If you haven't heard the latest education news, here's an excerpt from the Times. Perhaps we really do need more PhDs teaching history in our secondary schools. If we're no longer needed at the college level due to massive oversupply (and budget cutting), can't we at least make a contribution where it will really count?
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
If you haven't heard the latest education news, here's an excerpt from the Times. Perhaps we really do need more PhDs teaching history in our secondary schools. If we're no longer needed at the college level due to massive oversupply (and budget cutting), can't we at least make a contribution where it will really count?
Saturday, June 04, 2011
What have I learned over the past year? A few things.
1. There are lots of like-minded people out there, thankfully. I've always been an introverted loner who prefers to travel alone on occasion and sit quietly and not chat needlessly. Starting a blog was actually completely out of character for me. But I was sick of keeping everything bottled up: my angst about spending my youth getting a PhD, and digging myself into a major hole of debt, and my frustration about the uselessness of my degree. Once I realized (duh!) that I would have to beg to find a job but NOT look desperate, and that it would be nearly impossible to find work in my field, I realized what an idiot I was for having assumed that a PhD=gainful employment. How dumb am I? I mean, seriously, what was I thinking?
2. I am the most indecisive, flaky, weak-willed person on the planet. One minute I'm convinced academe is not for me, for various reasons, and then a few months later I'm flying all over the country interviewing for tenure-track positions. Why? Who the hell knows. Because I'm programmed to succeed? Because I'm deluded and don't know what I want? Because I'm a glutton for punishment? Probably all of the above. Here's an embarrassing old-school cartoon reference for you. In The Last Unicorn the wanna-be magician, Schmendrick, admits to the unicorn that he's finally achieved what he's always wanted, namely respect and power as a "real" magician. The unicorn says, "Does it make you happy?" His response: "Well, men don't always know when they're happy. But I think so." Why is that I still relate to this line twenty years later?
3. I've been on the fence primarily because I either don't know what I want to do with myself or haven't come to terms with it yet. (No, I don't want to pole dance or anything freaky.) But being on the fence is a dangerous place to be. You can jump off willy nilly, one way or another, at any time without thinking. I've interviewed for several jobs but rather than wait for a great nonacademic position to come along, I jumped off the fence the second a couple of academic jobs were offered to me. Why? Why did I jump off the fence right back into the shark tank that has (I think) made me relatively unhappy for the past decade? Who knows. Honestly, it's flattering to be wanted, to be sought after. Who cares why they want me. They want me! If everyone is fighting tooth and nail to get a slice of poop pie but then I'm offered two slices, how can I possibly resist?! That would be nuts, right?
4. Talking to other job seekers and PhDs looking to change jobs has helped me to come to terms with the fact that reading, researching, and writing (mostly quietly) is what many of us love to do. We love the life-long learning aspects of higher ed more so than the actual day-to-day grind of teaching and dealing with duplicitous administrators, whiny students, and backstabbing colleagues. But no one is going to pay us to be, essentially, a research fellow 24-7. We're lucky if they pay us to do anything.
5. I've accepted a tenure-track position and put all thoughts of alternate careers aside--for now. But I'm sill not convinced this is a happily ever story or that I've achieved the dream or whatever. I might just be delaying the inevitable. Of course, I'll try to shut up and just go with the flow for now but I refuse to completely succumb to the system and become a mindless, voiceless cog in the machine.
6. I've still got a lot to learn.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Some are even walking away from the academy because they're sick of looking for a tenure-track job and starting to wonder how much more of their life will pass them by while they struggle to find academic employment. This has been a very disappointing season for many ABDs and PhDs who hoped to find work.
Even though I had finally come to terms with finding a non-academic job, I decided to give the academic job search another go and applied for six select positions. To my surprise, just when I was OK with walking away, academia sucked me back into its clutches.
I was incredibly fortunate on the market this year (for the first time ever) and actually had to decide which job offer I was going to accept and which one I was going to decline. I had no idea how to go about making this important decision because, like most of us, I was trained to say YES to pretty much any tenure-track offer extended to me. Having more than one option seemed unthinkable.
But it happened.
Here are the factors that I considered and which helped me to decide. Good luck to all those facing a similar dilemma.
Tuesday, May 03, 2011
The question to which I kept returning is, "Do I really want to teach at an independent school?"
I took this question to my dad, who recently retired after thirty years of teaching English at an independent on the East Coast. He knows the job, he knows me - who better to consult? He wondered if I was asking the wrong question, and suggested that the question I need to ask is, "Do I want to teach at this independent school?"
While this may serve as a testament to my dim-wittedness, I was floored. Of course I should not have been - it has been over a year since I rejected the question, "Do I really want to teach at the collegiate level?" as far too broad. I do teach at the collegiate level, but I don't like doing so at Regional State University.
Reframing the question put to rest much of the angst I'd been feeling, for I no longer had to make a huge decision without truly knowing what I was deciding. I could simply make smaller decisions as they presented themselves.
While this change might be a problem in the long-term - what if I never find the right school? - in the short term it is incredibly freeing. An interview no longer engenders an existential crisis, but presents a specific question. So it's not a breakthrough in the search, but it does help with the emotional side of things.
Good luck, us.
Monday, May 02, 2011
|Surrounded by piles of paper, not a contract in sight.|
It's hurry, hurry, hurry, do you want this job? If so, act NOW! Right NOW! We want you!! Really, you do? How lovely; I'm thrilled! I accept!!! Do you hear that, world, I've accepted! Oh joy!
And then . . . nothing.
This is surprising given that I ended up with more than one tenure-track job offer and the universities in question knew time was of the essence. Still, moving from the verbal offer stage to the offer literally in my hand stage is taking 100x longer than I ever anticipated back when I started applying for jobs in the fall. The scary thing is that my job search began in September '10 and here it is, May '11, and I'm still playing the waiting game. Sure, it's unlikely that things will fall through at this point, thankfully, but I tend to learn toward the glass is half empty way of thinking. The proof is in the pudding. Until that puppy shows up, I'll remain on edge, waiting.
What truly boggles the mind is that nine months of my life have gone by while hunting for jobs and it felt, and continues to feel, like one big, exhausting, utterly stressful bad dream--despite the "happy" conclusion. I am so glad it's over but won't really felt relieved until I've signed and returned the sacred contract.
My word is my bond . . . I swear to work for you and teach the undergrads and produce whatever research I can and put up with difficult colleagues and play very, very nice, so long as you provide me with a paycheck and a solo office. That's really all I'm looking for right now, in addition to the contract. That and a stiff drink.
