Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Visit From the Bitchy Bear, And She's Going On About Hank, Job Searching, And Just Generally Free-Associating In That Bitchy Way We Love.

I admit I am an extra bitchy bear because I am on this new raw food diet, and while I like raw food, I generally like my raw food cooked and covered in bacon. That, and MY SABBATICAL IS ALMOST OVER AND I’VE GOTTEN NOTHING DONE WHERE DID THE TIME GO?

Ok, focusing.

Honestly, come on guys. Hank’s already had a tough time. Do you really think that certain holes of academia are really that queer friendly? I don’t. I used to watch my well-intended colleagues at Moo U try to worm the information out of somebody during an interview. My colleagues? These were all very nice people, really wanting to get to know you and help you out. And if they figured out you were gay, they’d quickly grab one of the few gay people in the university to go to dinner and try to get that resident gay to help convince you that our small burg was a bastion of enlightenment in a rural world wrongly portrayed as intolerant. This most often ended badly, with the gay resident talking about how he now carries a gun to ward off the pick-up drivers with baseball bats. “However,” he’d note, “The real estate is really cheap here and we’ve got a great house even though my partner never found a job and now sells his handcrafted birdhouses on Esty to supplement hand-outs from his parents.” Swell.

I know that patting ourselves on the back for being ever-so tolerant for everything from gays to Republicans is perhaps the only way many academics are likely to get tennis elbow, but is it really that hard to believe that Hank got a poor reaction? Or that’s he’s gotten that reaction often enough in his life that he sees it even if it’s not there? Or that both of those are part of the mind-fuck that being different can be? If you can’t get that, you’re not as enlightened as you think, and you were obviously more popular in high school than I was. I, in fact, D.O. C.A.R.E about who are and your interests, as I don't believe in the manly man idea that we're all just professional robots here. It's hard to be both real and a pro, but it can be done. There's TMI and there is Incapable of Thinking About Anything But Work. Both are tedious, though one will assuredly get you tenure and promotion. It's wrong that Hank has to worry--and if we're honest we must admit he has to worry--that if he even mentions the most important person in his life, he could get submarined by the department's closet homophobe in 100 different and accepted ways ranging from "fit" to "this candidate's specious arguments about..." and so on.

But mainly Hank and the rest of you lot are violating some of the B Bear’s Most Sacred Rules of Job Season:
  • Never dwell on why you didn’t get a particular job past basic evaluation of your interview performance. NEVER. Yes, always reflect on what you might have done better, and if anybody offers a critique, take the advice for all it’s worth. If you did flub something, and you’re sure about it, resolve to do better next time. Past a certain point, it’s just madness to try to deconstruct why you didn’t get a particular job. For highly competitive markets like those in academia, there may not BE a reason, good or bad, and dwelling is both futile and self-destructive. It was just somebody else’s day that day. Focusing on the fact you didn’t get a particular job will make you feel bad about yourself, and it will undermine your confidence, and you need your confidence like you need oxygen. Dwelling can affect your relationships with the people who didn’t give you that job, and that’s not a good idea in small fields. You want to emerge from the natural feelings of disappointment and rejection (handled in private) to come through in public as a true pro, giving the world the impression that you know you were a close second because you are so fabulous how could you not be and of course you are on great terms and have the highest respect for the people who passed you over because maybe they’ll write you letters at tenure time in a short five years even though secretly you wish they were all dead from third-degree burns. Smiling while you bleed is a job skill.

  • If you find yourself obsessing, buy yourself a bartender’s guide and start learning to mix the perfect martini / Manhattan / Gibson / gimlet / pina colada. It will give you something to focus on and something to drink at the same time. Put the lime in the coconut, both for yourself and for your family/room mates/friends who are also tired of your not having a job yet. And have a chicken quesadilla, with extra guacamole. Do it for me. If you insist on being one of those annoying, well-adjusted people who value their health, then find one of them to give you coping advice because I got nothing.

  • Never shit on a job seeker. Really, just don’t, especially not in this economy. There is nothing less attractive than a person who has a job crapping on somebody who is looking for a job, except for maybe the outfits on Project Runway this season. Do you folks not remember how hard job seeking is? Hank’s message sounded entitled and victim-y, and he got pounced on. But many of us when we were job seeking—potentially the world’s most vulnerable position to be in with your clothes on—get obsessed and hurt and react badly to the disappointments that arise? As far as I could tell, Hank’s message was about being hurt and trying to regain a feeling of power. I’ve seen many a great job seeker lash out in hurt and confusion; job seeking is a form of temporary insanity, and the rest of us need not comment. None of us know why Hank didn’t get the job except the people making the decision. And if his interview was like most in my experience, it wasn’t anything he did or didn’t do. Somebody else just clicked better. Acting like we DO know why he didn’t get the job based on one resentful email to an anonymous forum---well, that’s baloney and we all know it.
Ooooo baloney. Coconut. Lime. Did somebody say “pie”?