The Academic Interview Waiting Game
Even though MLA ’11 may be history and you’re (hopefully) home from L.A., that doesn’t mean you’re still not thinking about it. No, I’m not talking about all the back-and-forth about digital humanities or the general direness of the hard times in the profession, but, rather, your ongoing, neverending anxieties about your first-round interviews. I know I should say that you should forget about the interviews so that you can get on with the rest of your life, but that’s not gonna happen without more than a little wasted mental energy. So yeah, go ahead and lurk on the Academic Jobs Wiki if that’s what you’ve been doing all along, though there’s little info about campus visits yet. And maybe some not-so-discreet depts will start posting job talks on their calendars soon, but it’s a little early for that considering that some schools aren’t back in session yet. One piece of advice on what not to do while you wait: Don’t second-guess what you did in your interview, since it’s over, no matter how many times and how many different ways you re-run it in your mind. (Unless you want to write up any zany experiences for Post Academic!)
But there are some things you can do to futz with a job search that’s more or less out of your hands until/unless you get to the next round. Be prepared and be productive as you deal with your nerves about what your future might or might not hold for you.
Send out thank you notes ASAP: You’ve probably done this already, especially if you were told at your interview that the search committee is planning a quick turnaround on who to invite to campus. I always prefer to mail a handwritten note whenever possible, but that might not be possible or preferable when time is of the essence. Though it might not be as formal and gracious as snail mail, send a quick email to the search chair — and maybe even the whole committee if you have enough to say something unique to everyone so it doesn’t read like a form letter. It might feel a little tacky and pushy, but emailed thank-you messages are pretty much pro forma as far as I’ve heard. One advantage to email is that you know that your message will get to its intended soon enough, rather than get lost in the mail sorting process. The other, potentially more beneficial aspect of email is that you might get a response back. It might not be exactly what you want and it might lead to more tea-leaf reading, but maybe you will get a little more info to work with.
More productive fussing, below the fold…
Work on that job talk/publication/dissertation chapter: Work out your nervous energy by doing what you should be doing, which is that publication or dissertation chapter you set aside for the job search process. If you are having a tough time motivating yourself to get back to your writing and research, give yourself a kick in the pants by telling yourself you need to be ready in case that campus visit comes through and you need a job talk. Because if it does, you will: A 40-minute job talk is roughly the same length as a reasonably-sized essay. But if nothing pans out, you won’t have frittered your time away, since you can package up what you’ve been working to send out to a journal and can get a jump on next year’s market by padding your CV, if you’re trying again.
Do the same with your lesson plans: Not only should you be drafting a job talk as a potential publication (or vice versa), but it’s a good idea to prep a really great lesson plan. For one, most of you are probably working and teaching right now, so that’s your job anyway. And two, a lot of campus visits require a teaching demo, so you want to have as strong a lesson plan as possible. Ideally, you can work up a really good lecture and group exercise, then test it out in your own class, just so you might be able to anticipate what might happen through a dry run. It’ll help you finetune and strengthen your presentation, while getting you through a few classes even as you’re probably too distracted to focus on what you’re actually being paid to do.
Hope these tips help and that being productive works better for you than it did me. Good luck and tell us about your interviews, if you like!