Some comments on my recent post, "A VAP's Dilemma", got me thinking that perhaps VAPs/adjuncts face an even more worrisome trilemma.
In a number of comments, Rachel suggests that it may be best for a VAP not to spend a great deal of time on teaching, as doing so will make you look like "VAP/adjunct material." Now consider the following comment by Anon:
I seem to remember someone at the Philosophy Smoker blog claiming that their department didn't want to hire the very best. It would take me too long to track down the posts, but I believe the person was worried that the very best would end up taking jobs elsewhere and that this would make the whole search process a waste of time. That, or the person would be a flight risk, which would require putting together a new search a couple of years down the line. This might be something to keep in mind or it could be that this person's department is just an outlier.
I have to confess that I've had this worry about my own dossier. Given that I've published quite a bit of stuff, have lots of stuff under review, and my research projects are pretty ambitious, I worry sometimes that people at teaching places may look at my CV and say, "This guy clearly wants to be a researcher, and might jump ship."
Anyway, here's the trilemma:
- If one works one's tail off to become a great teacher, one runs the risk of looking like "VAP/adjunct material."
- If one works one's tail off to become a great researcher, one runs the risk of looking like a potential flight risk.
- If one works one's tail off to become a great teacher and great researcher, one also looks like a potential flight risk.
My approach to building myself up as a candidate has been to work my tail off to become the absolute best teacher and researcher I can be. Yet, if Rachel is right about teaching and the point about "being a flight risk" is right, this looks like it may be a mistake. Indeed, everything looks like it may be a mistake. Wait...what? Yep, that's right. It looks like just about every seemingly reasonable strategy can blow up in your face. This in turn suggests to me something that I've heard on numerous comment threads: namely, that the job market is an absolute crapshoot -- no more, no less. Just about anything can land you a job or disqualify you from one, depending on the search committee.
Which is why I always come back to this: I think that all I can do is try to become the absolute best teacher, researcher, and colleague I can be, be myself, and let the chips fall where they may. Indeed, I guess I want to say that's all I can do in good faith. I really do appreciate job market advice from all quarters -- but, at the end of the day, I guess I just think it's best to work my tail off, believe in what I do as a researcher, teacher, and colleague, and have faith that some search committee out there can come to believe in them too. At any rate, I guess I'm willing to run with this, come what may. But what do I know? I'm always willing to rethink things. :)