On the Academic Job Market, Part 1

So, originally I created this blog to vent about my disastrous run on the job market. For it would be disastrous. I have highly talented—even laughably talented—friends and colleagues in my life, people who are finding no work after graduate school other than the adjunct slog and/or the alt-ac track (not to diminish those rewarding paths, but when one nourishes the lie that they are preparing for an Assistant Professor role for over a decade, there is a bit of a letdown, I think, to end up with something else). And, as I insist, I am not super great. This is not false modesty; I don’t have a long roster of publications, I don’t put together conferences, I don’t speak at five events around the country each year. As the mother of two young children, I simply cannot do these things. So, instead, I try to do the best with the very limited time and opportunities that are given to me. Next week, I will be embarking on my first TEI (text-encoding initiative) project with the fabulous Kirstyn Leuner, the CU Libraries, and the Stainforth manuscript: http://ucblibraries.colorado.edu/specialcollections/collections/wprp/290caption.htm . I have been acting as a curator for Lori Emerson’s Media Archeology Lab at CU: http://mediaarchaeologylab.com/ . I am slowly working on publications while I wrap up my final semester as a graduate student and teach three classes, all while providing full-time care to my two littles.

My husband and I want to pursue The Simple Life. What does that mean to you? What does that mean to us? Can one be an academic in the 21st century and still march under the banner of Simple? (Here I make a clear reference to both Game of Thrones and C.S. Lewis, my binge-worthy pursuits of late).

Is it okay to pursue something because you love it at the core, because it speaks to your heart, and because you think it is God’s vocation upon your life, even if it takes precious time away from your family?

Is it okay to pursue something if it is a poor financial decision?

Can the Simple Life be one that is crazy-busy (for I don’t know an academic who is NOT crazy-busy most times of the year)? Will summers “off” (that old lie) be enough to counteract the insanity of the academic year?

And: I am pinching myself that I even get to ask these questions of myself and of my life at all. For, to return to the job market: I have a job offer on the table. In light of all my fancy friends, in light of my fundamental inadequacy and simplicity, I am one of the lucky ones. The doors of academia have opened just a crack for me, and they are threatening to swing wide open.

But this is where things get tricky. In dealing with real people, real universities, and real job offers (or lack thereof), I have considered making this blog anonymous, because how honest can you be when your comments are directly linked back to your name?

Another thought: this is not a diary. This is a public, and professional, record of my academic life.

But, what is the point of blogging if I have to filter?

But, don’t we have to filter everything?

As you can see, my head space is one of a cacophony of competing questions and resounding “Buts…!” these days. Resounding buts. Heh, heh. My daughter would appreciate that. (Speaking of, now someone has plopped a hamster on my lap. I’m not even joking.)

Hamster

Photo Credit: inrsoul via Compfight cc

The journey to this one solitary little job offer, one of the most profound moments of my life, took eight months, thousands of hours, over fifty job applications, over 300 dollars, and countless long conversations with myself, my husband, my friends and family. Conversations wherein I tried to talk myself down from the cliff of mania, the cliff of suspicions that I just wasn’t “good enough,” the cliff of anticipating failure so that it wouldn’t hit so hard in the end.

And then? Then I started to get nibbles on my line. (Fishing, as Virginia Woolf knew, is the aptest metaphor there is.)

I got a phone interview for a large state university, University of X, for which they had had over 400 applications.

I got a phone call from a small liberal arts university, Y University, expressing interest.

I got several requests for more materials from several different schools.

The fish, they were a’biting. In the end (now that I can safely say this is all at an end), I got five initial interviews, four extended interview rounds, three campus visits, and one job offer. While it is borderline unthinkable that anyone after meeting me would not want to hire me (joking here, but in the words of my adviser: “Who wouldn’t want you after meeting you?!?!?”), this is the reality of the job market. I got so many “it’s not you, it’s me” responses that they became laughable. In many ways, the job market is much like The Bachelor combined with Survivor: everyone madly jockeying for a partner before all the good ones have been taken, everyone making overtures of love while retaining a sinister and downright diabolical plan for World Domination, etc. I was told by one school that this decision was one of the hardest they had made in over 40 years. I was told by another that the final decision is only “splitting hairs” and has virtually nothing to do with me. Throughout, the elusive specter of “fit” (enumerated upon so nicely by Melanie Mock here:http://www.crlt.umich.edu/sites/default/files/resource_files/Making%20Yourself%20Fit.pdf ) continued to raise its shaggy head. And what if I didn’t “fit” anywhere?

To be continued…

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