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Wednesday, March 17, 2004
The Rejection Letter Blues

By Steven Taylor @ 8:57 pm

I don’t envy Chris Lawrence, as he is going through the rejection-letter accumulation fun that goes along with looking for an academic job.

The one’s that annoyed me more than anything were the schools that wouldn’t even bother to send you anything. Not the pro forma “gee, we had a lot of applicants” letters, no nothing. I would’ve settled for a postcard with a “No” on it, just so I could scratch them off my list.

I would note that there is one advantage to the letters that note where the guy who did get hired came from: that means you know of a vacancy to which one might could apply. Indeed, I ended up applying for my current position because I received a rejection letter that detailed the fact that they had hired a guy from Troy State. That led me to apply for the job I now have.

I think I applied to between 150 and 200 positions over a period of three years (the first year was total wishful thinking, as I was still dissertatin’). From that I got one phone interview that went nowhere and the on-campus interview that lead to my current position.

A few years back, when I considered leaving my current job due, in large part, to conflict with a former chair, I was able to muster three phone interviews out of about 25 or so attempts.

When there are between 150 and 300 applicants for a position, that is the definition of “stiff competition.” And then there�s the fact that the job cycle takes a year, so one spends a year looking, and if nothing comes up, one has to spend another year looking. Schools hire almost exclusively for the Fall semesters. And even if they hire at other times, it is only in the Spring and start of the summer: in other words, the entry points are fixed, and considerably spaced out.

Of course, academia is nothing like the real world, now is it?

(And I well remember the sentiment that he concludes with…)

Filed under: Academia

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  1. [HA! Even before that last comment I was going to post this:]

    OK you got me….

    I give you lots of grief but I gotta admit that system sucks. For all the peeing and moaning I do about being the guy that signs the checks, at the end of the day… I sign the checks. I can’t say that is all bad.

    But look at it this way… If you did not have such a cushy job there would not be so many people looking for it, right?


    You didn’t think I was going to completely let you off the hook did you? ;-)

    Comment by Paul — Wednesday, March 17, 2004 @ 9:08 pm

  2. Okay, this is not proper blog ettiquette, but this just freaked me out. From a newstory on, I quote verbatim.

    “On Tuesday, NBC Nightly News disclosed exclusive spy video, shot by the CIA high over Afghanistan, of al-Qaeda terrorists walking with a man believed to be Osama bin Laden. Critics questioned why the Clinton administration didn’t do more to get bin Laden after he was in their sights. In 2001, senior Bush administration officials viewed the same videotape. Now, we examine what more President Bush might have done, before 9/11, to go after al-Qaida.”

    “In the fall of 2000, a CIA Predator drone shot extraordinary pictures from miles above Afghanistan. The spy video, obtained by NBC News, secretly captures al-Qaida terrorists training � doing pushups and firing weapons, including a muzzle flash.”

    Bush, who was hobbled by a contested election and behind the timeline in assembling his Cabinet and other appoitments gets blamed for something that Clinton had at least 1.25 years to do something about?! Tell me this isn’t biased reporting. Please!!!

    Comment by John Lemon — Wednesday, March 17, 2004 @ 9:25 pm

  3. It’s a great life, to be sure. And I really have no complaints.

    Monday I was just grumpy.

    And I do get touchy on occassion when it is suggested that I don’t actually do any work ;)

    And John: indeed.

    Comment by Steven — Wednesday, March 17, 2004 @ 9:37 pm

  4. John before you go postal lemme try to help out.

    It is a 3 night series. The first night they highlighted all the times Clinton dropped the ball. On night 2 it was Bush’s turn.

    I don’t know what is on night 3 but I bet it is at the bottom of the link.

    So far, it seemed fairish to me.

    Comment by Paul — Wednesday, March 17, 2004 @ 9:44 pm

  5. In fairness, the report the first night was scathing in its criticism of Clinton: they had real-time video of Osama, and couldn’t do a damn thing about it. Bush ordered the CIA and DOD to arm the Predators in mid-2001, but they weren’t ready by 9/11. (Besides, killing Osama in August 2001 wouldn’t have stopped 9/11.)

    Comment by Chris Lawrence — Thursday, March 18, 2004 @ 8:47 am

  6. Steven,

    Thought I’d give you some feedback on non-acedemia job searching to compare to - for better or worse.

    * While you say job entry points are fixed in acedemia, at least you have an idea when to focus your efforts. Business needs are simply hit or miss.
    * I sent out about 50 resumes out of college. I got , to my best memory, 10 or so “Dear Eric’s” back. I think the general feedback is worse now than 13 years ago.
    * Not unlike meetings, looking for a job may be one of the universal evils to which I referred yesterday. :) At least evil to your ego.

    btw, off topic, after you changed formats, I find that comments are hard to separate because they use the same format as the “Posted by..” On the comment preview screen they are still easy to read. Any plans to change to make comments a little more palatable soon? curious

    Comment by Eric — Thursday, March 18, 2004 @ 10:11 am

  7. There is no doubt that looking for a job, regardles of the field, is a pain, and indeed, can be painful. I take your point about fixed entry, butthere is something espeially onerous about the idea that if you don’t have an academic job by May, you are almost certainly looking at another year of looking. At least in most fields there is a glimmer of hope that you will find something at any given point in time.

    And the prospect of not even getting to work in the field in whch you trained is especially depressing after you have devoted 5 to 7 years to your preparation, and may well be in debt.

    Comment by Steven — Thursday, March 18, 2004 @ 10:34 am

  8. Eric,

    I will look into the format issue. I am not sure which specific screen you are referring to.

    Comment by Steven — Thursday, March 18, 2004 @ 10:38 am

  9. Steven: At least in Mozilla, the CSS doesn’t seem to format the individual post page very much. It’s kinda hard to describe. I can send you a screenshot if it might be helpful.

    Comment by Chris Lawrence — Thursday, March 18, 2004 @ 12:42 pm

  10. I think I have an idea of what the visual problem is, but a screenshot would be helpful, thanks.

    Comment by Steven — Thursday, March 18, 2004 @ 12:47 pm

  11. I ended up applying for my current position because I received a rejection letter that detailed the fact that they had hired a guy from Troy State.

    Now that’s clever and kudos for you. Hopefully Chris will learn from your experience.

    However, academia is like the real-world when it comes to supply and demand. There just happens to be more people seeking PoliSci positions than there are positions.

    Perhaps because it may be more fun?

    At any event, the academic hiring process works very well for all involved if the supply and demand are more closely balanced.

    Comment by Admiral Quixote — Thursday, March 18, 2004 @ 4:45 pm

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