A month or so ago I requested a guest post that might speak to the misery and angst of the partner/spouse of someone on the academic job market. I had received several requests for such a post, generally from non-academic partners/spouses trying to figure out how to cope with the stress and uncertainty. I published one guest post about two weeks ago. Here is another. I think it captures splendidly the Alice in Wonderland nature of the Ph.D. process and job search from the perspective of anybody who is not actually in it.
by JJ Koczan
So where’s my piece of paper? Maybe even a title: S.Ph.D. “Spouse of a doctor of philosophy.” After a decade of charting my wife’s pursuit of degree upon degree, it seems the least “the academy” can do. Notwithstanding the crippling debt in which being married to so many student loans left me entangled, they owe me. If need be, I’ll book an auditorium or a conference room and give a Prezi slideshow to tell them why.
When it comes to being married to an academic, maybe I’m the wrong person to comment. She wasn’t an academic when I married her. We met at the tender age of 16, long before the innocent girl who’d later become my wife decided to make a career out of being smart. She was a high school student, good at taking standardized tests. How was I supposed to know she’d go pro?
At first, she didn’t. By the time I meandered my way out of an undergraduate degree at a pace that could best be called “creative professional,” she was employed full-time as a juvenile probation officer—a hard job that she still draws on for street cred in a, “See? I used to not spend every waking hour in front of a laptop screen!” kind of way. She made a good salary. State benefits. Opportunity for advancement. I had a dumpy editor’s job in the music industry. When I was asked at our engagement party by a distant cousin how we planned on surviving, I actually had an answer. The luxury!
Can you imagine? If so, you’re probably not married to an untenured academic.
She left that job, of course, in pursuit of her doctorate. It’s a peculiar and special kind of joy to wonder for months on end whether your spouse will have “funding” for the next year, or will work in what I as an outsider see as the unjustifiable indentured servitude of teaching assistantship and be expected to be grateful for the opportunity, putting in all the effort of a professor while reaping none of the prestige, years not ticking past so much as punching you in the face on their way by while you wait for—what, exactly?—I don’t even know at this point, it’s been so long since an entire league of people I knew didn’t define my existence by my wife’s ambitions. Oh yeah, him. He’s the one whose wife just got funding. Cue sigh of relief.
I can still recall the day my wife said to me in our small one-bedroom apartment that she was going to take an online class through the local state school; an idea thrown out so casually that I only paid any attention whatsoever in hindsight. In my mind, I see her flicking her hair back, carefree, her tone no more significant than if she were to have said she was going to make a sandwich. Like any trade that consumes the entirety of your being—see also your proctologists, plumbers, single-cell bacteria, etc.—the academy changes who you are, shifts your perspective, and in my experience, makes you more than a little bit of a weirdo.
To wit, us at a party. Oh, she was glorious. Uncomfortable and misanthropic as I am in every way imaginable and a few that aren’t, my wife could work a room like no one you’ve ever seen. Helps that she’s smokin’ hot—even now she can wear a professor’s scarf like it’s (ever) going out of style—but more than that, she had this charismatic ability to have a heart-to-heart with someone, a genuinely meaningful conversation to both people involved, in a crowded room surrounded by empty smalltalk. It was amazing to watch, and I can’t begin to recount the meaningless drivel it saved me both from hearing and from saying.
Now? Well, it’s hard to keep up conversational momentum when you’re pointing out the “problematic” statuette in the hallway, isn’t it? Or if you’re taking the full 45 minutes to answer a question as naïve as, “So what do you study?” I laugh every time I hear, “So what is your dissertation about?” The inquiry of an amateur! Who’d have thought to singular devotion to one idea for a span of years would result in a declining ability to relate to everything else in the world that isn’t that one idea? Crazy, right?
She of course wears this awkwardness as a badge of honor. It’s something she’s earned through years of effort. It takes a lot of thinking to become so strange.
