Yes, indeedy! P.D. Lesko writes at the Chronicle On Hiring blog,
I have lost many excellent writers over the years that I have been publishing the Adjunct Advocate. Some simply stopped freelancing, and others landed full-time writing jobs. A third group is made up of writers who landed tenure-track jobs; six of them in the past 18 years. They share some of the same characteristics. In fact, the six of them took an almost identical path toward the tenure track. It got so that I could tell which of my freelance writers who were adjuncts on the prowl would, eventually, end up sending me a “Dear P.D.” letter. I have come to think of them as the Six Musketeers.
So how did they do it? Here are several of the character traits they had in common:
- Hell bent for leather: Each of the six writers applied for dozens of jobs every year, and never let rejection deter them. They applied for every full-time teaching job opening for which they were qualified. Of course, the sheer number of applications you send out won’t guarantee a full-time teaching job; it’s entirely possible to send out 50 incredibly horrid applications.
- OCD: None of the six sent out incredibly horrid applications because all of them were compulsively detail-oriented. Their writing assignments were turned in on time, and free of misspelled words or misplaced punctuation marks. Their pieces were always accompanied by sets of detailed interview notes. In short, I could count on their work to be well crafted and easy to edit. They followed directions exceptionally well.
You can click on over to read Lesko’s other “character traits.” Personally, I think “hell bent for leather,” as in, apply for everything and realize that you may have to move to a less-than-ideal location, and/or take a position that isn’t (yet) your dream job. Of all of my close friends who have been out of grad school for at least 5 years (excluding some of my departmental colleagues), only one is still in her first job. Most of my friends are on their second or even third tenure-track jobs–I’m on my second, and that’s not including the 1-1/2 years I taught in non-tenure track jobs. Here’s more real life data about the value of perseverance: two of the full-time lecturers in my department are leaving because they accepted tenure-track jobs this year, one after teaching a 4-4 load (plus some summer classes, I think) for four years at Baa Ram U., the other after just two years here.
I have heard stories anecdotally that many young scholars these days are choosing to limit their job searches geographically–which is fine, of course, so long as they realize that their dream jobs in Chicago or New York or Phoenix may never materialize. (I’ve also heard recently about a disturbing number of women candidates who decline job offers because of husband/male partner employment, whereas I’ve yet to hear about male candidates who defer to their wives/female partners–it sure seems like wives of male academics are happy to pack up and move wherever. Maybe these women should have been choosier in selecting a partner who would support their ambitions? Funny how men can always find women to do that.) If you can make a living, it might well make sense to hang in there and try again another year, with more experience and more publications. But life’s paths aren’t always straight and clear, and sometimes the road to your dream job includes a stop at East Northern State U. in a large square state with a 3-3 load. (And sometimes, you find out that East Northern U. is your dream job after all.)