Tuesday, July 25, 2006

On the Market - The Why of It

I just finished having a conversation with Job Search Mentor (JSM), and it was good. I want to write about this decision of mine, to go on the market, and I want to write about it in relation to what I've experienced in three years on the tenure-track at a regional comprehensive university in a metropolitan area. I'm not sure how to do this. I had toyed with the idea of starting a separate blog for posts related to the job search, but I'm not sure that a) I want to compartmentalize in that way or b) that I could compartmentalize in that way if I tried. The truth of the matter is that this decision to look - and that's exactly what it is, a decision to look, not necessarily one to leave - feels like it's imbedded in my professional life at this institution, and it doesn't make sense to separate it out.

So I think that this will be the first in a series of posts in which I try to be reflective about all of this crap.

Why Go on the Market?
A lot of people would say that I should be happy in my current position. And you know what I'd say? I'd say that I am. I am not in any way "unhappy" with my current job. Dissatisfied in some respects, yes, but that's not the same thing as "unhappiness." Let's list the positives of this job, just to show you that I'm not delusional in claiming happiness:
  1. I am in a small-medium city. This means that I have good libraries (research and public), good museums, and good restaurants.
  2. I am paid a good salary for my field and my area of the country. Since leaving graduate school, I have been able to live like a grown-up and to buy things without thinking about it first.
  3. I have a great deal autonomy in all areas of my job. This can be annoying sometimes, but for the most part I would rather have complete control over things like the courses I teach, classroom practices, research agenda, service I choose to do, etc.
  4. My department is collegial and friendly, without too many weird factions or points of tension between people.
  5. People seem to think that I'm doing a good job, and I've received a number of opportunities that confirm the high opinion of my colleagues.
  6. I've been able to maintain an active research agenda, in no small part because I've had good support in the form of travel money, as well as some awards from the institution that have helped.
  7. I like teaching first-generation college students.
I could list more, but these are the main things. And so, those of you who have been on the market multiple times with no luck, or those of you who are stuck in horrible departments or geographical locations or both, or those of you who are in long-distance relationships, etc. might want to tell me to fuck off and to be happy with what I've got.

Part of me thinks that I should fuck off and be happy with what I've got. I feel guilty for wanting more or better or different or whatever. But here are the reasons why I don't listen to those nagging voices of negativity in my head.
  1. Whatever good things there are about my job, it's a job with a 4-4 load which includes 2 composition classes each semester.* I have absolutely no passion for teaching composition, and what passion I have for teaching literature is sapped both by teaching composition and by the sheer amount of teaching that I do.
  2. Socially, this is a very hard place for a single person to live. People my age in this location are married. Shit, people 10 years younger than me in this location are married. I feel like a freak. At nearly-32, I should not feel like a freak and like I'll be barren at any second, and intellectually I know this, but emotionally it's hard to remember.
  3. While I feel appreciated at this job, I don't feel like real value is ascribed to some of the activities that are most important to me.
  4. There is no reason for me to stay here. No reason for me to leave, but no reason for me to stay.
  5. I am ambitious. I believe that I could do better. I'm not saying that I am so awesome or anything, or that there wouldn't be trade-offs, but ambition tends to make one a bit restless, tends to make it tough to settle for the "ok" thing when the "great" thing might be around the corner if you try.
  6. I don't like when people judge me negatively based on my institutional affiliation. I don't like when people pity me because of my institutional affiliation.
  7. As much as I like the kind of students I teach and believe that teaching them is really important work, I also wish, sometimes, that the level of preparedness of my students was just a little, teeny bit higher. I'd like to teach students who have read an entire novel at least once in their lives before they find their way into my class.
And so today I talked to JSM about all this and more. She was totally great, and she seems to think that I'm in as good a position as anybody to try to do this thing, although, of course, a lot will depend on the job list (in a discipline where job pickings are slim generally, I'm in a specialty that's pretty small, as things go), and a lot depends on things beyond my control. But you know, I don't want to look back and wonder whether I could have ended up someplace else if only I'd tried. And I don't want to lock myself into tenure at this institution without making sure that I wouldn't rather be someplace else. It's so hard, though, because one of the things that attracted me to this profession is the security of tenure, so why does it now feel like a life sentence? And will it always?

