STRENUOUSLY SEEKING

I'm pretty sure I can do this without running afoul of the law.

So, without getting into specifics, I'm involved in a hiring search at my university. It's in an academic field in which the job market is very, very bad. Bad even by the low standards of the academic job market in general. If there are five permanent (tenure-track) positions in this field available across the country in a year, it qualifies as a good year. And that small handful of jobs is fought over by an applicant pool of perhaps 300-500 people who either have no job or have a terrible one. That number comes from the number of applications that large universities get when they list an opening in the field.

We got about 100. Just over 100. If you toss out the handful of cranks and people in entirely different fields, it's more like 80.

This was far fewer than I was expecting, and it reminded me of a type of story I hear repeatedly in the media and from other academics. NPR, for example, runs a story approximately every six to eight weeks (given their target audience of urbane latte sipping liberals in Volvos) about the terrible state of the academic job market. Here's Joe. Joe has a PhD and hasn't been able to find a job for ____ years. He is waiting tables and hoping for a break. What a nice guy. Poor Joe.

Now, believe me when I say that of all people I sympathize with Joe and everyone else floundering in a very bad market. It took me four years to find a tenure-track job. It was absolutely goddamn brutal. I wouldn't wish it on an Ebola-infected pedophile who chews gum loudly. I wish everyone similarly situated could find a decent job and be reasonably happy. But if you read / listen to those stories closely, you'll notice something with forehead-smacking regularity: many of these people are imposing some pretty exclusive restrictions on their job search. It's all I can do to avoid laughing when I read these stories about academics who say "I can't find a job anywhere, and I've looked all over – Boston AND New York City!"

If you're going to limit your search to two places (that happen to be absolutely choked with jobless people with academic credentials) you're going to be unemployed forever, barring hit-by-lightning luck. If you're going to rule out 90% of the possible places that might be hiring out of hand, my level of sympathy for your admittedly difficult situation drops precipitously.

So when I see a position barely get 100 applications, I think about all these people I encounter at professional conferences and online who talk endlessly about how horrible the job market is. I'm forced to wonder, at the risk of my mortal soul and feeling like a dick, just how hard are you looking?

Look. I will be the first to admit that my current location is far, far, far away from ideal. It is not a desirable location. The job itself, though, is about as good as they come in this particular field. The teaching load is reasonable. Your colleagues will leave you alone and allow you to work. The pay is fine. And it bears repeating that it's one of no more than a half-dozen such jobs available right now. Despite all that, something like 50-80% of the jobless potential applicants decided that they were too good for it. Which is, you know, interesting. Because I came here despite the less than stellar location based on the wild theory that having a job is quite superior to not having a job or having some temp position that works you like a mule for peanuts and dumps you back on your ass after two semesters.

Whenever students, usually juniors or graduating seniors, talk about the post-graduation world I hammer home one point over and over and over: you must be flexible in this weak job market and economy. Be willing to apply for jobs in places you had not previously considered living. Be willing to apply for jobs that you had not previously considered doing. The surest way to be unemployed for a long, long time is to insist that there is one job you will accept and one location in which you will live. The odds of those stars aligning in your favor are low unless you happen to possess some astonishingly valuable skill that, frankly, most graduating students cannot claim to possess.

I'm not suggesting that my job-seeking colleagues should take anything placed before them, but we must all be realistic about how selective we can afford to be in a bad job market. If you can afford to sit around pouring coffee until that absolutely perfect job in Portland or Austin or wherever comes along, more power to you I guess. But there is a serious disconnect between the number of "My god, I just can't find a job anywhere!" conversations I have and the number of applications some of the open positions receive. The perfect is often the enemy of the good.

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57 Responses to “STRENUOUSLY SEEKING”

  1. Anubis Bard Says:

    And that is precisely why I am no longer in Academia. I got more selective every year I was on the job market. But in the end, I wanted to choose where to live. (And if I'd moved to the Midwest, Texas or Florida my wife would have left me.) So be it. I like what I do and get paid for it.

