I am heading to the Eastern APA tomorrow, and it reminded me of how difficult the job-market waiting game can be. Having spent 7+ years on the market before getting a permanent job, I know from ample experience how dispiriting the waiting can be. A few of my more vivid memories are of attending the Eastern APA two years in a row without any interviews lined up, and having to sit around listening to the other candidates at the conference chat about their upcoming interviews. As happy as I was for them (or, at least, tried to be!), it was still a pretty tough experience--as, of course, is the steadily increasing stream of PFO/you-didn't-get-the-job letters that typically begin flooding in this time of year.
Anyway, although there is only so much we can do here at the Cocoon to help job-candidates weather all this, I figured it couldn't hurt if we, as a community, were to share any potentially helpful tips we think we might have learned for maintaining personal well-being during these difficult times. So then, here's a question for all you past and present job-marketeers out there: do you have any helpful tips for handling the waiting game?
Although I don't pretend my strategies are a cure-all panacea, or that they will work for everyone, here are a few strategies that I found over the course of several years to work for me:
1. I stayed as far away from the job-wiki as possible: This one actually came from my spouse. Like a good number of job-marketeers, during my first few years on the market I checked the wiki pretty religiously. Unfortunately, I found that all that it mostly did was disappoint me--in ways that evidently made me a pretty lousy person to be in a relationship with. Apparently, there's something about daily or multiply-daily disappointments (such as reading one didn't get an interview) that leads a person to end up in sad, upset mood. Go figure. Anyway, a couple years in my spouse made me promise not to visit the wiki, and out of respect for her and the promise I obliged. And, quite frankly, it worked wonders. Although I still stressed about the job-market, not visiting the wiki helped me move on with my life and focus on what I could control: improving myself as a candidate for the next time around.
2. I threw yourself into my work fully during work hours: I'm a real worrywart. Give me time to ruminate about something, and that's just what I'll do. And give me a job-market to ruminate about, I'll turn myself into knots. Fortunately, I found a way around this: distraction. In grad school, I found unproductive ways to distract myself: playing music and videogames. Once on the job-market, I finally found more productive methods of distraction: writing philosophy, working on teaching, and volunteering for service opportunities at my university--just trying to do each of them as well as I could. Worrying about the job-market accomplishes very little. Working to become a better philosopher, teacher, and member of the community, on the other hand? They're pretty much the only ways to put yourself in a position to do better on the job-market next the next time around.
3. I practiced mindfulness before and after work hours: I will be honest. I've always been pretty skeptical of psychology-based self-help strategies. Maybe it was my early academic experience with psychology, but for most of my life I assumed (perhaps with some justification) that self-help strategies tend to amount to little more than wishful thinking. Alas, I ended up marrying an academic psychologist who not only told me that a rapidly growing empirical literature has increasingly confirmed the efficacy of mindfulness practices on improving well-being, but also encouraged me to enroll in a mindfulness study at her university. Anyway, I ended up taking part of the study...and, much to my surprise, I found mindfulness practice to be incredibly helpful! Although I'm no expert in the practice, its basics are relatively straightforward: one has to make a concerted effort at least several times a day to focus intently on the present: on one's breathing, the kinesthetic feeling of one's body, and whatever activity you're actually engaged in. One activity I was asked to perform was to take several walks throughout the day without any music and without looking at the scenery around me, but instead walk focusing on my breathing and the feel of my body parts as I walked. As I love to cook, another activity I engaged in each night was focusing on putting together a fairly elaborate dinner for my spouse and I--focusing as much as possible on the qualitative experience of each component of the preparations (cutting the garlic, the smell of it sautéing in the pan, etc.), putting everything else--especially philosophy and the job-market as far out of my mind as possible. I cannot say enough about how well these simple mindfulness activities worked to improve my mood.
4. I tried to focus on being good to and appreciating the people in my life: As an introvert, I've always been a bit of a loner (and no, I'm not ashamed of it!). I also tend to isolate myself when things are going poorly. Still, when I was in grad school I had a few good friends, and when I was on the market I had a fiancé and then a spouse (yes, same person!). Anyway, the job-market was about as hard on her as it was on me--but over the years I learned that, as hard as the job-market was, I needed to divest myself from it and appreciate what I had: my friends, my spouse, and my family. For, or so I found, there's at least one thing worse than doing poorly on the job-market: it's doing poorly on the market and neglecting those who love and care about you. In my experience at least, the people who love you just want to help--so maybe consider opening up to them, telling them you love them, and prioritizing them, doing nice things for them and trying to enjoy life outside of philosophy with them (such as taking them out to dinner and not talk about the job-market). I, at least, found this to be important and helpful.
Anyway, these are just a few things that seemed to work okay for me in weathering the job-market waiting game. What works/worked for you?