Post Academic

While you’re waiting for that call/email…

"Autoanswer-1" by Kitsya (Creative Commons license)

If you’re not holding on until the last possible minute to mail out your job application packets, you should pat yourself on the back.  And if you are procrastinating, you have about a week to get those November 1 applications in, so get cracking.  Anyway, those of you  more or less done with your end of the bargain are entering various stages of waiting, depending on how much you were asked to send in for a given call.  We already addressed what you should be doing to be prepared for a secondary request for materials, but there are those ads that ask you for everything at once, leaving you hanging until you get the call–or not–for a MLA interview.  And since MLA is in January 2011 this go-around, I’m not sure if that also means you’ll find out news–or hold onto to false hope–later than ever.  Though knowing that university bureaucracy will dilly-dally as long as possible, I hope they either put the candidates out of their misery for the holidays or let them use the time to prepare.

I know, I know, you should use your time productively–like getting ready in advance for possible interviews or working on your diss to knock out two birds with one stone–but it’s much easier to fritter hours away online, which you are, of course, welcome to do so here.  Below are some of the not-so-productive activities I found myself engaging in while playing the waiting game.

Cybersnooping: I know I shouldn’t and I know it’s undignified, but I have become quite a good cybersnoop, starting from MLA season to campus visits to finding out who landed the positions I applied for.  The academic jobs wiki makes this way too easy to do; once the first notifications for interviews are posted, the dang site becomes pretty much like crack, which gets all the more addictive once the x2 (by phone) and x3 (via email) notes pop up, while you’re making sure your cellphone voicemail works and checking that there’s nothing in your spam folder.

More on cybersnooping, below the fold…

The impetus for the cybersnooping is because I probably have too much nervous energy during the interview season to actually concentrate on what I should be doing: focusing on the interviews I have instead of the ones I don’t and prepping for potential campus talks/teaching demos rather than poking around to find out who has invited folks for visits.  But geez, if only schools had better judgment than to post job candidate visits on their calendars, I wouldn’t be looking for the info.

It’s just too easy and tempting to do!  Like, for instance, I quickly searched a bunch of English depts that I applied to last year–OK, that’s an embellishment, because there was hardly “a bunch” of jobs last cycle–to see who they ended up hiring.  In the field I usually have the best luck in–multiethnic lit, with an emphasis on Asian Am lit–I pretty much know, at least by name, many of the people who get the jobs, which always leads to a moment of stunned recognition and some kind of rationalization.  I’d like to say otherwise and I’ve got nothing against pretty much most people, but I can be a sore loser, which is as good a reason to quit while I’m behind!  All this goes to say that I wished I hadn’t snooped in the first place.

Wild Speculation: Worse is what happens when there’s radio silence and no one knows what’s going on.  Usually, a little innocent comment on the wiki like, “Has anyone heard about this job yet?,” can make imaginations run wild.  In the Worst. Job Market. Ever. era, it’s easy to assume that the call has been cancelled, since that’s not an all-too-unlikely circumstance.  Really, though, it’s probably that the search committee doesn’t have its shit together, and they haven’t contacted anyone because there’s nothing to contact anyone about yet.

The best, most irrational example of pre-emptive rationalization is the straw wo/man of “the inside candidate.”  When there’s a job call that’s a little too specific or idiosyncratic in required specializations, the antennae of the wiki-zens go up and people start to wonder if there’s an inside candidate.  Usually, someone will check the dept website in question and find someone that more or less fits that bill.  At this point, everyone writes off the position unless there’s some kind of confirmation that it’s not a fake search.  I wonder, though, if anyone ever follows up after the search is concluded to see whether the phantom inside candidate got the position.  Una74, could you check on that for us?

Kayaking It: Would you ever guess from the blog that I’m an indecisive nervous nelly?  The worst is when I start to provisionally make plans for MLA before I even know whether or not there’s a reason to go.  It’s easy when you have a paper to give, since you have to be there anyway, to go ahead and book an itinerary.  And you want to be positive and assume you’ll have at least a few interviews to make the trek worthwhile.  But it’s awful to have to front almost $1000 for plane tix and hotel reservations, gambling that you’re not throwing away that $150 airline change penalty–at least you can cancel your hotel at the almost the last minute.

So between wiki checking sessions, I’m on Kayak comparing ticket prices and hotel rates, then switching the dates a few days earlier, a few days later, a few days shorter, a few days longer, departing SNA or LAX and arriving wherever with how many numbers of stops.  All the while, there’s some kind of vague marginal cost that I never really set, something along the lines of $300 plane tix that don’t exist any more and a $100 or a little more/per night hotel.  Anyway, I assume I *must* be missing the best fares and rates, so I keep looking and waiting and never nail anything down before there’s some kind of unforeseen price spike.  The prices fluctuate, you assume they’ll get better but they don’t, and you end up with buyer’s remorse even before you settle for prices slightly higher than you originally found them, though they’re okay enough to put on the credit card.

Moral of the story: Get your hotel early through the convention for better rates, so you don’t have to stress it.   And in general, find some way to channel your nervous energy, preferably not online.  You could, you know, grade papers or work on your diss or whatever it is that makes you want to go into the profession in the first place…

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