The last few posts have chronicled my most recent attempt (against my better judgment) to get an tenure-track academic position/soul-sucking job. Well, hello failure/success. In accordance with my speculations, I have received the dreaded/glorious letter of rejection/reprieve! I was one of two finalists, but the committee has offered the job to the other sucker/esteemed scholar.
Well, at least I know I am finally at the end/beginning.
I. Will. Never. Apply. For. Another. Academic. Job. Again.
This is all fine/scary. My mother is terribly disappointed. I should learn never to tell her anything. She really wanted to have a kid who is a “professor,” even a professor who spends most of the time making cheese for the real professors. When I informed her, after the second interview, that I wasn’t sure I wanted to make cheese anyway, she replied with a sigh, “I was hoping you could find happiness [in academia], but I guess you can’t.”
See what she did there? Subtly/not subtly she implied that the problem is moi. I cannot be happy in academia because I refuse to adapt myself to the circumstances I find there and be all right with it because, hello, regular paycheck!
Alas, mothers are not the only ones who cannot get it through their thick skulls that the problem isn’t me/us.
I recently received an email from a prof who was on my diss committee. He is known by graduate students far and wide as a generally caring person. I really liked working with him. He is now in some administrative position in the department where his (fun!) job is to find out where all the graduates from my old program have ended up (fishing around at the bottom of a dumpster, probably!).
I replied to his query about my status and explained that I spent three years looking for an academic position and had several interviews with no luck. I said, “I am now looking for work outside academia….” and explained some of the part-time work and volunteering I have been doing. I tried to make it sound not-so-bad, like I was making slow but steady progress building a new career. This is, in fact, true.
He said he understood why leaving academia might be the best option, etc. Then he offered to review my application materials if I decide to apply for any academic positions in the future.
This got my blood boiling.
I know he is trying to be helpful. And I appreciate it, I really do. I have been out of that department for almost three years and few people from that world have any idea what I’m doing now. Even though this prof is supposed to check up on recent graduates (the department is probably starting to figure out that many of their alums are unemployed), I know his offer to help is genuine.
So why did his letter get my blood boiling? Because FOR THE LAST MOTHERFUCKEN TIME the problem is not me/the quality of my application materials!
I must channel Comradde Physioproffe and assert that my application shitte is good. I have had a number of interviews over the last few years, and very recently I was a candidate for a tenure-track job. This does not mean that people who don’t get interviews have not spent enough hours laboring over their CVs and job letters. This is simply to say that one measure of the quality of one’s job letter is whether or not the candidate in question makes it to the next stage in the absurdly horrific ritual known as the academic hiring process.
So, yes, Helpful Professor, I appreciate the offer and all of that. Good for you for giving a shit. But I will not spend one more hour rewriting my job letter. I will not spend one more minute in conversation with ANYONE who implies, however sympathetically, that if I just articulated my research agenda a little better, explained my commitment to teaching Freshman twerps with more conviction, or just kept trying despite all indications that such an action is insane, I would somehow, magically, find myself with a job.
I know it’s not going to happen.
Perhaps I am being too hard on Prof Helpful. What do I expect him to do?
About half of all courses at my former university are taught by adjuncts, so I’d say organizing a massive adjunct walk out would be a much better use of his time. (And since Prof. Helpful is beloved my many, he could probably pull it off.) And such an effort would at least mean firing at the right target: neoliberalism in higher education/the internal contradictions of late capitalism/Oh, the inhumanity!
But, Helpful Professor, if you prefer to spend your time helping un/underemployed PhDs rewrite their job letters/furthering your delusion, be my guest.