When she earned her second Master’s degree, it was a non-event. The watering station a quarter of the way through the marathon. I don’t even think we went out to dinner to celebrate. There was reading to do.
Each semester brings horror stories of her peers who’ve graduated into the academic job market only to wind up with non-tenure track positions at the South Pole. “So-and-so got an adjunct gig at Someplace You’d Never Want to Live. Isn’t that great?” Well, I guess if you look at it on the level of that’s one job I don’t have to worry about you getting, sure. And the thing is, it’s supposed to be a good thing! She’s serious! My understanding of the academic job market is that it’s like the entrance to the Holland Tunnel. When they designed the infrastructure seven thousand years ago, nobody imagined there’d ever be so many people, so you funnel fifty lanes to two and hope that most of those who’d be foolish enough to attempt to cross the Hudson give up before they actually get there.
I paint a dark picture and stand by it, but I might be more in a position to criticize had my own professional choices not been SO terrible. “I’ll go work at magazines, because they’re bound to last forever!” We left that apartment because we couldn’t afford to keep it and moved back in with her mother, who fortunately for us had the space, where we’ve lived now for the majority of our marriage. I tell my friends I rent, or I mumble anything that isn’t, “I’m in my 30s and I live at my mother-in-law’s house because I chose my career based on the number of free CDs I’d get and I’ve failed at life really, really hard,” though I know that’s what I should be saying. Most of them get the idea anyway.
Of course, none of this would be worthwhile if I didn’t also love her more than I ever thought one as emotionally crippled as I am could ever love a human being. Perhaps too it’s something unique to the experience of someone smitten with an academic to be constantly floored by their partner’s brilliance, or to crouch and be astounded as I am to witness her dedication on a daily basis in a pursuit of something that… well, if you didn’t really believe in what you were doing, you’d be a fool for chasing.
After all these years, my understanding of what she does is cursory at best, and I’ve watched as our pillow talk has gone from, “So how was your day?” to a recitation of whatever abstract concept she wants to remember for the morning but is too tired to actually write down, but my admiration for who she is, this single-minded weirdo she’s become, has been more than enough to carry me through the wait for that dissertation to be finished, for the defense date to be set, for time measured in four-month groupings into perpetuity. I love my wife. I loved her before and I love her now.
Like any interpersonal connection worth half a damn, it can be frustrating as all hell, but my relationship with my hyper-educated academic spouse is the best part of my life. She makes me a better, stronger person, or at very least challenges me to become one despite the stubborn resistance she’s met with every step of the way, and I consider myself lucky she even talks to me, never mind occasionally lets me pick what takeout we get for dinner. It’s not always easy for me to remember how important her work is to her, but I make an effort, because that’s the part of it that means something to me: It’s who she is.
If that’s what I have to go on, so be it.
JJ Koczan is Managing Editor of New Jersey’s The Aquarian Weekly and genre-blogs music nobody cares about at http://theobelisk.net.
A couple weeks ago I requested a guest post that might speak to the misery and angst of the partner/spouse of someone on the academic job market. I had received several requests for such a post, generally from non-academic partners/spouses trying to figure out how to cope with the stress and uncertainty. One individual, the husband of a current client, volunteered this post. He is ABD himself, and as I read the post, I felt that it speaks more directly to the perennial challenges of work-life balance a bit more than to the angst of the non-academic spouse in the sidelines. Either way, it addresses head on the struggles to plan “real life” when so many things in an academic career (particularly its precarious beginning stages) are totally up in the air.
It seems like I am always writing, or in reality, negotiating, a time-line. Spreadsheets, the incubators of time-lines, encourage academic obsessiveness. Color coded rows, 2 pt borders, column headings, all integral parts of the fictional order that is academic life. They have a sort of logic to them, as evidenced by the fact that I can insert a function and elicit a tabulation of superfluous information.
And then there is real life.
