Fresh off of getting screwed out of a Research Assistant position, I decided to meet with my committee chair today. I recognized the words as English, of course, but it dawned on me (as she was plying me with what amount to academic Successories platitudes) that she was actually speaking in an elaborate code.
I should point out in advance that my chair is a fabulous person and treats me extremely well. Nonetheless, today's meeting got me thinking about the need for a translating tool for the average graduate student's use when dealing with faculty.
Here are just a few examples. Anyone who wants to volunteer to use intricate programming knowledge to help me create an automated translator for this webpage will be my hero.
When he/she says: "Don't forget that there are a ton of non-academic job opportunities as well."
What he/she means is: You have no chance of getting an academic job, so focus on these amorphous "non-academic" opportunities about which I will offer no evidence or details.
When he/she says: "It's important not to take this personally."
What he/she means is: You got screwed. We nearly broke it off in your ass. How did it feel?
When he/she says: "Don't make the mistake of tying your self-esteem to your job."
What he/she means is: You are going to get a really, really shitty job. I hope you like a 4/4 teaching load at a state school with two directional adjectives in its name and undergraduates who think Vladimir Putin was the villain in Red Dawn.
When he/she says: "This doesn't mean that we think ____ is a better graduate student than you."
What he/she means is: We think _____ is a much better graduate student than you, which is why we're investing in (his/her) future and not yours.
When he/she says: "It's absolutely possible to get a job without publications."
What he/she means is: There are no recorded examples of this ever happening, but I think I heard my cousin's former babysitter say that she heard it happened to some dude at UMass.
When he/she says: "It's the quality of your work – not publications or research experience – that counts on the job market."
What he/she means is: We are cutting bait and casting you to the wolves, but to assuage our collective conscience we need to absolve ourselves of any responsibility for your impending failure.
When he/she says: "Being a Research Assistant doesn't really have any benefits."
What he/she means is: Did I mention the part about how we almost broke it off in your ass? You're not going to walk right for a month. We could have used lube, but hey, blood counts as lube, right?
When he/she says: "It's important to stay optimistic."
What he/she means is: None of us can figure out why you're still here, and neither can you.
When he/she says: "Just stay focused on your goal and keep working on the dissertation."
What he/she means is: Have fun writing your dissertation with no input or assistance of any kind from us. I might sign off on it, but I'll probably sign as Alan Smithee.
When he/she says: "Don't forget that teaching is also important on the job market."
What he/she means is: I can't believe I kept a straight face! Did you buy that? No? Shit. Well teaching is pretty important – if you're applying to be a high school social studies teacher.
I hope this has been informative. Feel free to offer some gems from your own experience in the comments.