This month is all about the paperwork. Defense paperwork, new job paperwork, moving paperwork … yay. I’m also working hard on the syllabus for the course I’ll be teaching in the fall, which is definitely more fun than writing down my GSU student ID number for approximately the five zillionth time.
But another task looms, one that is starting to fill me with dread: the job market, take 2.
When I finished my first round on the market, I consoled myself about the less-than-perfect outcome by telling myself that “everyone says the first year is hardest” and “you’ll do better with a PhD in hand, departments don’t like to risk their candidate not finishing in time to take the job.” I thought I’d return to the job market wiser and more seasoned, better able to take things in stride, smarter about what to say in my cover letter and in conference interviews.
But as new job postings start to trickle in, all I can feel is … well, sort of hopeless. I have to do this again? Why on earth should I think it will work out any better this time? For pete’s sake, should I even bother? Why not just give up and move on to the backup plan already?
Rationally, I know that all I can do is try again, do my best, work hard at my postdoc, be open to the possibility of taking a non-academic job, and see where the chips fall. But for me, the “wait and see” approach is pure, unadulterated torture. If I had to identify my single biggest character flaw, I would probably say “impatience.”* I want things settled, like, yesterday. I want my future clearly laid out before me, with the least possible uncertainty. And when there is uncertainty, I am unable to focus on anything else until it has been eliminated. This works fine if the uncertainty is about where we’re going on vacation, or where I’m getting my Canadian car insurance.** But when I can’t settle the uncertainty for quite some time — for example, when I have to send out tons of applications and wait months and months to find out if I’ve been offered any jobs — my impatience becomes a huge handicap. I find myself unable to appreciate what I have in the moment because I’m so focused on what I don’t have, and how I can obtain the thing I don’t have as soon as humanly possible.
I know this about myself. And I’m trying to take it one step at a time and remind myself to be patient, even if giving up and moving on sounds appealing right now. How do you guys cope with uncertainty?
* Followed closely by “tendency to blow things way out of proportion.”
** Taking my car to Canada will triple my annual car insurance bill. No joke. I’m blown away by how expensive insurance is in Canada! I’d resent it less if the public transit in my new neighborhood wasn’t so laughably inefficient.