Well, the 2008-09 hiring season is well under way. All across the country graduating PhDs are frantically compiling their application packages and mulling over positions for which they may be a strong candidate. This is undoubtedly one of the most difficult times in the life of an academic – facing so much uncertainty after so much hard work.
Perhaps those feeling most stressed are those people who need to consider the academic job prospects of their spouse as well as themselves. This is can be a formidable challenge for any academic couple, but even more so if both partners are in the same field.
Last year at Congress, UBC professor Sylvia Fuller strongly advised academics to actively avoiding dating people in their departments, their fields, even, if at all possible, in academe all together.
Fuller pragmatically explains that there are many more people outside the academic pool you could be happy with than there are academic jobs. Spousal hiring programs, where a job offer to an especially strong candidate includes a job-offer for their spouse, are very rare, especially in Canada, and tend to be ‘second-class’ jobs – non-tenured positions where ‘the spouse’ will be always seen as a second class academic. In fact, because in Canada there are considerably fewer institutions than the States, and only a handful of cities where there are multiple universities, this problem is even more critical.
The big losers in the two-career issue are usually women, according to an excellent research study recently completed at Stanford.
This study should be required reading for absolutely every hiring committee and dual-career academic couple out there. Based on survey data from 2006 across the States, the Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research found about one-third of faculty were in a dual-career relationship with another academic. It is not uncommon for such couples to be forced to live in different cities, provinces or states, which is understandably not ideal.
The study suggests that by addressing this issue more proactively, universities will go a long way to recruiting talented academics, particularly women and other minorities, since this is often one of the prime reasons why candidates turn down offers of employment.
If you are in a relationship with another academic as you enter the job market, do your research, have a frank, honest discussion about your priorities and non-negotiables with your partner, and consider your other options just in case. This can be a deal-breaker when it comes to deciding whether or not to accept an offer, or even whether to stay in a relationship, so be clear as to what you want and are willing to settle for before you start sending out your CVs.
Career Sense question of the week: How have you and your partner handled this issue? What have you learned?