Sarah Baechle

What excites you about your new position?

It is a flagship university, with incredible support for research, a warmly collegial department, engaged students. It's also a chance to return to the kind of University where I earned my undergraduate and master degrees. Above all, though, I'm simply excited to have the chance to remain so engaged in my field. Tenure track jobs are hard to come by, and it feels wonderfully surreal to get to continue to do the work that I love.

What steps did you take and/ what resources did you access to land this particular opportunity?

I took a somewhat unusual path, as I worked in an administrative position immediately following my Ph.D. I spent two years as the Asst. Program Director for Professional Development in the Graduate School here at Notre Dame. I think that was helpful for two reasons--first, because I was in a position to be picky about what jobs I applied for, and second, because I spent a great deal of time immersed in graduate professional training programs--both from a pedagogical standpoint, but also an experiential one: I benefited a great deal from being in attendance at professional development workshops I had helped run, from the people I worked with across the University, and from learning what higher ed administration looks like. I was, while in that position, pretty aggressive about continuing to research, write, and present at conferences, and also had the opportunity to teach upper division courses in my discipline; I think that was crucial to being able to be competitive for faculty positions against other Ph.D.s who may have spent a few years in postdocs, VAPs, or other TT jobs.

Looking back on your job search experience, what advice would you give to current students?

I think it's important to remember how much of the academic job search process is beyond a candidate's control. That's partly because there are lots of variables that can steal focus, time, effort, that you still can't control, and I think it's important to focus on yourself, presenting yourself to the best of your ability, and not worrying about the things you can't change. For me, for example, my travel to my campus visit was significantly affected by weather, and we wound up having to push the visit back by a day. It was completely beyond my control to fix that--I've not yet acquired the ability to control the weather--but it still would have been very easy to focus my attention on worrying about my travel, and not on, e.g., prepping my job talk. I had to make sure I focused on getting the necessary preparation done. At the same time, those delays wound up being beneficial--I drove into Oxford from Atlanta, after all of my flights were cancelled, and had several hours to think about a class I'd like to teach, and article I'm starting work on--and just to get all of my stress out ahead of the visit itself. That (i.i. "just make sure there are tornado watches the day you are flying!") is not advice I can give to others, but I think it's emblematic of the extent to which factors very much out of your control can influence the process. I also think it's important to remember how much you cannot control because I think the narratives that say that "if you just follow X advice, and do Y, you will get a job"--those can be psychologically harmful. I think it's rare that unqualified people get faculty positions, but it's not uncommon for very qualified people to not get interviews or jobs, and it's important to reiterate that that doesn't diminish the quality of their research, teaching, humanity, and so on. Finally: I think it was valuable for me to be introspective about what I like about being an academic, and to see opportunities to continue those activities in other kinds of positions. It helped me find the alt. ac. position I landed in--and in which I also could happily have built a career. It takes being, potentially, a bit creative and flexible about what you apply for, and I found it important to make sure I approached interviews for those positions seriously, both with respect to demonstrating my own qualifications, but also with respect to assessing whether that was a position I would be happy in. I'm writing this up for Graduate Career Services, but I still can't resist putting in a plug for their team--they all do wonderful work, and I know I found it helpful to meet with them long before I worked alongside them, to learn more about how to explore other career paths that I would find fulfilling.