  2. queenrandom Says:

    Anubis makes a good point. Many people on the academic market (most that I know personally ) have some level of two body problem. Although my spouse is not in academia, I have to limit my job searches to where he can find a job as well. That rules out A LOT. Which is why I joined the evil empire of industry science.

  3. Amanda Says:

    YES YES OH MY GOD YES THIS.

    When did people forget that when you are entering a field, sometimes you have to work in a shitty place first and then apply elsewhere? I was told "put in two full years someplace and then try to go someplace else WHILE you have a job" and "it's always easier to find a good job when you already have A job."

    Get used to the 7Eleven and Hamburger Helper brah. You're a long way from Hahvahd.

    *claps enthusiastically*

  4. vegymper Says:

    Now, now, this post means your new meds are really working, without taking your edge away. So happy for that! keep it up.

  5. mojrim Says:

    Ummm… Sorry to crap on the floor, but do you really think 100 applications for an opening is a sign of pickiness? I'd say it's 4x as many as any employer should be getting under any circumstances.

  6. EH Says:

    Or perhaps that's just 400 people completely burned out from an entire fall of throwing time-consuming and specialized application dossiers into various black holes across the country to apply to one last job in a non-optimal location. That was my experience of the job market before I made peace with the fact that my wife's skills are far more valuable to society than mine and that I was perfectly happy as an adjunct at the same university where she's an ass't professor in the medical school (all the fun of teaching, my meager salary goes to support my research, and none of this service stuff).

    Also, as long as I've been reading this blog, Ed, you've seemed like a decent person–I'm hoping you at least made sure that 99 rejection letters went out in the mail…

  7. el mago Says:

    What's ignored here is how skewed the whole "job" system works or doesn't in the cultural matrix. You can bust out and try to create something else, slip between the cracks, so to speak, and maybe find nourishing sustenance somewhere in some individual satisfying capacity. (Look, 60% is as good as it gets anywhere in this world. Most live below 20%. So if you're looking for 70 to 100% you're screwed, regardless of the system. Trying to make jewelry from a turd. That last comment from Tsoknyi Rinpoche, to be correct and quote sources.)

    Spent a lifetime as an edge dweller in diverse locales, most of them remote, so the notion of striving for position in academia–or fill in the blank–seems foreign. Yet I understand why Ed made the career choices he made.

    It's not exactly beggars can't be choosers, but more like: choose the best among the low spectrum options available and be as true to oneself as possible.

    And hey, isn't that what this blog does for Ed? Keeps him true to himself?

    Or is it just getting further on into the night in Colorado that fuels this musing?

  8. FMguru Says:

    That's just…weird. Way back in the day, it was made very clear to people in my grad program that your first job would likely be at the University of Montana-Missoula or its equivalent and that if you get such a job offer you should consider yourself to be fucking lucky. You start in the middle of nowhere and then you publish and network and get tenure and THEN move up the ladder to places with higher prestige, better locations, and fatter paychecks. It's been that way since the dawn of time, unless you were clearly on track to being the next Richard Feynman or Ludwig Wittgenstein or Robert Samuelson.

  9. rustonite Says:

    The people who aren't applying generally fall into three categories:
    1. Married. Unless your school is offering a spousal hire (lolsob)
    2. Gay. Being gay in Peoria…nope, nope, nope.
    3. People of color. See #2.

    I'm willing to bet that if I comb through the applications, it's going to be a lot of never married straight white people. Cause that's who can reasonably make a non-miserable life in a place like Peoria. Although Ed has demonstrated it's no guarantee.

  10. rustonite Says:

    Thinking about it, let's add a fourth category:
    4. People with older parents. Grad school can take a decade, and then four or five years of adjuncting, and suddenly you're middle aged and your parents need help. Would you really move your mother to Peoria?

  11. Anderson Says:

    When I was in grad school in English, I understood quite well that "success"= "tenure- track job in South Dakota." Part of why I dropped out & went back home & went to law school. (Punch line: home is Mississippi.)

    … Btw, if I haven't said, love your blog's typeface. Close to that used in old AD&D books.

