How To Treat a Job Rejection
Getting a job in philosophy (in academia, of course), is pretty damn difficult. In fact, you’d have better luck trying to perform the I-can-remove-the-chains- before-I-drown trick that killed Houdini. It’s just an intensely competitive discipline (one of the worst in academia in this regard). Basically, you have to be half nuts to get into the field knowing this, or be really, really good at not acknowledging your eventual chances at academic employment (I remember applying to one job years ago only to hear that they had 600 applications). I was probably in the latter category — I was good at not paying attention to the statistics (oddly enough, I got a job my first time on the market). In any case, you can imagine how high rejection letters can pile up, and how it can wear on you, especially after working so hard for so long only to get nothing in return. It takes some people years to find a position.
That’s what makes the below letter so funny. I found this on another philosophy website, and apparently it’s true (though I have no way to authenticate it) — the guy really did send this (I don’t know what the discipline was). I can almost sympathize with the guy. At some point you just want to strike back at the Sisyphean absurdity of the job market in academia. But this guy does it with humor.
Herbert A. Millington
Chair – Search Committee
412A Clarkson Hall
College Hill, MA 34109
Dear Professor Millington,
Thank you for your letter of March 16. After careful consideration, I regret to inform you that I am unable to accept your refusal to offer me an assistant professor position in your department.
This year I have been particularly fortunate in receiving an unusually large number of rejection letters. With such a varied and promising field of candidates it is impossible for me to accept all refusals.
Despite Whitson’s outstanding qualifications and previous experience in rejecting applicants, I find that your rejection does not meet my needs at this time. Therefore, I will assume the position of assistant professor in your department this August. I look forward to seeing you then.
Best of luck in rejecting future applicants.
Chris L. Jensen