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Author Topic: the job search and religious faith  (Read 30461 times)
aristof_ns
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« on: June 06, 2008, 12:38:11 PM »

I'm interested in finding out what job-search issues are faced by those of us with religious faith -- the kinds of issues our non-religious colleagues don't seem to face.

For me, the biggest issue has been holding on to the belief that there is no search committee that is beyond God's reach. With all the talk about how random the search process is and about how impossible it is to predict what any SC is looking for, etc., it gets very difficult to sustain my trust that God is not affected by all of that and that God is still able to put people where they need to be. I have to remind myself that if I believe God created and watches over the universe, then I should also believe that God is powerful enough to help me get a job for the fall.

What issues have you faced in reconciling the difficulties of the job search with your religious beliefs?
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zharkov
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« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2008, 12:52:08 PM »


It sounds to me like you are suggesting predestination, which some Christians (esp. in the Calvinist tradition) believe in, but I don't.

That said, and depending on my mood, I think teaching and science can indeed be one's calling, and that perhaps one receives grace to help succeed in that calling.

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watermarkup
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« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2008, 2:01:45 PM »

I hope you've also considered the possibility that God wanted you to go to grad school, earn a Ph.D., maybe even take a visiting position or two, but has other plans for you besides the tenure track. Seriously, the frustration and bitterness that comes from spending long years on the job market has been damaging to the religious faith of a few people I know.

Other issues:

* Will my brand of religious faith be acceptable to University Y? (Rarely, I can tell that it just isn't, so I don't bother applying. In other cases, I have no way to know.)

* How's the congregation in the town I'm moving to in the fall? Do they have any understanding of what academic careers are like? (No, but they're still glad to have me around while it lasts.)

* Will the preferred form of socializing in my new department create hidden conflicts for me that are invisible to everyone but myself?
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aristof_ns
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« Reply #3 on: June 07, 2008, 2:12:44 PM »

I hope you've also considered the possibility that God wanted you to go to grad school, earn a Ph.D., maybe even take a visiting position or two, but has other plans for you besides the tenure track. Seriously, the frustration and bitterness that comes from spending long years on the job market has been damaging to the religious faith of a few people I know.

I have wondered about this, and I'm open to the possibility. Don't have any good leads, but I'm sure they'll show up when/if needed....

I think what frustrates me in reading the job search forums is that I feel I can't make comments to the effect that I'm trusting God to lead me where I need to be. In other words, that even job rejections are good, since I trust that God is able to deliver me from bad jobs as well as to lead me to a good one.
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Is not American literature the minor literature par excellence, insofar as America claims to federate the most diverse minorities, “a Nation swarming with nations”? —Gilles Deleuze
prytania3
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« Reply #4 on: June 07, 2008, 2:21:34 PM »



What issues have you faced in reconciling the difficulties of the job search with your religious beliefs?

If you are truly religious, you will trust God's plan for you, and that may or may not include getting a t-t job. It's a hard one to swallow, but there it is. It would be swell if God answered all our prayers in the positive and in a timely fashion, but that isn't the way it works.

You might try a Magic-8 Ball.
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hrvatski18
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« Reply #5 on: June 07, 2008, 2:33:25 PM »

I was raised Muslim, so I like to get a sense of the cultural and religious sensitivity of the department when I go on interviews.   Also I look at whether or not a Muslim community and a mosque exists in the area.

A more practical concern on interview day:  will I be served pork or other foods that I cannot eat?   So far this hasn't been an issue because I've been taken to restaurants where I have choices, but I did once work somewhere where lunch was often provided at meetings.  The department secretary ordered ham sandwiches for everyone because "getting the same food for everyone was just easier."   I explained several times why I was unable to eat the provided meals and brought my own lunch instead.   I was sternly warned by the department chair that it was "bad form" to not eat the food bought for me with the department's money.

