The Hunger Games of academic employment
“Haymitch Abernathy and your Ph.D. adviser have been there, done that.Your adviser in this process—much like Haymitch, who is Katniss and Peeta’s guide in The Hunger Games—is someone who has already succeeded at what you’re about to do: get an academic appointment (job hunt) or avoid being murdered on live television (Hunger Games). They should, therefore, be ideally placed to help you.
“But in both cases, the crucial problem is this: They’ve already gotten a job/survived. Sure, they’d like to see you employed/alive, but there will always be more students/tributes. In fact, there are so many that it’s hard to care about any one in particular.
“This has not been true in my case—my adviser is a stellar human being—but I’m also lucky enough to be in a department with a good placement rate. If I were in The Hunger Games universe, I would be from, say, District 4, not from District 12 (the most impoverished district, where Katniss and Peeta lived).
It’s all about appearances, but it really isn’t. Katniss gets important help in her quest to survive the games from her stylist, Cinna, and her PR rep/agent, Effie Trinket. They help District 12 tributes Katniss and Peeta attract sponsors with insider connections and flashy (quite literally) clothes. But clothes don’t do anyone any good in the arena.
“Likewise, on the job market, you’ll get practical, wonderful advice and then, perplexingly, extensive advice on what to wear. Kathryn Hume, author of Surviving Your Academic Job Hunt (surviving!), is right: When you’re sitting in a suit, no one should see bare skin between the cuffs of your pants and the tops of your socks. But having watched the hiring process several times at my university, I’ve learned that the candidates’ fates didn’t seem at all determined by their wardrobes. Ill-fitting suits and smart outfits didn’t seem to count either way.”
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