Looking for a job can be pretty terrible, and it’s often a long slog. Amid that stretched-out stress, it’s easy to start thinking of a job offer as a kind of holy grail, a singular solution to all your problems. But what I see over and over again, among the hundreds of graduate students I advise each year, is that the job offer is often its own source of emotional turmoil. A sudden offer, or the sense that one might be incoming, can prompt as much panic as delight.
Why? As I’ve watched this play out repeatedly over the past few months, I realized that while the job search is often frustrating, it’s also kind of hopeful. As you apply for job after job, you get excited about so many possible future yous. You foster so many different fantasies about so many different lives doing so many different things. So while the concrete reality of an offer can offer a lot of relief, it also represents a sort of loss. This one actual path forward comes at the cost of a bunch of potential others.
As doors close, the possible future yous hiding behind them disappear. It can feel as if your options are narrowing rather than opening up. I’ve seen this happen when an offer from a research-focused university meant rethinking a professional identity grounded primarily in teaching. Or when a student submitted 40 applications and the first one turned into an offer before the others even started interviewing.
It’s worth being prepared for the turmoil of a job offer, both by understanding why it might be stressful and by preparing to navigate it as smoothly as possible. Below, I’ve identified two big drivers of postoffer stress -- unsynchronized timelines and lack of knowledge -- and then proposed several approaches to help you make it through.
Read Derek's advice for dealing with the uncertainty in the original post on Inside Higher Education.
Derek Attig is the Director of Career Development for the Graduate College. After earning a PhD in History here at Illinois, Derek worked in nonprofit communications and instructional development before joining the Career Development team. A devotee of libraries and all things peculiar, Derek is currently writing a book about bookmobiles.