Hearing the remarks from Jim Lodz, reading over the comments to my last posting, and reading over undine's recent post, brings me a step back from the brink. Thinking about another job season is depressing. But I've got to forge ahead in a manner that may prove successful.
Over 50 job applications last year. Does that lead one to suspect I didn't care? Sure I did. I rode the roller coaster up and down so many times, getting excited about a prospect, then crashing down when it fell apart. Not all of them inspired such commitment, I admit, but more than one might suspect, each time, hoping, envisioning myself in that place. My wife suggests perhaps it takes too much out of me to cater letters for each school.
Sure, there were a few I sent a "standard" letter to (ironically, two of the four interviews I've gotten in the past two years, were the results of those letters). But most of the applications took hours of researching the schools, carefully reading the job description and departmental website for cues, drafting a letter that specifically addressed that opportunity. I suspect I should be more targeted, more focused, applying to fewer places this year.
On the other hand, Tasse Plein has said, "apply for everything." Others say, "be sure that this opportunity is the one you want," before applying. The odds are so against us as academic job seekers that it would be foolish to focus all efforts on one or two. Then again, all I need is one job. Just how do I know which one? If I were pretty much assured of getting an interview anywhere I applied, I could apply only to the places that seemed ideal from the outset. But that's not the world I live in.
This is exacerbated by the fact that my work falls between fields; it is in some ways invisible to departments. If a post were advertised that truly spoke to my background, training, and interests, I'd have no problem making the case. But what does a job seeker do, when the task is really to convince departments that what one has to offer, while not outrightly sought, is a good complement to and expansion on departmental offerings?
It's a dilemma. Not quite as simple as search committees might wish it to be. If committees were clear on what they wanted, if consensus were formed before the job announcement went out, perhaps many of us would apply for fewer jobs, and the task of weeding through applications would be easier for them. Then again, why should committees limit themselves in advance of the applications? Why should they stick to preconceived notions of the ideal candidate, before they've seen the diversity of ideas and expertise available? Perhaps they don't. But then, it behooves a job seeker to read between the lines of an announcement, finding the best way to make their case, even if it seems a stretch.
And so, I return to an expectation that many more applications lie before me, that each will take a great deal of effort, that applying for jobs will remain a near full-time job, all the while I seek to find satisfaction in doing just what I'm doing, marking my niche, developing my research, submitting publications, presenting at conferences, and hoping to land myself some part-time teaching that will renew my confidence in the classroom, prepare me for job talks, and keep me honest.