So, now that I've listed all of my reasons, for and against, you may still think that I should fuck off and be happy with what I've got. Or you may think that this is the "problem" with kids coming out of grad school today, that we don't commit to a job and an institution for the long haul, that we're always looking for something better. Or you may think that the "negatives" or reasons for wanting to go on the market are bunk. But you know, it irks me that people only grant legitimacy to the decision to go on the market if candidates are in some way miserable (unemployed, away from spouse/family, in horrible location, at horrible institution). Maybe complete misery shouldn't be the only thing that drives us to make changes in our lives or situations.





*I realize that with the new Administrative Gig I'll have just one writing class a semester and a 3-3 load, but I'll also have to do the Administrative Gig, right? And what I'd really like more would be a lesser load without an added administrative responsibility. I'd like the lesser load to equate to a heavier commitment to research, which isn't really what I'm signing on for with the Administrative Gig.

28 comments:

Flavia said...

I don't know that you're looking for or need people to validate your decision, but I think it's perfectly reasonable to look around--you might as well, now, when it's (relatively) easy to do so, rather than after you've got tenure, or a house, or a family, or whatever other commitments might make it less easy.

There's nothing selfish or ungrateful in wondering whether you couldn't do better--you're you're just thinking about the long-term health of your career and your personal life. People in other fields do it all the time, and no one accuses *them* of being ingrates!

Shaun Huston said...

In comments I've left in the past, I've noted that you and I work at substantially similar institutions (although mine is in a small, 8,000 give or take, sleepy town). I went to graduate school with the idea that I wanted teach at a college or university. This has made it easier to stick with my current position. Like you, I have found a lot of joy and satisfaction in teaching first generation students, but would dearly love to have better prepared people in my classes. My school's identity is somewhere in between "regional comprehensive" and "public liberal arts." This ambiguity has opened up some space to experiment with new ways of structuring the first-year experience that are, in my estimation at least, superior to the current hunt-and-peck approach. Hopefully, if these changes continue to look productive and become formalized, our students will become better prepared for advanced work in their majors despite their sub-standard high school educations. If it weren't for opportunities like this, I'm not sure how committed I would be to staying where I am.

Not to take too much more space, but I would like to comment on the research side of things. I've enjoyed the freedom afforded by the school I teach at. I am in an odd position of officially being a "geographer," but having very few publications in geography journals and am just as likely to attend conferences in history or media studies as I am ones in geography. This is not held against me. My research agenda today is only tenuously related to what I focused on in graduate school. Had I ended up at a research university, my life would be very different and not for the better I think. Again, this has made it easier for me to stay at my current school. If I had left grad school with a definite research agenda and set of concerns for which I had a real passion, I might feel different. As things are, I needed some freedom to breathe and grow before finding my niche. The irony is that I could probably sell myself much more easily and confidently to a "better" place now than I was able to right out of grad school (leaving aside the issue of who would have me given the odd trajectory of my scholarship and creative work). Having written all of that, now that I do have a better idea of "my own work" I share your frustration with the limitations of institutions like ours, the teaching load (3-3-3 on a quarters system), the relative lack of material support, when it comes to research and scholarship.

Best of luck.

Liz Ferszt said...

When will you tell your current employers you may not be back. Is it not true that if you do leave they will have less than a full job season to replace you?

Liz

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I can really understand where you are coming from -- especially the part about people looking down on you for where you work. At a CC it is even worse, with a higher standard teaching load...

I actually have tenure -- which makes it more difficult to think about going on the market -- but, especially with hubby moving I'm thinking abou it more and more.

I'm also lucky, as the CC hiring schedule is so much later than the 4-year that I'll more or less have a job before the CC needs to start the search to fill my slot.

Please keep blogging about this, I'll be interested in seeing what you think about the process.

Dave Merkowitz said...

I'm not sure this is nearly as important at an undergrad driven institution, but at places with grad programs the spectre of seemingly settled faculty constantly on the job market is a real issue. What makes this particularly worrisome is that when faculty leave (esp. in history) those lines aren't replaced. The department just keeps shrinking, so the choice to leave becomes tied up with the continuing vitality of the program itself, since their presence often contributed mightily to the program's success.

