Tuesday, November 13, 2007

VAP's Dilemma; or, Yet Another Boring Job Market Post

So, this is my third year on the market. The first time around, I had a half-finished dissertation and no clue what I was doing, so I applied to fifty-odd jobs in the hope that some of them would stick. The second time, I was in a blind panic and applied for every early modern or generalist job on the table, interviewed every which way, and finally ended up in a visiting position here at New SLAC, after one of those fabled late-April miracles.

This year is different. Among other things, they say it's easier to get a job when you have a job, but I'm not sure yet how much easier it is. Then, too, the flip side is that it's a lot harder to apply for jobs when you already have a job, particularly if that job is at a SLAC that emphasizes faculty involvement in the life of the campus, whatever that means. Do I go to the English club meeting, or use the time to revise the teaching statement? Spend the weekend being convivial with the new colleagues, or send applications?

Mostly, I've chosen to put New SLAC stuff first -- partly because I think I have a better shot at being hired for a t-t job here than I do at a place where they've never heard of me before, but mostly because it's what I genuinely want to do. I like this job and I like hanging out with the people here, and I have an uneasy feeling that this, too, is a trap, because for all I know they don't like me enough to hire me for the tenure-track position, and it's best not to get your heart set on any particular job. But I'm here, and this is my life right now, so how am I supposed to not get attached to it?

At this point, it looks like I've definitely caught the attention of a couple of search committees, both at other SLACs that look like they would be quite decent places to work, one of which is in a cool and interesting if rather troubled city. And what worries me is that I should be excited about having one MLA interview lined up and another strong expression of interest this early in the season -- this time last year I would have been jumping for joy -- and this time around I'm not all that excited about these two unknown schools, more worried that I haven't heard anything from the search chair at New SLAC yet. Last year I was all about the great leaps into the unknown, and this year it's like my inner two-year old is stamping her feet and howling "Don't WANNA go anywhere!"

Well -- things will get resolved, one way or another, and in a way it's a comfort to know that so much of the process is out of my hands. It's a bit like getting on the bus in a strange city and seeing where the driver takes you, which is the very best way to take buses, except when you end up at the landfill. (Uh, I'm not sure this analogy is all that comforting after all. Never mind. It's late and I'm tired.)

9 comments:

Flavia said...

Wait--you already have an MLA interview scheduled? I've never even heard of such a thing. My earliest calls were Dec. 1, and the earliest I've even heard of anyone receiving were/are immediately after Thanksgiving break.

So, this isn't to diminish the pain and suffering of the process & all. . . but it sounds to me like you're doing very well indeed!

Fretful Porpentine said...

I have a nonscientific theory that the smaller the school and the higher the teaching load, the more random and variable the timing of interview requests seems to be -- and I am applying to a LOT of SLACs with a 4-4 load.

heu mihi said...

Regardless--congratulations on the interview! That bodes very well, I'd say, even if that particular school isn't wildly exciting. As for NewSLAC's search committee, it could be that they're just trying to keep things from getting weird. I'm in the same situation, as you know, and there are some distinct moments of awkwardness--regarding both my job search and their faculty search. Avoidance could be your chair's way of keeping things professional until they've made final decisions on whom to interview.

Fretful Porpentine said...

Yeah, I guess there's no way for that situation not to be awkward, really.

luckyjane said...

Congratulations on the interview—it's such a relief to have a definite reason to go to MLA. There are too many more appealing excuses for exploring Chicago. May your dance card fill with enchanting (or what passes for it at MLA) possibilities.

When I was a VAP applying for a TT upgrade, my office was across the hall from that of a member of the search committee. Oh man, that was awkward. I found myself going out of my way to meet students so that he could see how committed I was to students and how comfortable they felt around me—performing professorness, as it were. It didn't help that I hated that job.

It sounds like your situation is totally different, and I would imagine it helps immeasurably that you like the job. You certainly seem to be handling an awkward situation gracefully.

Fretful Porpentine said...

Heh -- my office is right across the hall from one search committee member, right down the hall from another, and in the same general building as all of them. The joys of small colleges!

Earnest English said...

As Flavia said: you already have an interview???? You rock the house!!! Last year, I got one the last week of November, but you are the bomb. Rock on!

I do think that your choice to be convivial at SLAC was wise on two fronts: if they like you, they may hire you; but moreover if they like you and don't hire you, many of the profs and the chair besides will feel they want to help you land another job -- and those contacts can be really important to have -- to upgrade from one of the slush to. . .higher in the slush. So I think you did the right thing. I know that my choice to hide in my job application world probably has not induced people to want to help me find another job. But my situation is different.

I do know that a friend of mine who is trying to make the same move you are is also having a hard time living in the department with the search committee. She was friendly with the chair before; now the chair won't even really talk with her. Sigh. Hang tough.

Fretful Porpentine said...

Good points. I wish I had gotten around to asking my current chair for a letter (but it's a little late now for this season of applications, and she'll probably be able to write a better one next semester anyway).

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