Sunday, April 24, 2011
I recently found out I am 0-for-3 in on-campus interviews (bad), but got some additional feedback on my interview (good), which I'll share here.
The good news is that I appear to have avoided the rookie mistakes of my first interview. Nobody at the third school came away thinking that I was so desperate to leave my current Uni that I would take any job offered. The bad news is that I did not do a particularly good job articulating why I wanted to teach at that particular school. When the school's head asked me "What kind of school are you looking for?" my answer was about Independent Schools as a whole, not about PP. (In part this is becaurse I felt profoundly ambivalent about PP. I had to swallow my initial answer, which had to do with teaching in a progressive school, which PP ain't.)
In any event, to the advice I received. In a nutshell, Do your research. When I had campus interviews for nationally-known colleges and universities, search committees never wondered why you wanted that particular job. In their thinking, who in their right mind wouldn't want to teach at University of Chicago.
Prep schools are not so full of themselves as this. They wonder why you would want to make this move, not just to independent school teaching but to their school in particular. To do this, be as specific as possible. What is it about the mission statement that speaks to you? Why do you love their approach to education? Why do you want to be a part of that specific community? As one person put it, "They want to hear about themselves."
There are two good ways to make the case for a particular school. Most obviously is in your answers to their questions. When they ask you why you want to get into independent school teaching, don't answer! Tell them why you want to teach at that particular school.
You can also do this by asking school-specific questions. Don't ask generic questions about the curriculum, ask about specific aspects of the department's curriculum. When you meet with senior administrators, refer to the mission statement or strategic plan. They want to know that you know them and that you are taking them seriously.
So as this season winds down, I feel pretty stupid in making so many basic mistakes. I hope I'll do better next time, and I hope that you will too.
Good luck us.
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Now I know that very few people in the world have their dream jobs. As a group, lawyers are an unhappy crowd, and Lord knows my mother never said to herself, "I want to spend twenty-five years administering unincorporated areas of Tuscon!" And my wife has no earthly idea what she wants to do. The problem is that I am lucky enough to know what I want (to teach at a small college), but unlucky enough not to be able to do it.
I think that the hardest part about taking an offer is that as soon as I do, that dream - one which I have held on to for a quarter of my life - is gone.
I also worry that my reluctance to let go of the dream could warp my ability to see prep school jobs for what they are. Am I foolish enough to turn down a good position ("It's not the right fit.") in order to avoid letting go of the dream? That, it seems to me, would be the height of folly.
So let me ask you - how do you balance your lofty dreams and the crushing reality of the academic market?
Thursday, April 07, 2011
The point of this digression is that when I jump to a prep school, I'm going to have to do a LOT more work. But what kind of work? And how much? I had no idea. To answer this question, I did a number of informational interviews, and in this process I ran into two kinds of teachers. The first of these was "Mary." She's a biology teacher at a prep school in California. She said that she works hard, but it's a job like many others, just with a weird schedule. She attends school plays, athletic events, and meets after school with the student paper editors.
Then I talked to "Steve" the head of a prep school in the midwest. He painted a radically different picture of teaching. A "real" teacher works 70-hour weeks (including weekly tutoring all day on Saturday), has the skill of a surgeon, the patience of a saint, and the dedication of a martyr. His unspoken assumption was that because I took the time to get a PhD, I am fundamentally unfit for teaching. (I suppose that if I really cared, I wouldn't have bothered. (Bear in mind that Steve's description fits many boarding schools, but he wasn't at one.)
Obviously these visions of prep school teaching don't have much in common, and the disconnect gave (gives) me the heebie jeebies. I think of myself as hard-working and dedicated to my students, but I have no interest in working 70-hours per week for $55k per year, even if I do have summers off. So I dropped a note to a friend who recently began teaching at a prep school and asked him if Steve was right. Here's what he had to say:
Well, it's about half BS and about half true.
1. As far as I can tell, there is a cohort among teachers who believe that we are saints from on high who must dedicate ourselves totally to our spouse: teaching. We must never, ever say anything critical, do anything grumpy, or fail to work ourselves into little nubbins. We should be proud to be paid so little, because it proves we're doing it for love.
So, obviously, this is a load of poo. This is self-righteous justifying by people who enjoy looking down their noses. The best example is that YouTube video about "What Teachers Make" where the dude rants along (enjoyably) and eventually gets to "I make a difference." Yes, but that doesn't make you any better than anybody else.
2. The true part. Students want to know that you care about them. And they exist in a psychological environment in which they are convinced that the entire world centers on them. So they can be easily hurt, or offended, and you must be careful. Also, they are deeply touched when you exhibit some interest in their successes. It's helpful in the classroom when they know you care about them outside of the classroom.
You cannot just teach your classes and go home. Maybe after 10 years. Being a part of the school community is part of the job. But it's - honestly - not that big a deal. I advise a student club, and two or three times per semester I go to something. A football game, a play, a debate tournament, whatever. I try to go once to games for a team on which my students play. But it's fun, too. They give out ice cream and I see my colleagues and relax a bit. This is my community so I socialize with them.
And yes, people want you to demonstrate your interest in the school by "supporting" things. You might go to a game but you will also be expected to wear red and give a dollar and clap enthusiastically and all that stuff. High school students are very earnest. Fine. It's easy.
If all that sounds terrible, you should factor that into your decision. You said that the dream job was working at a liberal arts college, though. And such schools expect *exactly* the same kinds of appearances. At [small college] I went to debate tournaments, lectures, plays, performances, and art shows. It was about the same level of commitment.
Tuesday, April 05, 2011
One of the issues that all authors agree upon is that you should never make a decision based on emotion. Your gut might tell you something, but before you act, you need to crunch the numbers. When you bet, there are a limited number of outcomes possible, and a limited number of hands your opponent could have. One guy I play with, Lighter Mike, only raises with the very best hands - he bluffs 0% ofthe time. So when he bets, I know how often I am winning or losing.
So what if we apply this approach to the job search? You can modify this process based on your own situation.
If I stay in my current position forever there is a 0% chance I will be content.
If I stay in my current position for another year or two, there is a R% chance I will land a tenure-track position that I want. (R>0, but not by much.)
Okay, so what if I take the job I discussed in my most recent post? Here's where the math can help. The way if figure it, here's how the numbers break down:
X% chance that I like the school and the career, and stay forever.
Y% chance that I like the career but not the school, and I swap it out for a job I like
Z% chance that I hate the job and the career and forever regret leaving academia
Of these, the only clear loser in the long-term is Z.
