Wednesday, June 08, 2011
If I knew then what I know now
Today I read over my old blog posts from when I lived in Arivaca Arizona. At that time I did not think I would ever get an academic job. If I had to do it again I would have done things differently. First, I probably would not have bothered to apply to any jobs in the US. I now know I never had a shot of even getting an interview with any US institution. Having a PhD from the UK and no teaching experience basically eliminated me from the first round of any search. No amount of publications could overcome this second disability. Anybody who tells you that publications are what get you hired as an assistant professor in the US is lying to you. I see this lie repeated a lot on academic blogs and I wish it would stop. Second, I would have sent an application to every history department in English speaking Africa regardless of whether they were advertising openings or not. While having a British degree hurt me a lot in the US job market since my degree is from SOAS not Oxford or Cambridge I believe it would have helped me in the African market. Not surprisingly the School of Oriental and African Studies is known and respected in Africa. This was the second university in Africa I even looked at and I got the job on the basis of my CV and publications without the need for an interview. Finally, I would have done a lot more to project myself as a generalist rather than a specialist. Universities are not looking for people to teach on the subject of their PhD dissertation. They are looking for people who can teach the broad outlines of several centuries of the history of whole continents. I honestly did not fully realize how far removed the daily work of a university lecturer is from the process of getting a PhD when I lived in Arivaca.