I didn’t blog much about the job market process while I was in the midst of it for a few different reasons, including but not limited to: I was tired, I was busy, and it’s a really, REALLY long process. I do, however, want to do a little reflecting on my experience with this fairly unpredictable behemoth known as the academic job market.
This was my first year on this particular market. I had a somewhat similar experience applying for secondary education jobs years ago, but that process was not as complex. I sought advice from all sorts of resources, particularly friends who’d been on the market for multiple years as well as friends who’d already secured jobs. The thing is that the one bit of advice I heard regularly, which I think is really the most true, is also the thing that you really can’t calibrate for:
A lot of it is about luck.
That being said, one tip I received that I could work with was to draft and peer review basic job market documents over the summer before you start applying. So last summer, I worked with a group of folks who were also preparing materials, and for about 6 weeks we drafted, shared, and gave feedback on each others’ materials. I found this really helpful because it allowed me to get a headstart on apps, it allowed me to talk to the process with other folks and get multiple perspectives of feedback, and it provided me with materials to give my letter writers very early on in the process, which turned out to be pretty clutch because my first apps were due in…mid-September.
I turned in my last app on March 21st, and I submitted apps every month from September through March.
Anyway, because the dates are all over the place and because different apps ask for different things, organization was crucial. I maintained a spreadsheet that included info about all of the prospective jobs I was considering applying to, including the job title, job description, docs required, due dates, etc. I checked job sites at least a few times a week and added new postings I found to the spreadsheet accordingly. Eventually, the spreadsheet would also have tabs for interview requests and rejections as well.
I applied to 56 jobs.
Now how many jobs a person is able to apply for is wildly variable. I was able to apply for those jobs because I have a mix of research interests and teaching experiences that cover both English and Media Studies. I also applied to digital media positions (including a few non-teaching staff positions) because I have both work and teaching experience with digital media. I believe I may have also applied to a couple Teaching and Learning Center positions because, as y’all know, I’m a nerd for all things pedagogy. I say all this to say that I cast a wide net.
This was aided by the fact that I was not locked into a particular U.S. region. I would say that I certainly have some location preferences, but ultimately, that didn’t make a huge impact on the application process for me. For other people, it definitely does, and I think that’s totally valid. I think the idea that you should apply any and everywhere just because you can is not great, especially when these applications are so taxing and time-consuming. While I did apply to 50+ jobs, there were positions that I either didn’t add to my list or ultimately cut from my list because I decided, for one reason or another, it probably would not work out. I did apply to a couple of Canadian jobs, but mostly stuck within the U.S., mostly for economic reasons. Though I was extremely tempted by a few posts in the Caribbean…
So how’d it go? Out of 56 completed apps, I had 7 first round skype/zoom/phone interviews, 3 campus visits, and one job offer. I also had another campus visit invite by an institution that doesn’t pay for visits, which is a thing that I could not personally afford, and another invite for a first round interview (that I declined) after I’d accepted a job offer. The three campus visits that I did go on were institutions that were completely dissimilar from one another. I would not have been able to predict those three collectively inviting me at all. It was really great to get to experience different campuses in that way.
And then I also got lots and lots and LOTS of rejections. Almost 30 thus far with the oldest being in October and the most recent being 4 days ago. They’re still rolling in, and while I definitely am on the side of “it’s better to know that not know,” I won’t pretend that receiving a stream of rejections isn’t tough. It’s a tiny pinprick every time.
I’ve alluded to this already, but the hardest part of this process for me (besides the uncertainty) was time. It takes so much time, not just in a linear calendar sort of way, but also in the time you have to devote to the apps. Because the thing is that even though you have baseline docs, you have to (or at least should) tailor to each app. If you’re doing other things at the same time like I was (teaching, dissertating, etc), that means you have to find time in what’s probably an already fairly stacked schedule. For me, that meant that nearly every weekend was spent on apps, and the only break I took was when I was home for the holidays. There’s also time that has to be devoted to preparing for interviews, having interviews, traveling to visits, etc. My campus visits pretty much all occurred in a one month span that also included a conference presentation. I have never spent so much time in airports in my entire life.
Again, I’m lucky to have a lot of support from friends, my committee, and my family. Folks provided encouragement, answered questions, came to a mock job talk I did, etc. Also, shout out to Hello Fresh for ensuring that I did not have to really think about what to make for a dinner for half the week because I definitely did not have the bandwidth for that during this process.
In the end, everything came together for me in a really fantastic way. This fall, I will begin a position as an Assistant Professor of English at the College of DuPage. COD was actually my first visit, and it quickly felt like a great fit for me. Their investment in teaching corresponds quite well with my own, and everybody I interacted with was super welcoming. The campus has a bunch of cool resources that I’m looking forward to exploring, and in general, I’m just excited to get started!
(Also, I’m extremely happy to be done with all things job market)