Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Eating Crow

I hate to admit, after all the fun with yesterday's post, that I got an email response from a committee member and went in to her office hours today, and then caught my advisor in her office hours and made an appointment for Thurs (as she was frantically trying to eat lunch and prep for class --- part of me was sympathetic, but part thought, "you do know that people need to be able to come to your office hours and actually talk with you, right?"). So after all that complaining, it's raining advice and I'm actually getting help in moving everything along.

But I must explain why I wrote the post, and tell you all the story (one of many; ask me over a drink sometime) about last year's job market run. You see, all of my committee members were at least a month late getting their letters in. All of them. I had a bunch with early deadlines, like September 15, and about 10 sprinkled throughout October, and I thought asking for letters back in June with gentle, frequent reminders in August would be enough lead time for them to get things done. This meant that I got to be very close with the lady who runs the dossier service (we don't use Interfolio but a campus-specific office thingy over at Career Services), as I went over every single day, I think, of the month of September, asking if my letters had been delivered. I finally had to stand guard over one committee member and watch her write it when I finally tracked her down in office hours. Then I walked it over. I think it was Oct 20 or so ---- I had time to send out all those November 1st deadlines without using the extra-expensive rush option, but I assume that I got tossed for all those earlier jobs.

This was not a good experience to have one's first run on the market. This time I am considerably more Zen about the whole process (as a knowledgeable veteran rather than a confused complete newbie) and am surprisingly unworried; I can remind the committee members but I can't write their letters for them. If it happens, it happens. If not; I did everything that was within my control. I vaguely remember being incredibly anxious and jumpy last year, and felt powerless and helpless. I didn't know how to do anything or what my materials should look like and I got very spotty help looking over drafts ---- plus I was sure that somehow everything about my life would be ruined if I didn't somehow get those letters over to the career center.

This time --- eh. It might be a self-protective tactic, but I haven't been spending that much time on job stuff. I have a letter and diss abstract that were good enough to send out last year; if no one has time to work with me on these materials I can just send 'em out again. Ditto on the letters ---- would a search committee really notice if the letters hadn't been updated? It's not like last year where I had nothing to send if my committee members forgot to write the letters. And now that I've been through a whole round of rejections I know what that feels like and I know I'm going to get rejected from most of the places anyway; it's not like getting dropped from a few for not having a complete application is going to change the end result of my run that much. (I just need one job offer, after all.) I haven't even been looking much at the ads ---- I scan them and anything I remotely fit, I print and file away in my binder, writing up a little note on my Excel sheet of deadlines. No searching websites or poring over Craigslist to see if it's in a cute neighborhood this time ---- I kept getting invested in places and then being crushed. This time, let's save the crushing disappointment for only the places that ask for materials or interviews.

While I'd like a job ---- I'm not picky; I'll take a job anywhere there's a job, whatever ---- I now have practice not getting a job. Yes, surviving the job market takes practice. I can deal with telling everyone in my dept. that I got no offers, since I had to do that once already; I can deal with writing while waiting, since I've done that too. I can make plans and figure out where my life will go next spring; last year I took not even getting any flybacks as a sign of my unworthiness or a rejection of my work; I've been thinking about this all a lot since then and I've realized that I have other interests, other skills ---- I will not have to move back home and be taken care of by my parents if I can't get a job in academia. (I may do that to get some family sympathy for a week or two after the rejections come, heh! Oh wait, my family is not the sympathetic type.) So, even as I'm prepping for the job market, I'm planning my alternate plans for after filing ---- adjunct or work somewhere else? Aim for CCs instead of four years next year? Or walk away from the professor track entirely? This job, no matter how great the institution is, is not a life. And these jobs have a lot going against them besides all their great advantages. I'm not willing to put my "life" on hold indefinitely while waiting for the perfect job to pan out, because it might never come.

My committee members have all mentioned that they are hard at work on updating my letters or are about to --- I think they feel bad for missing things last time, which they should. Like I said, I took the empty dossier, and my poor showing on the job market, very personally last year, and they know it. I had at least one huge tearful and freaked-out confrontation with my advisor, trying to make her see that I was terrified and frantic because the UC had irrevocably cut me off from any more teaching because I have been here too long, and I couldn't figure out whether to file a 4-chapter dissertation and leave or stay a grad student another year and have to pay fees without any TA fee remissions. At the time I was so angry with her because she didn't see the gravity of the situation --- she kept saying I could get other kinds of work, or adjunct at a variety of different types of schools in the area, and keep my student status. Now, after thinking about it a long time, I think I'm coming around to her point. I can do other things. A lot of people have to put up with sucky and unrelated jobs to help put them through the last bits of school. But, again, I'm still thinking through the costs, and whether it's worth it.


medieval woman said...

Whoa! Holy dropping the ball, Batman! I can't believe your advisors were that late - that borders on professional misconduct. But I like your Zen approach this year - and I like your take on practicing not getting a job - but if they drop the ball again this year, I'm sending my ninja warriors over to open up a can of whoop ass....

heu mihi said...

And hey, if you don't get a job, adjuncting (while awful) isn't the worst thing ever. Or try for one-years! One-years! Whoo!

I've advocated this path over here before; could it be that I'm plagued by doubt over the wisdom of my own course of action? Why yes, obviously. But at the same time I think that this job has been/is/will continue to be an excellent way to gain some more experience; now that I'm not ABD I (hope that I) stand a better chance on the market; and at least I'm giving it one more run.

(On the other hand, I had to move halfway across the country to a place where I had no friends and no furniture. And I'm 31 and living an exhausting difference from my SO. So...yeah, academia isn't the only possible profession in the world. Good luck on the market, though. And hey--MLA blogger meet-ups, anyone?)

Maude said...

i totally feel your anxiety girl-or i guess last year's anxiety. one of my committee members agreed to a deadline for the job l.o.r., then a week before the deadline told me she couldn't do it because she had already spent too much time reading my dissertation. and another letter got "lost." and i think this was because everybody told me not to go on the job market because they thought it would be a disaster because i only had one chapter written, so i missed a bunch of deadlines thanks to the committee. in the end, though, i got two interviews which was enough because no one thought i'd even get that much.

i also don't think advisors understand the pressure either for students who are lacking in financial support from their departments or U's because it's been my experience that my advisors never had this kind of financial worry. it's easy for them to say, "oh just adjunct somewhere or do something else while you're trying to finish your diss." and the fact of the matter is, it's just not that easy, is it? in my case, i've had promises of funding and turned things down thinking i was going to be able to stay put, have some stability, and finish up, only to have the rug jerked out from under me right before the semester starts. sometimes i have to be amazed at myself for still actually being alive and doing this.

Belle said...

Maude's right; too many senior faculty have never had the pressures we face. Mine had no clue on how to advise me on getting papers to journals, and their's were always solicited. Same for their books.

They'd gotten their jobs back when there were fewer bodies chasing jobs. And they, to a man, all had supportive wives that filled in the income gaps.

Hang in there.