  12. J. Dryden Says:

    Re: the consistent popularity of the Ph.D. Waiting Tables Human Interest Story: There's a market for it: People who aren't in academia.

    When people where I currently live/work ask me where I'm from, and I tell them, they invariably blurt out the same response: "Why did you move HERE?" "Because the job was here," I explain. And then, off their look of incomprehension, I further explain the nature of academic employment and how you will go ANYWHERE that will hire you. They do not really believe me when I tell them that. They believe–from what I can gather–that a Ph.D. is a golden ticket–that Doctors (which is, incredibly technically, what we are) can just saunter up to any institute of higher learning and be greeted with a welcome and a paycheck.

    Why they believe this eludes me–we're teachers, for chrissakes; we're the scum of the world of employment. Yet believe it they do. Hence their baffled pleasure to hear about odd ducks who, despite the keys to the kingdom jingling in their pockets, prefer to ask diners if they'd like fries with that.

  13. The boring one Says:

    mojrim, 100 applicants is extremely low in academia. Open searches in my field at a popular university typically have about 500 or 600 applicants. I assume for you 'any employer' means 'any employer in my field outside of academia'.

  14. Alex SL Says:

    I say the same thing to students. There are two options:

    A. Be willing to move, even to a different country, or
    B. don't become an academic.

    The second is a valid solution to the conundrum. More power to whoever decides that that is the way to go. But I am today doing what I love – science – because I happily went to Switzerland and Australia instead of cashing unemployment checks in Germany. (And I was born in South Africa because my parents had the same philosophy.)

    And really my experience bears out that the pattern described in this post is real, beyond pondering the number of applications that should be there. I have, for example, run into a PhD student in plant ecology who told me she didn't want to live more than ca. 200 km away from where she was born. Pretty much the only job for her in that radius would have been to replace her PhD supervisor, and that was just not going to happen.

    The weirdest thing that I have ever read in this context was an article in the German magazine Der Spiegel when I visited the old country a few months ago. It was two pages of very empathic characterisation of a long term unemployed media guy who was getting ever more desperate and depressed over not finding a job after he lost the previous one. Very touching; the journalists of that magazine are decent writers. But hidden somewhere in a secondary clause on page two was the little nugget of information that the guy in question had never applied for a position outside of Frankfurt…

  15. hoosierpoli Says:

    Anubis hit it. If you want to choose anything about your life, or have a family, academia ain't for you. And Alex has an interesting perspective. Funnily enough, I just landed my dream job because I moved to Germany. The job doesn't even exist in the states, and the fantastic benefits are standard here instead of a luxury.

  16. Major Kong Says:

    I'm fortunate that my job allows me to live just about anywhere. I can ride the jump-seat to work and the company really doesn't care just so long as I show up.

  17. Jimcat Says:

    This goes a long way towards explaining why universities were initially, and for several centuries, run by the church and staffed by clergy. Unmarried men who aren't in it for the money and will go where the church tells them to: the perfect academics.

  18. RosiesDad Says:

    Ed: It is refreshing to hear you mention some of the better aspects of your position: decent compensation, colleagues who let you work, reasonable teaching load, tenure track (job security!).

    I guess all that is left to say after that is that if you are contemplating a career in academia, you need to be happy with those aspects of a career even if it is happening in Peoria or Des Moines. Or any of the other quaint or not so quaint little towns that are home to colleges and universities across America.

  19. Seth Says:

    Another element of this problem is the pressure grad students get from the minute they enter PhD programs to get jobs that are "better" than yours, Ed, or mine. I teach 4/4 (very willingly), do assloads of service (I get to choose enough of it that it's not all quasi-managerial bullshit), and publish now and then. Now in my 13th year, long tenured and recently promoted to Full Prof, most of my friends and grad school mentors have finally stopped wondering when I'm going to move to a more prestigious (read: lower teaching load) job. And those are the people who know I took this job because I want to teach 4/4 and not have to publish very much.

