Post Academic

Not Getting the Job: Do You Hold a Funeral or a Wake?

Posted in Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on January 24, 2011
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionWe at Post Academic are specialists in rejection. I’ve had plenty of cubicle doors slammed in my face out there in the hamster world, but it doesn’t sting quite as much as academic rejection since the stakes are higher.

So I can appreciate Christine Kelly’s Inside Higher Ed article called “After the Failed Interview.” She reminds her readers that recovery after an academic job rejection is a little different from recovery after a Hamster World rejection:

Step one is to acknowledge and work through your emotions. Your support network will tell you “things will be all right” and “this means something better is out there for you” because they want you to feel better quickly. But you have to give yourself time to grieve. That time may be relatively short if you weren’t strongly committed to the position, or it may be longer if it was your dream job. You may need some time to wallow in your disappointment. Ask your support network to let you vent without judging and without trying to make you feel better.

At first, I thought Kelly’s grief metaphor was a bit much. My inner knee-jerk response was, “Dude, settle down. It’s not like you just met the Crypt-Keeper.” Then I realized that I am one of those well-intentioned but pain-in-the-ass people in an academic’s support network who don’t know (or remember) that most jobs come around only once a year, and there aren’t many at that. It’s not like you can keep submitting your resume unless you want to–here’s that death thing again–end that chapter of your life and start a new career.

That thing, whatever it is, is playing a song for the job-that-wasn’t. Image from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Now that I accept “grief” as an acceptable framework for evaluating an academic job rejection, I’ll take Kelly’s sage advice to the next level: Do not throw a funeral for your dearly departed job opportunity. Throw a wake instead.

I’m not kidding. Once you’ve ruminated about how your interviews went, figure out what you could do differently next time and let it go. Chances are pretty good that you didn’t do anything wrong at all. The odds are against you, and you were unlucky. So revel in the absurdity. Turn to your support group, and rely on it. If they do say stuff like “things will be all right” or “dude, I can get you a gig at Starbucks,” stick out your lower lip and look sad. This will guilt the aforementioned support network into taking you out or buying you a few beers. Yes, a post-MLA wake is only a diversion from the larger problem of a piss-poor job market, but it’s better than gnawing over the past.

3 Responses to 'Not Getting the Job: Do You Hold a Funeral or a Wake?'

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  1. jo said,

    My version of the wake, is me, a glass of wine, and a paper shredder. I shred rejection letters, while sipping on a nice glass of wine. Watching the letter go through the shredder somehow gives me closer.

    • jo said,

      that would be closure

      • However you spell it, your paper shredder-wine method is brilliant. I’m going to do that the next time I don’t get a gig. I’ll probably go with sangria.

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