Bleah. I did not sleep last night. The choice was between cramps and high-caffeine daytime midol. I am not in any mood to think or work or do anything useful today. I skipped my exercise class and have been lying around, watching all my friends and colleagues freak out about the job market on facebook and various listservs.
And my, my, my. I won't go into any detail here but let's just say my department is being run by incompetent idiots at the moment. And I don't expect the placement advisor to step in and actually provide any help. And the comparative people here are running around like rabid hamsters because as a program rather than a department, nobody buys them MLA list access and they are told they are told they are on their own for finding access to the jobs so they are frantically trying to get help from us. Surprise. The only thing different from our department is the honesty of admitting "you're on your own."
But anyway, after I discovered that the job list was up, since I was on campus anyway, I started downloading and printing out various jobs that afternoon. The dept. owes me some printer toner at least, right? Another grad, who I keep thinking as a "new" grad but who it turns out is going on the market for the first time this year (god I'm old), came into the lounge and was soon joining me in looking at the list.
Well that was distracting and annoying, because she kept freaking out and laughing and being being appalled. "Sisyphus," she told me, "I am not going to get a job. I'm just going to have to leave academia. I mean, look at where these jobs are."
"Ah, the list." I smiled and shook my head. "It is a disillusioning experience to look for the first time. What is your field, anyway?"
"Contemporary postcolonial and global lit." I frowned, thinking, ok, aren't those really actually "diversity jobs" and you're not really going to be considered for them as a white person?, but decided not to pile on too many layers of disillusionment and depression all at once. She continued, "I mean, look, at this, there are no jobs. I mean, Minnesota? Milwaukee? This? where is this place even?"
Now I am really frowning. Those sound like good places. That teeny little liberal arts college on the east coast she is snitting at there, I have heard of before I started applying to jobs, and considering that I've only been on the west coast and done public school, that is saying something. I would love to have a nice little 3-3 at someplace like that.
"Just wait. I applied to places in rural Arkansas and Texas last year. At least those schools are in cities." Where did you think jobs would be, I am thinking. There are only 50 states, so there are maybe 50 R1s or so in existence, most of which are not along coastlines. And if you think applying to BFE Wyoming or whatever is humbling, wait until you get a rejection letter from them. But I don't say anything.
"Well, what about women's studies? Do you do women and gender type stuff in your diss?" I ask, and immediately feel a little pang when she says yes right away and starts looking for jobs that I myself am applying to. Bah. Soon I am back to printing things and updating my excel sheet and she is back to scanning through things and laughing softly to herself like a madwoman. "Comp? This place wants me to teach composition. What?" I am still printing things.
"I mean, this? What is this?" she gestures at the monitor. I look up. "Oh yeah, that's a nice place. I applied there last year and the year before." I go back to my own stuff.
"But, I mean ... Sisyphus. I had only planned to apply for a few places this year?" She looks at me, troubled. I am not reacting in the way she had expected.
"Oh ... yeah. Sure. A lot of people only do a small-scale search their first year." A pause. "I mean, I didn't do that. I applied out to everything, including a lot of stuff that I don't really fit. And then I did the same thing the next year, and the next year. I'll apply out to everything that conceivably fits me and everything that doesn't too, this year. --- What about postdocs? Are you looking at postdocs? Maybe you could just do a run of them this year."
It gets quiet in there for a while until the newbie grad had to leave to go prep. Meanwhile I'm thinking of a guy in our dept. who has done 2 years on the market to my 3 and had just as little luck. But when I talked to him at the last MLA (sharing beers over our shared lack of interviews) he had made a cutting-off gesture with his hand when I mentioned a specific college and said, "That's a 4-4- load. I didn't even send stuff out to the 4-4s." Now he's doing the office work that our undergrad work study student was doing for us last year.
So I'm actually unclear on whether I should be sending my stuff out everywhere. On the one hand, I want a job, any job. On the other, the faculty and other grad students here are pretty much united and open about their contempt for certain jobs and certain places. So, if Rural Cow College of Upper Nowhere already has it in their heads that our grads are prejudiced against them, and our grads are openly saying in public all over the place that they are prejudiced against them, what could I possibly say in my letter that would overcome this and show that I am not like the average grad from here? I don't have any liberal-arts college or rural location in my background that would work to show I "got it."
I dunno. I think I'll still send out an application to absolutely everything, but I hope to come up with a better answer or secret handshake, something, before I have to send those letters out.