Why I didn’t write

Posted by David Smerdon on Jun 19, 2017 in Economics, Non-chess |

I didn’t plan to stop writing. It just sort of happened; I had a lot of fires to put out in my work, and they kept coming, and after a while it all became too easy to forget about this site. I feel a bit guilty – it was seven years of regular writing without a break – but there you have it.

The main reason for the break – the biggest ‘fire’ – was the job market for economists. The job market is really an amazing concept that only economists could think is a good idea. This is a heavily centralised process that allows (or forces) thousands of newly-minted PhD graduates and other junior academics from every country to compete for hundreds of economist jobs around the world. The astute visitor to this site (if I still have any) may have noticed the ‘Economics’ tab in the website header, which directs to my professional site – an essential for the job market. Besides the regular details that you’d expect on a professional site, it also features a cheesy video CV that was surprisingly popular with potential employers. Filming and directing credits to Sabina, naturally…



The main event in the job market is the annual American Economic Association meeting, which for candidates is basically a massive stress-fest with a lifetime’s worth of interviews crammed into a couple of days. I must admit, there was a moment in early January, where I was literally running on the ice-covered streets of Chicago in my suit, sweating little icicles in -20 degrees C with the icy Lake Michigan wind in my face, desperately trying to make my fifth interview for the day on time, and looking up at the giant, menacing letters on Trump Tower… when I began to wonder if it was all worth it. (My interviewers were also late.)

Almost all economists interested in the world of academia will have to go through this baptism of fire once in their lives. For me, despite my job in Milan and finishing my thesis in Amsterdam, the market proved to be a full-time occupation from November to February. To survive, I had to make sacrifices: chess tournaments (including online!), book reviews, commentary and banter blitz, weekends, Christmas… and blogging. There was light at the end of the tunnel, though. At the end of the wash, I found an exciting position at the University of Queensland, back in my home city, which I’ll begin later this year.

I have a lot more to say about the job market, but I’ll save that for a later (but not too much later!) post. In particular, a lot of PhD students in economics really don’t have a good feel for what the market entails, let alone how best to prepare for it, so I’m going to try and provide some advice. Even though November is still a few months away, early preparation is key – something that I wish I’d known a year ago.

But for now, and particularly for those outside the strange world of academia, I can highly recommend this entertaining description of the job market that pretty much sums it up: Speed Dating for Economists.


Real Deal Ok
Jun 19, 2017 at 9:00 am

As an econ person myself I’m surprised you are ‘trying to put out fires…looking for a job..’ mentality but you haven’t even taken time to update your CV since January. Any working papers? Has it occurred to you that many econ phd grads (who are more skilled than you and from better US ranked institutions) often do post-docs themselves. It shows a little too much hubris on your part that the economics job market is tough when you seem to simply assume the market should just open up for you rather than you connecting to it.

TLDR: Add some “working papers” to your CV to show that you are even doing anything that from a cursory glance sounds the least bit productive. That is all.

Jun 19, 2017 at 12:44 pm

Alas, getting a job is a gauntlet in all occupations. In my experience, the “secret to success” is to find the employer who needs you. I think the employment process must as stressful for the employer as for the person seeking the job. We look at the effort required and wonder how we will find the time. If you think about it from the employer’s point of view, they almost certainly have far less time available. So if you turn up on their doorstep in their hour of need: Bingo, supply intersects with demand!

Another Peter
Jun 19, 2017 at 7:17 pm

Nice video CV!

David Smerdon
Jun 20, 2017 at 12:25 am

I think it’s not an unfair assessment to say that the market is tough, especially as the bulk of us (as you point out) are not from top-ranking institutions. But I’m not implying at all that the market is unfair. Unsurprisingly, the economics market seems to work to a large extent, and certainly better than many other academic markets.

TLDR: the abstracts of my WPs are on my site.

Stephen Gordon
Jun 29, 2017 at 1:51 am

Hello David,

I’m using your book, Smerdon’s Scandinavian to completely update my openings. It is really a wonderful trove of attacking, fun chess.

I particularly liked game 14, Nabaty-Chatalbashev. I was playing over it for the 5th or 6th time and I noticed a resource that turns a win for black into a crushing loss. Check out white’s 22. Rg1. If he plays 22. d6 its all over. Black is dead, there is no mate, black is materially in the hole and the pawn on d6 is a monster. I think White can even play d6 on move 23 as well. Am I right?
Very upsetting.



David Smerdon
Jul 10, 2017 at 10:15 pm

Hi Steve,

The game wasn’t a perfect game, but Black didn’t throw away with win 🙂 After 22.d6 Black wins with 22…Ne4! forcing 23.Rg1, when 23…Nf2+ 24. Kh2 Qe5+ 25.g3 Qxb2 is game over. Instead, 22.Rg1 Ne4 23.d6 Nf2+ is the same – White’s busted.



Copyright © 2017 davidsmerdon.com All rights reserved. Theme by Laptop Geek.