This blog post is written from the perspective of one who is, and for those others that are, ABD (All But Defended/Dissertated) and have a spouse that is further ahead in that nebulous space of ABDness, i.e. already on the job market. In what will perhaps be a surprise, I´ll then add in the reality of how having a baby—at least for us—in interesting ways seems to fit well within the columns of the timeline.
My wife and I entered our doctoral programs a year apart (she a year ahead of me) when we were already engaged. Pilot fieldwork on opposite sides of the globe (me in Brazil and her in India) was a drag, and so we tried to create a timeline that would allow us to be together throughout the long haul of two anthropologists’ dissertation fieldwork. Nine months into my wife´s dissertation research our daughter was born. Luckily, I was able to conduct a portion of my dissertation research that was not fieldwork-based (textual and satellite imagery analyses) while living in New Delhi, and my wife was able to write up most of her dissertation while living in rural Brazilian Amazonia. This was, in complete seriousness, all planned, down to me being able to care for our daughter full time (a perk of planning) while my wife finished her research. Yay, so planning worked! We both got grants, did fieldwork and had a baby, all the while not having to be apart and being able to be full-time caregivers for our baby. Royal flush. Thank you, Excel.
But now we find ourselves coming back to the United States, and our respective universities after nearly three years abroad, and trying to once again construct another semi-fictitious timeline. One iteration goes something like this:
She´ll go on the job/post-doc market this year, and I´ll apply for as many write-up grants that I can, hoping against hope that I get one which provides the geographic freedom for me to write up wherever we (hopefully) end up. If she isn´t successful during this year´s academic hunting season, well, that reduces my blood pressure and anxiety, as it means we´ll be at the same place, and applying together the following year. For sure, that presents its own inevitable difficulties, i.e. what if we both get our respective dream jobs but on different sides of the country, but at least, in theory, my being at the far end of the ABD limbo gives us both more bargaining power for the coveted spousal hire. You know, the one you both talk about over dessert as you figure out what universities and colleges happen to be within close proximity and fit each of your various professional criteria?
That´s all well and good, and more or less fits into a spreadsheet. But then there are those pesky things called ambitions, family, and emotions—all of which are, unsurprisingly, integrated. Let´s start with ambitions: both of us want tenure-track positions. Whether that´s at a Research I or teaching college or somewhere in between is up for discussion, but we both enjoy (most of the time) what we do, and given our ridiculous amount of training should probably do “something” with it. I´m perfectly fine with finishing my dissertation write up, perhaps even getting a post-doc, during the next few years as my wife rocks it as a new professor. I´m well aware of the implicit less-than-equitable position in many departments towards new faculty who also happen to be mothers, and realize that she needs to keep “progressing.” Having her care for our infant while I finish writing up would be nice for me, but makes no sense professionally for her, as not entering the job market would leave a strange gap in her CV. Additionally, having me able to work half-time on write-up and half-time as a father (praying for you, part-time write up grant!) would be an amazing opportunity that most don´t get as they progress with careers and their children grow. So, in respect to ambitions and family, that´s all good. She gets a position of some sort, I write my dissertation, and we get to raise our daughter at home for a little longer. A win-win, if you will. That is as long as I don´t get held up—upon finishing write-up, and, perhaps, a post-doc—from my aspirations. And that´s where the emotions rear their ugly heads.
The internal monolgue frequently goes like this: ´What if she gets her dream job, but it´s in Back-of-Beyond America where there are no other universities or colleges, and no openings?´ ´What if I never get a chance to go on the job market and before I know it, I´m essentially academically unemployable, and am forever at home watching Oprah and waiting for our teenager to come home and ignore me?´ ´Why can´t she can´t just wait a year and let us be on the same footing?´ (watch out, that´s the most dangerous one). The pity-party soliloquy could certainly go on, but I think the picture is pretty clear. Clear as the Amazon, that is (which is all muddy, incidentally).
