Note: This is a follow-up from a previous post (Desperately Seeking a Job).
As some of my readers (both of you) may remember, I’ve been on the job market for some time now, furiously and desperately trying to land my first job as a university professor. Times have been tough. My wife and I have been scraping by on laughably pitiful salaries as graduate teaching assistants while I finish my dissertation and send out application after application to any and all available positions. We watched in horror as the recession took its toll – most universities announced budget cuts and hiring freezes, and the already-dwindling number of faculty job openings in my field (within the Arts) completely dried up.
Finally, that search is over. As of yesterday, I accepted an offer for a faculty position in the great state of Texas.
If you will forgive me this one sophomoric bout of glee: OMG! Holy crap! I got a job! No more Ramen noodles and plain rice! What a monumental relief! OMG!
Ahem. Pardon me.
The Longer Story
I knew since my second day of college that I wanted to teach at a college or university. I applied to college as a pre-med major, but quickly switched to the Arts. Yes, I knew that by dedicating my life to a career in the Arts, I would likely severely limit my potential to earn income. I also knew that I would severely increase my chances at finding happiness and fulfillment in my career (nothing against the medical field, I just knew it was not for me).
A full decade has gone by since I made that decision. Countless hours of practice and study have gone by. Years of frugal and careful existence as a graduate student and teacher have passed. I’ve jumped through flaming academic hoop after hoop – all to rigorously prepare me for life as a college professor… I think.
Then I emerged at the other end, ready to claim a hard-earned job and a paycheck that totaled more than 8k a year. Yes, I’m ready to admit that now – my teaching assistantship stipend totaled an amazingly pitiful $8,000 a year. Ouch. Granted, my tuition was covered, but it’s still difficult to live on a salary that totals fewer than five digits. If you had a salary at all, I hope it was higher than mine. Though I do my best to stifle any bitterness, i confess that I feel some rising bile to think that other graduate students at my university earn upwards of four times my stipend… and complain about how low it is. Grrr!
Imagine my dismay when, at the end of my decade of toil and poverty, the recession rears its ugly head and the list of available jobs in my field disappears practically overnight. The prospect of NOT getting a job grew from a passing thought to an accepted certainty. I admit that it became more and more difficult to fend off despair. There I was, having spent (or wasted?) nearly all of my 20s in a hard-fought attempt to get an education and earn the highest degree available in my field, and for what? To watch my dreams fade beyond sight? To take a job paying minimum wage just to survive?
Don’t get me wrong – I’m certainly not above doing whatever it takes to keep the bills paid and the mortgage current, and would have gladly accepted a job stocking shelves or waiting tables just to make ends meet. If that were to come to pass, I would only wish that I hadn’t spent so much time getting an education when my Bachelor’s degree (or even my high school diploma) would have sufficed.
How It Happened
At the end of February, I got a phone call out of the blue from this university. They wanted to bring me in for an on-campus interview. What? Are you kidding?! I practically somersaulted down the stairs after I hung up the phone. The sheer prospect of actually getting a job in my field after all these years of preparation elated me.
The interview went well, obviously. I certainly enjoyed mingling with the students and faculty. My teaching demonstration was well-received, and I left the entire interview feeling like I did the best I could. I had no regrets, nor did I feel like I made any obvious blunders.
Almost exactly one week later, on Friday the 13th actually, I got a phone call. My phone did not recognize the number, and like a moron I had forgotten the area code of that city. So, thinking it was a telemarketer, I answered the phone with a coarse Hello?!
No, it wasn’t a telemarketer, and upon realization of who it was, I sheepishly and rapidly changed my tone. The following line from the department Chair made my ears ring with dulcet tones: We would like to offer you a faculty position at the rank of Assistant Professor at our university. How glorious! How wonderful!
I accepted immediately, but the department Chair chuckled and told me to take the weekend to think it over, and I could give them my final decision in a few days. I said, That’s fine, but I’m planning to accept the position. I almost guarantee it!
So, yes, dear reader. I finally landed a job, and it’s during a time when there are literally no more jobs open in my field. For the past few days my emotions have sent me on a roller coaster through glee, relief, jubilation, and humility.
The Role of Karma in a Job Search
About a month ago, when all seemed the most dire and bleak, I came to a decision. I decided that if I could not have a job in my field, I would at least try to help other people I knew in a similar situation. I started monitoring job vacancy lists for openings in related areas. Whenever I found an opening that seemed to fit a friend or colleague of mine who was also seeking a job, I sent them a link to the announcement.
This continued for a couple weeks, and I sent at least a dozen announcements to friends in related fields. Lo and behold, my phone call with the on-campus interview notification came in out of the blue. Coincidence? Yeah, maybe, but perhaps karma played a role, too.
Shortly before I left for the interview, a good friend who is also on the job market approached me and asked if I would consider writing a letter of recommendation for him. Sure, no problem. I wrote and dispatched four letters for him to various colleges.
On the same day that I received the job offer, he called and told me that one of the places where I sent a letter contacted him about an interview. Again, coincidence? Perhaps, but maybe not.
My main point here is: don’t dismiss the role of karma in a job search. Even if you don’t necessarily believe in the idea of karma, no one can argue that the desire to help others is harmful. Any act of generosity that you provide for another person will ultimately help YOU, even if it only manifests itself in a feeling of fulfillment or satisfaction. If you want to receive, be sure to give as well. Though I’ve landed a job now, I’m still scouring the job vacancy lists for opportunities for my friends.
Now that I’ve landed a job, I get to look forward to packing up and moving. There are a lot of issues that my wife and I need to cover, such as whether to try to sell or rent our house. Hmm, I suppose these are issues for another post!