Ah, the lazy days of summer. While the rest of the world is slowing down a notch, socializing more and planning vacations, PhDs nearing the end of their degrees are deep in, what is for many, the most stressful summer of their lives.
Whether you are about to defend your thesis or have just experienced that happy event, it’s hard to forget that looming ahead of you are months of rigorous job searching. It’s a good time to sit down with the people closest to you and really clarify the parameters of what you are and are not willing to do to stay in academe. Pick up a sessional contract or two – but for how long? Would you leave the country for a temporary contract? What about a tenure track position? How about leaving the continent – would you have to end a relationship to do that?
These are life-altering decisions, and can involve relatively unpleasant conversations at a time when there is already a lot of stress and uncertainty in your life. But it is useful to have your non-negotiables sorted out before you start sending off application packages – especially in this economy.
So no matter how much is on your plate right now, pick an evening – or a couple – and get together with people who support you and have a vested interest in your happiness to have dinner and talk through the issues that are weighing most heavily on you. Get their objective feedback, but don’t shy away from the non-objective opinions – they are sometimes the ones that make the most difference in the long run. Repeat this process as necessary to get to that place where you know what you are really willing to consider once you are on the market.
Then, and only then, will you be able to realistically assess the suitability of the postings you see so you aren’t desperately applying for anything regardless of how it flies in the face of your values and priorities. Many very unhappy academics have done just that, feeling like there was no other choice. They were wrong – there are literally thousands of non-academic possibilities that would provide a standard of living and quality of professional satisfaction that far exceeds any so-so academic position.
If you are committed to an academic career, now is the time to start getting ready for the fall hiring season. Read over the links below, get advice from your committee and university career centre, update your CV, and go shopping for “interview” clothes. Some of you will land up with a job offer, and a few of you will be lucky enough to find a terrific position in a terrific university. By all means, give it your best shot, but be honest with yourself all the while as to how far you are ready to pursue this path before you go on to seek greener pastures. Bonne chance!
Getting Ready for an Academic Job Search – University of Michigan
Getting Ready for an Academic Job Search – University of Windsor
Building a Network – University of Pennsylvania
The Hiring Process form the Other Side – UC Berkeley