Today I received a job rejection.
Nothing new about that. I actually couldn't tell you how many I've received over the last say two years. What was unusual about that rejection it was for a job that I'd interviewed for five months ago.
Now if I'd applied, not heard a thing and eventually got an automated HR email months later that's one thing. Often for application stage you don't hear a thing. That's annoying, but fine. If however I've interviewed, I've prepared, presented, taken time out of my existing work and often travelled. Then I deserve the courtesy of a personal response in a timely fashion.
What I got was a formatted HR email, with the option of "feedback" from someone in HR. Not even someone in the room. I'm going to come out and say it: it's disrespectful, to me, to the work I put into the application, the interview and everything that led to that point. At the very least I should have been offered feedback from someone on the panel, at the very least I'd usually expect a phone call. At the very least I'd expect all of this before five months.
Now this is unusual. It's extreme. But it's indicative of the way a sector is going. Academics, particularly early careers ones are now so many, we've become disposable.
And this is where the dichotomy becomes weird. Because to the wider system we're nothing. Nobody. Ten-a-penny and worthless. I get that, most of us get that who are out there now trying. But at the same time nobody can see us as anything BUT academics. So we're nothing to the wider world, and failures to the academic world.
This is also important when offering condolences to friends who have had rejection. I took this, which was my last ditch attempt at an academic job, as cementing proof of my failure. People on twitter were quick to reach out and assure me it wasn't failure, just re-framing my life.
Here's the thing. When that comes from someone who is a PhD doing something else (and happy)it means the world. More often it comes from a PhD who is an academic, who 'made it' and actually can't imagine doing something else. Many of them also often lament how horrible academia is, how they 'wish' they were doing something else. And yet, they don't leave. And yet, I know they'd have framed any other path as a failure.
And so what now? I got an interview in my last ditch attempt before taking a temporary job out of academia. That I got that interview made me re-think applying again when something came up- I was a great on paper match for that job, but really what is the point? What is the next move?
Well it's resigning myself once again to failure. I always knew I wasn't good enough. But not being considered even a person enough for a polite timely rejection, that's the stuff that hurts.