On the social note, it is rather unfortunate that the region is less than welcoming to singles. It is a rather settled sort of region, though I sometimes wonder if people with an eye toward moving on avoid the sort of settled institutions where mates might be located. I've certainly seen that at other institutions in the region.

I'm not trying to get a dig in, it is just that this is an issue all over the massive region within the region that is under discussion.

Good luck with the job search. Hope I'm not too much of a debbie downer...

Dr. Crazy said...

Howdy all, and thanks for the comments.

First, to Liz, I'm not planning on doing anything I'm thinking of doing secretly (i.e., I plan to tell those in direct suporvisory roles over me in my department) - if I were, I would not be blogging about it - but I don't plan on announcing anything to my entire department until I've actually decided to move on. Perhaps it would be different were I committed to leaving this job, were I miserable. But, as I said, I'm not. And, as I'm not, it doesn't make sense to make a big deal like I'm going to leave when there might not be more than a few jobs even to apply for, let alone that would make me an offer. Also, I don't want to be too specific here, but I'm not the only person who teaches in my country/century in my department, so were I to get another offer, and to choose to take it, it would not put an undue burden on my colleagues.

To Shaun, all of the things that you describe as being great about this kind of institution are great. I suppose that any feelings of dissatisfaction I have come from 2 main things: 1) teaching composition (which I can stand to do, which I think I do well, but which is not at all a primary or even secondary interest of mine) and 2) the fact that there _isn't_ very much emphasis put on particular kinds of research over others, the fact that there is a kind of "anything goes and counts equally" approach to research. As for #2, I agree with it in principle, but it becomes clear to me that I'm doing the kind of work that would be valued more in other institutional contexts, and I would like it if I got that credit. When I first began in this job I felt incredibly freed by the research expectations (or lack thereof) - especially after expectations at my grad school institution - but now I feel like I'd like a _little_ more emphasis put on research, mainly because I'd like for people where I work to recognize that I'm doing some pretty cool things. I don't know.

Dave, I see what you're saying about the potential for hiring lines to be lost, and that is an issue (though I'd argue it's the department's issue more than the individual who may want to look elsewhere - the only way to advance in this profession is to change institutions, and it seems bizarre to me that one would put an institution's welfare ahead of one's own), but I suspect that I don't seem totally settled to my colleagues here. What gives me that impression? A number of them have asked my closest friend in the department (though never me) if I'm planning to leave. I've not bought a house (all but one person hired in the past five years has done so, pre-tenure), I've not found a mate, I don't have kids, and I don't have family locally. And I'm doing about 3 times as much research as I'm expected to do for tenure. They've got to have some kind of a clue that I'm not (yet) a sure thing.

As for the social thing, it does suck. I think I see what you're saying about people who are intent on leaving from the beginning finding the place a social wasteland in a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, but I really don't think that this has been the case with me. I was fully prepared, when I got this job, to put down roots here. I mean, it's a city, it's only 4 hours drive from my family, and I actually like the city. And then I went out with a grad student who moved away, and then I went to tons of singles events and happy hours and things where "young professionals" are supposed to meet and mingle, I tried online dating. At a certain point, one has to wonder whether it's the location. It also doesn't help that in my department people only socialize at department-only events, so it's not like I'm being invited to functions where I might meet somebody or something. Without a social network already in place, it's very difficult in this particular location to find one. Since I'm from the wider region of which this one is a part, I'm not anti-region generally, and I haven't had this problem in other within-region locations where I've lived. I just think that this particular location might not be for me.

And Flavia, just thanks. I'm so glad that somebody commented in a way that was uniformly supportive :)

(Not that the others of you didn't have good points, or that your comments bothered me or anything, but still, nice to have a person who just got it.)

Seeking Solace said...

I am going through something similar. I am getting rather fed up with my job. I feel that I have accomplished all that I can at the level I am at right now. But at the same time, I have a great gig, because I only teach a maximum of four courses and I don't have to engage in a significant amount of administrative work. Plus, the Dean of Instruction left which means that things are much better at work.

Plus, I am one of those people who likes have new and different experiences. I have never stayed with the same job for a long period of time.

So, I am looking. We shall see what happens.