    I chaired a search last year in which it was patently obvious who was applying for a teaching-intensive position because they were committed to teaching a lot, and who was applying even though they thought they were too good (read: should be teaching less).

    As long as the culture of our profession (and yes, I realize that's more kaleidoscopic than I'm making it sound) privileges research-intensive jobs and sees teaching-intensive positions as placeholders or stepping stones or fall-backs, that creates two problems. One is that it makes job-seekers even more over-selective (taken together with your point about geography, this makes positions almost impossible to find). The other is that a lot of the applicants for these positions don't really want them and are gumming up the search process for people who do (bigger haystacks, harder to find the needles). And a third one, now that I think about it, is that since grad students are getting this pressure to land in prestigious research jobs from the beginning, it becomes easier to dismiss/undervalue college level teaching altogether, which enables university/system managers to justify (at least to themselves and their bean counters) the abuse of contingent faculty: "All they do is teach, which we don't value that much, so we won't treat them like human beings."

  20. Nan Says:

    Back when I was in grad school, I had colleagues who were remarkably picky about where they applied. They were idiots. The last time I heard, most of them never did succeed in landing an academic position.

    In contrast, one of my friends applied for anything and everything advertised in her field (philosophy of science). She landed a job at a small state university. That was 20 years ago; she's still there. What she originally thought of as a steppingstone to something bigger turned out to be the perfect fit.

  21. Evan Sultanik Says:

    As long as there are fewer tenure-track openings than there are Ph.D.s graduating from the most elite institutions in the field, students graduating from second-tier schools will have an exceedingly small chance at a job, even at "less desirable" universities. The relatively low number of applications might be indicative of students saying, "Everyone from Harvard and Princeton is also going to be applying to this undesirable job too, so why should I even bother?" It's basic decision theory: Since the cost of applying to a job is relatively constant across the schools, and if the probability of success is still miniscule regardless of the job, then the optimal strategy is to prioritize applying to the "best" jobs first. It's very similar to how lotteries are overwhelmingly patronized by the poor.

  22. TomW Says:

    I'm in a humanities field with a horrible job market located in a slightly better location than Peoria, though it's still not super desirable. In my experience the wording of the job ad makes a huge difference in the number of applicants. Departments in our field tend to be understaffed and so the ads easily turn into laundry lists of unmet needs. A job ad might read "We are seeking a Scholar of A or B able to teach Topic 1 and Topic 2. The ability to teach Topic 3, Topic 4, Topic 5, or Topic 6 is highly desirable." That kind of job ad will get 200-300 applicants. A very specific job ad "We are seeking a Scholar of A. Must be able to teach Topic 1 and Topic 2" will get 50-100. It can even be as low as 20-30 if the sub-field/topics are very narrow and framed as a must rather than a desirable.

  23. Mayya Says:

    Major Kong, given that you can live almost anywhere, I'm interested in knowing where you've chosen, if that's not too prying a question. I have sometimes idly wondered where I would live if my income was location independent.

  24. sluggo Says:

    The trailing spouse issue is huge, not only in academia, but all jobs. New job, new city, one paycheck…not so much….pouring coffee with an employed spouse may be better for one's family in the long run.

    100 applications? Sounds like a good spread to find someone, any more than that and the law of diminishing returns sets in.

  25. Evan Sultanik Says:

    Mayya reminded me that I forgot to +1 the two-body problem. When I graduated, I had a great offer in the San Francisco area, but my wife didn't have a job lined up there. Also, we would have had to commute over an hour each way in order to afford the area. I am fortunate in that I am in a field where there are more and higher paying jobs in industry than in academia, though. I worked at a university in DC as a non-tenured research professor-type position for a few years and then took a job at a small business for the next few. We recently moved to Philadelphia (closer to family (free babysitting for our kids) lower cost of living, we can afford to live down town, etc.), and I commute to DC regularly. My commute is actually shorter than some of the people who live in Northern VA and need to drive through the terrible DC traffic.