I wasn't happy there for many reasons, but that was one of the things that pushed me over the edge.  I went on the market the following year and joyfully submitted my resignation.
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dr_dre
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« Reply #6 on: June 07, 2008, 2:55:26 PM »

I think what frustrates me in reading the job search forums is that I feel I can't make comments to the effect that I'm trusting God to lead me where I need to be. In other words, that even job rejections are good, since I trust that God is able to deliver me from bad jobs as well as to lead me to a good one.

I don't know why you would feel that way. I don't think anyone, at least in the "positive energy job search check-in thread" would much object to whatever interpretation you offer of your own situation. However, if I post that I didn't get something that I wanted and you tell me that's God's plan, then, yes, I would ask you nicely to stuff it.

Best of luck with your search.
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dellaroux
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« Reply #7 on: June 07, 2008, 2:57:33 PM »

I hope you've also considered the possibility that God wanted you to go to grad school, earn a Ph.D., maybe even take a visiting position or two, but has other plans for you besides the tenure track. Seriously, the frustration and bitterness that comes from spending long years on the job market has been damaging to the religious faith of a few people I know.

I have wondered about this, and I'm open to the possibility. Don't have any good leads, but I'm sure they'll show up when/if needed....

I think what frustrates me in reading the job search forums is that I feel I can't make comments to the effect that I'm trusting God to lead me where I need to be. In other words, that even job rejections are good, since I trust that God is able to deliver me from bad jobs as well as to lead me to a good one.

Two thoughts:

1) The missionary family that is discussed in "On Our Way Rejoicing" (I don't recall their name at the moment) found themselves, after many years of service in Dar-es-Salaam, in the US for a long period that didn't seem to include any form of service and concluded that "You only have a call for as long as the call calls," and that sometimes the ebbing of the sense of call is itself a different kind of call, telling you to stay put, learn and grow where you are. For them, it meant (as it turned out) raising their family, nearly all of whom went back to missions work in some other form, a couple to the original site their parents had founded.

So, maybe the Ecclesiastes "to everything a season" idea is operant--I recall one instance of thinking I was being led to one thing, only to discover an annoncement on the way to something else that I very much benefitted by doing. Sometimes the trajectory is more of a curved dance than a straight line, but our primitive receptors still only get one dot on the curve at a time...

2) However you want to look at the free will/divine determination argument, my sense has always been that affirming God's presence in your life doesn't necessarily always mean you will get what you want or even that it will automatically be the thing that you or anyone else will see as best for you, either at the time or later. God is not a <<papa-gateau,>> or doting parent, as the French put it; nor (as C.S. Lewis would say) can God be made out to be the Sadistic Torturer. Both defame God and the relationship one claims as integral and whole to a healthy faith.

That siad, the affirmation of that abiding presence does, however, for you, oblige you to take whatever happens after all your best (and best-guided) efforts have been expended, and make of it the most whole, complete, and wise offering of yourself and your talents that you can.

I agree with the previous poster, that the path most sought after may not be the one you need to be on. "Playing it where it lies" is a sign of maturity and flexibility (for me, the word "grace" is an intentional, wholly well-meant pun, since both fluid movement and the experience of God's presence have to do with a healthy kind of self-forgetfulness, while being wholly oneself.)

My own work in the liturgical arts has been a roller-coaster ride of more dimensions than I could have imagined when the first promptings started me on this path. But--and especially while writing the thesis--an image of a star guiding the boat to the shore, by which I was to set my sights, was a consistent element in my prayers.

One can have a simple, safe, predictable landing if the star takes you to an established harbor. Or one might hit some rocks, have to pull the boat back a bit to see where the safe passage is for landing because one never knows with shores...but that doesn't mean the voyage was wrong, and it's not over.

There's been a tendency in the popular religious press to pre-package goals and make it sound as if one can have the glitzy-bright stardom along with the humilty and self-searching. I think that's wrong, or at least, not a fair expectation to saddle every praying person with.

For one thing, one has to remember that one is guided by a star, one isn't the star. For another, humilty has as many faces as the people in the world do, so the norm can't be seen as a realistic context as long as some live in high-rise condos and others beg for grain. In academic terms, tenure-track is not the only worthwhile game in town.

