Elizabeth here. First, I would like to say how much I appreciate all of your support throughout our extended and difficult TTC process. While I don’t comment anywhere, know that I have been reading and cheering everyone on. I don’t know if I will post regularly but I thought I’d give it a go for once.
Your dear Gayby and I have been navigating a couple of purgatories at once: TTC and my finding a job. And while she is now gorgeously pregnant with twins, I am still trying to find a path out of my purgatory. The very month we started TTC, September 2008, I made my formal entry into the academic job market. As you can imagine, it’s about as pretty as the rest of the job market. I know from reading your blogs that some of you are familiar with academia and its unique employment process that is clearly designed by people who, let’s face it, are not exactly natural born administrators, but for those of you who aren’t, here’s a rundown of the application process.
1) Write a multi-page cover letter outlining everything that has ever made you seem smart and unique. Include multi-page CV with everything you’ve ever done. Include 3 letters of recommendation from the best scholars you know. Include as requested the following: teaching portfolio, including syllabi, evaluations, and classroom philosophy; writing sample, ranging from 30-300 pages; research philosophy; transcripts from any institution you’ve ever attended. Spend anywhere from $4-$25 to have this material sent via dossier service.
3) Fill out affirmative action card, get hopes up that this means that they’ve at least noticed your file in the pile of 300 applications just like yours.
4) Wait more.
5) Jump every time the phone rings.
7) Give up hope.
Occasionally, you will get a phone interview, conference interview, or campus interview. The campus interviews are about as nutty as they come. Meet with as many people as can plan an hour of their day for this purpose, give a presentation of your finest scholarship, have dinner with a group of people who don’t always talk to one another, collapse.
For some people, it’s ridiculously easy. They have a few dissertation chapters done and they get an offer at the first place they ever interview. For others, it’s more difficult. They do everything right in grad school: teach a lot of classes, present research, get published, finish everything on time, and spend years languishing on the job market, piecing together whatever other work they can find to get by. Sound like any other processes we’re all familiar with?
It has nothing to do with worth or scholarly value. It’s not a meritocracy. It’s the quirkiest system to find employees ever designed, and it’s based on the whims of a committee often comprised of people with different ideas about what they want, and the result is often a compromise. I know all of this, but it doesn’t mean I don’t question my merit with every rejection. Sound familiar?
I happened to get a decent postdoc for the current academic year. At the VERY LAST MINUTE (as in at the moment I got my last summer teaching paycheck). The person who held the position previously got a permanent job elsewhere, and the director of the project knows me and offered it to me to fill the position quickly. I was desperate, so was she. I took it, and it’s a match made in purgatory. She has a tendency to yell and belittle. It’s not pleasant but not unbearable. I shouldn’t complain. At least I have something for the moment. But we have 2 babies on the way, and I don’t get benefits in this position. Gayby deserves to be able to quit her boring job and stay home with the babies while she figures out what she wants to do – she sacrificed figuring out what she wanted to support my academic fantasyland – and to do this I need to be carrying the benefits. I owe this to her, and I desperately want to give it to her. I’m applying beyond academia as well, but it’s pretty bleak out there.
Wouldn’t it be awesome if everything just came together at the exact right moment? I’d like to be done with all purgatories once and for all.