Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The long, hard winter to come

I'm hunkering down for a brutal wintertime.  I spent an hour waiting in line yesterday so I could get an H1N1 flu shot (got the seasonal months ago), since I have been warned that the last thing while I'm trawling the job market is to be laid low by the flu for a week and a half.  I've heard horror stories of people's entire careers being stalled out for a year, because they were too ill to pursue job applications and interviews.  None of that for me, thank you.  The shot comes none too soon; it's near freezing temperatures today, although this region of the US is certainly not known for cold.  If we're already seeing weather like this in early December, I suspect that the season is going to run roughshod over us.

I guess I should explain just what I'm doing, anyway.  I'm a doctoral candidate in an unnamed (on this blog) social science discipline, hell-bent on completing my dissertation in time to graduate in May 2010.  I'm also hell-bent on finding an academic job to follow graduation.  The reasons for this intensity of focus are several, but I can sum it up roughly with the following: the economy sucks balls.  As one of the more advanced (read: I've been around a long time) grad students in my department, I am no longer a likely candidate for internal financial aid (read: TAship), and one can hardly plan to win a big writing grant.  Plus, with the economy choking and sputtering as it has been lately, Dear Old University is pressuring all of its departments very hard to shrink their budgets.  Personally, I suspect that this whole cost-cutting pressure is bullshit, but that's a long post of its own.  Suffice it to say that nearly all of the counsel I've received from professors is that I should get out of here while I can, before I'm saddled with unreimbursed and unsupported tuition costs, loss of health insurance, and a general sense of doom.

Of course, that means that I'll soon be turned loose into the most frightening academic job market that anyone can remember.  I'm trying to think positively about this, on the theory that I work well under pressure, and that hard times force a person to think creatively about how to get by.  I also know, though, that theory and praxis do not always mesh.  Stay positive, I know, stay positive.  Sigh.  Frankly, I put more store by the fact that my work has relevance to the United States' engagement with a part of the world that, frankly, we're pretty stupid about.  (Those readers who comprehend my nom de blog will guess where that is.)  Area studies have their failings, no doubt, but if they can help secure me employment, then that's fine with me.

This means that I'll be pretty damn busy during the winter break, when most graduate students can ease up enough to go visit family, take a little vacation, or at least kick back and watch movies while drinking wine at home.  I can't complain too much about that, though; better to busy, I suppose, than indolent and at a loss for what to do with myself.  It would be nice, in fact, if I were super-busy jetting around to campus interviews and so forth; that would be fantastic.  I probably shouldn't get my hopes too high for that, since at the conference I just attended, there were a disappointingly low turnout of interviewers.  To wit: I have applied so far to positions at 26 institutions.  Of those, three of them sent an interviewer to the discipline-wide annual conference.  And of those three, one of them actually was interested in interviewing me.  One.  I'm grateful that they did, but jeez, this numbers game is demoralizing.

I've put on a third layer of clothing so I don't catch a chill in my apartment.  Time to hit the job applications again.

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