Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The interminable wait

Okay, so I have to blow off some steam about the faculty job search. Perhaps you will find this amusing:

Yesterday, January 2, I felt like following up on some of the open postitions that closed for applications two or three months ago. I figure they've had enough time to review materials, to make an initial cut, and possibly formulate their short lists. Perhaps I could mark a few of the possibilities off my own list. So far, I heard virtually nothing from anyone except a school in New Zealand, which made an appointment about three months ago. Otherwise, it's just been acknowledgement letters for receipt of my materials, or EEO cards, and a couple invitations to have preliminary short interviews at one of the national conferences (that unfortunately I was not going to attend this year). But I hear those conference interviews amount to little.

Patience has never been my strong suit. It seems that every job application goes out with a little piece of me. And while I allow myself (or force myself) to get excited about each post I choose to apply for, I feel just that little bit diminished with each package that I mail. The hope is that a call or a letter or email, or (dare I even hope!) an interview will help increase my confidence again.

So, I made some calls, and sent out a bunch of innocuous emails saying something like:

Dear Prof. ___________,

I just wanted to ask about the current status of the ____________ search in your department. Any information you could provide regarding my application or the search would be appreciated.

Happy new year,


Here's the reply I got from one school to which I sent materials October 4. Their acknowledgement letter was dated October 21, which stated: "the search committee has begun reviewing applications... we will notify you of your status as soon as possible." Calculate it, that's more than two months ago. Okay, so I sent the email... and this is the response:

"Dear Dr. _____________

The position is still open. I cannot comment on our progress until we make an appointment. All candidates are still in the running -- but I expect we will work quickly towards making an appointment in the next 4 - 6 weeks."

What amuses me is the gratuitous use of the word quickly! [SIGH]. What? Are they kidding me?

Here's one that came this morning:

Their search closed October 15. The committee chair's letter, dated September 22, reads "we will begin reviewing applications after October 15." The email I just got reads:

"Dear Prof. ____________,

The search is ongoing. When we have an announcement to make about it, we will make it."

Is it me? Or does that come across just a might bit testy? I guess after is a relative term.

Last, here's one I reached by phone:

Their acknowledgment letter is dated November 12. The search officially closed November 15. At the bottom it reads: "if you have any further questions concering the position or your application, do not hesitate to call me at home (###) ###-#### or email me at _________@_____.edu."

Sounds pretty inviting. And, to top it off, this is one of the schools that actually encloses a nice little brochure about the university and department, along with bios of the faculty. A nice touch.

So, I called. To be honest, I wasn't reading the letter terribly carefully. I only saw "don't hesitate to call me" ... and the number. So I dialed. As it rang, I thought, "oh, good, I'll charm them with a happy new year greeting first". This is what transpired instead:

"_________ ________ please?"
"Yes... who's this?"
"Uh... I'm ________ ___________. I'm an applicant for the position in ________ at __________ University. I was just calling to check on the status of the search."
"Oh. Well, this is the Christmas break. It's January. We haven't met the committee together yet."
"Oh. Okay. Have a nice break then. Thanks."

[SIGH] You know. If you really don't want people to contact you... Don't write "don't hesitate to call". SHEESH! I mean the text above doesn't do justice to how annoyed he came off. Sure, sure, he must have thought it quite an affront of me to call him AT HOME, and DURING THE BREAK!

Big deal! I mean, am I really out of line to follow up on a search that has had my materials for more than seven weeks?

Okay, okay. I've calmed down now. You know, I admit it... looking over my shoulder and reading the letter more carefully now, I should have waited. It does read, in the second paragraph, "screening of applications will begin after November 15... full-scale review will go on from mid-January to mid-February... we expect to make final recommendations by the end of March." Maybe I blew it with that one. I did mention my name. Perhaps he'll forget by the time the committee meets. At least I didn't bother anyone whose searches closed at the end of November or later.

Mostly, what annoys me, is the lack of understanding or appreciation from these search committees of the precariousness of most applicants' lives. It's just a matter of professional courtesy. If you won't start reviewing materials until January, why close your search in October or November? Perhaps they think, "what's the big deal? The position won't start until next fall!" But, you see, we all have lives to live between now and then. And having no sense of even what time zone one will be living in makes it somewhat difficult to make any plans.

Maybe they all got their jobs right out of graduate school, maybe they were still ABD. But I suspect most of us don't. Sure, if I were still enrolled, and still writing my dissertation, I'd have more patience (or at least more distractions ... you know, writing that little paper can take up a good deal of one's time). I did get a campus interview last year, while I was still ABD. And it was darn close. But I got no faculty offers. So, it's another year of limbo.

I feel like a ravenous hyena at an abandoned zoo, waiting for scraps of bloody meat from the zookeeper who never comes. Meantime, I wait some more.

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