Friday, November 16, 2007

SCUM letters

My brother is an engineer. They do things differently. Lately I've been trying to be supportive of him on his job search, while he tries to be supportive of me on my job search, all the while neither of us can really understand the standard industry processes of the other.

(Side note to big bro: Get off your butt and send out more letters already! If you swear to your arch-nemesis that you will never work under him and he dicks the VP out of control of the company, you have made an ultimatum. You need to get out now! Now! Stop feeling depressed and beating yourself up as a bad engineer and really go out there and look.) ---- I can't say a lot of things to his face; he probably has a long list of "just finish that fucking thesis already"-type statements that he never says to me.

So, all this fall I have been trying to explain to my family that academic jobs take, unsurprisingly, an academic year to apply and fill, and that there is an annual "season" to the job market, and also that I can only apply to jobs that have an "opening" posted for someone like me. For my brother, he sends out letters and resumes to all the job ads and openings whenever, because they pop up all the time, year-round, and then sends out query letters and calls to all sorts of places that don't have openings, because if they like your stuff or you suddenly give them an idea, they'll just move some money around and make an opening. (This means I have to keep telling my family that I can't just send out letters to all the Bay Area colleges and they'll make room for me; they need to already have gathered money for a spot, and that spot has to be the same thing I do.)

One thing both our searches have in common though: rejection letters. My bro calls them "SCUM letters" --- as in, "Dear Scum, you sent us a packet describing who you are and what you do, and we think it sucks. Good day." Despite the fact that he gets them year-round while mine usually all clump together at the close of the searches, they feel pretty much the same. I got my first one from this year on the market today. Sigh. I was hoping for an email requesting more materials to karmically balance the universe, but it didn't happen.

Pseudonymous Grad Student over at A Philosophy Job Market Blog has been memorializing his old SCUM letters under the heading "rocking the passive voice" in reference to the way that the search committee manages to evade all direct responsibility for rejecting you. And I must say he's got some doozies there. I saw a bit of that last year, but over here in English, they're much more direct: "I regret to inform you that the search committee has decided not to pursue your candidacy for the position." No passive voice there, that's for sure! Sigh.

The first one's not so bad. In a few months, as desperation mounts along with my student debt and sense of uncertainty about the immediate future, it'll be the day that I get 5 or 6 at once that will really hurt. But let's knock on some wood before then.

(PS --- you know how I love making academic work visible and talking about our non-visible work in a way that it gets acknowledged? Well, check out this pic on APJMB. Good God Damn! It's easier to send out 5 or so apps each day, but then you don't get the visual.)


Loose Baggy Monster said...

I know it's not the same, but when I was applying for history ph.d. programs (ah, back in the day, well, ok, two years ago), there was one school that wasn't happy with sending out ONE rejection letter: they also sent an email version. Just in case I didn't get the message the first time around. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you!

moria said...

Dearest Cog,

I've been meaning to say this for a while, and now it becomes urgent.

I will never, ever, ever complain about applying to Ph.D. programs ever again.

I am absolutely in awe of all of you job marketers -- in awe mostly of the fact that you are still, apparently, alive.

All best, twelve thousand hugs and a bottle of gin,


Fretful Porpentine said...

Back when I was in grad school, I always used to say I was saving up the rejection letters for a pinata. (I never did make one, and I don't think I can do it now, because that kind of pinata party really requires a bunch of other like-minded grad students in the same boat. But it would be cool if someone did.)

Maude said...

i made a "rejection wall" for grad school apps. i wanted to do the same thing last year for the job apps, but most of the schools didn't care enough to even send that. oh, wait, i did get one in august from the job i applied for last year.

i feel your pain sister.

keep the faith.

Belle said...

Let's just all hope that karma is awake and paying attention. That way, you'll get three rejections from places that realize they don't deserve you, and five offers - then you get to reject four.

Dr. Curmudgeon said...

I'll keep my fingers crossed for the letters to balance themselves out as well.

What's worse than the SCUM letter is the "beneath notice" moment, where you realize that someone has been given the position and that you've never even received notice that you were rejected. Only in academe...

k8 said...

I'm on the market, too. It's the wait and all of the uncertainty that's getting to me. That, and the huge MLA conference looming before me. Good luck with your search!

Sisyphus said...

Thanks everyone!!!! I think I will take everyone up on the offers of well wishes and rum (does it have to be gin?)

Last year I planned to make a big bonfire of my rejection letters but stuffed them all away somewhere and never got around to it. When I found them, I was on the top of the upswing in the annual job market roller coaster --- just prepping for the new start. So I didn't feel like having a holocaust; I just recycled them.