  26. c u n d gulag Says:

    My niece got her Doctorate's Degree in Music this past summer, from the Eastman Conservatory, and she lucked into a 2 semester gig at her old college, teaching oboe while the tenured professor is out on maternity leave.
    SUNY Potsdam has a lot of different Music Major's.

    She's trying to find the next job. I told here the same 'you've got to be flexible' speech you give your student's Ed.

    But I'm also telling her to look for jobs in Europe.

    I would love for her and my nephew to get the fuck out of this country, before we all decide to kill ourselves over stupid political and/or religious bullshit.

    This place is getting crazier by the day!

    I remember when Dr. Jonas Salk was a revered figure in my youth, for coming up with the Polio vaccine.
    And now, some over-educated fuckwit's and under-educated crackers don't want to have their special little snowflakes vaccinated.
    Why?
    FreeDUMB!
    LiberTEA!!
    And, Autism.
    Oh yeah – and plenty of "TEH FUCKING STOOOOOOPID!!!"

    Jayzoos, I'd give-up on this place and leave permanently, but I'm stuck here!!!

  27. anori Says:

    Sorry, Ed, I'm calling BS on this. I have maybe, once or twice, heard some member of my grad school cohort make a remark such as the following: "I'm not applying to X job because I don't want to live there" or even: "I'm not applying to X job because I can't afford to live in New York City." LOL. But that is not the norm. Almost everybody I knew applied very widely. I did too. A few temporary positions, and the recession hit. Then nothing. So I left and went to law school.
    It's also worth remembering that adjunct work is a lot more available in urban areas, so many people want to stay there at least temporarily so they can feel like "scholars" instead of pouring coffee, at least until the next job market season rolls around again.

  28. Skippper Says:

    Mayya: My job is location independent. I chose to live in Palm Springs. I love the heat. I was born and raised in New England and always hated the cold and snow. Moving here was the best thing I've ever done.

    I think one problem that is bubbling under the surface here, but hasn't been addressed directly, is asking people why they got a PhD. Was it just momentum? Did they think there was a vibrant job market that would allow them to live in the place of their dreams.

    I went back to grad school when I was older than most in the program. I was at a decision point of whether I should take my MA and run or stay for the PhD. My advisor actually talked me out of staying. He told me that I had a couple of years more to study, would have to write a dissertation, and then compete for junior faculty jobs with the younger folks who were in the program. And there weren't that many jobs opening up. Even if I got a job, he said, I'd most likely have to move to some podunk town and hope that I could work my way up.

    I took his advice. I got a job that was location independent. I got a job as adjunct faculty teaching my specialty and have never regretted not getting the PhD.

    Planning your career is just like starting a business. You need to scope out the potential market and see whether the investment is going to pay off. Businesses fail because they don't scope out the market ahead of time. So do people.

  29. Robert Says:

    My eldest brother teaches college English in a pleasant coastal California city. As part of his trek to that tenure position, he (and his wife and two kids) spent almost a decade in Ohio. OHIO. When you're born and raised in Bay Area California, it might as well have been Kazakhstan. But they got through it, and he's back where snow is something you go to. I admired his tenacity (and their forbearance). A good friend is in broadcast journalism (production side), and has lived everywhere from Wyoming to the Florida panhandle. Now he's in Manhattan, at the top of his game.

    Me, I got a civil service job here in the part of the country I'm from, and never left. That was my dream, and it came true. If my husband came to me tonight and said, "I've got an awesome job offer, but we'd have to move to Abysm, Mississippi," well, that would be a very long conversation.

  30. isherwood Says:

    Again with the slam against NPR listeners. Most of those I know (myself included) are at least partially blue-collar. Many are far from urbane.

    Do I detect the faint aroma of self-projection?

  31. Skipper Says:

    And can we please retire the phrase about "the perfect is the enemy of the good." This shopworn cliche has become the mantra of people — politicians mostly — who are trying to sell us shit sandwiches.

  32. Paul Says:

    It seems to me that if you've only got a 1% chance of getting the job, and presumably very limited resources for travelling if you make it to the interview level, you'll wind up being somewhat choosy, not by choice but by necessity. Even 4-5 job openings a year would be tough to follow up on for someone with no income.