There are two remaining challenges. First, of course is assigning numbers to these variables. If my own mind and the job marked were as easy to figure out as Lighter Mike is, we wouldn't have a problem. But we can try.
The second problem is that you have to factor in the long-term effects of these variables. We don't play Russian Rouletter very often because while the odds of losing are only 1 in 6, losing has a very steep downside.
And that, I think is the problem I'm having. The downside of Z is (or at least seems) so high, it makes me crazy with fear. I'm in my forties, and am thinking about leaving a career/job for life to do something I have never done. This is a young person's game. I can't stop wondering, What if I'm wrong?
You can't know, of course, you just have to shove your chips into the middle and see what happens.
Good luck, us.
Monday, April 04, 2011
This is lovely advice for those who live in the distant past, but not particularly helpful today. Depending on your field, unless you turn yourself into solid gold, your first job likely IS your last, and you are not going to write your way to a better school.
I bring up this digression, as I am currently wrestling with the issue of fit on the prep school market. I recently returned from an on-campus visit at Very Old Preparatory Academy - the kind of place that counts Presidents and Senators among its alumni. They have pretty amazing faciliites, more money than God...and lots of traditions and rules. It just didn't feel like a fit.
My dad taught social studies for many years at a progressive (and elite) school. I remember that his classroom was a riot of books, maps, and student projects. Not here. At VOPA, classrooms had a whiteboard and framed posters. They were like a doctor's examination room. I couldn't help wondering how they would react if I piled books around my classroom, or grew my hair down to my ass. (I would not do the last of these, but I still wonder what they would say.)
So what to do?
My dad actually gave me one excellent piece of advice.
I made reference to your uncle being an unhappy as a progressive teacher in a traditional school. I think some people can pull off that, and some schools will allow a measure of radical dissent and even welcome the diversity (perhaps safety valve) that such divergence affords.
If VOPA offers the job, ask them about their comfort with your differences.
So, where does this leave me? Probably nowhere until I get an offer, if I get one.
But then the question I have (for you) is which proposition is more insane:
1. To take a job in which the fit is not qutie right on the assumption that I can use it get a position that does fit. (There is also the possibility that I will love the position once I get there.)
2. To hold out for a job that is a good fit, even if it means staying in my current position/extending the job search another year.
Either of these is completely nuts in an academic search, but what about prep schools?
Good luck, us.
Monday, March 28, 2011
Friday, March 25, 2011
|At least this curb has a place to drain your sorrows.|
1. Teach great classes
2. Win a teaching award
3. Publish journal articles
4. Secure a book contract
5. Network and play nice
6. Mentor and advise undergrads
7. Serve on grad student dissertation committees
8. Present papers at conferences
9. Schmooze with tenured colleagues
10. Generally be a pleasant person and say "Yes" to extra service requests
Moe has done all of these things and more. In fact, twenty years ago Moe would have been halfway on his way to tenure by now. Alas, Moe has discovered that his hard work is not really valued by VLP. VLP has exploited Moe as much as possible, and taken anything Moe was willing to give, but given very little to Moe in return, other than a paycheck.
At the same time, Moe has discovered that the larger academic world also has little time for him. It's true, he has received a number of AHA preliminary interviews over the past few years, and even a handful of on-campus visits, but thus far Moe has failed to attain the object of his desires: a tenure-track job. Other universities pretend to care about teaching (even the hard-core teaching schools) but have spent more time grilling Moe about research productivity and whether or not he'd "fit in" at a small liberal arts school, for example, than asking about his copious teaching experience. One school even rejected Moe over the phone and noted that he lost the job because he "failed to make enough eye contact" during his teaching presentation. This is despite the fact that Moe has won a teaching award and is, hands down, one of the most popular and hard-working professors at VLP.
What's worse, Moe was recently told by the department chair at VLP that although he's a great teacher and good colleague, he will soon be demoted from VAP to lecturer/adjunct status and will be forced to take a $25K pay cut and teach additional classes, including online classes, if he intends to stick around much longer.
When Moe complained to a tenured faculty member about his woes, this particular professor responded by saying, "I know tons of recent PhDs who would KILL for you job. They'd be thrilled to teach a 4/4 plus online classes for $25K per year at a good university. You should be glad you have a job." Another tenured colleague said: "Pretend like you're on a postdoc! Make the best of it!" Sure, like anyone on a postdoc is supposed to be teaching themselves into the ground at the same time. P-l-e-a-s-e.
Moe is pretty pissed off and bummed right about now and I don't blame him. The last time I talked to Moe it was 1pm on the Friday before spring break and he was ready to start drinking. Drowning his sorrows has become Moe's method of choice for stress release because, lets face it, hard work certainly isn't going to pay off. Why bother working hard all week, and even on the weekends, if nothing ever comes from your labor? Why indeed.
So for all of you out there who are considering applying for VAPs or would even dream of turning down a tenure-track job offer for a chance at a VAP at an elite institution, think again. You're just as expendable as any other contingent faculty member. Moe kicks academic ass yet he was still kicked to the curb. It really isn't fair.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
I've been blogging at random about my academic job search this semester but have not provided that many details thus far. Why? There are several reasons. First, the main reason is exhaustion: I'm pretty worn out after months of applying, traveling, prepping, interviewing, and waiting, and I haven't felt like reliving the experience at the end of the day. Instead of turning to the blog to vent, I've been reading novels or watching movies or surfing the net or talking to loved ones or sleeping or dealing with the habitual tasks of normal daily life. During the many weeks I've been job searching, I've also caught several nasty colds, all of which have me knocked me out for multiple days at a time. In essence, I'm burnt out, used up, and totally spent; I don't got that much to give.
The second reason for avoiding lots of discussion about the job search is my fear that I might jinx myself by, for example, making assumptions about the search process or my particular chances or, even worse, celebrating victory too soon. Talking about the whole thing in retrospect is much easier and I have every intention of revealing more details in a series of future posts. But I have a hard time expressing all of my angst in real time. I like to let stressful experiences marinate in my mind for a bit before I relive the moment by telling the tale.
My job search this year has been characterized by lots of ups and downs. One minute things seem great, the next minute I'm bitching to myself, and anyone who will listen, about the grave injustices of the academic world. I've had a job offered to me and then taken away, due to budget cuts, and then returned again at the last second; a job placed out of my reach because I didn't make the top three, only to find myself back in the running; and a job I never thought I'd get nearly fell in my lap, and seemed like a possible slam-dunk after the campus visit, but was then whisked away for good. As such, it's nearly April and things are still up in the air for me due to the craziness of the academic job market.
