More PhD coping-- graduating. Humanities job search

I’m having a lame Spring, and just wanted to get a feel for how typical my situation is. I should be graduating in June or sometime this summer (depending on when my overly-busy readers get around to giving me feedback, etc) and am on the job market for a teaching job in the good liberal arts 4-year school/ state school realm, and having little luck. I’m sure the lack of actual vellum-in-hand contributes and I’m not a great candidate because of that, but, like, what do people DO their first year out, if they don’t find a position? It feels like a Catch-22-- do a lot of people end up sitting out a year, breeding or trying to publish or playing X-box? Is it too early in the season and I should expect a second wave cattle-call? What’s the timeline like here? Please share personal experiences (people with wacky labor-of-love degrees like Comp Lit, Folklore, Philosophy, Art History, Philosophy of Science, etc especially welcome). I feel like my advisors, who all graduated from Columbia and Yale and Berkeley and fell into the first job they wanted, can’t really relate or offer much personal input.

As the veteran of a couple of academic searches, I feel for you. My husband and I had the additional burden of trying to do two at the same time. (I know, what were we thinking.) You’re right that your advisors probably don’t know first hand how tough things are now or what to do about it. Mine certainly didn’t.

Continous publishing is pretty much a requirement. The wisdom I heard at the time was that you get whatever you can at the college level and “write your way out.” The problem right now is that the better schools have their pick of experienced, well-published types who just want to make a move for some reason. Newly minted Ph.D.'s and ABD’s have it really tough, unless they are in a field that encourages post-doc positions (at truly pitiful pay levels.) Another possibility is to look into teaching part time at university extensions or schools that have programs aimed at adult continuing education.

There was a reason that Gary Trudeau had a Doonesbury series a while back that compared graduate students to migrant farm workers.

Thanks, Cher3. Is the fact that no one else has responded to this an extremely bad sign? Like, no humanities PhD ever found a position and this is all purely hypothetical?

A lot of community colleges are hiring (at least in SoCal).

I know, it’s probably not what you imagined doing (and if your advisors are like mine, the thought is utterly abhorrent to them; mine–who were like yours, apparently–didn’t have the community colleges even on their radar. Once they found out that I was going that way out of necessity, they basically said “Good luck” in a really snotty, oh-how-you’ve-let-us-down-and-bastardized-your-degree-and-our-good-name tone), but a job (even a rather crappy one) is a job.

What a lot of other people have told me, and personal experience is starting to bear out, a humanities Ph.D. is pretty much worthless. It’s not even a ticket to getting a job, much less the lock that it seemingly was for previous generations. The “write your way out” wisdom that you heard seems to be the case for many of us, even people who (unlike me) came from a big-name school.

Theres a reason why all your advisors are from Yale or Berkley. If Berkely grads can only find a position in your school, imagine how low you would have to go to find a position?