I write today from an airport terminal (follow my tweets if you want more personal detail). I am on my way to yet another on-campus interview.
The job search is an interesting challenge to endure. It’s a tough market, student affairs is a narrow field, and I’m holding out for specific kinds of jobs within that narrow field. I’m pretty lucky, because I can afford to do that.
Days like today can be extremely draining. It’s an interesting phenomenon to experience: spending more time getting to and from the place you’re going than the amount of time you actually spend there. It’s not a habit I want to keep, but it’s something I’m getting used to. Flying has become more routine than I ever thought it would be in my life, and I do my best to ignore the huge carbon footprint that results.
It’s tough. I keep hearing the unemployment numbers go up. In one light, it’s distressing. The market’s not getting better yet! I could soon be at placement conferences competing for jobs with 2010 grads, contemplating poetic ways to explain how I’ve spent the time since. I could talk about how proud I am of my blog. I could talk about taking a break to refresh myself before the next big phase of my life. There is truth in both of those stories, but the real truth is: I’m just holding out for a job that either fits my interests or helps me work towards a job that does!
At the same time, life is not so distressing. The unemployment numbers are also strangely comforting. I’m not alone. People are in the same boat I am. The problem isn’t me. When I talk to my similarly well-qualified colleagues who are also struggling to find a job, we are able to keep each others’ spirits up. Some of us have adopted an attitude of, “Well, we’ve waited this long, we can hold out for the right fit instead of just desperately taking any job we can get.” We remind each other how much respect we have for each others’ talents and motivations and encourage each other with how honored we’d be to share an office with such fine professionals (as ourselves). It sounds kind of egotistic, but it works. It’s gets us through this Purgatory of job searching.
Days like today are extremely exhausting. I will have spent close to nine hours in (four) airports and (three) planes by the time I reach my destination today, and then I’ll have dinner with members of the search committee, which means I need to be energetic and enthusiastic. I will be, of course! Because, as stressful as traveling can be, it has important significance. I’m a competitive candidate. I wouldn’t be flying all over the place if universities didn’t think I had something to offer. That’s the feeling that matters most.
After this long, that kind of self-motivation seems to still be sustainable. I hope it continues to be, because it’s not over until it’s over.