Best of luck to you.

New Kid on the Hallway said...

Oh, I totally get it, too. I mean, I left one job for a new one, and I went through an awful lot of the considerations that you're going through (not the personal ones, but the professional ones). And it's interesting, because I felt, at the time, like I had to do an awful lot of justifying of why I wanted to leave; but when I actually did leave, absolutely no one questioned me or thought I'd done anything strange (well, I did get a couple of people wondering if I really wanted to move to the south! but changing jobs, no). I found I really didn't have to justify myself to anyone.

And just a quick response to the earlier comments - any time anyone leaves an academic institution, that institution probably isn't going to have a full job season to replace them. That's just the way the cookie crumbles in this profession, and no administrator is going to have any ground to complain about that. I mean, even if they know you're searching, they can't replace you until you actually get another job, which doesn't always happen, so in many respects it makes no difference when you tell them (personally, I didn't tell any of my "bosses" that I was searching until I got another offer, because I wanted to stay without complications if nothing came through). Yes, it's rude if you bail on teaching commitments, say, 3 weeks before classes start, but not if you follow the normal academic schedule (apply in the fall, get a job in the winter/early spring). And yes, universities may not replace lines, but I agree that it's not the individual faculty member's responsibility to worry about this. And finally, I agree with Flavia that people outside of academia decide to change jobs/locations all the time without "deep" and "profound" reasons - academics should be able to, too!

rwellor said...

I have had a wide variety of jobs in academia out here in the only state that really matters.

I have applied for many jobs, for many reasons, and almost always earned the one I was after.

All of that is anecdotal blooooie and the only really important advice comes from the great philosopher, Calvin.

"I must obey the inscrutable exhortations of my soul."

Oh, really. You didn't think I meant that dreary "Calvinist" Calvin, did you?

Go for it if you want it.

Dave Merkowitz said...

I'm just playing a little devil's advocate and probably working off a little existential angst arising from my own department.

I'm all for upward mobility, but still making my way through the student part of my life and all, so my perspective is different and is one that probably leans toward stability rather than change. Unfortunately, the value of a degree within academia is often directly connected to the quality of the faculty at the degree granting institution. The hierarchical nature of academia means that that the bugs head straight for light, such that lower level universities never move up because their highest achieving faculty move on to the big boys. One can say it is the way of the world. People do the same things in business all the time, but business is an at-will employment situation which academia particularly post-tenure is mostly not. I think we can all agree that we don't want the business world pushing itself any further into academic life than it already is.

On the social side, I had to go to church to find my lifelong companion. I always found the 'singles' scene a little weird in the region. Everyone still knew everyone else.

Great redesign on the blog by the way!

Liz Ferszt said...

One thing that I often deal with with younger colleagues is the bomb that goes off in a department whenever someone we've spent a year courting tells us in March that they're moving on.

None of the people I've mentored seem to understand what this process is like, and how difficult it is for everyone left behind. We do not do job searches casually. We choose you because of a wide variety of reasons, the chief one being that we can see you standing and teaching with us for years.

When your ambition to be somewhere else takes you away, our department continues. We keep going. And we have to spend another year finding a new person, investing all of the real and psychic energy into the process that has blown up on us on your departure.

When I was younger, I, too, moved around a bit. What I found in 4 jobs in 8 years was that no matter where I went, my problems were the same. It was a different location, there were different vistas, but departments are remarkably the same, and the "job" is always the same.

I wouldn't say anything, but as a senior faculty member, I've been dismayed time and again that junior faculty haven't yet been "left behind," and therefore can't possibly know the damage their ambition does to others.

prefer not to say said...

Yes, but with all due respect to Liz Ferszt, IT'S JUST A JOB. Not a marriage. It doesn't offer the support that a marriage does, so it would be very wrong to hold an employee to standards of commitment that normally apply only to marriage (ie, don't leave us, because we could imagine working with you forever, and it will be so hard for us to find someone else we like).

Yes, it's always disappointing when bright young faculty leave an institution that's put a lot of energy into hiring that person. And I don't think the amount of energy a search committee puts in should be taken lightly. But an assistant professor is hired to DO A JOB. It seems like Dr. C has done her job faithfully.

