . . mostly anonymous people arguing bitterly with each other over nothing. Looks like you all are ready for professional philosophy! :)

Anonymous said...

I remember reading that Mr. Zero sent his application packet to A Priori, and A Priori said nothing but good things about it. None of that's on this blog, though, so it must be I dreamed it. That's fucking sad, all I have dream about is this blog. Damn.

mr. zero said...

anon 3:0,1

I'm a little surprised I'm finding my way into your dreams. I'm handsome, but I'm not that handsome.