So, if you follow me on Twitter you know I got a job offer the other day (if you don't follow me on Twitter, don't worry, you're not missing anything. And guess what! I got a job offer the other day!).
Which is all very exciting, and I'm very pleased, but I continue to be amazed/amused at how arbitrary hiring can be. People who like my resume REALLY like my resume, and seem to want to interview me just to make sure I'm not some kind of troll or antisocial freak, because they seem determined to hire me unless I suck in person. And let's be honest - they like my Ph.D. They look at the Ph.D. and think, "OOoooh! She can research and write and will do so without complaint! Snatch her up!"
On the one hand, this is perfectly great. I am happy to trade on whatever employment capital having a Ph.D. gives me. On the other hand, it feels a little bizarre when legal employers consider a history Ph.D. "impressive." It's true that the Ph.D. is a proxy for some academic ability (and discipline/perseverance, although really, if I were truly disciplined, I would have taken less time to get the damn degree!). But it is by no means an accurate proxy for legal brilliance or competence. Having a Ph.D. does not guarantee law school success, and while I've been a fairly successful student, I'm not at a super-top-elite school, and I'm not at the top of my class. I haven't set the legal world on fire.
And the fact is, many employers are perfectly aware of this. Given their lack of response, it seems clear they look at my resume and think, ""Law school record good but not completely outstanding. Oh, and she's done some other stuff. That's nice. Pass." This is the case even with lots of employers who say they really really value research and writing.
Anyway, I originally started this post a few days ago, and I've been wondering why I find this so baffling, this contrast between people who want to hire me and people who don't. Lord knows that academic job applications are similarly arbitrary, in that they're all about "fit" - there are a lot of things that a given employer will want in an applicant that won't necessarily make their way into a job ad, and so even if you have all the specified qualifications, someone else may just "fit" the job better (maybe they attended a similar school for undergrad and you didn't. Maybe they taught high school before going to grad school so can guide the department's education program, and you didn't. Maybe they don't overlap with the department star's research interests and you do, or maybe they do, and you don't. Maybe they match the hiring chair's image of "ideal" candidate in race, gender, age, persona, whatever, and you can't). I don't even think "fit" is necessarily a bad thing. It's frustrating for job candidates, because you can never really know what a search committee is looking for, but it's inevitable that a department will have preferences and desires you can't know (and can't meet, because it's impossible to be everything to everyone).
What I just realized today is that I find law hiring baffling because somewhere in my subconscious I still believe that there is a "right" way to do things, and that if you do things the "right" way, certain identifiable results (jobs/opportunities) will follow. I have, of course, tried to do as many things "right" as I can (though I have not done all the right things, like be in the top 10% of my class), so I keep thinking I should be able to predict the results that ensue. In fact, I think I find the employers who want to hire me (at least in part) because of my Ph.D. more baffling than employers who don't, because hiring me (at least in part) for my Ph.D. feels like not hiring me for doing the "right" things.
I have no idea why I think this about law when I think I got over this about academia. Maybe it suggests that there really is (or I think there is) a more-defined accepted path that one is "supposed" to follow for academic success? And that law is just enough broader than academia that you can't target the "right" things as easily? I don't know. Maybe it's just that I'd been in academia long enough that I did become able to predict how a given employer was likely to react to my application - I could parse the different cultures/requirements at different schools well enough to know how I'd look as a candidate, and I haven't been in law long enough to figure that out.
Anyway. It's just kind of weird, and kind of frustrating in that I'm not very good at predicting who will think I'm qualified, and who won't. That's an important job-hunting skill that I'm still developing. But hey! I got a job anyway.
*I really wanted to call this "arbitration," except of course that means something else entirely. It just feels like there should be a better noun to mean "something that is arbitrary."