This week I received three rejections for positions I applied for over the last few weeks. On the positive side, at least they let me know and the rejections were very respectful, which is a lot more than I can say for what usually happens in the academic world: 1) Apply; 2) Hope; 3) Tap, tap, tap, is there anyone out there? Sometimes there is: 4) Receive snobby letter that makes you feel like crap. I have actually received letters worded in such a way that put down the rejected candidates. Luckily, job market rumor mills have developed which create some transparency for this wretched process. I do remember, however, two academic rejections that stand out to me as being so well written that I actually felt better about myself after applying even though I did not get the positions. Proof exists that respecting people while sharing the bad news is possible – even in academia – which makes this whole process a bit more humane. I wanted to meet the letter writers, have a coffee with them, and thank them for their generosity and kindness. Using a little bit o’ reflection theory here, I would argue that when applying for jobs (academic or not) the way in which a potential employer handles your application and interacts with you, “reflects” workplace culture and how you are likely to be treated as an employee. I had a devastatingly poor interview for a dream job earlier this year (more on that later, maybe) but the way the whole thing unfolded sent up red flags all over the place.
Respect aside, it still super sucks. Two of the positions really, really, really, really interested me. I would utilize those skills that I fought so hard for in graduate school, have meaningful work that made a difference, and participate in more collaborative environment. I can envision life post-ac, but I wonder if I will get there. It is sometimes hard to conceive when I have been looking for more “permanent” (tenure track) work for about nine years. It has been sooooo long since I have had a career accomplishment to celebrate. It has been so long since my skills have felt valued. It has been a bit of disappointment all the way down.
Thus far, I have been applying to academic-y type jobs that require research capacities because that is what fits my skill set. The thing is, I am not sure I want to even use them. It is where I decided to start, though. I have no problem thinking of non-academic-y careers. The problem is, each one of those is difficult to break into as well. Interior design, cake decorating, landscape architecture (man, do I wish I knew this field existed when I was an undergrad), opening a niche boutique, and floral design all appeal to me, but good luck! I can picture myself in funky work environment (preferably with exposed brick walls in a repurposed industrial building) thinking up solutions for important problems in a dynamic team environment with interesting coworkers. Yes, this explicit vision is a little bit ridiculous perhaps, but it gets me through the tough times. The many years of rejection in academia have taken their toll on me and my self confidence. Add in three rejections in seven days, and it has been one tough week in Leftovers land. At least I had a good week teaching, so that is some solace.
I have been reading a bit of Escape the Ivory Tower this week which has been immensely helpful. Although, I keep on reading stories about post-acs (in various blogs) who get jobs 2-4 weeks out and change their lives quickly or they “fall into” something. In comparison, I languish in the land of rejection. I don’t know about you, but I have never fallen into anything. I planned and strategized and planned some more. And now that I am rudderless, I still don’t sense any opportunities to “fall into.” Virtually everyone I know is in academe and my social networks are very thin after sacrificing them during endless years of grad school. This process is very frustrating as I know I am qualified for many jobs but I don’t appear qualified. On the other hand, there are jobs that I know I could “grow into.” I have all of the qualifications except office management experience, for example. I have managerial experience leading research projects but that doesn’t seem to be enough. I simultaneously feel over and under qualified and wonder if there is any place I will fit. I went into academia, in part, because I didn’t think that I fit the “normal” work world. All I know is, that after nine years of looking for work I am tired of looking for work.