Tuesday, September 18, 2007

this time, maybe I'll get it right

I walked to the post office today and boldly mailed out a job application. It's the first of yet another year on the job market...search number 5 (or possibly 6). Naturally, this mailing came with mixed emotions.

During my time trying to get a tenure track job, I have sent out possibly over 500 applications, and I have seen a lot of weird stuff in that time. I've gotten numerous one sentence rejections. I've gotten campus interviews without phone interviews. I had one rejection notice that started out with a paragraph on the candidate they did hire and her wonderful qualifications before saying "needless to say, this means we will not be considering your application." On the same day that one arrived, I had one rejection notice that was a five paragraph explanation of the process, and it was the nicest letter I've ever seen. I've been told in interviews that my skills were exactly what the institution was looking for, only to be passed over for a campus visit without notice.

Frankly, it's weird, and I hate the whole process. The worst part is that I have a hard time getting honest, straight advice from people as to why the hell I don't have a tenured position yet. One year, after getting passed over for 100+ jobs, I had three different people tell me my application material "looked fine." Um, obviously not, fellas, but thanks for the effort.

Putting yourself on the job market is such a risk to the ego. You are judged on your abilities, intelligence, and potential for a future career on the basis of five pages of written material. Suddenly, the stupidest things become major concerns because they might kill your chances for a job. Did I use the wrong font? Do they want me to use a breezy tone or look like a gearhead? Should I go out and buy expensive woven paper with watermarks? Will they dump my application if I use a Darth Vader stamp on the envelope?

I knew I'd be facing all these dilemmas and heartaches, but I really need to move my career forward. While I have possibly the best Lectureship I could hope for, it is still a non-tenure job, and I spend so much time grading (especially in the fall) that I have to struggle to do research. So many of my friends have moved away, and I don't have the money to see them. I have to go to conferences to be an active scholar, but each one puts me a grand or so in debt. I love teaching, but I get more value from the writing and research I don't seem to have the time to do. So I need to either move on or figure out another career path.

This summer, I did everything I could think of to increase my chances of success. I finished a book proposal (which looks very solid, if I might say so myself) and started shopping it around to several publishers. I got an article on class structure within the academy accepted for publication, and I was able to persuade a journal to fast-track my already-accepted article. I wrote two new articles and shipped them out to journals, and I recycled an old paper for a third possible publication. I have enough stuff on the go to make me look like a serious scholar as well...and if this doesn't help, I might have to scream or listen to Motorhead.

I've also undertaken a vast revision of all my job material, and my cv now looks fun and shiny. I'm currently debating between two basic job letters. I'm scouring the web for job postings. I've gotten a ton of great advice and help from friends and colleagues. Overall, I am in full "let's get Mike a job" mode, and I have high hopes.

It's the final step to becoming a grown-up (at least in some ways), and I'm ready to take it...now, let's hope I don't screw up.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

Recently, I've come to accept that your dissertation topic and written material speaks volumes for you (and against you). Maybe you are doing *everything* right currently (in the application process) but things in your past negatively speak for you (where you did your PhD, your dissertation topic and who you worked with at the university)? If true, this sucks because what can you do about it now? But I think you've taken the right steps this summer to "freshen up" your research, hopefully this will better position you for this round of applications.

It's also how you market your dissertation, right? I refined my topic to be more relevant and "trendy" based on the hirings right now. I really like what I'm doing - it's unique and interesting - but I also know where I can get hired with it, and how to market it.

It seems like you need a good advisor. People who say "I don't get it, your application materials were fabulous" don't help in the long run. You need someone to take a look at your application materials to find its flaws. Maybe someone outside our former uni. and your current one - someone who can offer an impartial opinion and who has no vested interest in you.