But I will say this: Sometimes the ups and downs can hit you on the same day, the same afternoon even. I was shown the door for one job at 5pm and then offered another at 8pm. That was one crazy evening. I spent the hours between 5-8pm rethinking my professional choices, wondering why I hadn't made a clean break with academe last year (when I started this blog), and pondering what it would be like to live a life of the body rather than the mind. (Pilates instruction perhaps? Gardening? Dog watching and grooming? There is a whole world of alternate careers out there for someone who is sick of thinking too much.) I also thought about how I had handed academe the reigns of my life, once again, and asked the ivory tower to guide me to my next destination.
After 8pm, once I knew I had a legitimate tenure-track offer on the table in an ideal location for my family, I felt numb more than anything. Here is what I've been searching for for months on end. I should be thrilled, right? I should be calling everyone I know and freaking out. But what I really felt, once the numbness subsided, was:
B) a guarded sense of relief (show me the contract before I get too excited)
C) anxiety about the future
Now rather than rebelling against the system and jumping ship, or remaining on the fence, I'm about to yoke my professional and personal future to academe. I'm also about to accept an entry-level academic position for fairly low pay, relatively speaking, in an expensive part of the country. Now I will actually have to continue researching, writing, and publishing my book. I'll have to apply for fellowships and attend conferences, all on a shoe-string budget. I'll have to network and ass kiss to get tenure in 6 years time. I'll have to put up with demanding undergrads and stingy administrators and grade papers at night and on the weekends. During one of the worst job markets in recent history I landed an actual tenure-track job. I'm pretty freakin lucky. It's exciting. It's scary. It's a brave new world.
And I still have one more on-campus interview to attend too . . . The show isn't over until the fat lady sings or the contract is signed, whichever comes first.
Monday, March 21, 2011
There is an aspect of the secondary search that I have been puzzling over for some months now, but have not written about it, less out of fear of appearing foolish than the fact that I had a question, but no answer. As you, dear reader, have probably figured out, one of the major differences between the academic and secondary markets is the timeline. By this time of year, all but the most tardy and muddled-headed search has wrapped up. (I'm talking to your employer, Eliza!) But secondary schools are just heading into the on-campus phase, and it will be another month before these positions close.
But there is a bigger difference than this, and here is where I become confused. In the world according to my Carney Sandoe rep, the vast majority of teaching positions have been announced. (These positions, it should be noted, are positions that schools have known about for the better part of a year.) To fill these positions, CSA had their big conference last month, and if your ship hasn't come in yet, the odds are very high that you'll be standing at the dock for another year.
But when I ask prep school teachers, I hear something completely different. Every one of them agrees that next month, a second wave of searches will begin. This is because schools are only now offering contracts to faculty for the 2011-12 academic year. Thus it is only now that some faculty will announce their retirement (or that they have taken the job that I had my eye on). As a result of these retirements/moves, there will be another set of openings in April and May (and even June or July). (Unlike colleges and universities, independent schools don't have to wait a year to fill a position. Got a vacancy starting in the fall? Fill it.)
The question then becomes, how do we explain the discrepancy between what Carney says, and what teachers say? If this second wave of jobs is a reality (and I'll keep you posted), why doesn't CSA go after those as well?
All I've got is an educated guess, and I'm happy to hear from anyone who knows better. My thinking is that CSA is powerful, but they work on volume. (Why? For the same reason Willie Sutton robbed banks: "That's where the money is.") They can handle the block of jobs that come out in January and February, and funnel them into their big conferences. These are the low-hanging fruit. But the spring jobs come out in dribs and drabs over three or four months. For a guess, they require more resources to fill, and are thus less profitable.
So both stories are right. Carney's season does end in March, but the rest of the world's does not. The pace slows, to be sure, but that doesn't mean that things are at an end. So even if you are signed up with CSA, keep an eye on the NAIS listings, for there may be jobs there that CSA doesn't handle.
And good luck out there!
Saturday, March 19, 2011
I just received the nicest, most apologetic rejection of my career. (And I've recieved over a hundred rejections, so that's saying something.) To make matters worse, I really loved the school, and they really liked me. But they had 200 applicants.
One year ago last month, I recived precisely the same news, also from a dream school. This hurts as much, and raises the very real possibilty that (for this year at least) the prep school market is not one whit better than academia. I mean if you don't get a job, who cares how many interviews you had, right?
So I've got one on-campus interview left at a school I'm having a hard time loving. And after that, I've got fuck-all.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
The most obvious difference between a prep school and (many) university interviews is that rather than a presentation of your research they will drop you into a classroom full of students and turn you loose. What they want/expect you to do will vary widely depending on the school, as will the amount of guidance you receive. Sometimes you'll receive a specific topic, other times you'll get little or nothing to go on. Some tips to make things go more smoothly:
- Bring a baggie full of large name plates (the ones that fold into tents) and sharpies. As students come in, ask them to write their names. This will make it much easeir to call on students without resorting to, "You, in the blue sweatshirt."
- If you are going to lead a discussion of some sort, make it a self-contained unit. Bring a copies of a short reading, and have them do it in class. (Better yet, have them read aloud.) You could try leading a discussion of the reading assigned by the regular teacher, but you're betting your job that the students did the reading, and if they didn't you'll be out there flapping.
- Treat the class like the first of the semester. (No, don't go over the syllabus.) They don't know you, and don't know your shtick, so explain what you are going to do in class. Also, if you are prone to excessive enthusiasm, tread lightly. (I'm kind of loud and might have scared the 9th graders.) Be 80% of yourself.
- Write on the board. (You might bring your own dry-erase marker for this. You don't want your class torpedoed by an equipment malfunction. Incidentally, what do you call it when a dry-erase marker runs out? They can't dry out, can they?)
A second issue to keep in mind is that department politics in a prep school can be quite different than a college or university. In large part, this is a matter of scale, and the significance of a single hire to a department. From a political perspective, at all but the smallest colleges, your arrival in will probably not be particularly significant. By contrast, at all but the largest prep schools you will be one of four or five people in the department, so your arrival will be tremendously significant.
