It's been a few years since I last constructed a job packet. In my memory, it was such a simple thing to put together. A short letter detailing why I was interested in/fit their job and selling the highlights of my credentials. A page on my teaching philosophy - which, for the jobs I was applying to, I figured would probably not even be read. A research statement, lovingly crafted with my current and future research plans. And, of course, my CV. My memory says I wrote these easily and quickly and birds sang in the background while the refreshing scent of flowers wafted over me.
After last night, I suspect that my memory was artificially constructed by my brain to protect me from a stressful experience....kinda like the hormone that supposedly wipes women's memories after childbirth so they forget the hours and hours of pain and actually want to have sex again.
Seriously, though, I really thought the packet would be easier to construct this time around. Afterall, I've now been on two job search committees. I've seen more job packets than I care to think about. I know exactly how much emphasis gets put on the CV versus everything else. I need a cover letter that explains why I fit their job and highlights my productivity in case they happen to start with the cover letter before the CV. It just has to not suck. I know this. But I spent three agonizing hours on the damn cover letter last night.
After a sleepless night, I know that the struggle actually had little to do with the cover letter itself. Part of it did....I had built up in my head that now that I was an assistant professor, I really needed a letter that sounded like one and I had no idea how to do that. But most of the struggle had to do with self-doubt. Was I really good enough to apply to some of these schools? Should I just be happy with having a job? Was I doing the right thing by hitting the market now in this time of economic crisis? Was I insane not to try and make a move right now, because only God knows if there will even be open jobs next year. What if I moved and that university collapsed under economic strains? (I imagine a lot of schools are watching horrible things happen to their endowments right about now). What if I don't get any interviews? What does that say about my quality as a scientist?
I'm better now....mostly. It can be so easy to get trapped in your own brain running frantically in circles after questions with no answers. The truth of the matter is, nothing is lost by hitting the market and potentially so much is gained. It may be a gamble, but when the worst case scenario for a gamble is that nothing changes, you only lose by not trying. And for those of you who are wondering about my cover letter...it's all good. It doesn't suck, but my CV rocks.