It’s Get A Job time again in sociology, and that is stressful for job applicants, especially those just finishing their Ph.D.s and going out on the market for the first time. For the last few years, the job applicants have banded together on the internet, creating a discussion board, The Rumor Mill, where questions can be aired and various rumours about what jobs are still “really” open and such. This quickly led to the Jobs Wiki, where postings, short lists, and offers are compiled by the masses.
At first, I thought these tools were great ideas. How brilliant of those sociologists to turn the information hierarchy on its head, and let everyone know whatever information is available. I’m all for that. But last year, I began to get the slightest wrinkle in my brow about the whole project. The wiki is what bothered me first.
It’s a great idea if the wisdom of the sociology crowd produces accurate information, but some items looked funny to me. Not having any especial view into the hiring processes of any school other than my own, I began to wonder how accurate it was. I wouldn’t accuse anyone of posting false information there, but shaky info is just as unhelpful. In our own search, where I had (near) perfect information, I saw that the information posted to the wiki wasn’t particularly wrong, but just so delayed that it would be misleading or at least unhelpful. (Should I have posted the good info myself? Perhaps, but I was curious). And I also wonder how many of the applicants access the wiki and how many are totally unaware of it.
The second little worry I had, which is even greater this year than last, is the concern that smalinky shared in his comment. The whole rumour mill/wiki endeavor is likely a geiser of stress, needless worry, and time suck. I imagine that if I were on the market, I would be compulsive about reading and checking for updates. I am fascinated with it even as a bystander. Does the panic of some of the contributors spread to the rest, creating a viral job stress? It’s hard to say, but the tone of the contributors ranges from calm to paranoid, and the flame wars were more than this reader could endure.
Thinking about it this year, just at the beginning of the interminably long job search period, I am torn. I still think that the individual question/answers and pieces of information are very useful, but taken together the whole package may be a jamboree of panic, insecurity, and stress. I wonder whether I should advise my students to steer clear of it when they are on the market. On the other hand, maybe the market is just super stressful, and the rumour mill and wiki are not so much producing the stress as reflecting it.