The lone pitchers of water added insult to injury for the up and coming academics about to attempt the hardest job market in decades. The irony of food cutbacks for this meeting was simply cruel.
The event, a panel on the faculty application process for grad students entitled "The View From The Search Committee," drew 100 plus mostly humanities graduate students to Dudley House Tuesday afternoon.
The troubles of today’s market were temporarily overshadowed by the more immediate concerns of going through the application process, but the downturn was far from forgotten.
Panelist and Government Professor James E. Alt, who also serves on his own department’s search committees, emphasized to students that search committees would be especially particular about their choices this year, because they “haven’t gained the confidence that next year will happen.”
“It’s a super difficult year,” Brendan Karch, a 6th year graduate student in the History department, told Flyby at the event. “You just have to go out there and hope that the prestige of Harvard will help get your foot in the door.”
The panelists weren’t too optimistic.
“Put yourself in the position of a committee member,” said Alt. There are 250 others applying, he explained. “Just. Like. You.”
Crushingly, it sounded all too similar to that other application process. Then comes grad school. Then this?
A quick summary of the advice, in a mix of one-liners and clichés, after the jump:
“Time is short” (Committee members average 5 minutes per app).
Ask help from advisers because “you know they must be good at it because they have a job.”
“Be oblong” (Well rounded but particularly strong in one area).
Romance Professsor Mary M. Gaylord:
“Summarize Proust” (Time is short during the job talk, too. See “Monty Python”).
“Dress so as not to distract.”
Anthropology Professor Michael Herzfeld:
“Perfection is a form of arrogance, but so is not doing the best you can.”
“Less is more.”
“Don’t babble and don’t gabble” (don’t be nervous).
Herzfeld ended the event with perhaps the best advice anyone can offer. “I wish you good luck. The rest is in your hands.”