Although I said after I received a job that I never wanted to go on the job market again, I applied for one job in the years since beginning in my current position. The job was at a higher-ranked and better-funded school near my current institution. Since the job was in my teaching area but not my research area, I assumed that I would not have much of a chance (the fact that I didn’t get an interview suggests I was correct) but it was the type of job that I would have regretted not applying for. Despite my lack of success, applying for another job actually helped me put my current position in perspective.
The first thing that I noticed was related to my confidence level. As an ABD graduate student on the job market, each job application had raised insecurities about whether my interests aligned with the school’s desires, whether my teaching was good enough, whether I had published enough, and whether liberal arts schools would take my application seriously since I hadn’t attended one myself. As an early-career assistant professor there were still insecurities about some of those things but they were greatly reduced by the fact that I already had a good job. If I hadn’t published enough for the school I was applying to, for example, it didn’t matter because I already had a good job. I could also talk in my application about the job that I currently held and the fact that I had been successfully teaching at a liberal arts school since finishing my Ph.D. Rather than groveling for a position, I felt like a peer exploring my options.
In addition to feeling like a peer, the application process also forced me to consider what I want out of an ideal job and how close to that I can get at my current institution. For example, if more time for research is a reason I would consider changing jobs, how can I find more time for research in my current schedule? There are also aspects of my current institution, such as travel funding and opportunities for research with students, that compare favorably to other schools. In the end, although I’m happy at my current institution, keeping an eye on job openings is a good way to consider what my work life could, and should, be like.