A conversation on Twitter earlier this week reminded me that the first round of the Job Information List (JIL) for MLA fields will be published soon, and with it comes the beginning of the job market season for those of us in language and literature fields. Other disciplines, undoubtedly, will not be far behind (and some may well have started their searches already). Bearing in mind the incredible stress and anxiety that can dismantle even the coolest of job-seeking cucumbers, I would like to offer you five things that helped me survive the job market.
Before I did anything else, I printed out several pages of address labels with my campus return address on them. I used them to mail all of my application materials, and I also used them on the postcards I included with my applications to indicate that my application file was complete. Not every department returned these self-addressed, stamped cards, but the majority of them did. In any case, not having to write (or type) out my return address every single time I applied for a job saved me a lot of time and just made the process feel smoother.
In May of this year, Julie wrote a detailed post about the wonder that is Interfolio. I won’t repeat that information here, but I will second her recommendation. I used my alma mater’s dossier service my first year on the market and switched to Interfolio thereafter. Not only did it save me money, but it also saved both my time and my sanity, both of which were in short supply. Jobseekers can use Interfolio services to manage letters of recommendation, transcripts, and any other documents that you would like to include in your application materials: CVs, abstracts, teaching statements, etc. Be sure to read the comments section too—some helpful information all around.
Kathleen’s post last week about the importance of prioritizing exercise hit home for me. The stress of the market was unlike anything I had previously experienced, and though I had been warned about the many ways that this would affect me and my work, I completely underestimated the way it would affect my body. I had a hard time sleeping. My back hurt. All the time. My stomach was frequently upset. Emotionally, I felt brittle and on the verge of blowing a gasket. I turned to the gym as a way to get a handle on the physical side of things. I went at least 3 days a week and often stayed for 2 or more hours. While I was there, I was away from my cellphone and my computer, so I was forced to stop obsessing, if only for a few hours. The exercise helped me sleep better and eased the other physical symptoms of my stress. If you don’t like the gym, maybe try yoga, or go for a walk (with or without a dog!), or get on a bike and hit the trail.
Of course you need to spend time getting your applications together and researching the departments to which you are applying to that you can prepare your materials (and yourself, should you get called for an interview) appropriately, but try not to let them take over your entire life. Schedule blocks of time for job applications on your calendar, and when the allotted time period has ended, get on to your other work. It is tempting to daydream about buying a house in Perfect College Town or to check the job-wiki for your field every five minutes to see whether or not it has been updated, but therein lies the road to madness (been there!). As much as you can, be careful not to let other things slide, whether course prep or finishing that final chapter of the dissertation. Try to remember that the market is not your life; it is just one part of your life (I know that this one, in particular, is easier said than done).
A Square of Dark Chocolate/A Glass of Fine Wine (in moderation, of course)
Take care of yourself. The market can be a grueling time for the best of us, and it’s easy to internalize the many critiques and rejections that come with the territory. It’s important to be good to yourself throughout this process, so pick your favorite indulgence and enjoy it once in a while. Whether your vice is a pedicure or a single-malt scotch, it is important to remember that there are, as Marianne Moore once said “things that are important beyond all this fiddle.”
Been on the job market? Please share your survival tips in the comments section below.