Over the course of three years, I have applied for at least twenty-seven faculty jobs in various parts of the United States. Some of the positions were two-year positions at community colleges, and others at four-year universities. I had the credentials, but I knew no one that could help dig me out of the challenging task of searching and landing a faculty job.
I kept all of my rejection letters and e-mails. The first few letters really stung (in fact, I shed many tears). Eventually, I began to grow thicker skin, and I concluded that “it is their loss”… and I became sad for them, because they really would have benefited from someone like me. After a while the rejection didn’t hurt as long. However, during this point, I began to question my purpose, and I questioned whether or not I had been in the wrong profession for the last fourteen years.
For three years, and four months, I transitioned to a different point in my career. I left what I thought was a “safe” job (teaching 5th and 6th grade), and pursed a higher education teaching career. This included taking a large pay cut (not as if teachers are overpaid), by receiving a part-time salary of approximately $10,00-$15,000 per year. It was my choice, and I am grateful that I had the support in my husband—financially and spiritually. It was a sacrifice that almost caused me to go back to what I thought was “safe”, as I couldn’t deal with the rejection, after all the work that I had done in the past, and was putting in at the time.
While on the transitional journey, I conducted myself professionally while in the part-time community college position. I learned everything that I could, worked on my teaching practices, and took on any challenge that was presented to me. I presented at conferences, and began to write professionally. I gave my students in the developmental courses in the department that I worked in the BEST of my teaching. I was caring, compassionate, and I could relate to many of their beginning struggles with getting accustomed to college life. I offered a diverse perspective being from another state, and also being a frequent traveler. I had all of these things to offer as an educator and professor, but for reasons that I now understand (but at the time didn’t), I ultimately was not where I needed to be in my career. It took being turned down at the same location twice for me to hit “rock bottom”. It was then, my husband shared with me a valuable lesson/motto.
“Fail FAST”…Fail fast, pick yourself up to be even greater. After receiving one of the most hurtful rejections (from the same location after applying and being a “finalist” for the second time), in a matter of two weeks, I submitted two articles for publication, and completed a book (that I had been working on 3-4 months prior).
Still feeling low and disappointed, I hesitantly contacted all of my professional references (that I had done a so-so job of keeping in touch with). I also contacted a fairly young professor that has a tenure-track faculty position at a local four-year university. Each person was of great support, and mentioned that they would do whatever it takes to help me. It was almost mid- summer, and I had nothing but time, so I began to apply anywhere in the country that needed a Reading/Curriculum and Instruction assistant professor position. I completed and submitted fifteen applications over two weeks. After that, there was silence, for the most part. Then I received three calls (from various parts of the country) within the same week for interviews.
After almost giving up, I found a “home” to become part of a full-time faculty. I found a place where I can share my love for teaching and learning, and a place to pour inspiration and creativity into students (future teachers). It was at the place that gave me my doctoral credentials, where I am beginning my four-year college faculty career. The place where I completed the most difficult task that I ever had to face in life—it was at Texas Southern University. It took several heartbreaking, trying, and unexplainable circumstances to come to a “full circle” moment, and find where I was needed.
I am forever humble and grateful, and embracing the new change in direction in my career. If you know anyone going through a career transition in their life, give them my husband’s advice “fail FAST…” and learn from that experience. Don’t sit around and do nothing, or dig yourself into more stress or worry—your actions of “failing fast” just might pay off in a way you’d least expect it. Everything happens for a reason, and I have learned that those reasons don’t always need an explanation—faith was, and is all that I will ever need.
Thank you Texas Southern University College of Education for the opportunity!!!