For example, many prep schools are rethinking their AP offerings in the humanities, and some APs are on the chopping block. While you might not have much sympathy for standardized testing, and hate the idea of teaching to the test, these classes have been around for a long time, and inevitably have strong support among some members of the department. In a small department, your position on this issue will likely determine the future curriculum. As a result, the way you answer a question such as, "What do you think of the AP?" will shape the way different members of the department view your candidacy. My argument here is not that you should avoid answering this sort of question ("Gee, I haven't thought about curricular issues" will get you nowhere), but you should know why people care intensely about your answer.
Beyond this, the prep school interview will feel quite familiar. You'll get a nice dinner, meet a bazillion people, and get a bazillion different versions of the same questions (all focused on teaching).
And don't worry - you'll do great.
|This perfectly captures how I'm feeling right now.|
I started out this season in close contact with a group of about five other academic job seekers, all of whom (except me) are currently visiting professors, and only one of us thus far has been offered and accepted a tenure-track position. Depression and anxiety are running rampant and for several of my friends the game's already over. They played their hand and lost. I'm still playing but have no idea if I've got a winning hand. Only time will tell.
In the meantime I'm having a very hard time focusing during the day or sleeping at night. I'm not getting much accomplished as a result, and I'm absolutely sick of making new files on my PC with pages and pages of info. on each school/department. I feel like I spend most of my waking hours prepping and worrying. Prep, worry, prep, worry, prep, worry. Oh, and freaking out once in a while. I can't stand the uncertainty!
My job stats this year are as follows:
Positions applied for: 6
Preliminary interviews: 4
Campus invites: 3
Campus visits completed: 2 (I've got 1 upcoming)
Pending offers: who knows?
I had honestly hoped that things would be clearer by now, one way or the other, and that I'd be able to start making plans for next year. But, instead, I find myself just as uncertain about my plans for the fall as I was three months ago. The entire academic job search process is exhausting and frustrating; closure is hard to come by. The funniest thing is that I really didn't expect to find a job this year. Truly. I only applied for six jobs! (Because there were only six decent jobs in my field.) The fact that I ended up with three on-campus interviews out of six is pretty shocking. Getting an actual offer would be even more shocking.
But one thing I've discovered is that department's ran some of these searches not knowing there would be such huge higher ed budget cuts and now the positions themselves are in question. If I end up unemployed at the end of this semester it will be because someone else was a better fit or the funding for the position was pulled by the administration at the last minute. Either way, sucks for me. I'll keep you posted.
*Anyone else want to share their 2010-11 job search stats?
Sunday, March 13, 2011
First and foremost, if you are a PhD thinking about jumping to a prep school, it's not unusual for you to panic, and wonder if you are making a horrible mistake. So far I have melted down twice in the last month. "I don't want to teach at a prep school," I complained. "I want to teach at a small, wealthy, liberal arts college, with pre-tenure sabbatical. Iwant to make $65k as an assistant professor, and $80k as an Associate. I want a 3-2 teaching load with no class larger than 20."
The problem, of course, is that I had fallen into the trap of comparing my real-world options with my fantasy-world options. I wrote a version of this elsewhere, but it is stil true:
I think that it is extremely easy to get addicted to being on the market in the way a gambler is addicted to searching for the Big Score. There is the anticipation as the jobs are posted/cards are dealt, the excitement as you mail an application/place a big bet, and the disappointment when you are rejected/lose the hand.
You might always lose, but there is also no reason to leave the job market or get up from the table. Why? Because there's always another hand to play or another year to apply.
The addict's challenge is to realize that while there is some truth to the saying, "You can't win if you don't play," it is almost as true to say, "You can't win if you do play." But the panicky voice in your head is only telling you the first story, and that story is for suckers.
So what to do when you panic? First, do nothing. Don't call your rep, don't email search committees. Just let the panic be. Then, breathe deeply, and remind yourself why you are making this move: You will have better students. You will make more money. You will have a choice where you live. You will be able to send your kids to an excellent school for pennies on the dollar. Repeat.
If you need to, to read this thread: http://chronicle.com/forums/index.php/topic,66956.0.html It was my original cris de coeur when I started down this road, and it might help remind you why you did so as well.
Then, have a drink or two. Get a good night's sleep. See where things stand in the morning. Have any of the things that made you want to leave academia changed? Have any of the attractions of prep school teaching (or whatever other career you have selected) diminished. Probably not. Then carry on.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
# of schools I could have interviewed with: 6 (ie. schools at the conference to which I applied)
# of interviews: 5
# of interviews a typical humanities candidate had: 2
# of interviews a typical math candidate had: 20 (no kidding)
# of invitations to campus I have received: 3
Average salary I could expect: $55,000 (PhD with five or so years teaching experience)
# of candidates schools bring to campus: 3-5 (yes, five)
Okay, what does all this mean?
First, having the PhD (and decent supporting materials) puts you head and shoulders above other candidates. While at the conference I met a candidate with a PhD in the same field as me, and she had about the same number of interviews. (Any on campus yet?)
Second, and perhaps in contrast to what I've implied in previous posts, landing a job is hardly a given. Obviously I'm doing very well (for a humanities guy), but one of the things at which I excel is coming in second in the on-campus phase of job searches. There is no reason to think that this won't continue.
Finally, I want to make a couple of points about the candidate's relationship to CSA. I want to be clear up front, that my CSA Representative has been extremely helpful. Thanks to my years on the collegiate market, I'm pretty neurotic, and my rep has put up with some pathetic emails and questions.
That said, you should always remember that you are not the client - the school is. Your CSA rep might like you very much as a person (or think you are completely insane), but he does not care if you, qua you, get a job. All CSA cares is that the position is filled by a CSA candidate. If it's you, that's great. If it's the woman who interviewed before you, equally great.
In other words, you are a prostitute, CSA is your pimp, and the schools are the johns. (I know this is awful to say, but if you have a better analogy than this, please let me know!) The pimp doesn't care which of his prostitutes goes with a particular john, so long as the john pays up and the pimp gets his cut. You don't have to worry about your CSA rep slapping you around (and believe me, I deserve it), but it would be good to remember where CSA's interests lie, and that in many cases they do not coincide with yours.
Next up - on campus! (And more neursois!)
Monday, March 07, 2011
|The stage is set and the audience is waiting; are you ready?|
"There is no means of testing which decision is better, because there is no basis for comparison. We live everything as it comes, without warning, like an actor going on cold. And what can life be worth if the first rehearsal for life is life itself? That is why life is always like a sketch. No, 'sketch' is not quite the word, because a sketch is an outline of something, the groundwork for a picture, whereas the sketch that is our life is a sketch for nothing, an outline with no picture. Einmal ist keinmal . . . What happens but once, says the German adage, might as well not have happened at all. If we only have one life to live, we might as well not have lived at all."