Perhaps that´s the point of timelines and plans: they seem to impose an order on life, which is inevitably chaotic. Everyone thought we were crazy when we announced that our daughter would be born in the midst of a year of fieldwork in India, and then brought immediately to the rural Amazon to live in an agrarian reform settlement. But you know what? That timeline worked beautifully. Sure, there were numerous blips, largely in the form of minor medical emergencies hours away from the nearest pediatrician, and a few short stints of time apart, but we did it. Where will we end up next year, in five years, in ten years? I doubt even an Indian numerologist could tell—one was, however, able to provide us with the most auspicious date for our daughter to be born (hint: it´s all about the 6s and 9s). But it doesn´t matter. Excel doesn´t have a function for life. And if there´s anything that nearly three years of combined fieldwork and a baby have taught us, it’s that if we can remain flexible, supportive, and understanding, the timeline will fall into place.
A few weeks ago I discontinued (temporarily, I hope) my skype career consultations, particularly those related to the fraught question of whether or not to leave academia. I discontinued these because I’ve been dealing with a health issue that, while thankfully not serious, has been a wake-up call to me to seek a better and more sustainable work-life balance. Don’t be alarmed! This will have no impact on any of the document related work I am doing or will do for current and future clients, or webinars, or blog posting. It’s just the skype consultations that are being reduced at present.
In any case, after I made that announcement on the TPII Facebook page, Chris Humphrey of the website Jobs On Toast, got in touch to inquire about the clients who had been seeking consulting on the decision to leave academia. That prompted the dialogue that I have reproduced below. I like the Jobs on Toast website and blog, which is dedicated to providing, in Chris’ words, “Positive and practical support for PhD careers outside academia.” Chris gives good advice for Ph.D.s contemplating non-academic careers, and also provides a resource list of other websites to visit. One thing Chris and I have in common is the goal to make the non-academic career less a sign of ‘failure’ than a sign of entrepeneurial spirit. He did it, I did it, and we’re both vastly happier that we did.
|Chris Humphrey <firstname.lastname@example.org>||Tue, Jan 8, 2013 at 12:26 AM|
To: Karen Kelskey <email@example.com>
|Karen Kelsky <firstname.lastname@example.org>||Tue, Jan 8, 2013 at 10:14 AM|
To: Chris Humphrey <email@example.com>
|Chris Humphrey <firstname.lastname@example.org>||Thu, Jan 10, 2013 at 12:28 AM|
To: Karen Kelsky <email@example.com>
|Karen Kelsky <firstname.lastname@example.org>||Fri, Jan 11, 2013 at 8:55 AM|
To: Chris Humphrey <email@example.com>
|Chris Humphrey <firstname.lastname@example.org>||Thu, Jan 10, 2013 at 12:28 AM|
To: Karen Kelsky <email@example.com>
An expanded and updated version of this post can now be found in Chapter 25 of my new book, The Professor Is In: The Essential Guide to Turning Your Ph.D. Into a Job. I am keeping a shortened version here, but for the complete discussion including examples of major pitfalls in the teaching statement, please do purchase the book, which compiles all my major job market posts along with 50% entirely new material.
A while back I wrote a post called “The Worst Job Letter Ever Written (Not Really).” Today I want to share with you a similarly awful teaching statement (with kind permission of the writer, discipline obscured.) I don’t call it “the worst teaching statement,” however, because nearly all first drafts of teaching statements are so uniformly awful that it is difficult to employ the superlative in this context. But this one is very bad indeed, and bad in a way that reflects the single most common error of the genre, especially when written by women—hyper-emotionalism.
I have italicized all the words that invoke emotion and the kind of yearning and striving that is endemic to this genre, and I have bolded adjectives (there is quite a bit of overlap between the categories however). The combination of emotionalism, striving, and adjectives make this TS a maelstrom of redundant feeling-talk in place of crisp, specific, and memorable substance.
The same principles apply to the TS that apply to all other professional documents: facts over emotions, showing over telling, substance over claims, nouns (and effective verbs) over adjectives.
I am happy to say that the client’s new TS bears absolutely no resemblance to this draft. Thank you, client, for being willing to share.
