I was in my campus office yesterday, having gone to get my computer back, and then trying to delete some emails and do some little chores.
And a youngish person stood in my doorway and said hello. I didn't recognize them at first, but then they reminded me: a former student. This one had gone on to grad school in Practical Basketweaving. They'd stopped by because they'd learned from a faculty member in the department that there was going to be a new chair, and had dropped by the department to find out who it was, and then came to my office. They lamented the difficulty of finding an academic job, and the earnest wish to come back to our department. They mentioned that they'd made it to the interview stage for a job we had a while back. And they hadn't even gotten a phone interview for the short term hires made by the chair.
It was awkward. I'd better get used to that, I suppose.
They kept sort of asking why they weren't getting a job. And probably the real answer is that the job market sucks, and they aren't quite competitive, given the absolutely stellar people that are out there in Practical Basketweaving. Which I didn't quite say, though I mentioned the incredibly bad market.
They revealed that they'd had a TT job at a strong regional comprehensive, but had left to follow a now-ex-spouse. I didn't ask more, but I did silently realize that a friend of mine also teaches at the former school.
I finally told them I needed to get going, and wished them well, and they left.
I feel an odd sort of responsibility for a graduate of ours who goes on and doesn't get a job, though I can say with absolute certainty that if they talked to me about graduate school, I would have told them the bad news about the market. But the person they were closest to, I think, wouldn't see that as their responsibility at all.