This is pretty profound, if depressing, stuff, and I find myself continually returning to the notion that we live everything without warning, utterly cold, taking life's developments as they come.
Consider an interview, for example. We do our best to prepare and try to imagine what the employer wants to find in us. We run through mock questions and scenarios, wear our finest interview clothes, put a lid on any unpleasant aspects of our personalities that might crop up in high pressure situations, and try to be on our best behavior at all times. The curtains open, the lights come on, and we're live. Act one, scene one. GO.
After surviving a number of intense on-campus academic interviews for tenure-track jobs this semester, it dawned on me that only once the whole experience was over was I able to figure out exactly what the department in question was looking for. I had to go through the motions and perform cold before realizing, often days later, what I could or should have done to cinch the deal. This is not just one of the many perils of the job search; as Kundera points out, it's one of the perils of life as we know it. There are no rehearsals or second chances. This is it. No wonder we have so many dreams in which we find ourselves on stage, completely (and inexplicably) naked, not knowing our part in the play or our lines, not having a clue why we are there or what the point of it all is.
In many ways those dreams are simply preparing us for day-to-day conscious reality. They're in place to give us a fresh perspective on existence. Interviews work much the same way. We do our best but it's usually not our actual best. We don't have time to practice, other than in our safe and comfy homes. (Not the same!) With a thorough on-stage rehearsal before the main event we'd really be primed to land the job. Instead, we just have to hope that our impromptu performance ends up being one of the best the audience sees during the rehearsal. That's why sometimes you can end up landing a job even though you know you weren't your best. Clearly, in comparison to you, the other candidates folded under the pressure of the one-shot role. That's why impromptu anything is always great experience for job interviews. So my advice for job seekers: get out there and go on blind dates or do something, anything, difficult and off the cuff in public. This is your chance; but it's OK to blow it. Sometimes. Happens to the best of us.
*Speaking of second chances, if you believe in that sort of stuff, check out my interview with Ann Daly, a professor who gave up tenure to start her career over, at IHE today:
Monday, February 28, 2011
In keeping with an earlier post about the similarities between the secondary and collegiate job markets, I’ll start with the setting for the interviews. You know the “Pit” where many conference interviews take place for the MLA and AHA? (For those lucky enough to have avoided the pit, here is Daniel Kowalsky’s painfully accurate description from a CHE article:
The interviews take place in a massive convention hall which has been divided into hundreds of tiny, curtained cubicles. During the interview itself, you will hear swirling around you a symphony -- nay, a cacophony -- of voices identical to your own. If you don't know the answer to a given question -- for example, "How do you incorporate peer review into your teaching?" -- don't panic. In a moment or two, the answer will be supplied by a candidate sitting yards away, separated by that curtain.
Remarkably, the CSA meeting hall is worse: The tables are more closely packed together, and there are no curtains. Most horrifyingly, some schools held two interviews at the same table simultaneously: There would be two faculty members sitting across from two candidates conducting two interviews. I could only hope that the candidates were not applying for the same job. I never had the misfortune of sharing my table with another candidate, but without a doubt, the most difficult aspect of the interview was the noise. If the interviewer spoke in a soft voice, or if you had a loud-talker at a nearby table, half the questions were, “I beg your pardon?” At a few interviews, I found myself leaning across the table to hear a question, and half-worried that the interviewer might think I was coming in for a kiss. I should be clear that I do not mean this as a criticism – if there is a better way to conduct tons of interviews in a short time, I’ve never seen it.
The most surprising difference between the MLA and a CSA conference is that schools really do schedule interviews on site. When I arrived at the conference, I saw the table reserved by St. Prestigious Prep, and remembered that they were conducting a search in my field. I stopped by to chat with the guy sitting at the table, and found out he was the head of the middle school. It wasn’t ideal (I’m looking for an upper school position), but we talked for a while, and he suggested I set up a meeting with the head of the entire school for the next day. This would simply never, ever, ever, ever happen at a collegiate conference. The moral of the story is that my CSA Representative is right. If you want an interview, go ask for it. The chances are that you’ll get turned down – I was 1-for-12 – but all it takes is one.
As I said, more to come on this front, but right now I've only got time for small bites...
|We're not racist/sexist, just great equalizers.|
Better still, they want you--if you're the right demographic--to stand up and demand the country stop treating everyone else (i.e., all those people with boobs and vaginas and dual airy fairy ethnic identities like "African American," "Mexican American," "Asian American," and the like) as though they deserve extra money while you, a historically privileged member of the white male majority, are no longer worthy of special treatment.
"The Former Majority Association for Equality" is a Nonprofit Organization that was officially incorporated with the State of Texas in March of 2010. Its mission statement is as follows:
Our goal: To financially assist young Americans seeking higher education who lack opportunities in similar organizations that are based upon race or gender. In a country that proclaims equality for all, we provide monetary aid to those that have found the scholarship application process difficult because they do not fit into certain categories or any ethnic group.
We have a very simple mission: to fill in the gap in the scholarships offered to prospective students. There are scholarships offered for almost any demographic imaginable. In a country that proclaims equality for all, we provide monetary aid to those that have found the scholarship application process difficult because they do not fit into certain categories or any ethnic group.
But FMAFE wants to assure you that they are NOT racist or sexist; they're simply trying to make sure that white males in this country get a fair shake. For too long white males have found themselves victims of forces beyond their control. FMAFE seeks to rectify that issue. Young white men, they believe, deserve better from a country that their elite white male ancestors founded to serve (only) their white male descendants. What's wrong with making sure white men everywhere can achieve their gendered racial legacy?
One obstacle that we immediately anticipate is to not appear racist or racially motivated. We do not advocate white supremacy, nor do we enable any individual that does. We do not accept donations from organizations affiliated with any sort of white supremacy or hate group. We have no hidden agenda to promote racial bigotry or segregation. FMAE’s existence is dedicated around one simple principle, to provide monetary aid for education to white males who need it.
So, are you a respectable white male in need of $500 for school? Contacted FMAFE and you might hit the jackpot. http://www.fmafe.org/Mission.html
Full Disclosure: Young white women are on the board, so you may or may not get fair consideration after all (you know how those people with vaginas can be tricky), but FMAFE does try its best to satisfy all white males who apply for funding.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
I'm in the thick of an academic job search and might actually be starting up on the tenure track somewhere this fall, while Ben is in the process of transitioning out of the ivory tower for good. Just as I'm on the brink of jumping blindly off the fence in one direction, Ben is poised to jump with his eyes wide open in the opposite direction. Who is the craziest? Tune in to future posts to find out . . .