  33. MS Says:

    The question might be rephrased as: is it honestly worth it to me to spend several hours preparing a "customized cover letter demonstrating my deep and sincere interest in Podunk U", CV, resume, blah blah, then send that package off to be part of a surprisingly small field of 80 fully-qualified applicants, 79 of whom will go home with nice parting gifts?

    At 1-in-80 chances, you'd need to apply to about 55 such jobs in order to have a 50-50 chance of getting a job. And most jobs will instead have hundreds of applicants, not just 80, right? So your odds are much worse than that.

    But even at 1-in-80 – "the best odds you can get" – is it really worthwhile to spend the effort? Do it 55 times to have a 50-50 chance of getting a job?

    You're telling people they ought to try harder, and in the same breath pointing out that almost every single one of the people who did try will have wasted their effort.

    And as others have pointed out, if you have a family, minority, gay, anything like that, this job is a major net negative for your life.

    Let me just compare for you, the career path of a Baby Boomer I know. Got a Bachelor's degree. Applied to a university. ONE university, a major one in a major city. Got hired on the spot to a tenure-track professorship with a fabulous salary and benefits. Condition: she had to pursue her Master's.

    THAT is the difference between an economy in expansion mode and the "trickle-down" economy we have today. That's what the Boomers grew up with, and that's how they think the economy works today. Walk in, get hired to a great job. So anyone who doesn't have a great job must be the laziest SOB that ever was born.

  34. anotherbozo Says:

    Haven't read the other posts, so I'm not sure if anyone said something similar, but if your search committee pays transportation to interviews ONLY if the applicant accepts the job, otherwise the sap has to pay his own airfare, you are pikers and poltroons. My first interview in Wisconsin (I was flying out from NYC) had that stipulation. I got even, in a way, by accepting the job and moving on a year later.

  35. Anonymouse Says:

    @MS; I work in an IT field populated by the children of the Boomers. My main customer tends to hire kids from Podunk, USA, right out of college. The special snowflakes move here to Large Coastal City and immediately start throwing tantrums over how housing costs more than $1.50/month and how there are OTHER CARS ON THE ROAD. No kidding; this is where the jobs are, so of course you'll find people here.

    The latest whine is to demand that they be able to move back to Podunk, USA, and take the job with them through a work-at-home scheme which simply isn't practical in this field. But they're entitled to it! Because they DESERVE to have the McMansion and stay-at-home wife and the vacation home and the Titanic-sized SUV and six kids by the time they're 25.

  36. ShortWoman Says:

    You've got 80 serious applicants and another 20 bozos for one (1) open position and you're arguing that means there is NOT an oversupply? Wow. Last time I was in charge of hiring someone, I considered myself very lucky to have a dozen qualified applicants.

    Here's an article from November showing that even in a hard hit area like construction there's only 6.5 unemployed workers per opening:http://www.epi.org/blog/the-number-of-unemployed-exceeds-number-of-available-jobs-across-all-sectors/. At the beginning of last year the average was 3 unemployed people for every job: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2014/jan/07/gene-sperling/there-are-3-unemployed-people-every-job-opening-ob/.

    I guess it all depends on your point of view. Nonetheless, glad I gave up on my doctorate.

  37. geoff Says:

    @Mayya, I don't think the redoubtable Major Kong will mind my telling you that (I'm pretty sure) he lives in Dayton, OH, or thereabouts. He works for a large Memphis-based shipping firm and flies over my house a couple times a month. (He really needs to keep it down!)

  38. grumpygradstudent Says:

    The deal I made with myself when I decided to go for a ph.d. was that it meant I had to be willing to live wherever I could find a job.

    Now, I'm pretty sure I'm going to break that deal. I like where I live too much.

    Which means I don't get to be an academic. So what? It's a vastly overrated job anyway (nice, don't get me wrong, but certainly overrated). I'll do something else and get to be near my friends and family.