Teaching [my discipline] provides many opportunities to stimulate students’ thinking about xx and xx. Students are more likely to learn when they are comfortable in the classroom, and when they are engaged with the material. To this end, I strive to give students individualized attention and to foster an understanding of the world around them through interactive learning.
[First para mostly pointless verbiage that states the obvious, and provides little substantive content, none of it memorable]
When students know their teachers care about them, they are more attentive to and more enthusiastic about their studies. Each quarter, I invest time and effort into building long-lasting relationships with students. I learn their names, interests, and motivations for taking the course. I also design activities that encourage students to attend office hours, and I invite students to visit with me at cafes and restaurants during extended “office hours.” In addition, I make myself available through email, instant messaging, and social networking sites. Like my colleagues, I have boundaries for office hours and availability online, but I make sure that students never feel hesitant to contact me. I appreciate that students have other needs and concerns, and I recognize that personal problems and learning disabilities can impede their studies. It is also my experience that many students do not ask for help. Therefore, I take the initiative to contact students who seem uninterested or unresponsive, and I take note when I notice a sudden change in a student’s behavior. Showing a little concern can go a long way.
[This paragraph is totally enmeshed in “chick-talk”*–all emotion, caring, striving, nurturing and poor boundaries (despite the weird disavowal). It overuses I-sentences, and is repetitive, taking nine sentences to make a single substantive point (I make myself available to students) that could be encapsulated in one. It sends a massive red flag to the committee that the candidate’s priorities are skewed and she will not get her writing done for tenure. In sum it presents the candidate as a perennial adjunct rather than tenure-track material. ].
Students are also more enthusiastic about their studies when they are engaged with the material. In the classroom, I make every effort to create a supportive and collegial environment, in which students feel comfortable to share their ideas and to approach me for help. I begin each class with a fun and engaging …
In sum, through all of these techniques, this candidate renders herself, with the best of intentions, as an adjunct with poor boundaries and questionable emotional distance from her students, who is fundamentally not tenure-track material.
*I am of course aware that this is a sexist term. However, as I’ve said before, the Professor Is In blog is not devoted to what I, a lifelong feminist, want to be true in the world, but to what I believe IS true in the world, which in this case is that women are perceived as excessively emotional and that women are socialized in America to do the lion’s share of emotion-talk and emotion-work. Any professional document by a woman that deploys emotion in conspicuous ways is going to associate the writer with those biases and sabotage her professional chances. There are men who write weepy teaching statements, although less often, and when I encounter these I make the same critiques and edits, and tell them that their writing sounds feminized.
I’m sending out this extra blog post this week to let you know about the new Campus Visit Webinar tomorrow, Wednesday 1/16 at 2 PM Pacific/5 PM EST/22:00 GMT.
I’m really excited about this new webinar, which I’ve been contemplating for many months. I created it to make a real intervention into the pain and suffering attendant upon the dreaded campus visit–a thing of exquisite mystery and peril–especially for those heading out for the first time.
We will cover all of the core elements, including:
The three key criteria at play in a campus visit
The single biggest pitfall for candidates
The basic organization of a campus visit
The initial arrangements and scheduling
Preparing for the visit
Meetings with faculty, Head, Dean, and graduate students
The formal interview with the Search Committee
The job talk and Q and A
The teaching demo
Handling meals gracefully
Maintaining your stamina
Evaluating campus climate
What to wear, especially in cold weather
As always there will be time for Q and A at the end.
Campus visits are hard! A little advance knowledge will save a world of hurt. For example, one client wrote to ask how she might arrange to have her partner come with her on her upcoming visit so that he could check out work and housing opportunities in the area. She wanted to know how to ask the hosting department to allow her to extend her stay at the hotel, and push back the return flight.
Well, turns out there is an unspoken rule of the campus visit that this kind of thing Must Never Happen. You cannot piggy-back any private agendas onto a campus visit, or even broach the subject of doing so, without doing serious harm to your candidacy. Did you know that? Well, now you do. That’s an example of the kind of MAJOR ERROR this webinar was created to prevent.
