Over at The Smoker, an anonymous commenter writes:
I've been wondering recently whether it ever makes sense to take a year off? I'm two years out from my PhD and I just landed a lecturer job. The job, city, and university are all thoroughly okay. I don't want to do this with the rest of my career but it's not bad for the moment. I think about all the time the job search eats up and I wonder if it might not be better to just take a pass on it this year or only apply to jobs that are too good to pass up. I've got a couple of good papers under review one of which is a revise and resubmit so I think the odds my CV will be stronger next year are good. I've also got ideas for a couple more papers that seem promising and it seems to me that the time I might spend on the job search could be better spent working on those or focusing on my teaching.
On the other hand I feel I'm starting to get old (getting into my mid 30s) and I want a TT job as soon as I can get one. Also, with the market as brutal as it is part of me says it's stupid to ever pass up chances. So what do all of you think? Anyone else having similar thoughts?
Mr. Zero then replied:
I would not take a year off. I've thought about doing that before, and it would definitely be nice to have a year where I didn't have to do all this shit for once. But it seems to me that the best approach to the job market is to apply to every job you can, so as to maximize your chances of success. If you took a year off, that's a bunch of jobs you're not applying for.
Given that I don't have a tenure-track job yet, I may not be the best person to ask for "job market strategy" advice. I would, however, like to offer my own experience.
Once I landed my current job (a renewable non-TT Asst. Prof. job), I basically took two years off from the job market. I applied to a few jobs here and there, but since I was in a pretty stable job, I just wanted to take some time to commit myself to becoming the best researcher, teacher, and colleague I could be. Although, again, I can't vouch for it as a strategy for landing a TT job, my experience is that it was time very well spent, for a couple of reasons.
First, the job market, whatever else it is, is an incredible time-drain, not to mention an emotional one. Updating one's dossier, looking up jobs, writing cover-letters, applying for jobs, checking job wikis, doing interviews, fly-outs, etc., is a lot -- and it's a lot of time spent not getting better at research, teaching, and other stuff.
Second, I have to say that the time away from the market was useful for "finding myself" or "finding my center" (or what-have-you) as a philosopher and human being. Instead of chasing after jobs, by dedicating myself full-time to research, teaching, and other stuff -- not to mention developing a good home and social life -- I was able to figure out what kind of researcher, teacher, colleague, husband, and friend I want to be and don't want to be. And I sort of consider all of that an end in itself. There's more to life than finding a tenure-track job, after all. Rome, as they say, wasn't built in a day. Maybe you'll get a tenure-track job, maybe you won't. The best you can do -- or so I think -- is to become the best you that you can be. And that may take some time: time away from the market, time in a VAP, or adjuncting, or whatever. It's not always easy, and like most things, it's not without risk. But it can be worth it. At least that's been my experience.