And--the point on the shore where the boat lands is also only one point. It ends one journey and may be the start of a different one, if the call is not to settle on the coast but somewhere inland.

Sometimes in prayer, there is a moment when the focused "I want/need this" that started the prayer gives way to a wider, more open, even startling sense of affirmation no matter what happens. It can be like a sudden intake of air, the bright widening of a patch of sunlight, or the dark softening of a velvet night out of the twilight.

That moment of grace, and the faith to be yourself, is my prayer for you. With work, and a steady hand on the tiller, the rest can follow.
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mdwlark
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« Reply #8 on: June 07, 2008, 3:43:10 PM »

50,000 people just lost their lives in an earthquake.   Hundreds, maybe thousands of mothers are weeping over their lost children.  Explain that one.  I heard a conference presentation last year by a mother whose adult son and daughter-in-law were killed in a tsunami.  She shared a lot of personal information along with her conference materials, and she had some very interesting spiritual insights.  I'm a mother too.  I felt heartbroken just listening to her. 

I believe God comforts, provides inspiration.  But the world operates by natural law and individual freedom of choice.  Sometimes people in charge take away other people's choices, but choice is the operating principle.  If you believe in God, that seems to be the way God set it up.  If someone shoots someone else with a gun, the second person dies.  Person #2 might be inspired by God or spiritual forces or God-given common sense to jump out of the way, but he better move fast. 

I don't know which religious tradition you come from, but the challenge for those of us who are Christian is to avoid being arrogant about what we think our gifts to the world are and what we are entitled to.  God gave you and me the freedom to make choices, and we chose to pursue a PhD.  He gave the search committee freedom to make choices.  My career is not going the way I would like it.  After repeated rejections and a careful assessment of my limitations, I'm still arrogant enough to think the search committees are missing the boat not hiring me.  I may not ever get an academic job. 

Instead of teaching, I'm a liberal democrat working for a state government run by rabid conservative Republicans, which just goes to show you that God has a sense of humor.  I bet he gets a lot of laughs over that one.  I'm also working a second academic job. 

You and I will carry the knowledge and skill gained from our doctoral studies always.  I believe God is pleased with our choice.  In fact, I think it is exactly what he wants going on in the universe.  Expanding knowledge.  How is that for arrogance on my part?  Where ever we end up, we will have the opportunity to make choices about what contribution we can make there, and as religious people we want those choices to be pleasing to God, whether we are are giving conference addresses, writing scholarly books or hugging each other as we dig our children out of the ruins and mud after an earthquake.   God will rejoice and grieve with us.       
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doctor_torrseal
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« Reply #9 on: June 07, 2008, 6:35:06 PM »

I have to remind myself that if I believe God created and watches over the universe, then I should also believe that God is powerful enough to help me get a job for the fall.


Many people have faith in a G-d who created the universe and has an interest in the doings of human beings, and believe in a G-d who is just, but they do not therefore deduce that G-d will necessarily satisfy their wishes.

From watching sports on TV and listening to pro athletes speak, it's my understanding that the Lord takes a great deal of interest in the outcomes of football games.  But not everyone of faith shares this confidence.
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prytania3
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« Reply #10 on: June 07, 2008, 7:38:16 PM »

I have to remind myself that if I believe God created and watches over the universe, then I should also believe that God is powerful enough to help me get a job for the fall.


Many people have faith in a G-d who created the universe and has an interest in the doings of human beings, and believe in a G-d who is just, but they do not therefore deduce that G-d will necessarily satisfy their wishes.

From watching sports on TV and listening to pro athletes speak, it's my understanding that the Lord takes a great deal of interest in the outcomes of football games.  But not everyone of faith shares this confidence.

Well, when there's money on the table, there's always a great deal of praying going on.
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lincolns_ghost
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« Reply #11 on: June 07, 2008, 8:09:57 PM »

I hope you've also considered the possibility that God wanted you to go to grad school, earn a Ph.D., maybe even take a visiting position or two, but has other plans for you besides the tenure track. Seriously, the frustration and bitterness that comes from spending long years on the job market has been damaging to the religious faith of a few people I know.

