Monday, August 09, 2010

Strange things about job hunting

The weirdest thing to me about the jobs I've applied for recently is that the application requirements are so much less work than grant applications are. You can write a job application in a day if you have to (not that I would recommend that). For a grant application you need months. My last grant application was 127 pages long, not counting the fact that it had to be submitted in triplicate. It had five separate sections, all of which had at least five more multi-page subsections, and one of which required 30 pages of associated text. Then you had to add your CV, a detailed budget, a budget justification, etc.

The last job application I wrote specified a 1-page cover letter and a CV and absolutely-do-not-send-extra-unsolicited-material-kthxbai.

While I understand that job committees are far too busy to read 127 pages of application, and grant-granting committees clearly have nothing better to do, it seems wrong that so much more effort goes into something that at most will give you a three-year position, while a page of writing, a CV, and an interview could put you somewhere for the rest of your life.

Strange thing #2
I always assumed it would be a good idea, when on the job market, to have a professional web page. Or at least a presence on somewhere like Now, however, I am glad not to have the former, and regret a little bit setting up the latter. Every job application is a case of framing yourself so you sound like the person they are looking for. Let's say my PhD is, for the sake of argument, in macaroni-sculpture, I TAed for Eating Paste 101 and I did some advanced coursework in Noodles Throughout the Ages. Also, I have one paper out on an analysis of Glittery Sparkliness in Children's Crafts, and am currently working on one on Why 5-year-olds Suck at Art.

Okay, so I see myself as moving into the area of children's art, but there aren't any jobs in that right now, and I'd be happy to try and diversify into The History of Pasta, or Edible Artwork, or even Child Development. For jobs in each of those fields I'm going to emphasise very different parts of my experience, leave out some irrelevant stuff, and claim that oh yes, the subject you need taught is my favourite ever discipline and I can't wait to do more of it.

If someone reading one of those job applications happens to look at my web page or entry and it's all children's art yay! with no mention at all of whatever I just claimed to be most interested in, they are going to be On To Me (TM).

Strange-but-related thing #3
Knowing the people in the department that is advertising (or more specifically, them knowing you): also not so great akshully. For similar reasons to the above. You might think you would be perfectly competent teaching Edible Artwork and would be willing to shift your research in the direction of The History of Pasta, but if they know that your dissertation was all about macaroni sculpture, that you presented papers on macaroni sculpture at three conferences in the past year, and (worst of all) if they were present when you got drunk at dinner a few months ago and talked about how you are glad you don't have to employ any of that stupid history theory stuff in your research, you are... doomed.

And hopefully we all feel better about our job chances now for reading this. Oh yeah. I know I do.



Bardiac said...

Yep. And then there are the 100 people who actually DID do their research on the History of Pasta.

Good luck! My fingers are crossed for good things for you!

StyleyGeek said...

Yup. That sucks too. Unfortunately the job market over here is a bit... extreme. There's maybe two or three entry-level academic jobs posted a year in linguistics (and that's counting NZ as well as Australia). So unless I want to wait 10 or more years for someone to post something that IS in exactly the field I wrote my PhD on, I have to apply for everything.

Kelly said...

I feel for you, and I hope that one of the strands of pasta you've extended will net you a tasty meatball in return.

And I seriously LOVE your pasta analogies. :)

Leigh said...

I read somewhere the suggestion that job applications are as close as any of us will ever get to perfection - which shows how phoney the process usually is. :-) Having been on both sides of the equation I now regard it as pure theatre. I hope you can enjoy your part and good luck with the outcome!

Erika said...

Since I just handed in my thesis and have started to seriously apply for jobs, I just had the same realization. And while it has not caused my professional website to disappear, it is definately currently undergoing some major changes!

Leslie M-B said...

I'm sending good vibes your way.

Alas, the job market is as much about crazy good luck as it is skills and expertise. (And I've always been lousy at roulette.) Remembering the bit about luck helped me weather those five years on the market.

I hope your luck is much, much better than mine. :)