Tuesday 5 June 2018

The Market, Part Three

Yay! It's part three of my posts about my experience on the job market. In Part One I discussed the realities of the academic job market in the humanities. In Part Two I discussed more specifics: the job sites I used, the types of positions I applied for, and the materials I used in my application. In this third part, I am going to talk about my specific search-- my application tracking processes and the three takeaways that I've grasped onto.

In the second half of this post I summarize my spring semester at Madison College.

Job Market Discussion

One of the smartest things that my friend and job market guru Dr. Kat O'Meara told me at the beginning of this process was to record everything. And so I did. The two documents that I used to keep track of my job applications were a Google Spreadsheet and a Pinterest board. These two trackers kept my information organized and also gave me visuals of the places that I applied, which I liked.

The job market spreadsheet was something that I went to back to time and time again. I color-coded the spreadsheet so that I could see, at a glance, where I was at with each application. On the spreadsheet I tracked details like, where the schools are, what they required in the applications, and most importantly, when I needed to submit the applications. In the fall of 2017, I applied to 21 schools and had a total of five interviews. The amount of interviews to jobs that I applied for may seem small, but I was actually very happy to get the interviews that I did, and I do feel like they were all good experiences. On the MLA JIL site that I discussed in the previous job market post, there were roughly 300 jobs posted this year. I would assume that probably at least 50 of them I was not eligible to apply for. So, as a very rough estimate, I applied to about 8% of the available jobs. I will discuss more about how I chose the jobs to apply for below. 

The Pinterest board served much less of a practical purpose, but I used it almost like the closing of the application. Once everything was submitted for a particular job application, I would pin the website of the school to board and try to find a pretty picture to represent it. That simple practice took me away from the minute and worrisome details of the application process and gave me something to celebrate-- another job done and added to the board! Even now, I like to go back to the board and take a look over the images collected and remember the effort put into the search. 

At the end of the process, just for fun, I also mapped out the places that I had applied to geographically. It is interesting for me to see the different places (literally) that my life could have gone based on these applications: 

As I reflect back on this process and remember the highs and lows of the experience, there are three characteristics that I think are worth making note of to hold onto during trying processes like these: 

1. Individuality: This item is both a strength and a weakness. One way that I think individuality must be valued is that each person must do what is right for them. I've heard of all sorts of stories of people on the job market. I've heard of people applying for one job and getting it! I've heard of people applying for 70, 80, 100 jobs to receive one or two offers. I've heard of people applying for maybe, three or four jobs, and getting offers from all four. There is no right or wrong way to apply for jobs; the job market must be approached based on the way that each person feels is appropriate. For me, my husband and I chose places that were either close to home or places to which we wouldn't mind moving. That eliminated some portions of the country just on that standard alone. In addition, I didn't apply for any jobs that I didn't think I would like. This may have been a mistake, but I felt like I needed to be comfortable with knowing I could do the job described in the ad in order to apply. 

On the negative side, individuality can also mean that a person becomes quite self-consumed. For a period of time, all I thought about was how to market myself in the best way possible, and that can be quite self-consuming. I just knew that once my applications were in I had to shake off that mindset. 

2. Tenacity: This is probably not a surprise to anyone, but this process was tiring. From the months of August to December 2016 I was, I felt like, constantly researching, writing, editing, or submitting applications. I don't think there were two applications that were the same. That meant that for every single application I had to research the job ad, the school, and the department and adjust all my materials accordingly. Though, I did spend more time on this process for some schools than for others. There is no one application to submit, and the constant changing was wearing. 

In addition, this process can be draining self-esteem wise. Like I said above, this is a very self-consuming act where a person tries to position themselves as the best version of themselves on a few sheets of paper. Because of that, this process can take a good hit on a person's self-esteem. While the job site wiki is helpful, as are job market groups like one I joined on Facebook, it can be disheartening seeing other people get a lot of interviews or jobs get taken that I may have really wanted. For me, sometimes seeing those things made me less motivated to work on my materials and get stuff out. Often I had to grit my teeth, push through, and just summon the tenacity to get it done. 

