The Way Opens

About a month ago, I wrote a barbaric yawp of a post about how disillusioned I was with the academic job search thing. And don’t get me wrong: I still am.

But yesterday, I read “So What Are You Going to Do With That?”: Finding Jobs Outside of Academia by Debelius and Basalla, and, to my surprise, I found it empowering instead of depressing. Hell, I was so jazzed that I wrote a resume! Heh.

The book’s also inspired some self-reflection about the way I went at the job search last fall. Here are my big takeaways:

  1. I applied for too many jobs. Period. I should have picked a few (less than 10) and really focused my energy and attention on each in turn. Doing so would have afforded me the chance to write really targeted cover letters for each one and to shape my CV to meet the needs/requirements/desires of each gig.
  2. My job letters were not tailored enough. People who suggested that I tailor less were totally wrong, and the notion that you can create one letter and just tweak it a bit for each gig is utterly outdated. I did not respond to the job ads as carefully and specifically as I might have, and that was a mistake.
  3.  I have a lot to offer employers outside of academia–the trick is putting it in a way that said employer can recognize. What I really like about So What is that it’s helped me to understand how I might translate stuff I do as a graduate student and as a teacher into terms that people in the business and non-profit worlds can see as potentially valuable to their organization. For example, fighting with goddamn dissertation points towards my skills in project management. Working with students on a daily basis underscores my experience in customer relations. Plus, I worked for a decade between graduating from undergrad and starting my PhD, and that
    experience—as wide and weird as it is—is also quite valuable.
  4. I’m not going to get a job in academia this year. And I’m ok with that. Am I happy about it? No. I still feel like a failure, at some level. And I hate that my advisor is waking up in the middle of the night worried about why I haven’t, and spending time blaming herself (?!?) for my inability to get a gig.

    That said, in keeping with item #1, I am going to be selective in the real-world jobs that I apply to. I’m going to apply these lessons to my new search, and look for organizations I’d really like to work for, rather than gigs I know that I could do, if that distinction makes sense. Then, I’ll work to make the best case I can to them that I’m the right person for the job.

Here’s my current to-do list:

I’m going to keep working on my resume.

I’m going to make an appointment with Career Services here on campus.

I’m going to reach out to my informal network.

In general, I’m going to do what it takes to find gainful employment and stop wasting my time pummeling myself for what happened this fall.

As one of the interviewees in So What put it, there’s a Quaker proverb that says: “The ways opens.” That resonates with me, for some reason. The trick is, now, I’ve got to have my eyes peeled for that open door.

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