Last year, the Council for Graduate Schools (CGS) conference was held in the same hotel in Washington D.C. where, many years ago, I interviewed for jobs at the MLA as I was completing my Ph.D. at Rutgers. Being back there provoked reflection about my own unusual career trajectory and about the state of the academic labor market.
Recently, my alternative-academic (alt-ac) colleague, Maren Wood, conducted a project funded by the Chronicle for Higher Education that found that the majority of tenure track jobs go to people who are ABD (all but dissertation) or in their first few years on the job market. Tenure track hires of people who have been on the market more than 3 years are rare.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ix8JMaYGjGE (worth watching in full)
This data helps explain the enormous pressure my dissertation committee put on me to do those MLA interviews before I had completed my dissertation or felt even remotely ready to go on the market. It also suggests that in addition to helping students compete for jobs early in their careers, we also need to be willing to inform and mentor them about “alternative” careers.