I have wondered about this, and I'm open to the possibility. Don't have any good leads, but I'm sure they'll show up when/if needed....

I think what frustrates me in reading the job search forums is that I feel I can't make comments to the effect that I'm trusting God to lead me where I need to be. In other words, that even job rejections are good, since I trust that God is able to deliver me from bad jobs as well as to lead me to a good one.

In the first place---why can't you make such comments?  Because you haven't seen anyone else make them?  Because some individual who is frustrated with his own situation might challenge that belief of yours?  Surely such strong faith can stand up to challenges by anonymous frustrated people?  Many on this forum  are faithful people who do not see God leading them quite as directly and specifically as you appear to do---that's life in the public forum anywhere. 

The second question that arises is why you (or anyone) need so badly to express your religious philosophy within a discussion of job searching with other searchers to the point of worrying about its reception. Do you mean to proselytize in some fashion---i.e. educate others in the idea of "God's plan?"
I do not ask this in a combative way but in all seriousness. Perhaps you do out of the way religion interacts in your daily life but you do need to realize that unless you are in a discussion with those of your own faith that other faithful people may have a very different view of the way in which the Almighty works in our lives. 






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mdwlark
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« Reply #12 on: June 07, 2008, 8:35:21 PM »

I might add that I always go into interviews and professional conversations with my professional hat on.  I stay in my role as a scholar.  I only share my religious perspectives when the circumstances are personal--like out to lunch with a friend--or when I have a clear agreement with the other person that the conversation can go in that direction.  I don't feel any conflict keeping them separate.
« Last Edit: June 07, 2008, 8:37:07 PM by mdwlark » Logged
aristof_ns
it's harder to get a TT job than to become a
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« Reply #13 on: June 07, 2008, 9:31:29 PM »

The department secretary ordered ham sandwiches for everyone because "getting the same food for everyone was just easier."   I explained several times why I was unable to eat the provided meals and brought my own lunch instead.   I was sternly warned by the department chair that it was "bad form" to not eat the food bought for me with the department's money.

Did none of your colleagues take your side???

I would be upset if I saw one of my colleagues being treated in that manner. I hope you've found a better situation!
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Is not American literature the minor literature par excellence, insofar as America claims to federate the most diverse minorities, “a Nation swarming with nations”? —Gilles Deleuze
aristof_ns
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« Reply #14 on: June 07, 2008, 9:40:50 PM »



In the first place---why can't you make such comments?  Because you haven't seen anyone else make them?  Because some individual who is frustrated with his own situation might challenge that belief of yours?  Surely such strong faith can stand up to challenges by anonymous frustrated people?  Many on this forum  are faithful people who do not see God leading them quite as directly and specifically as you appear to do---that's life in the public forum anywhere. 

The second question that arises is why you (or anyone) need so badly to express your religious philosophy within a discussion of job searching with other searchers to the point of worrying about its reception. Do you mean to proselytize in some fashion---i.e. educate others in the idea of "God's plan?"

I do not ask this in a combative way but in all seriousness. Perhaps you do out of the way religion interacts in your daily life but you do need to realize that unless you are in a discussion with those of your own faith that other faithful people may have a very different view of the way in which the Almighty works in our lives. 

Yes, this is exactly why I started a separate thread and why I don't mention my religious interpretation of my job search on the main thread: I have worked for years trying to integrate my belief in God's abiding presence and concern into my daily responsibilities, so I cannot accept the idea that any job search is simply a random collection of individual human actions. At the same time, I know that many people do not have such a perspective and do not want to read about it from those of us who do. Nor do I want people to think that I'm proselytizing, since I simply want to get other perspectives on how people approach the job search with a belief in divine guidance.

I'm less interested in having a meta-thread on "discussing religion in the forums" and more interested in learning from other people's experiences on the market.
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Is not American literature the minor literature par excellence, insofar as America claims to federate the most diverse minorities, “a Nation swarming with nations”? —Gilles Deleuze
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