And it seems like at least some of her reasons for wanting to move on have a lot to do with things outside the job -- no job in the world compensates for having no one to hang out with in your off hours, no dating life in a city of married people, and nothing in common with most people in the immediate metropolitan area. A job just lasts from 8 to 6 or so (especially one where the department does not socialize with each other). Should she stay in the position and be miserable in her personal life just to keep her senior colleagues from feeling "left behind" if she actually goes?

New Kid on the Hallway said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Addy N. said...

Hey Crazy- good luck with the job search. I can understand your mixed feelings about things, but since I think I know where you are, I can understand your negative issues, too. I have mixed feelings about my institution, too, but being in a dual-academic family it's unlikely that we'd actually leave. And there are lots of things I like about where I am, too. At this point, my biggest motivation for going on the market would be a pay raise! It's a great position to be in- you don't HAVE to find a job, so the stress should be much less.

Take care

Dr. Crazy said...

Thanks for the continued commenting, peeps. So much has been said that I don't know where to begin in responding.

As for your comment, Dave, the gist of which was basically that it stinks that great people leave institutions like mine, I agree with you. The issue I think, though, is that if institutions like mine want to keep great people, rather than losing them as they climb up the food chain, they need to do things to keep them (other than hiring people whom they know won't leave, like people who've been exploited for years in temporary positions at the university and are placebound here or people who are in dual-academic couples, preferably with kids, who will have a much more difficult time leaving - my university specializes in both of these). While I realize that all institutions have constraints, there are things that do not cost money that can be done to make junior faculty feel at home, or to make them feel supported in the work that they are doing.

As for the "bomb" that goes off in a department after a year has been spent "courting" a person... uh, I've been here a full three years, nobody's courted me since about the first month I was here, and again, I don't think that anybody in my department would be surprised that I'm interested in seeing what my options are at this point. Disappointed, maybe, but not surprised. And as for knowing what goes into a search, I am aware from the other side of the table, too, as I was on a search committee this past year and we've hired people in each of the three years that I've been on this job. I realize the expense to the department, the time and energy required by the faculty, etc. But at the end of the day, if the only way for me to advance - whether I move to another institution or whether I end up staying at this one - is to make a run at the market, I'm going to do it. It's not like I can just head over to the dean's office to ask for a raise or for accommodations to be made for my research or for whatever - I need to have an offer in hand to even have a hope of that. See, that's the fucked up thing. And I think that putting it on the shoulders of junior faculty - like junior faculty are bad citizens because they are playing the game as others long ago have set it up - is incredibly unfair.

Liz Ferszt said...

I hear your complaint. Of course one way to change the system is to stay some place and change it. Using a bad system doesn't honor you.

I suppose that you will learn this sometime when you find a school you love - as many of us eventually do - and when you see someone turn their back on it in order to get a better offer.

I must tell you that during my 4 years as a Dean, I was often faced with faculty members who came to me with different sorts of requests. One of them was, I've been on the job market and have a chance to leave, what can you do to get me to stay. And another was, I love it here. How can I improve my lot?

You don't have to be a genius (or even a Ph.D.) to figure out who we put our time, money, research dollars, etc. into.

Jane said...

Great post!

Here's another counterpoint for those that are saying "if you're not miserable, why not just stay?" Sometimes, even if you go into a job with your eyes wide open, there are things about the job that you just don't expect. Maybe it's that you think you'll be fine teaching 2 composition classes per term, but after a few years you find it's not for you. Or maybe it's that you find that those supportive colleagues who spent a year courting you don't give a damn about you once you do get there and fail to provide the support you need to succeed. Why stay? Isn't it in your best interests to at least look at that point? I guess what I am trying to say (poorly) is that you *don't* always know what to look for the first time you're on the market. So the second search is a chance to take what you've learned and hopefully find a job that's a better fit.

Best of luck to you---I look forward to hearing about your search this year!

Another Damned Medievalist said...

It's funny. I'm really happy about SLAC. I am adjusting to New Very Small Town. I'm OK for the moment, relationship-wise, because I have a friend, albeit a very long-distance one. And I have several colleagues who want to set me up with people in other local colleges (help!). But when I got this job, SC said a funny thing ... he said, "it's an excellent first job, but you'll probably write your way out of it."