Regardless of where we end up, however, Ben and I plan to keep blogging about our experiences and discussing issues relevant to academics, higher ed, and job-seeking PhDs and ABDs. Thanks for reading!
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Dear Dr. Harrison,
I found your blog extremely useful. I guess you have not left academia yet, so you may know the answer to my question. I was wondering what job security is like at boarding schools? I realize that they do not offer tenure, but what is to stop them from refusing to renew a contract for a variety of reasons, i.e. it is cheaper to replace a more experienced teacher with a less experienced one?
Curious in Cincinnati
Good question! I know that the lack of tenure is one issue that gives some academics pause when they consider leaving (or giving up on) the academy. One of my colleagues here has opined that I'm crazy to give up a job for life. (She is a friend, so I took no offense.)
Honestly this is not a question I've thought much about, mostly because you're the first to ever raise the issue. I've interviewed a half-dozen PhDs who teach in secondary schools (about half of whom have been doing so for 10+ years) and nobody has mentioned job security as an issue, and certainly not in the way you describe it. (By contrast, I have heard rumors that Bennington College - who also don't have tenure - will occasionally clear the decks for cheaper, more junior PhDs.)
This isn't to say it's not an issue anywhere, but that I am unaware of it.
That said, your post raises a good question and speaks to the factors you should consider when searching for a school. First, pay attention to how long other faculty have been at the school. Some schools will actually boast that "On average, Prestigious Prep faculty have fifteen years' teaching experience and twelve years at Prestigious." That's a good sign. If there seems to be a high turnover among faculty, you should hesitate before accepting an offer. (That said, if you are looking for a "starter job" facutly turnover might not put you off - obviously people can leave!)
You can also look into a school's finances, both through annual reports, but also through the website: www.guidestar.org. (Registration is free.) It includes financial information on many non-profits, including endowment, operating budgets, and salary for senior administrators. If a schools got a lot of money sloshing around, they're unlikely to look for cost savings by firing senior faculty. (Warning: Guidestar can be a huge time-suck if you are at all snoopy.)
Finally, pay attention to a school's reputation. A place that has been around for a while, and has a regional or even national reputation for excellence is less likley to engage in these sorts of shennanigans than a newer school that might be on the verge of going under.
Good luck, and thanks for reading!
Monday, February 21, 2011
So far, it's hard to see how things could be going any better. Forgive the bullet points, but I have to break down some numbers.
- My application package has been sent to about a dozen schools across the country.
- Nine of these schools will interview in DC.
- I sent letters of interst to four of these nine.
- Five schools have requested interviews.
So if you are scoring at home (or if you're by yourself) I'm batting 5-for-4, which is as impossible in baseball as academia. (As I said to a friend in the field, "Remember the year you had interviews with your top five schools? No, me neither.")
It's also possible that there are more interviews to come. I received a request to interview for a department chair position. (I declined it due to location and cost of living issues.) And more schools are registering for the conference and posting jobs. (Right now there are about 200 schools registered.)
Now, one reading of this is that I'm totally awesome. But I don't think that's true. I think that the correct reading speaks to the differences between the prep school and academic job markets. For college teaching jobs, a doctorate, publications, and years of teaching experience might not get you in the door. For prep schools, all of these make you stand out from the twenty-somethings who are looking for their first teaching gig. You might not get the interviews, but you will be noticed, and in my case my CV has clearly worked in my favor.
That said, I've been through the academic wringer too many times to think that a job is in the bag. Conference interviews won't necessarily lead to campus interviews, and campus interviews won't necessarily lead to job offers. But they're a start, at least.
Friday, February 18, 2011
|Suck on this.|
This is not something we should dismiss. Oh no, I think it's pretty clear whether or not some of us choose to jump ship now, later, or never, or whether or not we have degrees from Fancy Pants Ivy U or Rural Soul-sucking Backwater U, we're all in agreement about one thing: The academic job market does indeed suck, particularly this year. We may be the most educated people in America, and certainly special with our membership in the PhD club, which represents less than 1% of the country's total population, but when it comes to finding, or not finding, a tenure-track academic position, sucks is still the most appropriate word to spring to mind.
Speaking of which, Slate did a brief opinion piece five years ago on the word "sucks" that I think is especially relevant to this discussion. "Suck It Up: A defense of the much-maligned word" [http://www.slate.com/id/2146866/].
"Are you offended by the word sucks? Do you loathe the way it's crept into everyday conversation? Do you wish sucks would just fade away, like other faddish colloquialisms that were eventually discarded? Well, sucks to be you. Sucks is here to stay."
Why, what's so great about sucks? Why do we still turn to this word time and time again to express our deepest feelings of disappointment and despair? Because, as Seth Stevenson points out, "Sucks is the most concise, emphatic way we have to say something is no good. As a one-syllable intransitive verb, it offers superb economy." And poor bastards like us need "superb economy" now more than ever, since those of us on the academic job market are so damn impoverished after spending thousands on our education, room and board and other necessities for six plus years, not to mention airfare, lodging and registration fees to attend hiring conferences in our disciplines. (Where we sit in a hotel room with other employed scholars who ask us a string of random questions for 20-40 minutes before unceremoniously shooing us out the door and then, professional task completed, hitting up the bar for some shots and academic gossip.)
So think of it this way: the phrase "academic job market sucks" = "the academic job market is no good." It stinks, it's rotten, it's putrid, it's a raw deal. Sure, it sucks to be us. But at least we know we're in good company when other scholars feel, and speak, about the job market in the same way.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
First the opacity: As with any search, there is a lot you will never know. Will the school consider candidates with a PhD? Many searches are general – “English Teacher” – will they consider someone with your specialty? While these questions will come to mind, as in the higher ed process, you can’t know the answer, so don’t worry about it. (That said, if a department already has faculty with PhDs, you can at least know they’ll consider your application. Unless they've been disastrous in the classroom.)
Second, the timeline: As with many fields in higher ed, prep school positions trickle out over the course of several months. I received my first referral from Carney Sandoe back in November, but the action doesn’t really get started until February. It’s also worth noting that schools continue to post positions until late spring. Unlike colleges and universities, where hiring a new teacher requires fifteen signatures and an act of God, prep schools can move much more quickly. If a teacher decides to retire in April, they’ll hire a replacement in May of that year.
