Over the past 10 months I’ve been job hunting, which is testing on many levels. The publicity surrounding my departure from Wesleyan may have raised a red flag with some potential employers, but others went out of their way to assure me that it would not make a difference in their selection. I’ve been a finalist at two institutions but not ultimately offered the position. In both cases I was greatly heartened throughout the process by the positive interactions I had with everyone involved in the search. At each step of the way, I was supported and encouraged by positive feedback on my written materials, my phone and Skype interviews and my in-person visits.
And in both cases I was notified by telephone that I had not been selected, once by the search firm representative and once by the head of the search committee. I know they were tough phone calls for them to make (I’ve made enough of them), and they were tough for me as well. I was painfully disappointed to have gotten so far and yet not been selected.
After the first notification a dear friend was angry on my behalf, saying that the search firm and committee should not have been so encouraging if I was not going to be their first choice. They should not have gotten my hopes up just to dash them. She was reacting to the pain I was feeling, and that was very comforting.
But in thinking about both experiences, I realized that all that encouragement and positive feedback inspired me to do better and try harder than I otherwise would have done. Feeling encouraged and supported, I was more confident and relaxed throughout the day-long endurance test of in-person meetings and presentations. Getting my hopes up was just what I needed!
Did it make it more painful not to be selected? Undoubtedly. But ultimately job seeking is not a matter of avoiding pain and disappointment but of risking both in order to grow and explore new opportunities. The head of the search committee at one institution gave me the great gift of letting me know how I could have done better—and I’ve taken his advice to heart in subsequent interviews. My thanks to him and to everyone who helped me be the best candidate I could be.