job market · possibility · work

It’s spring (and job hunting season)

Yesterday marked the first day of spring. As the snow continues to pile up around southern Ontario, and many other parts of the country are still experiencing winter storms, it probably isn’t that obvious to most observers that spring is indeed upon us. Fortunately, I don’t need flowers, or rain showers, or even calendars to know that spring is here. I know it, most of all, because the spring round of job postings are starting to seep out onto the listservs.

While the norm still seems to be for schools to post in the fall, the schools where I would most like to work tend to post jobs in the spring. I already know this, and so I have been watching carefully, waiting for the perfect job to pop up. They’re like daffodils. Terrifying, anxiety inspiring daffodils. Okay, they aren’t anything like daffodils.

This spring, there are jobs. There are even a few jobs in my research area. My intent was to work on an application this week, but somehow I wasn’t able to bring myself to start writing. As much as I have been looking forward to this round of job postings, it is also a very anxious time. Co-blogger Margrit Talpalaru very eloquently wrote about this issue in her post last november, The cruelty of job applications. Job applications are indeed cruel. I remember the first perfect job I ever applied for. I spent countless hours looking over my application, the department webpage, the city map, the MLS listings, the jogging trails…everything. I believed that I could live and work in that place. As Margrit said last fall, “I simply have to be excited for a job that I apply for, not only for the mercenary reason of conveying it in a letter, but for the reality of having to move my family to a new location. I have to be able to imagine my kids growing up in that place, and I have to love it for this possibility.”

Which brings me to this season’s job applications. You see, I have gone and done something that is pretty much impossible to reconcile with academic life. It goes against every recommendation I have ever received and radically diminishes the likelihood that I will end up with one of those very few, very special, tenure track jobs. I’ve decided where I am going to live. I live here now. My partner has a good job. We’re buying a house (a real fixer-upper). My employment status (and employability) may be precarious, but my daily existence will not. I refuse. I’m drawing a line in the sand. Well, actually, it’s an imaginary line around a region on a map where I think I could work. The thing is, the “will go anywhere for work” model might be reasonable if you finish your PhD super young, have no partner or children, and get a job immediately upon completion, but if you’re a straggler or, god forbid, actually have a family and responsibilities that can’t just be moved across the country, or can’t stand the thought of wandering from teaching contract to teaching contract – well what then?

I will apply for those jobs. I will try as hard as I can to make myself appear relevant, interesting, and above all else, the best candidate for the position. It really would be wonderful to get the job, but I know the odds are stacked firmly against me. Sometimes, job or no job, you have to just keep on living your life.

Here’s to another job hunting season. May your applications be electronic more often than not, your reference letters glowing and on time, and your “perfect fit” just around the corner.