I'm in a good mood today, since I just went to my tutoring orientation, and I'm savoring the prospect (no evil eye!) of earning some money again in the near future. Since little has happened with me otherwise, I thought I'd take the opportunity to tell a good story from my recent disciplinary conference. Things like this are part of this blog's raison d'etre.
So. At the time that I attended the conference, I had applied to some twenty-six positions (a grab-bag of postdocs and teaching jobs). Usually, as we know, a whole bunch of the schools that are hiring professors will send interviewers to the conference and blast through a series of preliminary interviews to narrow their searches. This year, though, of all the schools to which I had applied -- I'll guess it was around fifteen -- three of them had actually sent someone to interview candidates, and the rest of them apparently had no budget to do so. And, of those three, one of them wanted to interview me, and the others apparently had already decided that I suck and bear no further investigation.
So you can imagine how nervous I was when I met with my sole interviewer, even though I already understood that this is my first year on the market, the odds are bad in any case, blah blah blah. Zi was very polite and, while not exactly warm, then not the terrifying presence that such people can be. For my part, I was doing my best to be on point, with a professional yet humble demeanor -- you know, that impossible ideal for interviews that communicates: "I am a motherfucking genius, and I shall help your university ascend to stardom, but at the same time I am humbler and meeker than a lamb, and will never, ever create ego-clash problems with other members of the department. I am the alpha and the omega; I am all things to all wo/men." You know how it goes.
I had done a good bit of research on all of my likeliest prospects, and I knew that this was one of a number of departments I'd applied to at which I would be a little different from most of the other profs. Thinking of it in Harry Potter-esque terms*, I've been trained primarily as an Auror: I know a fuckton about tracking, subduing, and capturing wizard criminals. Auror Training is my primary area of study within my department at DOU, although they train wizards of all kinds. As a matter of disciplinary breadth and basic knowledge, I could fill in at need as, say, a Potions Master or even an Herbalist -- both of those fields of study have some meaningful and valuable connections to my specialties -- but Defense Against the Dark Arts is clearly where my heart lies, and where I would serve best in any good wizarding department. As it happens, many departments I've applied to have never employed anyone trained as an Auror; they have traditionally focused on training, say, historians of magic, or seers, or future Ministry of Magic bureaucrats (ugh), and other such things that I consider relatively far removed from anything that I do. They often give the impression of wanting to bring in an Auror as a way of rounding out their faculty, rather than as an index of the department's focus.
Anyway. The interview was for a place at one such school of the latter kind, where Aurors had long (perhaps always) been scarce. Thus, I wasn't surprised when the interviewer asked me, "How would you feel about being the only Auror in our department?" This is the sort of interview question that I had anticipated, and I launched into a thorough explanation of why this didn't faze me: I like and respect the work of historians of magic and MoM employees, and I would certainly teach my students about the common roots of these fields and how each specialty has developed. But, as an Auror, I would make clear that they would be learning DADA from me, and that those interested in the other stuff could and should take courses from the other profs, et cetera et cetera... I went on like this for what felt like three minutes before the interviewer, with an ever-so-faint hint of a sarcastic smile on hir face, observed to me, "Actually, we're all Potions Masters."
Oh. Ahem. Oh my. Gee, is it hot in here, or is it just me?
I recovered the best that I could. Luckily for me, I had phrased my comments in positive ways that applied as well, and even more, to Potions Studies, and I could even speak a bit about some of the excellent and innovative work that some of my friends do in Potions at DOU. But I felt like a tool regardless.
*I know, the analogy isn't nearly as inspired as Sisyphus' Stockton-inspired lady-and-tiger motif, but I'm not a lit person, and I don't want to spend five hours brainstorming my own brilliant motif.
2 years ago