3. Perspective: The last item that was worth noting through this process was that of perspective. I've alluded to this point in the previous two, but I feel like it was very easy to get swept up into this world of "what will happen" and "where will we live" and "what if this is all for nothing." Even getting interviews was nerve wracking, as I'd research the school, try to brainstorm questions that they might ask me, prepare an outfit, and make sure my technology was working properly. There was a lot of energy put towards these steps, and it was easy to get lost in that. I'm grateful that I have my husband, dogs, and supportive community to help me take moments to enjoy the everyday, but I would say that during the fall semester the job market applications were never far from my mind. Keeping perspective is really important. Getting or not getting a job didn't mean that I succeeded or failed. Sending out just one more application didn't mean that I was any better or worse of a person. It was important to keep that perspective. 

This articulation of these three characteristics brought to mind one of my all time favorite quotes, which I may have shared before, from author J.K. Rowling in her book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. This is the attitude that both myself and my husband tried to exhibit throughout all the work and stress and unknowns and possibilities of the job search, and I think it's what got me through: 

Semester Discussion

On that note, I'd like to wrap up this post by giving an overview of my past semester at Madison College. I taught a 7:00 AM Technical Reporting class to five engineering students, and I taught an 8:30 AM English 2 class. I also worked about 10 hours/week through the Madison College Writing Center, in person at two different campuses and online. I enjoyed my time in each capacity of this past semester. 

My time in the Writing Center was rewarding in ways that teaching isn't always rewarding. I felt like in that time I was able to give students concrete feedback on a draft or an idea and then turn them loose to take that feedback or not. During that time, I was invested in the students and in helping them succeed, but I didn't have the added responsibility of ensuring that the changes or updates were implemented. I enjoyed that portion of the work, as well getting to interact with a variety of students and colleagues and get to see some pretty cool assignment prompts.

My Technical Reporting class was great. I was concerned prior to the semester about having a class at 7:00 AM, especially one with so few students; however, the class couldn't have been better. Four of the students were peers in the same program, and the fifth student was also a science/ engineering student, so I was glad that they had some commonalities. We worked through four projects throughout the semester. The two main projects were a research report and a proposal. Two of the students liked the report best, and one liked the proposal best. We also did presentations for the proposals, which was the other two students' favorite project of the course. The students commented on learning about the intricacy of professional documents, and they also talked about learning how to differentiate between informative and persuasive communication styles. I enjoyed working with these students this semester. 

The English 2 class was the portion of the semester that was the most surprising. I've taught English 2 at three different institutions before teaching it at Madison College this semester, but I used a different course sequence than I ever had previously, and my students responded really positively to it. I still had the students complete five projects, but instead of having the projects connect via a theme or a text, the projects all built upon each other. In the end, the students wrote manuscripts for academic journals based on research both about the journals and the topic of their choice. Over half the class said they liked this project best, and over one third of the class said it was the most informative project. 

The final compositions showed the students interest in the project as well. The research, formatting, depth of knowledge, and personal engagement that the students showed was really exceptional. I was also genuinely interested in reading almost all of the manuscripts, which again points to the time and effort the students put into writing them. I read about the "Pacific Garbage Patch," the plight of sharks around the world, Middle Eastern architecture, and sexism in America, to name just a few topics.

Throughout the course we read the textbook Habits of the Creative Mind, which I really liked. Towards the the end of the class we watched Elizabeth Gilbert's TEDTalk, "Your Elusive Genius," and I asked the students: what does creativity look like or mean to you? The students came up with these answers, and I was glad to see them stretching themselves and thinking about the content that we had been discussing: 

So, at the end of all this, I'll leave you with this same question: What does creativity mean to you? May it take you wonderful places. 

No comments:

Post a Comment