Why I Don’t Fear The Job Search

I’ve spent a long time actually being worried and stressed about the job search. For many years, I didn’t worry, but in the past two years, as I began to progress through dissertation writing, I became increasingly worried about the job search, the state of the job market, and all those things that come with it.

I am officially going on the market this fall, and a few months ago, that idea was a frightening prospect. How could it not be, when every January we’re deluged with the latest horror stories of how there are no jobs and interviews are scarce and we’re all essentially screwed because the job market’s a crapshoot, and OMG, WHAT DO WE DO NOW???

And I think Tenured Radical said it best in January 2009 when she told stressed-out applicants to stop going to all the gloom-and-doom AHA sessions about job searching and “go home and write instead.”

I’ve tried to take the various advice pieces to heart. And to be honest, I’ve known about the difficulties of the field since I started. My philosophy has always been to prepare myself to the best of my ability…and then we’ll see what happens. I’m confident in the steps I’ve taken to get where I am today.

Next, of course, is the hard part: the letter-writing, the application preps, the waiting, the dissertation finishing, and all that jazz. Since my first year of grad school, I’ve had a deal with myself to submit at least one abstract to a conference each year. My theory was that this would force me to work on communicating my ideas to “the public” (whatever I envisioned that to be – namely, someone other than me). Opening yourself for public criticism, even if that’s just an anonymous conference committee somewhere, is a big step – or at least it was for me, and I assume it is for many people.

I like to think that this process – which has led to a conference presentation each year of my graduate school career, at major organization conferences and small grad student conferences – will help me in JOB QUEST 2010/11.

Hey, I kinda like that name!

Today we have a job search workshop in our department. This means I answered four questions of the types of things you’d put in a cover letter, submitted my CV, and turned in a syllabus I wrote. This afternoon, three faculty members will rip apart these materials so that I can become better at communicating this essential information. And you know what?

I’m excited about that!

I realized last week that I’m not scared. I’m not stressed, I’m not worried. I’m excited to hear what they have to say. And this has led me to the point where I realize that I’m not letting myself fear the job search. Why should I? Whatever will happen will happen.

I say this not in a cocky manner, but rather a matter-of-fact: stress will only make the process worse. Stress will not help me write a better cover letter or a better abstract, and it won’t help me deliver a polished dissertation. Taking my time and working carefully – those are the steps that will be most useful to me.

So everything starts today. I’m also meeting with my advisors and other faculty, setting appointments with the career counselor and The Teaching Center, and seeking out help wherever I can get it.

JOB QUEST 2010/11? Bring it on! I’m ready and excited for this newest challenge.

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2 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Fear The Job Search

  1. That’s exactly the right approach…set yourself up as an excellent candidate, but always be aware of a Plan B. Sometimes I wonder if the people on the wiki who are totally devastated that they are unemployed had too high of expectations regarding their own work, or an inflated sense of “I’m from an Ivy therefore I will of course get a job.” I know there are a lot of people who are excellent scholars that remain unemployed, but I think adopting a realistic attitude is what made the process a little easier for me. I knew the odds of getting a t-t job while still technically ABD (since I don’t graduate until May) was a long shot. So, instead of saying to myself “I must get a t-t job or I’M A FAILURE,” I said “If I have to do something else for a year to make ends meet it wouldn’t be the end of the world. In the grand scheme of things everything will work out.” That sense of perspective is crucial.

    If you want to see a sample cover letter, I have many to share!

  2. Pingback: Academic Job Market Retrospective, Part 2 | Dude, where's my Tardis?

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