Friday, October 13, 2006

Market question

I was talking to a friend from days or yore recently, who's going on the job market again. A few years ago, she quit her tenured position and moved to be with her partner while they started a family. In the meantime, she's racked up impressive publications, though not directly in her dissertation field, and now she's ready to go back to full time academia.

We talked about how to frame her applications, how to best deal with the several year absence from an academic job.

As people who've written and maybe read job letters, what would you suggest?

(My thought is that she should be fairly up front, because people ARE going to wonder, and while there are jobs she won't get because departments devalue women having families or putting family responsibilities ahead of a tenured position, she wouldn't really want to end up in those departments. But maybe I'm too accustomed to my department which is fairly sane though not perfect?)


  1. I think she should be very up front. When there are gaps in someone's timeline, a committee will go off on all sorts of flights of imagination to explain them, so she's best off filling in those gaps herself. I don't think that even my fairly misogynistic department would mind someone who'd taken a few years off as long as she used that time productively (academically speaking). And besides, if a department really did devalue women who prioritize family issues, she wouldn't want to work there. I'd just be sure to emphasize the ways in which she has continued to engage in research and academic work. (Good luck to her!)

  2. I agree. Be up front. When I have served on hiring committees, a big negative was being too cute about any possible issue. On the other hand, there is no need for a big explanation. "I took several years off to start a family" should do the trick. The fact that your pal continued publishing speaks volumes about her self-discipline, character, etc.

  3. I'm on the side of being up front about her absences. I would hope that the departments that she's applying to will look at what she's done (the publications) and weigh that heavily in her favor.

    Late again -- I tried to send congrats on your one-year anniversary but couldn't get my home computer to show me the word for the "word-verification"...please accept my belated congratulations, as well as many thanks for everything that I've learned to date!

  4. Yes, what everyone else said. If she's upfront, her absence from academia will seem a conscious and smart decision, and her productivity in the meantime will look more impressive. If she skips over it, people will wonder if she's just been unable to get an academic job and she'll be perceived as damaged goods -- totally unfairly, of course.