Here’s another: did you know you rarely get enough to eat on a campus visit? Not because they don’t take you out to eat, but because in the heat of the interview meals, you rarely have time to ingest sufficient food. You need a plan to handle that.
This 90-minute Webinar is scheduled for Wednesday, January 16 at 2 PM Pacific/5 PM EST/22:00 GMT.
Cost: $100. You can sign up directly from this blog post by clicking on this button:
The next date for the Campus Visit Webinar has already been scheduled for next week, on Thursday 1/24 at 2 PM Pacific/5 PM EST/22:00 GMT. Click on THIS (not the above!) ‘Add to Cart’ button right here —> for the 1/24 date.
And yes, the recording of the Campus Visit Webinar will be available for download from this Thursday as well.
Hope to see you all there, and best of luck on your upcoming visits.
This email from a client, following on an Interview Bootcamp with Kellee, is an insightful articulation of the ways that anxieties, resentments, and insecurities about your work and the profession can seep into your ability to prepare for and perform well in interview settings. This client took a pretty horrendous Bootcamp experience, and extracted valuable insight from it. I applaud the client’s willingness to “go deep,” and hope others will do the same when confronted with unexpected obstacles or disappointments in their process.
Good morning Kellee and Karen,
I just wanted to follow up after the boot camp with a bit of feedback. In sum, the Interview Bootcamp was equally excruciating and helpful to me, and I am indeed appreciative.
To give a bit more detail, the experience called my attention to the fact that I have a lot of emotional baggage tied to my relationship with my profession and the job search process, which I now am able to identify, name, and discard bit by bit. I learned that I have been angry, angry about all of this. Just being conscious of my disappointment and my resentment at this prolonged uncertainty about the future was necessary. Somehow I have been able to operate under these conditions thus far, but this can’t continue. It’s time to accept or release. I am kind of doing both right now. My core goal is to serve a greater social good, specifically with regards to race relations and ending discrimination in this century, and I can do that from within academia or from without. That goal will guide the rest of my academic job search and I trust the process to place me where I am most useful.
As boot camp flops go, I know I flopped it. You are a patient soul, Kellee. However – we get what we need when we need it and I needed to flop it in order to be able to commit to the process when it does count. That alone is immensely valuable to me. After the session I cried for an hour and took a 3 hour nap. I was demoralized for about half a day and then got back into the saddle for another go.
I learned that I ramble, that my answers are circuitous and wind-baggish. That is not too tough to be conscious of and remediate. But I learned that my own insecurities about the field and my place in it weaken my answers and that I had better believe in myself or no one else will. I learned that my voice gets high when I’m nervous or defensive but that my content off the cuff is not terrible. The intensity of having to answer for what I have and have not prepared catalyzed my recognition of the emotional obstacles I have allowed to interfere with my interview prep, so for me, the flopped boot camp was invaluable.
I also got really good notes to guide my formal preparations this week.
To both of you – I observe you as having plugged into right livelihood and I applaud your work. All the best.
I just attended the annual meeting for XXXX Association. I followed the advice I have read on your blogs, as well as your advice during the interview bootcamp webinar, and it was my most successful conference yet in terms of networking and promoting myself.
Before the meeting, I scrolled through the list of presenters and emailed the people with whom I wanted to meet for coffee. I also prepared an elevator speech, as well as answers to questions I might receive during an interview.
I also did something other graduate students did not– I did not cling to other graduate students, even if it meant walking around by myself from time to time. (And I must say I felt confident standing by myself because I was wearing brand new clothes I purchased for the conference.)
The payoff was huge. I met the biggest names at the conference, some of whom quickly became my biggest advocates. Two senior scholars took me to the business meeting, where they introduced me to everyone, told them I was on the job market, and asked them if they were doing any hiring. After that meeting, I decided to go to the business luncheon. Instead of sitting in the back with graduate students, I marched up to the front of the room. When I noticed there was an open seat at the table reserved for the most prestigious scholars, I asked if the seat was taken–it was not–and sat down. I tend to be shy, but I knew that I had to act like an equal, not as a submissive grad student.
