Monday, December 06, 2010

Why Being on the Academic Job Market Sucks: Part III

Honey, it's for you . . .
December is here, snowflakes are falling, and pretty much everyone I know who has applied for academic jobs is anxiously awaiting news, whether good or bad, from search committees. We're checking our email, making sure the phone is plugged in, scanning the Wiki, watching the letterbox for rejection letters, and asking our friends and colleagues if they've heard anything at all. Many of us are also simultaneously buried under piles of student papers and exams this week and next, struggling to finish the semester before collapsing. We could all use a long nap followed by a stiff drink and a gingerbread cookie right about now. And maybe even some mindless TV as well. Why not? Haven't we earned a bit of R&R?

Rum, gin, whatever, just pour me some.
While we may imbibe more than our fair share of alcoholic beverages in the coming weeks, those of us looking for work will also be on pins and needles day and night, waiting for job-related news until the 11th hour. Why academics are destined to spend the entire holiday season checking their email/phone messages every hour and refreshing the Wiki is beyond me. Couldn't we just do the whole thing starting in January? Does the (mostly) bad job-market news always have to hit us in mid-December, putting a serious damper on our Christmas/New Year cheer? Is there anyone else who is simply fed up with feeling depressed about dwindling ivory tower job prospects every December? (Note to self: This is one of the main reasons I want to look for work outside the academy. No more miserable Decembers!!)

My partner and I, for example, started off the weekend feeling pretty good about life in general, until we learned--via the Wiki--that several of the universities to which we have submitted applications, and even additional materials, have already scheduled preliminary interviews. Bummer. Such news is to be expected, of course, in this highly competitive world, but it still sucks to start off your week with disappointment. I prefer good news.

But it's important to note that not every Wiki-based disappointment/rejection is entirely valid, either, because I know search committees sometimes stagger their invites to job applicants. So one can't, or shouldn't, immediately assume that the party is over because of a presumed Wikijection. It's unwise to presume anything. However, most of the time, if other candidates are receiving contact from the search committee(s) and you are not, that is a bad sign. Very bad.

I do actually have one preliminary academic interview scheduled for next month, so yay for me. It's not at my 1st or 2nd choice university but given that I only applied for a handful of jobs, I am really fortunate to have received any interview requests at all. I'm still hoping I'll have 1 or 2 more schools contact me this month, but I have no expectations. Besides, like every other academic job applicant in the world, I've gotten excited about a possible job and then ultimately been burned by a search committee whose members seemed pleasant and professional but never contacted me again after the initial, or on-campus, interview. Nonetheless, that's the painfully uncertain life of a job searcher in any field. You show them what you have to offer and hope it's to their liking.

I wish I could offer some words of encouragement to my fellow job seekers but I don't really have any false positivity to offer at the moment. "Keep on keepin' on," perhaps, or "just wait and see, 2011 will be YOUR year!," or if that fails utterly, then "better luck next year" (or the year after, or never). I am sure, though, that some, if not most, of us will end up landing academic or non-academic jobs in 2011. We need to work; we need the money. In these times of uncertainty, remaining flexible and open minded is the best option. I'm personally giving the academic job market another go this year because I want to see what happens. I'm already open to looking for work elsewhere. That doesn't mean, however, that my ego appreciates rejection and disappointment any more than it did last year (or the year before that).


Caitlin said...

Hooray for your job interview, Eliza! Let's hear it for small victories.

WorstProfEver said...

Congrats on the interview! And don't let the bastards get you too down for the holiday season -- at least have some good eats and drinks to celebrate!

Anthea said...

Hip hip hooray for the interview! That's great news. Sadly only one friend of mine has been called to an interview...

Yes, don't let the bastards get you down. They're just not worth it.

Eliza Woolf said...

Thanks, everyone!! At the moment one interview is all I've got going on but it is better than nothing. Mnay of my friends have 0 interviews lined up right now. It is a brutal market out there. Of course, having just one interview cranks up the pressure big time.

PS-Universities are willing to work with folks who decline to attend the AHA/MLA. Yay for reasonable search committees!!

Sorry I've been MIA lately. Lots of stuff going on last week and this week and I'm on a blogging break for a few days but plan to be back on by the end of the week, with another break coming around X-mas.

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