Just after filing the last blog entry, things started to move. Although no job offer has fallen from the sky, a number of possibilities have turned up – some of them quite unexpectedly – and brightened my mood considerably.
First of all, the department within which I am based (until the end of January anyway) suddenly advertised a lectureship to cover one staff member’s sick leave and another’s maternity. The post starts pretty imminently and there was only a week to apply, so I dashed off an application (I say “dashed off”, but as ever the form was excruciatingly long and pointlessly detailed) and I should hear whether I have an interview very soon.
There are, though, reasons to doubt whether this is a post with my name on it. No one in the department actually approached me and asked me to apply and I found out by chance on the departmental website, which suggests that I am not the person they have in mind. Even if I get it, the contract is only for a year and it comprises a very intensive teaching load with no time to prepare – I will be writing at least two lectures from scratch per week. Still, it’s a hopeful development despite everything.
Then a couple of days ago I got an email from someone I know through conferences in my subject area. He’s leaving at short notice to take up a position elsewhere and he needs someone to take over the teaching on one of his courses. This is, of course, very part-time and temporary and if I take it I will be required to make a long trip once a week, getting up at the crack of dawn and spending a large proportion of the fee on travel. I have a difficult decision to make as to whether it’s worth my while taking on the work, but just having been asked is enough to put me in a positive frame of mind.
And if those posts don’t pan out (and there are very good reasons to think they may not), I heard from the head of department in a nearby university that they would be interested in giving me an honorary position. This is in some ways the best news of all as it gives me a definite institutional “home” when my contract runs out and a place from which to apply for grants. The offer is the result of a lot of delicate lobbying and it’s both a relief and a pleasure to have some of my “hustling” pay off.
A couple of other tempting possibilities have also turned up. The editor of a long-established journal in my field is stepping down and they will probably be looking for someone to fill the post. The journal is run by a trust, whose trustees I know, so I’d be a strong candidate and maybe, since it’s run by a trust, there will be a small honorarium attached to the position (aside from the prestige inherent in the job itself). Then I received an email inviting me to a symposium in Germany for which all expenses will be paid. OK, it’s not a job as such, but it always warms the cockles of my heart to be invited to travel somewhere for free. This is, after all, part of what I dreamt of when I decided to become an academic.
All these possibilities help to calm the anxiety that grips me so much of the time. I have tried as hard as possible over the past few months to take charge of my destiny, but the fact of the matter is that a lot of the time I am waiting to hear from people and institutions about ideas, proposals and applications I’ve pitched. Often I receive nothing but silence. For a job I applied for just before Christmas, the interview date has been and gone and I never heard so much as a “no”. So weeks like this when new opportunities present themselves are like manna from heaven.
I know that my likeliest fate for the next few weeks and months is a slow struggle to find work. But that struggle is bearable if there is a steady stream of reminders that circumstances can change suddenly, that I am not alone and that people do sometimes remember I exist. Who knows what tomorrow may bring?