Job Applications vs. Academic Applications

Over the past three months I have filled out at least five times as many job applications as I have school applications. Yes, I recognize that school applications are much more time consuming than job applications, but in my opinion, the process of applying to schools is a far less painful process than applying to jobs.

Research: Learning about an academic institution is generally easier than learning about a prospective workplace. Schools have websites, tours, scheduled visitation days, and admissions offices (of varying levels of friendliness and helpfulness) to answer your questions. Sure, most workplaces have websites, but they cater to their target audiences, not prospective employees. And God forbid you should have a question about a position. Each job listing I've seen is explicit about no phone calls.

Application: As I stated above, the application process for schools is time-consuming, but generally speaking, schools provide some guidance in terms of what they want in an application in the form of essays, personal statements, etc. A lot of jobs require a cover letter, resume, and references. The resume and references an applicant includes may vary slightly, but the cover letter is a totally different story. It's a tricky, awkward dance of attempting to sell oneself as the ideal candidate, explain why it's a fabulous place to work, and how those two are related--all in one page. Oh, and usually they are looking for one person to fill the position unlike schools that have multiple spots and are looking less for the "perfect fit." (I realize that this is not true of PhD programs which may have a single slot for a particular discipline.)

Waiting Period: For both applying to jobs and applying to programs, there is a "Hurry up and wait" element. BUT, schools do have deadlines for announcing one's acceptance or rejection. Jobs? Not so much. Many times the process feels like throwing a precious stone into a deep, dark abyss, hoping someone else will uncover it eventually. Otherwise it's lost forever. Schools are polite enough to let you know you've been rejected. In my experience, employers are not.

Of course, there are some things about job searching that are far better. For one, a job rejection does not mean waiting around another year to apply again. There are new positions each week, though less during this time than, say, last year. Also, jobs come with income whereas in school, students generally pay to do work or at the very least do not make much money. But at the end of the day, I still affirm that job searching is more frustrating of the two.

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