I have no intention of going anywhere anytime soon. I'm in a great position, providing I do what I'm supposed to be and get promotion in two (ulp!) years. And I have to say, that right now, my goal is to really be a contributing member to my department and eventually, be a biggish fish in my very small pond. Part of that may be that I'm coming from a CC, so it will take me several years to really get a grip on teaching upper division, publishing, etc. But I realized the other night, when I was out with New Cool Colleague, that part of me really does look at this as a first job. I don't think I'll be sad if it's my last, but, having got here, I really want to push myself to do more.

Fortunately, I'm in no position to take on grad students, so SLAC will have me till I've got at least a book out!

Bardiac said...

Good luck on the search!

I moved, too, and I am incredibly glad I did. My second job is a much better fit for me in so many ways. (Mine was basically a horizontal move so far as academic ranking kind of stuff, but way up for me emotionally and fit-wise.)

I hope you have a chance to find someplace that's a great fit for YOU. Again, good luck.

ps. I'm still friends with good people at my former job; they understood completely, even the president of the college.

New Kid on the Hallway said...

Of course one way to change the system is to stay some place and change it.

But at what cost to the individual? I realize that saying this is sort of an excuse, but I don't see one person being in a position to change many of the things that are at issue here. Can one person at a school with a 4/4 load and 2 comp sections each semester actually change that? Can they arrange permanently to get a lighter teaching load or less composition? And wouldn't their colleagues resent them for doing so even if they could, which would present its own set of problems? And if they don't want to do those things (teach 4/4 and 2 sections of comp), are they really helping an institution that values such things? and why NOT look for a job that doesn't entail such things?

Again, if we were talking about the "real" world rather than academia, and someone said, "Well, my job includes a lot of sales, which I don't really like, and not as much travel as I'd like to do, which I could get in another position," no one would say, "But you have to stay because you owe the company your loyalty!" They'd say, "Maybe you should look around."

Honestly, if I were at a school I loved, and someone "turned their back" on it because they weren't happy there, that is that person's prerogative. I would conclude they weren't right for the school. An unhappy colleague is not an asset to a school.

(I think I'm just repeating myself from my own post so I'll shut up now!)

Dr. Crazy said...

Thanks, all, for the continued commenting in this thread. I'm glad to have been able to have gotten this conversation started - in no small part because while, as New Kid noted in an earlier comment, people do tend ultimately to accept people moving on as "normal" or at least understandable when one actually does it, but when one considers it there seem to be all of these tensions bound up in it.

One thing that strikes me about this thinking about moving from one institution to the next is that I think "those who stay" often characterize it as a lack of commitment or as a betrayal of some kind - a "You're leaving because you think that you're better than us," sort of thing. The thing that's difficult for me, in my position, is that I do not want my colleagues to feel that this is what is motivating me BECAUSE IT ISN'T or that I'm not committed to the institution while I'm here, BECAUSE I AM. The problem for me is that I'm in a place in my life where I'm wondering whether I should organize all parts of my life around commitment to an institution. Also, and this isn't something I've talked at length about, the mission of my university has been changing since I was hired, and I'm not entirely pleased with the direction of those changes and what they mean for me as a faculty member in terms not only of tenure and promotion but in terms of the kind of university that we're becoming. So while part of the reason I'm in a position to go on the market is my own ambition and the fruits of constantly pushing myself way beyond the standards of this institution, it isn't exactly the reason that I'm considering moving. And in thinking these things through, I have no expectation (or even desire) to become a high flyer at an RI institution or something. I'd like a lighter teaching load, yes. And I'd enjoy being in an environment where there was more value placed on the research side of things. But I can have those things while making a lateral-ish move, and I'm not bothered by that fact. In other words, I'm not in this to abandon the _kind_ of institution at which I teach, not at the end of the day.

Finally, to respond to the following:
"Of course one way to change the system is to stay some place and change it."

New Kid said much of what I'd say in response, but let me just add: I am not in this profession to change the world - or even the profession. I am in this profession to teach and to study literature. It is a job, not a calling, and while I care about my profession, I am not going to be a martyr to it. If actions I take or things that I say have a positive impact on it, great, but as somebody without tenure, I've also got to look out for my best interests. I do not have the security that tenure brings - or the power within my institution that tenured faculty have - to make changes. Period. So, yes, maybe I'd be on the moral high ground if I stayed in my current institution and changed it, but am I willing to hang around for the 10 or 15 or 20 years it would take for me to get the kind of power I'd need to do it? I mean, I would be in a position of superiority over those who leave for another position, but would I be happy? Personal happiness and satisfaction is infinitely more important to me than "changing the system from within." Wrong or right, that's my position.

medieval woman said...

Hi Dr. Crazy -

I just read through your post and the comments and I think they're great. As someone who has been out on the market a couple of times and still not snagged a tenure track position (and I still feel embarrassed about admitting that - like I'm saying I have contagious jungle rot or something), I say - go for it! In the darkest of insecure nights, I sometimes think that I would take ANY job - anything to where my Ph.D. wouldn't have been wasted. But for the most part, that's not true. As you've said, you didn't take this job with an eye toward immediately trying to publish your way out of it. You've realized over several years that - for many reasons - this might not be the job you want for the long haul. And good for you for being self-aware enough to do that! The job is not only *the job* - it's so much more and you should be in a place where you have as much of that "so much more" as you can. Besides - this job might not be the place you want to stay, but it could be someone else's perfect fit! You never know until you try - good luck!

Shall I see you at MLA, then? :)

Shaun Huston said...

Assuming that you're still tracking this discussion, I was curious about how you were going to balance your various reasons for moving on. It is possible, for example, that an institution that would satsfy your professional aspirations may present an even grimmer social situation than you have now and vice versa. Were I or my wife, who works at another area university, to reach a point where we needed or wanted to go elsewhere, I think we'd have some pretty clear criteria for the kind of place or places we'd jump to, but you seem to be facing a tricky search where different goals may point in different directions.

Dr. Crazy said...

Hi Shaun,
Yep, I'm still paying attn. to the discussion. I'm going to post more about this topic as time goes on, and I think I'll address some of what you ask in your comment in that forum. That said, yes, I do have some things in mind about what kind of a situation would work for me, and I am planning on limiting my job search in certain ways in an attempt to balance both my professional and personal needs. I realize that whatever happens if I move that there will be trade-offs, but I've been thinking very carefully about what kinds of trade-offs would be deal-breakers for me, and I feel pretty lucky to be in a position where I can make those kind of judgments.

Medieval Woman: Well, if I get any interviews you'll see me at MLA. I had actually been planning to take this year off from MLA :P

Tiruncula said...

On Shaun's question, I can report from experience that it's helpful to have a fairly clear and even prioritized list of what would make a job worth moving for at the stage where you're deciding what jobs to apply for - since a search at this stage can be much more focused - but when it comes down to interviews and offers, the gut reaction/good fit factor becomes primary. It's hard to quantify in the abstract in advance what's going to make a particular job the right one to move for.

Liz Ferszt said...

You say: "Personal happiness and satisfaction is infinitely more important to me than "changing the system from within." Wrong or right, that's my position."

Given this admission, which I find arrogant and selfish, if I were one of our current colleagues I'd just say, "Good luck on your search."

I might even find some boxes for your books.

I can't help but think a few more years in the profession will help you and give you some perspective. This discussion has been so similar to discussions I've had with young faculty over the years. "I just want to write." "I just want to have time in the summer to get away from the college." "I just want my books."

Well, get a library card, I say. Get a tiny room above a garage and wrestle with your thoughts, your cat, your literature.

The rest of us will be college professors (taking care of the students, the curriculum, being there for more than a brief visit along the way) while you're getting satisfied.

Liz

Terri Porter said...

I am in agreement with Liz on this one, though I, too, have moved around some. I left a tenure-track job three years ago for purely personal reasons. My colleagues who were left behind even used that phrase, "like a bomb went off."

I didn't feel bad then, because I was working out my own things.

But I've had regret ever since.

Have you tried to talk to your administrators about what you need that you haven't gotten there yet?

Terri

Another Damned Medievalist said...

WTF?? At what point is wanting to have a complete and happy life and doing what you need (or think you need) to get there selfish??