Monday, February 15, 2010

Job Search Saga: Surprisingly Unstressed

As I prepared myself for my interview, I found myself surprisingly relaxed. I was a little unsure about what to expect, of course, and trawling the Internet to get some idea of what a provost or faculty interview committee might want to know, but I was not on edge the way I was before graduate school interviews, or before conference presentations.

The main reason for this unexpected lack of stress was a simple statement by a faculty member giving job search advice: Once they've invited you for an interview, they've acknowledged that you are a qualified teacher; the interview's purpose is only to establish "fit". "Fit", that ephemeral term that tries so hard to be more mature than adolescent angst about "fitting in" but is essentially the same thing, and very important at a small liberal arts colleges. The entire department, all five of them, were going to meet with me to decide if they would enjoy working with me for three years, or if there was some dramatic character conflict, or just in general if I sounded great on paper but was a horror in person. If I were a few years younger, this might have been more stressful than being evaluated on my qualifications, but I was also looking for a great place to work for three years, which made it a question of mutual fit. I was just as concerned with whether I would like working with them as they were concerned with whether they would like working with me, and if someone took an irrational dislike to me then I wouldn't want the job anyway.

With this fact firmly in mind, the interview became fun. It was a free trip to somewhere I'd never been, including meals for three days (the interview and both travel days), at least one of which was guaranteed to be of excellent quality (the dinner with faculty members after the interview). It was a chance to share my research with a group of qualified researchers, who might have good questions or comments about things I could do next. And it would be my first visit ever to a liberal arts college, and my chance to find out more about how they really work, their personality, what I could expect from my chosen career.

Don't get me wrong; I did want to be offered the job, and I would be disappointed if I didn't get it. But knowing that I wasn't really being evaluated, and knowing that I would get so much out of this visit even if I didn't get an offer, kept the excitement so high that the stress didn't have a chance to break through.

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