    NPR stories notwithstanding, very few Ph.D. holders are on food stamps, and the majority of people who get Ph.D.s do not end up as tenured professors. So what do they do? Other things that pay them money, like every other person on earth.

    When academics say, "I can't find a job," they mean "I can't find a tenure track professor job."

  39. schmitt trigger Says:

    The next question I'm asking is without any sarcasm, sneer or attempting to ridicule anyone:

    Is there any kernel of truth in the saying: "Whoever that can do, does. Whoever that can't do, teaches"?

  40. Major Kong Says:

    he lives in Dayton, OH

    Close. Columbus actually. You are also correct as to my employer, although I prefer not to name them in internet forums.

  41. Major Kong Says:

    @Mayya

    I found myself in Columbus Ohio back when I was hired the Air National Guard tanker unit that is based here.

    I stuck around because my wife works for the state. When she retires we may consider moving elsewhere but Columbus works for us.

    It's inexpensive compared to either coast or larger Midwest cities like Chicago. Much as I love Northern California, I'd be living in a double-wide in Merced with a 2 hour drive to the airport.

    Columbus is big enough to have most city amenities without being so huge it takes 2 hours to get across town.

    It's an easy commute to Memphis for me. Between here and Dayton I have several flights on my company's jets that will get me to work.

    I certainly have no desire to move to Memphis, even though it would simplify my life. I don't care to live in the South, and especially not Memphis. It's like Detroit with humidity.

  42. geoff Says:

    @Major Kong

    We here in Memphis prefer to think of ourselves as New Orleans without the history, food, or culture, thanks. I.e., hot, poor, and violent!

  43. Xynzee Says:

    I seriously considered doing a PhD, but concluded that there was no future in it as my area would be too niche and to be honest purely self-indulgent. I often wonder what percentage of PhD students have romanticised academia. Wandering around New England ivy covered campuses, smoking a pipe in a tweed jacket, while pondering and pontificating upon "very serious matters".

    Having relocated and retrained several times to find a stable, well paying and fulfilling career, I can say it helps to not be too picky.

    I finally found one, that's waaaay out in the country, but there's even more remote options than here. But the stars are gorgeous, I've seen Venus so bright it blocks out stars, and I've got mtn biking. The community is small ~1000 depending on births and deaths. People ask me why I'm here, because they pay me ;)

    They only had a few applicants for my role, and the bulk were from O/S, mostly angling for an entry visa. We do have trouble filling good positions, we have to readvertise for a fairly senior role.

    Aus. has a history of using policy to encourage people to go to the hinterlands. Either by decentralising govt services to non-Sydney regional areas or carrots for certain professions eg teachers and doctors. You're almost guaranteed a perm teaching gig if you're prepared to go country. Residency year docs often need to do some time in the country as part of their hospital rotation—a friend is having to spend time in Central Qld. When I hear her whinge I offer her a teaspoon of cement ;) By doing these things, it gives them preference when roles open up in more desirable schools and hospitals. This job gives me tremendous opportunity to build my cv in ways that I would never have gotten in a large city organisation.

    Trying to anchor communities is part of the reason universities are often located in Podunk. It gives a stable source of income to the city, and that helps make a region more attractive. Otherwise, Corvallis?

    Sure it's easier if you're single, but historically families made due. Slowly people are evolving out of their racist ways, it takes time and perhaps experience of people who are different to themselves. My community has a mixed race couple where he's a Fijian Indian. We have a lesbian couple (or two) who go about their lives. If you're competent at what you do, and you're pleasant to be around, your co-workers will make time for you.

  44. HoosierPoli Says:

    Is there any kernel of truth in the saying: "Whoever that can do, does. Whoever that can't do, teaches"?

    There are a great deal of people (I will call them "normal people") who are constitutionally incapable of teaching. There are lots of people who couldn't teach their way out of a wet paper bag. It's a skill like any other.

  45. Major Kong Says:

    @geoff

    The ribs at least are really good. Got to give credit where it's due.

