The Politics of “Getting Hired”

This is my first of many posts on politics.  Why? Because it seems that academia is built on them (insert bad joke….).

I know that after dozens of applications, a few interviews, an offer that had to be turned down, and the acceptance of another, politics was heavily involved in most of that process. I will admit: I am no good at playing politics.  Why?  I’m not very good at putting on a smile and nodding. I’m too honest.  I always just say what I think.  In the whole grand scheme of things, it’s probably better NOT to know ALL of the politics.  It can make us jaded, cynical, and skeptical.  Aren’t we already all of those things to a large enough degree to begin with?  Yes, you should do your homework on prepping for the interview, you should prepare fully.  Politics might be part of that preparation b/c while it pains me to say this: many folks lose positions b/c of politics. Not to their fault either.  It’s stuff they can’t do anything about, no matter how hard they prepare.

My current position got political.  I learned this after working for over a month.  What politics you ask?  Degree, credentials, ethnicity, gender, power. Yes folks, power. Who was intervening?  Everyone. The research team, the office that I would be working out of, HR.  HR? Yes, HR. HR called when my application came in and said, “you should interview her, she’s over qualified and {fits many boxes}. I use the {} to paraphrase, I don’t know their exact wording.

Well gee whiz….thanks for pointing out the obvious HR. You shouldn’t have.  But, I have grown to accept a few truths about academia in my field.  I am a female. I am a minority.  English is my first language. And yes, I was overqualified on paper for the job, the posting asked for a master’s.

From my view now, the research team, the office that I would be working out of, and the parties I would see day-to-day could have cared less.  They wanted someone to do a job. The pressure they felt was from *higher up* and out of their control to a certain extent.  I got back from the interview and had the offer that very same day.

What’s the lesson here? Power is the pink elephant in the room that cannot be avoided, can be communicated with small gestures and ‘looks,’ and if they’re not aimed toward you, you’ll miss them and sometimes be left behind.  (this i learned from my advisor and the great class/experience that was shared w/ me during my program).  As I’ve gotten comfortable and gotten into the nuts and bolts of the job, I’ve learned more about power and politics and am working to keep the people I work with and for happy, but more importantly, keep myself productive and happy.

Can politics and power go in your favor?  Of course. Absolutely. Without a doubt. Balancing the two can be tricky and I’ll be posting about politics and power again.

What has your experience been like in trying to get hired?  How has politics and power entered your professional life?  What advice would you give others searching for employment in academia?

In my next post,  I’m going to discuss negotiating and how my negotiation went.  As I said in a previous post, it was pretty straightforward, but there was some specific language that was used that led me to believe that some hard work would net me some financial rewards.  Now, to find time to write it!

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