I’m applying to about a dozen jobs this year*, and so far, every job letter has gone a little like this:
Step One: After seeing the job announcement, a combination of excitement, curiosity, and anxiety rushes over me. “What a great job!…right? Where is this school, anyway? Do I actually qualify for this position?”
Step Two: Terror strikes. “I am absolutely not qualified for this job. There are so many better candidates out there. What are they looking for, anyway? Surely not me. There is no way I’m getting this job. I should just bag this letter and go play video games.”
Step Three: Confidence builds. “They might actually be interested in my research, if I frame it in this way. Their course catalog has a few holes in it; I’m pretty sure I could help them on that. This might work out.”
Step Four: Hubris appears. “Ooo, I just thought of a great line — they’re going to eat this up! No one in their department is doing anything like me; there are gaping holes in their curriculum and scholarship. And I’m pretty sure I know someone in the department. Yup, I’ll get an interview. Or maybe they’ll just call up and offer me the job right away. But then again: do I want this job? Am I too good for it?”
Step Five: Doubt sinks in; constant revisions begin. “Hmm, I don’t like that sentence. Neither will they. Am I pigeonholing myself? Or does this make me look too much like a generalist — someone who knows a little about a lot, but not a lot about anything. Maybe that’s what they want? What do they want, anyway? Do I fit those qualifications? Probably not. Maybe I’ll get an interview and can pick up the pieces then. I should be so lucky.”
Step Six: Exhaustion, relief, and spite upon sending the damn thing. “Nothing more I can do now. Just wait. And you know what? Fuck them if they don’t like me.”
I’m pretty sure this isn’t healthy, but it’s worked this way for every letter I’ve sent in. Currently, I’m in between steps five and six with a few letters, including one for a job I really, really, really want. And I can’t wait for the process to be over.
* This is a very small number. A friend of mine is applying to about fifty. Crazy.