Thursday, May 8, 2008

The job hunt... Part 1

I have been pondering my job possibilities for quite some time now. A week does not go by without someone commenting on my job hunt. And by that, I do not mean my hunt for a job, but rather, the distinct chaos that goes along with finding a tenure-track position. After all, I spent many productive years avoiding work by pursuing academics instead, surely it is time for me to make something of myself.

It was about a year and a half ago that I first went on the market. While I had not completed my PhD, I had an approved proposal, a data collection schedule, and a plan to graduate in the spring. Approximately 30 applications went out. I did not have the luxury of single candidate. Every time the jobs were posted, Mr. H and I sat down and went over them. Applications were decided on as a family. Is this a place we could live? How do we think that Miss Thing would do in this area (she was preparing to start kindergarten the following year)? Is it conducive to Mr. H's career as well? And, is it close to a major body of water (Mr. H's major criteria)?

For six months I got rejection letters. Sometimes, I didn't even get notified if my application was received. I got a couple nibbles, people commenting on the strength of my vita, only to find that an influx of even stronger candidates (those who already had a position elsewhere) made me not as appealing. Plus, I'm not a "typical" PhD in my field. My expertise lies squarely in the middle of several different areas, and I think I had some problems finding my niche, or people envisioning me in the department. After the fact, my advisor got a lot of positive feedback on my vita, what a good candidate I was, but there was just someone else who had X. X could have been anything - it just depended on the school. I liken it to a house on the real estate market - people all loved the house, but nobody wanted to buy it.

A very disappointing six months. It was much like going through infertility treatments - a whole lot of trying and waiting only to find a big ole negative on that stick. My advisor assured me that I always had the following year. Which didn't exactly turn out to be the case, but never the less...

And then there is the reality of the tenure track. As I already have a young child, and a spouse with a promising career as well, I feared that my situation would never lend itself to a tenure track position. Mr. H travels a lot, with very little notice ahead of time. I know how stressed out I was trying to balance it all while in grad school. Articles in the chronicle did not make me feel any better about my prospects to have a normal life, let alone a child who recognized that "mommy" is not her nanny, but rather, me. But even with all of that, I still, in my heart, thought I would land a tt position.

After a period of moping feeling sorry for myself mourning I have come to a peaceful place about this. The tenure track was not for me, at least not right now. And I'm okay with that. Most of the time.

It's still hard, everyone once and a while. Graduation, where everyone was talking about their post-docs and their new assistant positions was hard. There are times when I read something research-based and cringe, and wish I could do something about it, but without a faculty position, some of those opportunities are limited. I fear that I am letting my advisor, or some of mentors down because I'm not pursuing this more aggressively at this point.

So that's where I am. Part 2 later...

No comments: