April 25, 2008

Job hunt woes #2 (but should be #23 or greater)

It's been a long six months (minus one day) since I submitted an application for a permanent job.  The application that I submitted was to the university that I am currently at, so I was essentially applying to keep my own job.  (That's an oversimplification, I realize, but it's not the point of this post.)

It has been a long, long, long six months. In December I had two phone interviews with the search committee (who are my colleagues). Then I waited.  And waited.  And waited some more. Back in March, when I couldn't wait any more, I finally asked the chair how the search was going.  I was told to wait a couple more days any he would be able to tell me more.  So I waited a few days, and nothing.  After one week had passed, I decided to ask again.  It was a Friday afternoon at 2:30 pm, before my 3:00 class when I was able to track the chair down and ask if there was an update.  I was told there was an update and that it wasn't good news for me: the search committee had decided NOT to bring me on as a candidate for the position.  What then followed was about 20 minutes of administrative double-speak that did nothing to explain why I had not been given an interview.

Had I not asked on that Friday, I would not have learned about not being a candidate until Monday morning, when the poster announcing the first candidate was posted in the division office.

Slowly but surely the three candidates came to campus.  The first candidate came and it seemed that his schedule was purposely arranged so that I would not have any contact with him.  I was not even introduced to him when we passed in the hall.  It was a little surreal.

Then a week or more passed before the next two candidates came to campus.  I think Spring break was mixed in there as well.  The second candidate was coming on a Monday, and the poster announcing his talks was posted the week before.  When I saw the name on the poster, it looked vaguely familiar.  I went to my email and checked that, sure enough, I had met this candidate before: when he was on campus last May as a candidate for a visiting position that he ultimately did not get offered.  Talk about insulting.  The department thinks a person is not qualified to be a visiting professor, yet he can have an interview for a tenure-line job?  Meanwhile, the visitor that is going on THREE YEARS in the department is not worthy of even being considered?  So when that candidate was on campus, we bumped into each other in the hallway and he remembered me and was kind enough to say hi and ask how things were going.

The third and final candidate came immediately after the second candidate left.  I ran into him while he was being shown my lab.  No one offered to introduce him to me, so he made the initiative to introduce himself.

Meanwhile, while the interviews had been going on, my students were starting to figure out the situation. The campus is small and there are very few secrets kept in the community.  More than one of my students, without my prior knowledge, contacted the department on my behalf and voiced their support of me.  It was nice, but ultimately meaningless.

Also, somewhere along this time, my chair and one of my other colleagues were having trouble looking me in eye or even acknowledging my presence in the department.  One of my other colleagues, who was not involved with the search even commented how the department seemed a little unfriendly or at least not at ease.

Through the grapevine I heard that an offer had been extended to the first candidate.  Then, on April 17th, the colleague who was not involved in the search pointed out that the minutes of the faculty meeting announced that the physics search had been successfully completed.  So the news went public before I was informed.  I suppose it could be argued that I had no right to be told, but it was pretty unprofessional the way the situation was handled.

I was really hoping that the search would ultimately fail, or that for other reasons I would be granted a fourth year as a visitor (which I had been told was not out of the realm of possibility) but today in the afternoon campus mail I received a memo from the registrar and provost explaining procedures for departing faculty.  This was news to me, since I had been expecting to be verbally told one way or the other whether I would be back next year.   Anyway, at least now I know.

I'm trying to look at the big picture and not get too down on myself.  It's really hard though, because I feel like I spent the last three years building up a research project out of next to nothing that I brought to the cusp of where I think I could squeeze out three papers from the data we took this year.  My plan for the summer was to write that all up.  I do suppose I can still work on it this summer, but it will not be as easy if I have to split my time between that and looking for jobs/place to live come August.  I just don't want to see the last three years as being wasted, which I know they were not, but it's hard to put my finger on what it was about my time here that I have to show future search committees.

I thought I had learned that I was right for a liberal arts school and that a liberal arts school was right for me.  Now I have to consider other options in the short term.  I never thought that I was entitled to the position that I applied for.  I guess I made the mistake of believing that I had earned the respect of getting an interview for it.  I know that these sorts of decisions happen all the time at colleges and universities around the country, but that doesn't make it any easier on me.

The last visitor that we had in our department warned me before he left to not trust anyone in the department.  I did not believe him, because I thought that he was just saying that because he left on not-so-good terms with a few of the people in the department.  I now see that you can get along with people you work with and still not trust them.  So I have some advice for the visitor(s) that come after me at this institution: don't trust anyone in the department if you are a visitor.  And, anyone that you find that is not in the department that you CAN trust, will ultimately not be able to help you.

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