As with higher ed, the key moment in the process is the huge hiring conferences. These are run by CSA and by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). Since I’m working with CSA, I’ll focus on their process.
About a week before the conference, CSA sets up a website where schools and candidates schedule interviews and send messages. While a dearth of interviews a week before the MLA can signal career-death, such is not the case here. According to CSA, most interviews are made in the 48 hours before the conference starts. This can certainly put you on edge as you wait to hear from schools (and wonder if you should check on the refund policy for your plane tickets), but it’s the nature of the beast.
If a school decides to interview you, they have the option of sending you an old-fashioned email, sending you a message through CSA’s site, or they can simply sign up for one of your open time slots. Whatever the case, schools drive the process. They schedule interviews and you say yes or no. (If you get an interview, take it. Even if you’re not sure you want a job, at least talk to the school. It’s good practice, and you never know what you might learn.) Most of the interviews will come from schools to which you’ve applied, but it is also possible that you’ll receive requests out of the blue.
Another difference between the higher ed and prep school markets is that you can apply for jobs at the conference, even if they are not hiring in your field. To someone fresh from the MLA this sounds like advice your mother-in-law would offer (ie. completely insane), but it makes sense because the hiring process is so different. Here’s a notional example:
Boston Preparatory Academy sends their Dean of Faculty to the conference to hire a Spanish teacher. In the back of her mind she knows that there is a good chance that one of her French teachers may leave at the end of the year, but none has made a decision. (Many schools don’t sign contracts until April or May.) While at the conference, the Dean receives a message from a CSA candidate with a PhD in French literature saying, “I’m a French teacher in the midst of a secondary school search, and am particularly interested in teaching at Boston Prep. I will be at the CSA conference in February, and would love the opportunity to learn more about your school.”
Because the Dean knows that a position might open up in the coming months, she goes ahead and schedules the interview. The candidate has a stellar resume, shows initiative, and it’s only half an hour out of her day, so why not? The interview goes swimmingly, and both candidate and Dean walk away feeling that it would be a good match. A few weeks later, old Mr. Smith announces he will retire, and the Dean says, “No problem. I’ve already talked to a candidate, and he’s fabulous.” Granted it’s unlikely to move quite this smoothly, but it does seem to happen.
As the conference gets closer, I’ll continue to blog about my experience, but at this point I’m just waiting for my first interview…
Good luck, me.
Tuesday, February 08, 2011
As I’ve wandered onto the secondary school market, I’ve been struck by both the similarities between this process and the higher education market. The first point of continuity is that the ritualistic aspects of the application process are virtually the same. I get up in the morning, and check the NAIS website to see if anything has shown up in the wee hours. Once at work, I check email
occasionally constantly in hope of receiving an interview invitation. Then I check the job board again, and log onto the Carney Sandoe website to see if there is anything new there. In other words, applying for prep school positions is no less an obstacle to getting real work done than applying for college positions.
As annoying as this similarity is, even worse is the fact that that while the market is different, my neuroses are pretty much the same. I find myself agonizing over inconsequential choices in my cover letters: Should this be a comma, a period, or a semi-colon? Which will impress the committee most, Arial or Times New Roman? I convince myself that nobody will want to interview me. I convince myself that I’ll have to choose from five great offers. I wonder when I should buy plane tickets to the conference. I wonder when the search committees will meet. I wonder if I should call the department chair and ask when the committee will meet, so I know whether to buy plane tickets. I wonder if I can afford to live in Boston/San Francisco/Chicago/DC/San Diego. So for those of you thinking that the wounds left by many years on the academic market are easily healed, it may not be so.
Sunday, February 06, 2011
|You're going to need more than this to survive.|
The entire experience could go down like this (assuming your flight isn't delayed or cancelled):
You fly in, presumably the night before the main event, and are immediately whisked off to dinner with multiple people. Sometimes they keep you out pretty late, depending on what time your flight landed and how long it took to get from the airport to the restaurant, and by the time you reach the hotel it's 10pm or later. You've got less than 8 hours before you need to wake up and wow everyone. So you make some calls to loved ones, unpack, lay out your interview outfit, go over your job talk, etc. and then finally pass out at 12am.
When the alarm goes off at 6am or earlier, you spring into action, get ready, and then anxiously look over your schedule for the day, which looks something like this:
7:30 AM Breakfast with grad students
8:30AM Interview with search committee
9:30AM Meeting with HR (where they tell you a bunch of crap--> all irrelevant unless you get the job)
10:30AM Meeting the Department Chair
12:00PM Lunch with Department Members (TBA)
1:00PM Meeting the Dean and/or Vice Provost
2:00 PM Campus Tour
3:00PM Job Talk
4:30PM Meet & Greet with Department
5:30PM Exit meeting with search committee
The interview day is guaranteed to last over 12 hours, but if you add the time spent going out to dinner at the end of the day, you're looking at a 15 hour day. That's 15 hours straight spent trying to be amazing, polite, witty and coherent; 15 hours where you're "on" non-stop, trying desperately to make a good impression on the 30-50 people you may come into contact with. Yikes! Not to mention time spent impressing during the dinner the night before or at the breakfast the next day or on the long trip to the airport.
The whole process amounts to an exhausting, painful whirlwind. And the worst thing is the waiting period once you've returned home and all the questions that run through your mind 24-7. How many days or weeks will go by before I hear something? Will I ever hear from them again? Did they like me? Was I the best candidate? Should I have answered that question in a different way? Why did I get the spinach salad at lunch?! I should have brought floss in my bag! Idiot!!
While you're waiting to hear back about the results of campus marathon #1, you're invited to interview at a different university. Oh joy! But this time they want you to interview for two days and give both a job talk and a teaching presentation. So you've got two back-to-back 12 hour days to look forward to and less than 10 days to throw together a new talk (because they asked for something entirely different than the first school) and a teaching presentation on a randomly assigned topic. You hope they won't notice that you're wearing the same interview outfit throughout the entire visit.
By the time you get back from visit #2, which was even more tiring than the first, you've got another email inviting you to a 3rd interview at faraway university and you've learned on the academic jobs wiki that the first school has already offered the position you coveted to someone else. Ouch! Bummer! Thus the marathons continue until, finally, there are no more invitations. You're spent and the job possibilities have dried up. Now you wait and hope and wait and wait and wait. The next thing you know it's spring, you're still unemployed, and you've gotten shit all done since January. You've spent the entire semester trying to find a tenure-track position only to come up broke, empty handed, behind in your research, and pissed off.
Welcome to the world of the academic job seeker!!