Post Academic

And that’s a wrap–at least for this year (Part 1)

About a month and half ago, I wrote about the last–maybe the very last–job application that I sent out for a postdoc I had found out about at the last minute.  It was a pretty easy application to put together, since I had applied for so many postdocs this year and had a project proposal more or less ready to go.  Of course, I was as dubious as ever about my odds of actually being selected for the postdoc–actually, more so than usual even, due to the late date and the very short application period, which made me think that an inside candidate must’ve been lined up and the posting must’ve been done for compliance purposes.  Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Or, just nothing gained: It wasn’t much of a shock, but I received my email rejection for the postdoc late last week, which was my first interaction with the institution, since they didn’t bother to send an acknowledgement.  Actually, I had found out at the Academic Job Wiki postdocs page that a decision had been made, so my “personal” rejection–lacking a personal salutation to me and hundreds of other applicants–just confirmed what I already knew.  I know they’re being nice and all, but, c’mon, you don’t need to include platitudes like the committee found your research “original and engaging”, when it’s likely that most of the hundreds of applications aren’t, my own possibly included.  It wasn’t the worst rejection letter, but it wouldn’t have hurt them to read our rejection letter do’s and don’t’s posts, here and here.

Don’t know if I’m ready for a career post-mortem yet, but here’s the post-game analysis on this year’s job cycle for me, since all the results are in.  See it, below the fold…

My calendar, like many other English job seekers, began in September with the release of the MLA Job Information List and ended really in February when interviews didn’t pan out.  I guess it ended officially later this year, because I applied for more postdocs this time around, some of which had due dates into Spring 2010.  One question here: is there anyway that job postings could be available earlier and, thus, shift the whole process earlier too, so that applicants have more time to submit everything and that search committees can take longer reading the materials?

September 2009: After trying to dig out my old MLA JIL password, I eagerly pored over the job listing through the month.  The problem with the 2009 edition was that there wasn’t really so much to skim through–probably because it was the Worst. Job Market. Ever. Usually, I’m selective and search through Americanist and Ethnic Lit postings, but there were so few jobs this year that I looked at all Assistant Prof openings, just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything.  I swear, I think there were few Assistant Prof jobs this year across all fields than there used to be in just American lit maybe just a few years ago.  And those jobs in CA I’m always hoping for?  Still hoping and looking for ’em!

October 2009: Time to get my materials together, which wasn’t so terribly hard this time, since there weren’t many jobs to apply for and I had cover letters for jobs from previous years.  Time, also, to ask for letters of rec, which is always much more of a mental ordeal for me than it should be.  My writers have always gotten their letters into my dossier service and they know best about when the recs need to get, but the process always requires a lot of wasted psychic energy.  Plus, this year, lots of schools asked for emailed recommendations, which was not possible for me because my advisor is deceased and the school dossier service isn’t set up send out electronic recs.  So that led to more anxiety.

November 2009: Mostly finishing applications and waiting for first-round notifications.  And you know what?: I did pretty well initially, getting additional materials requests from pretty much all the jobs I applied for and even having some nice, personal correspondence with search committees.

December 2009: This is when the waiting becomes excruciating, not just because of the psychological factors, but also because I hafta start making plans for MLA that I’ve been putting off.  Unlike lots of other folks who just plan to go, I hate buying tix and making hotel reservations I might not use, so I dither until I have enough info to make the call.  And the fact that MLA comes right in between Christmas and New Years–mercifully for the last time in 2009–makes it even more annoying to settle on plans, because you hafta decide on how short you have to cut your holiday plans.

While the last few years weren’t so bad, because I was already going to be giving a paper one time and another MLA was within driving distance, this year was a pain–airplane tix for MLA were ridiculously expensive and I didn’t want to make hotel plans until I knew what days I would be going.  I actually received notification about an interview fairly early and could proceed with my travel plans, though I started getting cold feet as time went on and I kept finding out that more and more of the jobs I applied for had started making their long short lists.  And really, I started not wanting to go to Philly for the second time in four years, especially since it’s oddly hard to get there from the L.A. area?

So I made a decision that most everyone I knew–academic or not, with or without tenure-track position–thought was kinda crazy, which I get to in Part 2

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