  46. Khaled Says:

    I'm stuck in Dayton because my wife's job brought us here, and while she can now work from anywhere, we have neither the desire nor the money to move with twin toddlers. We have a great school district and a nice neighborhood, all for under 200k for a 3 bd house. I'd love to move to Columbus, but since I went to "That school up North" and because it really wouldn't change our situation that much, we stay put.

  47. Linda Says:

    @geoff:
    When I lived in Memphis, I really liked it, and the ribs are as good as Major Kong says–they made a snob out of me. (BTW Kong, I'm from Detroit, so maybe the adjustment was not so great.) But the money sucked, so I moved back up north. But it was where I did my classic first-job-out-of-college, where I worked hard, made crap, and tons of experience for the next job. And, as another submitter said, it was about the time my parents needed help with their lives, so it was time to move back north.

    I now realize that I have lived my entire life in three of the cities voted most miserable in a recent poll: Detroit, Memphis and Toledo. Yet I'm pretty happy. Too many pills?

  48. Duke of Clay Says:

    I grew up in Memphis and will be going back for my 50th high school reunion next year. Other than that, I don't think I'll ever go back, not even for the ribs. There's a pretty good barbecue place just a mile from where I live now. They're more Kansas City style than Memphis, but I've always been adaptable.

  49. JustRuss Says:

    I went to a fairly prestigious journalism school, and we had one professor who was constantly telling us how we'd have to take crap jobs after we graduated to establish our bonafides. He had had one student who insisted he'd only work for a major network…and sure enough, he'd landed a job with ABC straight out of college. He came and spoke to us once…he was good looking, charismatic, funny, and ABC happened to be looking for a brash young rookie to fill one particular spot right when he graduated. Actually getting to meet him drove home the point that yeah, could happen, but most of us had a better chance of being hit by lightning.

  50. jharp Says:

    I have 2 in college and speak often with their peers.

    I tell them over and over again to be prepared to go where your business takes you.

  51. jharp Says:

    Khaled Says:
    February 5th, 2015 at 12:11 pm

    "I'm stuck in Dayton"

    Drove through Dayton just last week after not being there for years.

    Came in from the west on 35 on my way to Xenia and downtown looked beautiful.

  52. tveb Says:

    Missoula, Montana is not half bad (apropos Fmguru's comment).

  53. goodgovt Says:

    Agree less sympathy for job seekers severely narrowing their own possibilities. But you admitted 80 of the 100 applicants were plausible.
    1 in 80 odds are worse than your odds in Vegas.

  54. April Says:

    @Hoosier….I'm a scientist and I "did" science for about 10 years before getting into teaching. Just one woman's opinion, of course, but teaching science is way WAY harder than doing it.

  55. April Says:

    Oops….that should have been @Schmitt. Sorry Hoosier.

  56. Khaled Says:

    @jharp:
    The downtown may look nice, but there is nothing there. To see a major league sports team, I have to drive to either Columbus or Cincinnati. There is a good Mexician joint in town, but since their highchairs are broken, we have to go to one out in Trotwood ( twice as far). My wife is vegan and I am more or less Vegetarian, so our options are fairly limited here. Dayton is much better than where my wife grew up (PA coal country) but a cultural Mecca, this place ain't. Oh, and the job market here is terrible.

  57. Amelia Says:

    First of all, it's ridiculous to think that any of these non-applicant's chances of having a job in their field would be significantly improved by applying for this job, when the ratio of qualified candidates to openings only rises from a lowball estimate of 100:5. We all know that those 5 jobs will get offered to, oh, probably 2-3 of the applicants, and the jobs those folks don't take may or may not get the chance to make an offer to a second-choice candidate.

    But second, I think you really oversimplify in taking people at face value when they say "there are no jobs!" They mean "there are no jobs that I can get" or "I love my community more than I love my work" or "I'm too tired to risk any more rejection on the market" or any of a number things. But all of that is complicated to explain, and involves justifying your choices and priorities, and who wants to bother with that with a stranger? And honestly, functionally speaking: 5 jobs is not significantly different from zero jobs. So they just say there are no jobs. Mom can't argue with that one, after all.