Sunday, February 06, 2011

The On-Campus Marathon

You're going to need more than this to survive.
 Why is it that all on-campus interviews for tenure-track academic positions have to be complete nightmares? Most last a couple of days but let's say you're lucky and only have to be on campus for one day. It's still going to be a marathon. Survival of the fittest!

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
7:00PM Dinner

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!!


Anonymous said...

Hey, multiple and hectic interviews beat the alternative. You don't have much to complain about, in this market.

Granted, I agree the hoops involved today are outrageous and getting worse. And wait til you are hired and see what goes on behind the scenes at these circuses. ha ha

Anonymous said...

At least you are getting on-campus interviews. That is more than many of us can claim. Boy would it be nice to have to complain about such "marathons"!!!

Eliza Woolf said...

Actually, I wrote this based on the experiences of both myself and many others that I know over the past few job market seasons. Thus this is more of a generic post about what's expected of job candidates, and how nerve wracking and exhausting the whole process can be, rather than a personal story of on-campus interviews.

Although it is true that I have a few on-campus interviews to look forward to this month and I do feel incredibly lucky to have gotten this far in the process. I'll report back about those later!!

Caroline said...

I think I got tired reading that schedule. It sure is faster than the Hamster Wheel! Good luck with your job interviews!

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