One of my coffee dates led to a dinner with the current chair of the xxx department of my alma matter. I received the following email [inquiring about her availability for a possible temporary position] the next day, and when I did it made A LOT more sense why he was asking me questions about publication trajectory and teaching pedagogy.
In short, please keep doing what you’re doing. I wouldn’t have had such a successful conference had I not read your blog, participated in the bootcamp webinar, and put your advice into practice.
I am hereby answering the question of the hour/day/year: how should you address search committee members in an interview?
You know of course that I am continually railing against job candidates acting like grad students. And addressing search committee members as “Dr.” or “Professor” XXX runs the clear risk of making you sound like a graduate student.
However, at the same time, at a preliminary conference interview, launching directly into a first name basis is a bit awkward, and may feel presumptuous.
I have given this issue a lot of thought, and revised my thinking over time. Initially, I believed that all job candidates should refer to search committee members by their first names exclusively, to avoid the ‘stink of grad student.’
However, upon further reflection, I am concerned that this could backfire by appearing, as I say above, presumptuous and premature.
My current thinking is this (and I’d appreciate hearing other viewpoints, particularly from current search committee members): If you have been in touch by email with any of the search committee members, and they have signed their emails with first name only, that is an invitation to use the first name. Use it.
For search committee members you’re meeting for the first time, when directly addressing someone on a search committee, at the stage of a preliminary conference or skype or phone interview, use “Dr. XXX.” When REFERRING to another faculty member in such an interview, refer to them by their first and last names only (“I would look forward to collaborating with Margaret Allan on a course on globalization”).
[UPDATE 1/13/13: Pursuant to the exchange below with “Stephanie” in the comment stream, I am revising this advice. New advice is: In general, use first names. “Dr.” is generally despised by humanities scholars, and “Professor” makes you sound too much like a graduate student. However, BE SMART! Be alert and attentive to social cues. Read the landscape. There are always regional and institutional distinctions that should be attended to, that make any blanket rule problematic. Use your social skills to intuit the best course of action, but when in doubt, use first names. You’re a colleague; act like it.]
Then, when and if you arrive for a campus visit, directly address faculty members you meet as well as search committee members by their first names. Continue to refer to other faculty members not present by their first and last names.
Deans should be referred to and addressed as “Dean XXX,” until you are invited to do otherwise.
When you use the “Dr. XXX” mode I describe above, it is also important HOW you say it. Academics routinely use “Dr.” or “Prof.” for one another as a term of professional courtesy, and it communicates courtesy without signifying any status subordination on the part of the speaker. It is important that you grasp that, and internalize it, as well. You can say “Dr. XXX” and sound like a graduate student supplicant, and you can say “Dr. XXXX” and sound like a legitimate future colleague…it depends on how you say it. Attend to the other issues of tone and body language that I address in many blog posts here, particularly the Six Ways You’re Acting Like a Grad Student post, and channel your dignified and professorial inner professor when speaking.
You do not ask if there is an inside candidate.
I don’t care if you strongly suspect that there is, and have good reason to believe the whole damned search is a completely pointless charade because they obviously already have somebody chosen….it doesn’t matter.
You cannot, and you must not, ask if there is an inside candidate.
Why? Because it’s just Not. Done.
More pragmatically, if there is an inside candidate they will NEVER disclose that (not least because of legality issues). And if there isn’t one, you just look like an ill-informed, paranoid ass who put a search committee member in an unbearably awkward position.
A smart job seeker does not, under any circumstances, ask if there is an inside candidate.
And, incidentally, inside candidates don’t have the superpowers that many of you think. Inside candidates frequently don’t get the job. Read this post, “What Inside Candidates Persist In Doing Wrong,” on why.