Last year, I applied to about 40 schools. I had 3 fly outs. I had 5 more Skype/phone interviews, and 2 APSA interviews. By the end of it all, I had 0 offers.
I need to start applying for this year’s positions. Already, my spreadsheet has 17 schools listed. That’s 17 cover letters, tweaked slightly to show that I really do care about X College/University. That’s 17 times I need to upload some combination of my research and teaching statements, my transcripts, my teaching evaluations and syllabi, and my writing samples. That’s 17 times my letter writer needs to pay enough attention to his/her email to provide a recommendation. And it’s only going to get worse.
I think about the list, and I am already exhausted. Last year I had to create all the materials for the first time. I had to summarize why I should be given a job in two pages. I had to put into words what I thought about teaching (it’s awesome, except when it’s not). I had to explain where I was headed with my research (to a finished dissertation and enough publications to get me tenure?). This time, I have the materials written, but going back to revise them feels even harder.
Those materials weren’t enough to get me a job last time, so I need something better.
But what if I don’t have anything better? What if I’m not any better than I was last year? What if the progress in my publication record isn’t enough? What if I’m just not good enough?
I worry that I don’t have what it takes. I’m not willing to run myself into the ground for a tenure-track job. Especially when I don’t think the research does anything. All these fun intellectual exercises – predicting X based on Y, using the newest statistical method to reaffirm what we already knew – mean nothing. The vast majority of political science research doesn’t actually do anything. It doesn’t help anyone.
So if the option is to publish or perish, I guess I’ll perish. Because what does it mean to publish? What have I really accomplished in that, aside from appeasing some reviewers and an editor? Have I solved anything? Have I made anyone’s life better? Nope.
How do I write a research statement when research means nothing to me?