A few people have requested that I re-post this....
Saturday, November 27, 2010
A Note to SpousesDear Spouse of an Unemployed Philosopher,
As you are no doubt well-aware, we're now creeping into the all-important ten-day period during which hiring departments will be contacting job applicants in order to schedule APA interviews. The whole process is, indeed, every bit as awful as your spouse says it is. In fact it's probably much worse that your spouse realizes. In any case, expect your spouse to begin behaving strangely.
Over the next several days, your spouse will begin incessantly checking his or her voice-mail and email for any signs of hope. Information about which schools have contacted interviewees, some of questionable reliability, will be posted on various blogs and wikis. Rumors about canceled searches, insider candidates, and "courtesy interviews" will abound. Given the horrendous job market, even under the best circumstances, things will look excessively bleak. And they are.
Should your spouse get no invitations to interview, do whatever you can to help soften the blow. You spouse worked extremely hard on his or her PhD. Spending another year adjuncting for slave-wages, or worse, is a terrifying prospect for your spouse. And, indeed, that your spouse has not gotten any interviews does not entail that your spouse is not a highly qualified, well-trained, and promising academic. Most job ads yield hundreds of applications, and departments interview only twelve or so at the APA. The search process at many institutions is nearly blind to all the things that matter in selecting a new faculty member.
Those who get interviews will have but a few hours to feel affirmed and accomplished. Enjoy this all too brief period of satisfaction. Celebrate. The joy will soon give way to a morass of anxiety and self-doubt as your spouse begins to prepare for the interview. Of course, it will quickly dawn on your spouse that the only way to prepare is to practice running a gauntlet of the cruel, the ignorant, the hostile, the maniacal, the stupid, and the clueless. Chances are the some such assemblage will be deciding your spouse's fate. This only compounds the anxiety and self-doubt.
Perhaps your spouse will be among the three or four who survive the APA interview. If so, she or he will be invited to an on campus interview. In some ways, the anxieties of the job-seeking process lift at this point. But they're quickly replaced by a different set of anxieties: what to wear, what paper to give, how to deal with off-the-rails questions at the Q&A, how to interact with the faculty member who behaved like a jerk at the APA interview, and so on. Of course, if your spouse has reached this stage, he or she has already accomplished a great deal. But that makes the prospect of not getting the job all the more depressing. And so it goes.
In short, the next month will be unbelievably trying for your spouse. Resign yourself now to the fact that the entire holiday season will be a drag. Devise ways to cope with the fact that your spouse will be psychologically compromised for several weeks. And, if you can, cut him or her some slack.