I do not claim to know everything about my field. There are plenty of classic works of literature that I have not read. I may or may not be able to recite the names of ten notable composition scholars, depending on the day. I’m still trying to grow and improve as a teacher. I have plenty still to learn. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be applying to Ph.D. programs. But, dammit, don’t assume because we both have the same two initials at the end of our name that we’re one and the same.
We might have the same degree, but we did not have the same education. Similar, hopefully, but not the same. We do not have the exact same teaching experience. We’ve had different courses, different students, different campus environments, different levels of engagement with the actual class on a day-to-day basis. We have not gone to all the same conferences or published the same articles. We’re both well-educated, but we are not the same.
My uncle likes to casually forget all of this.
A man who got a degree in communication because he was too scared to major in English and then got a job in insurance because he was too scared to work in journalism, my uncle started a graduate program in English in his fifties after I began an undergraduate English major. Citing my “brave” decision to pursue English right away as an inciting factor in his decision to go back to school, he earned his degree halfway between my B.A. graduation and my M.A. graduation. Now that I’ve also completed my graduate program, he assumes we are one and the same on the job market.
Other than the type of degree we both possess, we are nothing alike. I’ve been in the university classroom as a student for six years now. He received his Master’s online and hasn’t been in a physical classroom since the 80’s at best. I have a strong background in writing consulting/tutoring, while he has a strong background in proofreading/editing. I’ve spent two years in the classroom as an instructor, which included co-teaching three classes with full-time faculty, designing my own course from scratch, and serving as the instructor of record for the course I designed three times. On the other hand, he spent a summer as an online TA counterpart to a class “on the ground” at his home institution with a set curriculum. I’ve presented at two academic conferences and published an article in the field, and he has done neither of those things.
Our CVs could not be more different. That’s not to say that one of our profiles is better than the other’s. They’re just different. And, on the job market, we are completely different types of candidates.
So, needless to say, I became quite enraged when he called to ask me about the new job I received yesterday as an adjunct at a highly reputable community college in the area. Of course, it wasn’t the phone call itself that angered me. I am very excited to have this opportunity and I love talking about it to anyone and everyone. I haven’t even technically started yet…the newness is far from worn off. But the conversation quickly turned south as my uncle started asking me about how I got the job. In fact, his exact words were:
“I wasn’t going to apply to — because I thought there was no way they would hire me without any experience, but you’ve proved me wrong. What tips or tricks did you use to get the job?”
No experience?! Three courses co-taught, three courses taught independently, a course designed from scratch, several pedagogy courses successfully completed, two conference presentations related to teaching, and a published article in a journal for English teachers, and he thinks I landed the job with no experience. I mean, clearly that’s the case.
No experience. NO EXPERIENCE?!
I would’ve loved to seen his face in person when I told him that I did not have any interview hints or tricks to give him because they offered me the job right on the spot. That is literally what happened. At my “interview” yesterday, I introduced myself to the department chair, we sat down, she got out her copy of my CV, and she said, “With your background and EXPERIENCE, we would be grateful to have you here at —.” No prying questions or tricky statements. No examinations of my failures as a teacher. Just, you’re well-qualified and we want you. She specifically mentioned the TA program I was a part of, as well as the article I had published, as contributing factors. This means I may not be a seasoned professor yet (not even close), but, for a new grad, I have a strong professional foundation, and it has landed me two jobs in the discipline (one writing consulting and one teaching) not even three months out from graduation.
So, we’re the same kind of candidate, and I got a job with no experience? Keep dreaming.