Graduate Students’ Stories in Getting Jobs during COVID19 Pandemic

During the onset of the pandemic, academic job market appeared to be less promising. Many institutions and universities suddenly stopped hiring new talent. Nevertheless, a number of graduate students managed to land themselves in desirable positions. In this section, we have three students sharing their inspirational stories.

At the height of the pandemic, my supervisor and I published a short paper about how COVID19 exacerbated inequality in online library takeout. The massive positive response we got from this research gave me the confidence to pursue postdoc funding for more research about libraries’ role in social stratification. My supervisor and I were lucky enough to get the funding for the project. Having the certainty of a job post-PhD has enabled me to take the time to take care of my two young kids when they needed it, without dreading the employment implications this might have (at least in the short-term).

Ea Hoppe Blaabæk (University of Copenhagen)

I started graduate school in the midst of protests in August 2014 and, without skipping a beat, I applied to tenure-track jobs in the midst of protests in summer 2020. To begin and end my graduate career in this fashion conjured a bitter taste in my mouth. It was a challenge to daily negotiate the stressors that accompany anti-Blackness in this country along with the pending uncertainty of the job market. And yet, I was not alone during the entire process. I am most appreciative, and cannot overstate the importance, of a supportive village— family, friends, and a wonderful committee– who continually reminded me of the “why” and, without hyperbole, helped to keep my soul intact. My village truly came through for me; they edited my market materials, listened (sometimes painfully) to multiple versions of my job talk and, when the time came, helped me negotiate my offer. Despite everything that was happening at the time, I felt supported and prepared, which helped me to remain calm during Zoom interviews and hold true to myself. Although the rewards from the market accrue to the individual, this is, without question, an endeavor that requires collective efforts. I am thankful to find gainful employment and am dedicated to helping others do the same in my new position at the University of Washington.

Jelani Ince (Indiana University, Bloomington)

I am not sure my experience will be of any help, inspiration or consolation to those who struggle to find employment but, yes, I got hired by Boston University in the middle of the pandemic. I could say it was a case of especially good fit between my geographical preference, scholarly interest and the department’s teaching and research needs. Then again, ‘fit’ may be the hollowest of justifications for hiring and especially, not hiring a person. As such, I would have rejected it outright if I had gotten the short end of the stick. All I can do is express my great joy and appreciation for having found a job— or, rather, a job having found me— without trying to take any credit for it other than, apparently, being the right person in the right place. That is not false humility; it’s the best epistemological evaluation I can offer.

Jonathan Mijs (Boston University)