Thursday, May 7, 2009

MLA Dialogues

The job search process in my field is weird, confusing, and inexplicable. Every year, job seekers meet with their prospective employers at one giant job interview venue: the MLA conference. The interviews take place either in hotel rooms (where you experience the torture of drowning in a soft armchair, while attempting to look professional) or in a huge ballroom (where the incessant din of hundreds of other candidates being interviewed makes it hard to hear anything.)

Some of the conversations I had as part of the interviews were strange bordering on scary. Here are some of them:

I enter the huge ballroom and approach the table where my potential employers are sitting.

Me (suitably chirpy): Hi! So nice to meet you!

Employers (looking collectively spaced out): Hi. . .

Me: I've really been looking forward to this interview.

Uncomfortable silence. One of the interviewers can't stop looking around. Another one is literally falling asleep. The third one decides to contribute to the conversation:

Employer #3: Hmm....

Me (feeling desperate): So... You must have a lot of work at this MLA.

Employer #1: Who?

Me: You.

Employer #3 (suddenly interested): What?

Employer #2 (waking up): Is she here yet?

Employer #1: No, let's keep waiting.

Me (feeling very invisible): So, how about that weather!

Employers (looking even more spaced out than before): We are waiting...

Me: I'm sorry, what are we waiting for?

Employers: The Chair. She will be back soon.

We spend the next 5 minutes in uncomfortable silence.


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