Wednesday, March 23, 2011

My Job Search Tale: Let Me Off the Rollercoaster

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:

A) disbelief
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.


Nadia said...

congratulations! this is great news! i know you're worried about the future, but try to remember that the grass isn't always greener on the other side. non-academic jobs present their stress, too, and often times we have to start entry-level jobs (often low-paying) when we switch careers. i hope you get the contract soon so that you can stop worrying. i know how stressful this process is!

Eliza said...

Thanks, Nadia! You make an excellent point here: That the grass always seems greener on the other side of the fence. It doesn't matter if you've got an academic position or a non-academic position in that respect.

Most of my anxiety stems from having an academic partner (who'll soon be unemployed) and a family to support on one salary in a pretty expensive location. I just hope we can swing it. I also hope my partner won't get depressed and wish he hadn't quit his job for the good of the family. sigh.

Eliza Woolf said...

Check out what one of my friends said when I announced that I'd (finally) gotten a real TT job offer, despite all of the ongoing state budget woes, and was now awaiting the contract anxiously:

"What a roller coaster... get that damn contract signed and shove it up your new chair's ass for safekeeping."

WostProfEver said...

Great news -- and if it's in a place you want to be, that's fabulous! Keep us posted...

Developer Jobs said...

Each job seekers have their own experience with their job search some are luckily get a good job but some are still on the crisis in finding job but as others said that we always think positive and don't lose hope.