Things to do while waiting to hear back about job apps:

1) Freak out — this will happen, of course. So I’m putting it first. Feel free to do so, because in some way freaking relieves stress.

2) Chill out — this is harder to do, but more important. #1 must be counterbalanced, lest your become insufferable, paranoid, self-righteous, depressive, and generally awful to be around. Try to remind yourself that you’ve done everything you could. You’ve put your best self out there, and no amount of freaking will change what’s already in motion. So chill.

3) Something else — do things non-academic, that provide pleasure. Be nice to yourself.

4) Check the wiki — as I detailed in a previous post, this can be all consuming, but still helpful. Usually, you’ll find confirmation from other waiters that waiting is all that’s happening. And when someone posts something that shows an inability to follow #2, you can feel better that you’re not that kind of pre-academic.

5) Trust in yourself and, sort of, in the process — I know the process sucks. I know the process needs to somehow be reinvented. But it still kind of somehow sort of works. And the waiting, at the very least, is a good sample of the kind of non-speed that academia employs. It might help to think of the wait as a learning opportunity. But you probably won’t (I didn’t), and you’ll probably just decide (as I did) that the process is &^#(*! up. Rely on yourself, then, in faith in your worth, your work, your life, your humanity, your friends, your significant others, your pets, your video game addiction, but mostly on yourself. As other, wiser bloggers have said, you’ve earned a Ph.D. Not many people ever do that and, despite what many people seem to think, most people couldn’t ever do it. The degree is a huge accomplishment in its own right, a valuable if intangible reward for hard grad school work. Revel in that. Really.

6) Understand the academic timeline — I put it this way…search committees are guaranteed to get back to you one day after you can’t possibly bear to wait another day.

Now, a few notes on waiting:

1) Often, if you’re waiting a really, really long time…well…you’re probably right to think that means what you think it means.

2) But often is not always. Timelines vary. Some schools are crazy slow (like the one I just left). On a recent hire there, the search committee called candidates for interviews two days before MLA. Then nothing happened. Campus invitations finally came out in late February, stretched out for a month (with Spring Break in the middle). Then nothing. An offer was made; the candidate strung them along; the candidate said no. A second offer was made; the second candidate strung then along; the candidate said no. A third offer was made in early May. May for goodness sakes.Two months after the campus visits. Four months after MLA. Six months after applications. Third candidate took the job.

3) And sometimes, the wait…oh the wait. For my own (ultimately failed) application at this same school: I applied for the job by an initial mid-March deadline, for a job that was listed as beginning the following Fall. Silence. I learn from inside sources that the committee forgot to advertise the job nationally. So they advertised and extended the deadline to April. Silence. Nothing. The committee did not meet at all. I received a letter in June announcing that the committee was suspending review for the summer, but would get back to things in the fall. Long summer of silence. Then more silence in the fall. I received a letter from the Dean, promoting me and giving me a handy raise after finishing my Ph.D. (though I remained on a contingent contract). Silence from the search committee. More silence. Did I mention that I saw members of the search committee on a daily basis? More silence. One day in October, I saw signs up around the department office asking for silence while the search committee conducted phone interviews. To me, more silence. In November, the faculty listserv announced the presences of candidates on campus to interview for the job. To me, more silence. At some point in December — without public announcement to the department — the committee hired someone for the job. Around March of the next year, I finally received a generic, short, thanks-for-applying-but-we-hired-someone-else letter. And that was the full extent of what I heard from my day-to-day colleagues about a job for which the department chair had told me I was a shoo-in. Time from initial deadline to hire = nine months. Time from initial deadline to my notification = one year.

4) Do not spend mental energy worrying about the waiting. You just can’t figure out what long periods of silence mean. In #2, the long wait led someone to a nice academic appointment. In #3, the long wait translated to a dysfunctional search committee in a dysfunctional department running an unprofessional search (disclaimer: I’m bitter about that application experience, of course. But I believe I am objectively classifying this search process as unprofessional — perhaps one day I’ll write more about the whole sordid thing).

5) In all things, waiting is the worst. The unknown and unseen lets our minds turn on ourselves. If possible, we should therefore treat waiting as merely nothing. It is time passing. It means little. Worry affects nothing.

6) Waiting makes it clear that our best friends in the job process are ourselves. We must act always at our best. We must feel we’ve presented ourselves as authentically, honestly, and fully as possible. And we must truly accept that as the reward. Consider a well-crafted application its own reward. Sure, that wins no job, but it is both all we do and what we must do. For ourselves. Maybe the Boy Scout Promise is a good model for the academic process:

On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to (academia) and my country
and to obey the (Search Committee guidelines);
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and (intellectually) straight.