Sunday, January 22, 2006

The essential question is: how can I succeed?

It is unadvisable to compare onself to one's colleagues. But it at times seems unavoidable. Perhaps that's a sign of depression (unhelpful contemplation). I celebrate for others when they reach success. Yet I feel a distinct lack of success in my professional life.

I wonder why others get interviews and offers and jobs. (Yes, I had some interviews, last season; even one campus visit... but no offers, no job.) I wonder how it is so many ABDs go straight into their faculty careers without a break, signing a contract before they've even finished the diss. I have no malice toward them, just envy. What are they doing right, that I haven't figured out? Or is it really as I hear over and over, just a matter of luck, of being the right person for the job. Most importantly, however, is not to focus on them (though I should delight when friends and colleagues succeed), but to forge ahead on a path that will lead to my own success.

No feedback. That is my biggest bane. I tire of hearing from professors I know, who sit on committees at schools where I've applied, who tell me vague things about "positive comments" or "impressed with my credentials." The problem is, I feel stuck, and vagueries will not lead me forth. One of my committee members repeatedly said my dissertation was "brilliant" and "well-written," though he's provided little feedback otherwise. It's not a matter, I don't believe, of noone understanding what I'm about, or what I'm doing in my research.

The fear I have is that to get a job I need to be doing what people are looking for. But I believe my work is innovative and forges in new directions, meaning it may be a generation of scholars before a department is looking for that expertise. The reality is, this is the right path for me. Each of us takes our paths. The trick is to excel at what we do on the way, not simply in choosing a direction. The hope is that along the way, though it may seem a desert, I will reach some oases, and it will seem worth it.

4 comments:

BrightStar said...

I will continue to have hope for you.

"I wonder how it is so many ABDs go straight into their faculty careers without a break, signing a contract before they've even finished the diss."

I was one of those. In my field there are more jobs than qualified candidates, so there you go. I don't feel special, but I do feel lucky.

ArticulateDad said...

Bright Star wrote:

In my field there are more jobs than qualified candidates...

WOW! If only...
A post at an unknown school in my main discipline gets 40-50 apps per post. At some, that can reach upwards of 150-200 applicants. Let's say only half of them are really qualified... well, you can do the math.

It's still a long haul just to get on the shortlist, then, as I learned first hand, a campus interview is anything but a sure thing, even when they really like you.

I don't want to become bitter, I love the academy too much. I'm still hoping, and working towards that goal. Thanks for you well-wishing.

But, I am trying to keep life in perspective. As my wife and mother are fond of pointing out, I do have a lot going for me, even if I don't have a tenure-track post yet.

We went for a nice long bike ride (about three hours) by the ocean today, me with the two boys in their trailer. It's nice to just spend some time as dad and husband. Those are good roles too.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

Depending on the labor laws in your area, you may have access to the notes of the committee on you. You might want to call HR at the schools that didn't hire you to ask if you could see the notes in your file. These may tell you something -- or, at least you will find out what the committee wishes they could have told you, but couldn't.

Also, having sat on my first hiring committee last year, I found the experience to be hard.. mostly because I was always trying to read between the lines of an application. The best advise I can give is to make sure your paperwork really conforms to their specific advertisment. Make sure it is very clear why you are qualified, next what is interesting about you. For community colleges, generally publications and conferences are less than interesting -- we want to know about your teaching and your ability to deal with our kinds of classrooms.

ArticulateDad said...

Thanks, PhilFactory,

I'll look into that. Some feedback might help.