It’s that time of year again you unwashed, teeming masses of grad students! Application season for the exactly four jobs in your field that will be posted this year starts today. Rejoice! That marks a fifty percent increase over last year’s numbers! I know that collectively there are about seventy qualified early-career scholars who will apply for this position but still, you have to take the good news when it comes. The relevant professional association (MLA? AHA? APSA? ATS? What field are we in?) will make sure to trot out these numbers for the next twelve months about the resurgence of our field in general and your absurdly specific specialty in particular.
Anyway, as a veteran member of three job search committees, you might say I know a thing or two about bestowing the gift of tenure-track indentured-servitude. In fact, I have done it thrice, that’s right thrice, since getting tenure myself in 1982. Don’t worry about the fact that I went up for tenure with only one published article and my dissertation; the fact that you have already published a book, three articles, and are widely considered a leading young voice in our field won’t be held against you.
I am not at all intimidated by your level of accomplishment despite the obstacles you faced just like I am not afraid of the waste of my own privilege. I know what struggle is like too! Believe me, as a Ivy-League educated white male born in the fifties I came up against it plenty of times in my life. Mostly from a scholarly perspective, but still, I can at least recognize structural obstacles at a distance.
To the point: here are some ideas about what you can do to survive the search process and maybe, just maybe, get that coveted tenure-track job!
Spend a week crafting custom application materials.
This must include but is not limited to: a custom CV, a tailored Teaching Philosophy, and a part of your person. The trend in the last year or two was hair, but I get the feeling search committees are looking for your blood now!
Accept that you are an absolute failure and have wasted the prime years of your life.
You thought deeply and have expanded our collective understanding of the world. The cost of this process was your own dignity, self-respect, and the ability to feel love. Hopefully you didn’t skip any major family events while finishing! You can’t get that time back after all.
Personally ingratiate yourself to each and every search committee member.
Grad students in the department too, if possible. In your application materials, subtly but strongly imply that no favor is off-limits. Really emphasize that nothing is too much. Babysit the chair’s child for a year for free? Consider it done. Give up every night and weekend to take care of all the admin duties of the full professors? No sweat! Act as a “tutor” (read: fall guy) for an athlete so your school can finally win that conference championship it last won in 1907? It would be your pleasure! Something else, perhaps of dubious legality? Like you'll say, nothing is too much!
Bribery and extortion!
When I was finishing my dissertation, my advisor gave me some great advice: Keep It Simple, Stupid. I took this advice and limited the scope of my dissertation. Today, I’m giving you the same advice! If quid pro quo doesn’t work, consider extortion! Find embarrassing or illegal information about the committee members and threaten to release that info unless you are given your job! See, it’s not impossible to get a Tenure Track job! You just have to have a little gumption.
Orchestrate deadly accidents.
Assuming you get to the job talk portion, you should have some idea of who your closest competitors are for this job. You have to differentiate yourself! What better way to differentiate yourself than guarantee you’re the only one who can do the job? Casually invite the other candidates on fun activities like climbing Everest, then orchestrate an “accident.” Go sky-diving together and cut parachute lines! Be creative and don’t limit yourself! People have accidents all the time, these would just be focused!
Building on that: just straight-up fucking murder the other candidates. I guess try to have some sort of alibi? If you can’t come up with one just suggest it was part of a performative art piece and flee the country. What other languages do you speak? Those will come in handy now, won’t they?
Orchestrate a coup and install your grad cohort as the government.
Form a violent revolutionary group; foment revolution in some other country; install yourself as a President-for-Life AND Education Minister. If you encounter major resistance from the inhabitants, consider making sections of the population “disappear.” This tip has the potential to combine many of the previous pieces of advice and would look really impressive on your CV!
Hope that this helps and I look forward to seeing many of you next year when there are three additional jobs across the county!