Monday, January 30, 2012

Random Monday Morning Thoughts

I got two more resumes sent this weekend. Yep, just two. But it's okay. As I said last week - I'm not at all surprised or discouraged that the job application process is starting out slow. This is all in keeping with my personality - I start slow and deliberative with any project, and get more confident and speed up as time goes on. I'm setting myself reasonable application-sending goals for now, and forcing myself to be deliberate with what I apply to, rather than just panicking and applying to anything and everything because I need to find a new job right at this moment oh my gosh!!!!!!!!!!

I have a job. I don't need to be desperate. More important to me right now is (1) making sure I'm applying only to jobs that I think I would *want* to do (rather than any old thing I'm qualified for), and (2) trying to find something that will pay better than what I'm making right now. My days of trying to find any old job in a particular category - salary be damned - are now over. I am reasonably financially stable for the first time in my adult life, and I am not about to throw that out the window for any random job that just happens to be located the city I want to move to. I'm going to take my time and take it slow and make the right decision ... this time.

I think I used up my lifetime quota of poor decisions by going to grad school and persisting in it for nearly a decade. Now it's time to make sure I'm doing the right thing for myself. If it takes an extra few months to figure out what that is? So be it.

Anyway, two applications went out this weekend, for jobs I could easily see myself doing. We'll see what happens, and I'll keep looking, and eventually something will work out. I know it will.


...Which brings me to a random thought that keeps popping up in my mind while I've been reading postacademic job ads and selecting what to apply for.

Something that I've been having a hard time getting through my head while I'm writing up resumes is the fact that I don't have to take any of these jobs I'm applying for, if they're offered to me.

I can almost hear a chorus of people going "Duh, JC. Of course you don't have to take a job you don't want!! What kind of moron are you?"

But that's the thing. In academia (or at least in my discipline), we're told that you do not apply for a job unless you would be willing to take it in the end. It was considered perfectly fine to not apply for a particular academic job for whatever reasons you had. But if you did decide to send in an application? You definitely would be expected to take their job, if offered.

Repeatedly, I'd hear warnings from my advisors that if I went on an interview and got an offer and didn't take a job, but then reappeared on the job market in year two? My reputation would be damaged and I'd probably be blacklisted, since other departments would hear through the grapevine that I turned down a perfectly good academic job. 

Let's pause for a second to think about how ridiculous that is. This line of thinking basically expects you to glean everything you need to know about a job from a carefully-worded, committee-written job ad that's crafted to attract the maximum number of candidates. How can you possibly tell from a job ad alone whether you'd definitely accept a job if it was offered to you after you went through several rounds of interviews (you know, actually meeting the people you'd be working with) and saw an offer on the table (since salary and benefits are typically not listed in job ads)?

I mean, what if you get to an interview only to find that the department has changed their list of wants for a new candidate, and now wants you to teach classes that you have no interest in? Or if a department offer you a salary that is laughably low, but won't negotiate? Or if you find on an interview that you cannot stand any of the people you meet while you're there?

These would all be valid reasons to not take a job - and they're things you would have no way of knowing about until you were on an interview or offered a position. But according to the wisdom of academia (or at least my department), you would have to accept the job to teach classes you hate for no pay among horrible colleagues ... because otherwise, you'd be seen as too picky and would never get another job interview in future years.

Is this really true? Probably not. But that's really not important, in this context. What is important is that we candidates believed it was true. So you wind up with people working at jobs in Bumblef*ck, Idaho when they're city people ... or at City Center University when they're country people. Or you find people barely scraping by with an unemployed spouse in a geographic area that makes them both miserable. Because, you know, they applied for a job. And when they got their one chance, they had to take it, or they'd never have another opportunity.

The outside world and job market, of course, is different. There is no nationwide network of employers out there that would "blacklist" me if I decided a particular job offer wasn't for me. There's no harm in applying for as many jobs as I want, seeing what happens, and then deciding on any offers I get as they come in. That is how it works everywhere else in the world. But I can't seem to keep that truth in my mind. I keep having to remind myself that if I apply for a job and they offer it to me and I don't want it, I don't have to take it. 

My thought process is, yet again, being hijacked by the insanity of academic culture. Sigh.

I'll finally get this all the way through my thick skull one of these days, and stop obsessing over every job ad as if simply choosing whether to apply is a life-or-death decision. As if there's no turning back from having to take any particular job, once I apply. Sheesh.

Sometimes I wonder if academia is ever going to stop messing with my head.


More later this week. I have a few random half-written posts sitting here, waiting to be finished. Have a great week, everyone!


  1. True, true! I had this sort of weird realization while teaching my Business Writing students today. It struck me just how strange my job seeking experiences are and how often I had to preface a statement with, "Well, in my field (insert oddity here)." From being interviewed in hotel rooms, to being advised not to look "too nice" on an interview, to not wearing a wedding ring at an interview, it hit me how very non-representative of most people my job experience/search has been up till now.

  2. The interviewing in hotel rooms thing is bizarre to me - I admit it.

    At least at our big social science conferences, they'd give us a conference room with about 20-30 tables in it, with interviews going on at each table so that everyone can hear each other talking and see where everyone is interviewing.

    How normal is THAT, amirite???

    (Just kidding, of course.)

    It's true, though. The number of times I've had to sigh and spend time trying (often futilely, and with shame) to explain the bizarre rules and norms of academia to people is ridiculous.

    The job market is just the end of it, isn't it? I've struggled for years to describe why I'm not EXACTLY "still in school" as most people see it (since I'm not taking classes and I was actually teaching them), and trying to answer the question of "when I'm going to graduate" (the timing of defending and getting a dissertation signed off on is not anything that makes sense to anyone in the real world).

    What a weird world it is.