The Job (complete)

This'll be a longer one...

I taught my last class in Fall term of 2011.  I'd been offered a full-time job in June doing IT, QA, and project management at the software company, after working there part time and at the community college part-time, and I made good on my threat to throw my lot in with whichever job / career / identity offered me full-time work first.  I told the department head that I wouldn't be teaching further classes as an adjunct and geared up to teach one last iteration of history 103 (the last in the western civ series, covering the history of Europe from Napoleon to the present.)  In the meantime, I bought a house and started earnestly trying to wrap my head around what "business analysis" consisted of.

Then, in late November, a few weeks before I was going to be done with teaching for the indefinite future, the CC posted a full-time position teaching western civ and advanced topics in European history.  It was like getting punched.  I'd finally made my peace with being a computer guy for good, and now the dream job fluttered down from the heavens to make me feel like a jerk.  I almost chose not to apply, but I realized it would be insane not to.  I had spent six years earning my doctorate.  I love teaching.  Despite the miniscule odds of success, I had to throw my hat in the ring.

According to a discussion thread on one of the big academic job forums, there are about 300 applicants per faculty position at community colleges.  Of those, it's safe to assume most have PhDs and at least a few years of teaching experience.  With the academic job market being even worse than the regular job market, you're going to have people from top schools applying for any full-time job, regardless of how far away and how obscure.

In my case, insult was added to injury in that I had withdrawn my application for a one-year teaching post at the CC after getting the software job; the people who would be on the hiring committee already knew me, or knew about me, and knew that I hadn't gone for it.  I applied with very, very little hope of success.

What followed was a roughly four-month process involving four distinct phases, with the successful candidates moving on to the next phase and the unsuccessful ones (most of 'em) kicked to the curb:

  1. A general application
  2. A series of tough essay questions having to do with teaching and professional service.
  3. A twenty-minute teaching demo followed by an hour and a half panel interview with the half-dozen-or-so members of the hiring committee.
  4. An open forum with any and all faculty members from the entire division who wanted to come (in my case, about 15 of them showed), an interview with the dean of instruction, and a culminating interview with the campus president.

I pretty much expected a navy SEAL obstacle course, a sherpa-less climb to the top of K2, and a chess game against Death to follow.

Again, this whole process took months, and the whole time I was working full-time at the software company, doing really difficult IT / ops work and serving as a kind of project management henchman on one of the company's big contracts.  Stress levels around the kungfuramone household reached a peak in about mid-March.  I knew that I had made it down to the final 3, and while it had been easy enough to make light of it when I was one of 300, it was acutely painful to imagine not getting it having made it that far.

I got the call right at the start of April.  I hid down the hall and around a corner from my office so that my co-workers wouldn't overhear.  The head of the committee credited me with some nice attributes that had worked in my favor, and she put particular emphasis on how glowing my recommendations had been.  That part didn't surprise me; if I did one thing well at UCSC, it was cultivating my relationships with the old guard of Europe.

After getting the offer, I was still faced with the prospect of working full-time at the software company for months, and I was quickly reminded by B, friends, and family that giving notice too early was potentially financially suicidal.  So, instead, I slogged along for three solid months, being oncall, overseeing complex network changes, suffering through long, painful meetings at the headquarters of our biggest client, all while biting my tongue about the fact that I was a short-timer.  This period ended up being almost as stressful as the final stages of the interview processes.

Finally, I got to give four weeks of notice right at the start of July.  I'm taking August off to do insane stuff like go on a three-day vacation with B and Plan C (first vacation since...2008?) and, of course, work on lectures.

I can't overstate how momentous an event this was.  I honestly never believed for a second that I'd get a full-time academic job.  The odds were too horrendous and the gallows humor we all cultivated in grad school turned out to be, if anything, inadequately pessimistic about the real state of affairs.  I have never for a minute thought I'd get to do something professionally that I actually loved; being a historian means I'm too well aware of the fact that almost every human being for almost all of history has toiled at things they at best tolerated, and usually actively hated, to make ends meet.  I saw no reason (and still don't, really) that I should be an exception to that rule.  There are some material sacrifices involved - a much longer commute, a 20%-ish pay cut - but I could not care less if I tried.

Portland, the return to Portland, as demonstrated by what we've been able to do since we moved back, is the best place and, people excepted, the best thing on Earth to and for us.  B and I have made no better decision in our adult lives than to move back here.

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