Life is living through distinctions you had once denied existed

This is my third, and probably final year on the academic job market. I have been doing extremely well: I applied to 16 jobs, have been interviewed by six departments, and been offered fly-outs to four of those. My former adviser sent me a single-word email, “wow” when I told him. I’m super nervous, but excited. I’m even worried I’ll be offered multiple jobs or offered jobs at unfortunate times. So I’m trying not to brag because (A) it’s sad to be excited about what would be an absurd showing in some fields, (B) I’m afraid to jinx everything, and (C) I remember what it was like to have done much worse.

Clicking ‘more’ is just a long monologue of my own thoughts. Please click ignore, instead, and go listen to some bad ass music.

It’s a weird experience, because in the past, I have never had more than 1 first-round interview to look forward to (and usually 0). All around me, while most of my friends and peers had no interviews, a few would have 4-8. I remember when my friend Charles had four interviews one year and didn’t ask me how I was doing on the market, because he knew I would have told him if I’d had any good news. At the time, I was thankful for his behavior, but resentful of his good fortune. I commiserated with a peer who’d applied to 90+ schools, spending hundreds of dollars, and received no interviews. I remember seeing his file and thinking it was criminally neglectful to have spent so much time, energy, and money on the process without comparing his file to other peoples’ files.

When my friend Cathay had seven interviews and felt like a moderate failure because she didn’t meet her own benchmark of 8, I struggled to make sense of her feelings. I understood, of course, that she and I were very different candidates, but it didn’t make sense to me.

This time, and throughout, I have tried being as collegial as possible while acting like a mercenary to secure a position. In every step, I have shared information and materials with other people on the job market. It was usually single directional (one person in particular), but other times I’ve been paid back with drinks or other information. Meanwhile, I’ve finessed my own applications, sought out as much advice as I could, and honed my interview answers with perfectly designed responses. I’ve developed some work and taught a course in applied ethics for the sole purpose of the job market. And it’s paid off. So far, all of the places for which I’ve given up information (“they’ll ask you about their self-designed major”) has turned out better for me than for the person who received the information… I guess this year is just my time.1

  1. knock on wood []

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