Saturday, September 04, 2010

Why Being on the Academic Job Market Sucks: Part I

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Every fall thousands of hopeful Ph.D. and A.B.D. job candidates everywhere fantasize about landing a great academic teaching/research post, preferably one that's tenure track. Financially, most of are pretty poor or, at best, living uncomfortably from month to month. I, for example, know of no one in my current professional state-of-being category (a low-level assistant professor, visiting professor, or postdoc) who is living large and rolling in cash. Instead, we're all looking under couch cushions, counting our pennies, and deleting threatening debt collection messages from our home answering machines. (Or, if we're really clever and still use mom and dad's house as our "permanent address," despite our mature age, we tell our parents to delete the messages.)

What we have to look forward to this fall/winter, however, are increasing expenses associated with the academic job search: postage, paper, envelopes, transcript fees, dossier service fees, photocopying fees, conference registration fees, hotel fees, and the real killer, airline fees.

While the economy remains relatively stagnant at present, the price of plane tickets is on the rise. Sure, it's better for the airlines, but what about us? Paying premium prices to fly to conferences and interviews is a job seeker's worst nightmare. Nonetheless, according to the NYTimes, "Air fares have marched steadily upward in recent months and are now close to pre-recession levels — and that’s not even counting all the fees that airlines have introduced lately."

This price increase dovetails with a significant decrease in the number of flights, and destinations, offered by airlines. So we're not only paying more to fly around the country, and perhaps earth, in search of employment, we're also going out of our way to get there. "For the airlines, flying fewer and fuller planes has paid off," notes the NYT; but "Passengers are paying the price."

Expensive plane tickets are one thing, of course, but having to wait until the last minute to purchase them is even worse. And this is precisely the situation that most (fortunate) job seekers find themselves in after Thanksgiving. We're anxiously waiting for the phone to ring, or looking for a message in our email inbox, hoping our efforts and myriad job applications were not in vain. We're praying someone on the other end of the line will say, "I'd like to invite you to interview with us at the A.H.A. in Boston next month . . ." [Or the M.L.A. or other major conference of your choosing.]

When this does happen the response is frequently, "Yay! Great news! I've got a shot. But wait, oh crap, oh f@!*, now plane tickets have reached nightmarish proportions! Flying from middle of nowhere U.S.A. to Boston will require driving 2 hours to the airport, making 3 transfers, spending 8 hours in transit, and cost me $600 out of pocket. All for 1, maybe 2, interviews."(I flew all the way to San Diego last January for 1 interview. Yes, I will admit it.)

What to do?"

"'My advice now is don’t procrastinate if you’re planning to travel over the holidays,' said Rick Seaney, the chief executive of, a travel Web site."

Gee, thanks for the great advice.

For the rest of the article, click here:

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