I’ll admit that this is a stupid feeling to have, but if I’m not able to land a research-based tenure-track faculty position I will be completely and utterly devastated for a minimum of one month.
It’s not stupid. Anyone who is even eligible for such a position has worked their ass off for nearly the past decade. I don’t know what field you’re in, but it’s clearly something you love. If you don’t get it this year, take the time to gain more experience and apply for more later :)
Don’t be too hard on yourself. And good luck :)
Thanks for the vote of confidence :). I’m in Mechanical Engineering.
I’m just sort of wary right now because I feel like I have so much momentum for going into this sort of thing and I’m a little afraid of the break in continuity. My work and my passion for it is so central to me as a person and in some ways my identity as well.
Grad school has been more than exceptional for me. I’m fortunate to have had the opportunities that I’ve had, and to be able to make the most out of them. I feel like I’m doing something that makes a difference. I’ve been able to focus on things that I think are important for solving a large-scale public problem and come up with original ideas for addressing that problem, instead of just doing what some contract says or doing something for profit, whether my own or others. I’ve been given the research freedom to pursue the ideas I’ve come up with, and have been able to contribute in novel and original ways. It has paid off in the practical sense too, in terms of many publications, awards, recognition among entities who would turn these ideas into public impact. I have the respect of my advisor and my peers and people actually listen to me (which was pretty rare for most of my life). I recognize, however, that my grad school experience is far from typical - an unfortunate representation of the system.
The next logical step in being able to maintain many of those aspects as a career is to become a tenure-track professor. I don’t support academia as a whole because of how it is administered, but I want to be in it because it is the only position where I’d have the opportunity to make the contributions that I want to make. A close second best is having a position at nonprofit research institutions like the Union of Concerned Scientists or at national labs. Having done some work with industry and in government for a bit, I find it way too constraining.
In industry, the focus is too constrained by the need to make profit. Some companies may make a difference while on their way to making profit, but at the end of the day the focus is to make money and I feel that hinders the ability to recognize and address large-scale societal problems. It’s hard for me to know that there are problems that we can address but aren’t simply because it doesn’t make some fat cat super rich.
I’ve found working in government to be very constraining as well: you don’t get to have input into the direction that things go - rather, politicians decide something and they task you with finding out how to make it work whether it was a good idea or not. Also, everyone advances at the same rate, and no matter how much of an expert you are on something, if you’re coming from within government, no one listens to your ideas unless you’re in a somewhat high up position which takes 10-15 years at least to get to. It’s frustrating to know that I can make more informed input into the direction that things go but not be allowed to simply because of bureaucracy.
I also don’t react very well to having a boss in the traditional sense, who exercise power over you simply because of hierarchy alone. I can’t stomach being told to do something only just because they said so for very long. I have a defiant personality, but I’ve at least been able to direct it into something productive. Bosses have a lot of power over our psyches and state of mind, and there are very few people that I’d trust with that sort of power over me. My current advisor is one of the few.
My academic experience has been amazing. I’ve transformed a lot as a person, found a passion, and dare-I-say, purpose. It’s been a dream. And I’m afraid of the dream just ending so abruptly when I’ve built up so much momentum in what I do. I don’t fit well in “the machine”. And I’ve been able to demonstrate that I make better contributions to the public by being outside of it.
Unfortunately, breaking into academia as a tenure-track professor is hilariously difficult. Every one of the positions I applied for have like 300-400 PhDs or soon-to-be PhDs applying, and maybe 6-12 get interviews. Then one person gets offered the position. There may be stronger candidates out there. And there’s so much random BS that goes into the selection process because traditional academics tend to be stubborn and have very specific views on what deserves merit, in addition to all of the personality and culture-based biases.
I feel like I have a very strong application, but my fate in this context is in the hands of some random committee of crusty egotistical traditional academics who will knock you out of consideration if you say one thing they don’t agree with or don’t find ‘worthy’ in their definition of merit on your app.
Ugh. Sorry for the rant, but I had to get that off my chest. Thanks again for the vote of confidence!