How to be (or not be) on the job market?

I haven’t been on the market for ages, but here is a crack at some compassionate advice.  This post is in response to a tweet thread by Mark Letteney.

1. Getting a job won’t make you a better person.  It might not even make you a happier person. It certainly isn’t a reflection of your self worth.  Also, there is no right or wrong kind of job–except, of course, the right job is the one that keeps the wolves away and that doesn’t eat your soul and the wrong job is the opposite.

2. Write down somethings you like about yourself and tape it up above your desk next to a big sign above your desk: ” today and in the future I just need to keep the wolves at bay and feed my soul.” (Don’t skip this step: you’ll just have to do it later and it may be harder then.)

3. Okay.  Now go read job postings.  Don’t limit yourself to just one major search engine or professional placement service.  Diversify where you are looking and ask mentors and friends for help in this.

4. Decide how broadly it is right for you (and your dependents/partner(s)) to apply; cross out jobs you can’t accept for whatever reason. [pay too low? ethics of institution too different from your own? too short a contract for too hard a move?]  If this is hard, it is totally normal to talk to mentors and friends about these choices.  If someone starts pressuring you to apply for things that aren’t right for you, smile politely and walk away.

5. Create a timeline of deadlines and also self imposed deadlines, like how much time mentors and supportive friends need to read your cover letter and CV and help you catch stuff you missed.  Pre-circulate your materials to your letter writers in enough time for them to give you feedback and for you to integrate your feedback.

6.  How to write a cover letter [a template]

7. You should probably read those signs above your desk and do something nice about now.

8. For each job app tailor your cover letter and CV.  Do this by re-reading their job posting and also their own website and other promotional material.  Look for key phrases and ideas that you can reflect back to them without completely rewriting the materials.  If this is hard, reflect on why that may be.  Have a conversation with a mentor/friend about it.

9. Wait. You should probably read those signs above your desk and do something you genuinely enjoy about now.

10.  No interview requests? Keep applying.  Ask colleagues if they know about any likely upcoming opportunities.  Think broadly about what type of job might keep the wolves away and not eat your soul.

11. Interview invite? Time to do you research–this is not just online!  After you’ve got the lay of the land of public facing portion of the department.  Hit the rumor mill.  No, not the evil websites, never that.  They will just make you depressed.  I mean friends of friends. Who is the youngest person they hired?  What year?  Do you know anyone who was on the market that year?  What you really want is someone with some experience about the interview style of the department.  Free-for-all?  Structured questions?  Appropriate?  Random? Testing? Friendly?  You can’t control what the interview is like but the more you know the more likely you are to preform your best.

12. Once research is done or done-ish, it’s time to start creatively brain-storming what you’re going to bring to the table.  Think about generating some 12 anecdotes that show you in your best light.  They should cover a range of topics: exciting pedagogy, research, overlaps between research and pedagogy AND demonstrate breadth, and depth, and any key aspects mentioned in the job application.

[This is also my standard advice for prepping for oral exams.  You need discrete examples you know well and that you can flexibly deploy in conversation to illustrate a variety of topics/themes.  For instance, I love the bilingual footprint roof tile from Pietrabbondante and can talk about till the cows come home or I adore Julian and Augustan adaption of the republican forum and actually drew out diagrams in interviews to show evolution or I can wax poetic about how Batman is super useful for teaching the function of mythic retellings as a reflections of contemporary society.  What are your favorite gems?]

13. Mock interview.  Share your research on the institution and their interview style with a colleague/mentor, ask them to lean on their network to find 2-3 people who will interview you, ideally people you don’t know well and are a little senior.  Your goal is to be comfortable enough with your 12 anecdotes and general self confidence to adapt the material on the fly to new questions, without failing to answer the question.

Do not be afraid of re-articulating the question back to the interviewers and clarifying that they are trying to get at what you think they are looking for!

14. Stop talking to anyone who makes you feel insecure.  Mute them on social media.  And generally work on feeling awesome about yourself, your work, and also your general engagement with the field.  What have you read lately that got you excited?

15. Wear whatever makes you comfortable to the interview.  No really.  But remember that formal attire can, for some, feel like a suit of armor, psychic protection against the experience.  I like to think of it as a costume one wears to preform a piece of theater.  If choosing an outfit freaks you out.  Delegate the choice.  It is one of the few things someone else really can do for you in this long experience.

16. Remember the basics: eye contact, posture, body language, active listening.  Perform the person you want them to see and ideally you want to be (and probably already are even if you don’t know it in your heart yet.)  Think of yourself as already hired and these are your new colleagues.  Treat it like your first day of work and you really want to learn as much as possible so you can succeed at the job.  Ask questions and in those questions and your answers demonstrate your knowledge of their institution.

17. Send a thank you email.  Be brief, don’t gush.  If you skip this step it isn’t the end of the world.

18. Wait. Avoid rumor mill, esp. online.  Double down on your best support network.  You should probably read those signs above your desk again and do something you genuinely enjoy about now.

19. Getting a job won’t make you a better person.  It might not even make you a happier person. It certainly isn’t a reflection of your self worth.  Also, there is no right or wrong kind of job, except of course the right job is the one that keeps the wolves away and that doesn’t eat your soul and the wrong job is the opposite.

20. Be good and kind to some one else on the job market.

21. Give yourself permission to take days off from being on the market–even if you have applications out there. Wake up and say “today I am not on the market”.  Turning off email for 24 hours is not the end of the world.  We all need a mental break.  Make space to feel what it means to not be on the market and to just be you.

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