Saturday, January 21, 2012

If you like it then you should put a ring on it

I need to do more job applications and get set for all the crap that is posted for the post-MLA job search. Sigh. I went out with people and had more beer than usual (ie none on weeknights) so I am tired and have been just sitting here looking at cute pictures of kittens instead.

Oh, and I had an MLA interview. I have now been rejected for said MLA interview and will not be doing a campus visit. Meh. This rejection, for a variety of reasons, was not nearly so devastating as the post-campus visit rejection from a couple years ago. Which is good, since all that unhappiness came out in ulcers and panic attacks and a bunch of physical symptoms that then inspired more terror and anxiety than the actual rejection did. I guess I have gotten inured to both rejections and my panic attack symptoms and can talk my way down from both. I should be thankful I have coping skills? Eh.

When the chair of the dept. heard that I had been out for an MLA interview she got very flustered, and hastened to point out that they are going to need to replace a lot of the postdocs this year (she wasn't able to fill all the spots last year --- to cover all these freshman comp classes they could easily add 7 more positions, she says) and that she had talked to the dean about extending all of us for a third year. Which is nice, although I'm officially not believing it until you hand me another year contract and ask me to sign it.

On the other hand, I'm not all that keen on staying. I mean, I like the locale and the people and (most) of the courses. But I would exist here very differently if this were a renewable lectureship and I was trying to put down some roots. Adding a year on to a postdoc only extends the temporary-ness, and I am feeling very tired out by the constant job applications. I feel like I have been done with the PhD for so long and I should be somewhere building some sort of career at this point, whether that is academic or not.

Right after the rejection I was sad and totally beating myself up --- not that I had done anything wrong in the interview, because I believe them when they say it was lovely but they have different ideas of fit --- but at the sheer waste of time and energy of all those years of writing up applications and doing job searches and angsting about jobs. All of those hours and pages could add up to a book. Or a huge volunteer or political campaign. Or a huge chunk of a job. It seems like this whole process is a massive waste of smart people's time and resources; think of all those people who do this year after year for months, and then think about the world's problems that could have been solved (or at least alleviated) or beautiful things produced instead. It's sad.

So I went on monster and idealist and the fed gov jobs site and a bunch of other places and thought about getting a nonacademic job. But. Everything I see that I am qualified for (so no stats or quant or finance experience), I don't want to do. It bores me. It looks like crap. I printed off about 5 or so jobs and when I contemplate the possibility of working at these jobs for a year or two, I shrug and go "meh." I am ready to settle down and stay put and have a decent salary, in other words, but am not ready to do just any old crap job to do it.

I was talking with one of the other postdocs and mentioned this --- she had passed along an organizing job, knowing that I like all that social-justice stuff --- and I mentioned the problems I was having that I just mentioned. She said she thought that would be the biggest transition, moving from living for your work to working to live, and I think that's right.

The problem is, I really really love academic work. I just had a great day of teaching where all of my classes went well and I was totally energized and high off it. On my non-teaching day I alternately faffed about and relaxed and edited my article and felt really happy about even the frustrating parts of that process and did teaching prep that accidentally got distracted as I just went off on a bunch of cool tangents and learned cool things while preparing an introduction to research activity for comp. Unlike my office mate who is feeling dispirited here and "exhausted" by the experience of teaching, I love it and totally thrive on it --- even here where there is a heavy load and unprepared, often unappreciative students. (And my style in the classroom is so totally manic and silly and happy and the office mate teaches in such a flat, low-key, dead style that this person just exudes the aura of not wanting to be there ---- which in turn changes how the students interact and causes more behavior problems for this person). I'm not like the people who write on alt-ac or who leave the tenure track jobs because they hate the profession or the research side of it (I complain about it, but I love to complain, if you get my drift). I just can't land a job that will allow me to stay there and do my job.

I guess I have decided to continue with applying for the academic jobs all this semester ... even though I am increasingly frustrated with the time that is being sucked away from my life. Seriously, does anyone look back on their life and say, I'm so glad I wasted about 5 years with continual job searching? Ugh. And then for afterwards ...?  I am still torn. The options, I guess, are to agree to stay another year in the postdoc and do this all over again. Or pack up and move back to California and stay in my parents' basement (metaphorically) while looking for nonacademic jobs. Because I refuse to do some random job I don't like in a location I don't like.

So, in short, nothing's changed. Except that I know I need to make some decisions. Well, even that's not new. Why do I even work at all? I should just become a professional slacker and sponge off my parents for the rest of my life.


Fie upon this quiet life! said...

Seriously, does anyone look back on their life and say, I'm so glad I wasted about 5 years with continual job searching?

Believe it or not, yes.

I have to say -- it was hell not having a real job for four years, but it was also really good for me. I learned a ton while adjuncting and wouldn't have been mature enough for my job had I gotten it earlier than I did. But it's only in retrospect that I can appreciate the seasoning period I went through. And of course, given a chance to relive it, I'd say, "no, thank you."

But it isn't all for nothing - this struggle. It makes you a better teacher and a better person, having to go through this. At least, it did that for me.

All that said -- one of my friends is adjuncting at Berkeley right now. She said they pay 9,500 per class for PhDs. You might consider applying there for a part-time job if you move back to CA. The money is decent, comparatively, and you know Berkeley students would be MUCH better prepared than your current lot is.

Anyway - best of luck. And really sorry about the MLA interview. :(

Flavia said...

Nothing wise to say here, except these two contradictory pieces of advice: a) when you know what you love, you should pursue it as far as you can, and b) sometimes you wind up loving stuff you never imagined loving.

So, you know: do with that what you will! I'm sorry for the suckage, but glad that you're in a stable place for now, doing what you love. And that you have the cats. Cats make everything better.


Sisyphus said...

Ah, but fie, you're talking about adjuncting and getting the teaching experience, whereas I was referring to the writing of job letters and application materials. As I've said before, if this position were a continuing lecturer position (and paid a little more) I could be quite happy in a non-tt position here. It's not so much the adjuncting part as the job applying part that irks me.

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

Yeah, Sis, I get that. When we were going through our search this fall for the y-ology job, I looked through all the materials of both candidates we campus interviewed. It ended up that the person with the most organized, concise materials got the job. The letter was about 1-3/4 pages and had normal margins and normal font size. It was much more pleasant to read. He also seemed like a better teacher. But to get to campus, he had to be great at selling himself. Having been in the applicant position for a long time, I found his ability to sell himself really remarkable. I think keeping the letter as simple as possible gets you in a better position for interviews. But I know retooling the letter sucks.

I can't remember if I read your job letter or not a couple of years ago. I know your cv looked good. I'd be happy to take a look at your materials again if you want, now that I've seen the hiring side. Up to you.

Dr. Dad, PhD said...

I'm still waiting to hear back from the gazillion applications I sent out in the past few months. It's hard not to get discouraged with the process, but I'm holding out hope that there is something good at the end of this tunnel.

That being said, have you thought about getting in touch with someone to have an information gathering interview about industry jobs? After meeting with someone, you may decide that it's not such a bad option after all....

Sisyphus said...

Hi Dr Dad! I am unsure about starting a nonacademic job search from the other side of the country; I keep going back and forth about that. I feel like I should pack up and move back near my parents and then start up a nonacademic local job search from there. But then, I have the chance to extend this for another year.

Maybe I should just flip a coin?