King Banaian has a post on one professor's struggle with trying to be the right person for a job. Below I present the entire post:
In an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education today (I think this one is open to all readers), "Andy Jackson" publishes his struggle with creating a CV for an academic job without saying too much about his religious background. Concerned that some English departments would look askance at this working with Christian organizations, he tried a variety of strategies to express the work he'd done and the passion with which he had done it without revealing its religious nature. It's turned out not to have worked out well.
In hindsight, it seems that the various strategies I pondered to avoid bigotry were unnecessary and spiritually unwise. My two years on the market have convinced me that, at the application stage, the fear of bigotry is worse than the bigotry itself. After all, you never really know why a search committee rejects you at the initial stage.
At any rate, I couldn't see myself happy at an institution where colleagues secretly or openly believed that religious convictions made someone a less interesting and capable human being.
So where did that leave me? My reasons for going on the market had more to do with a sense of calling than anything else -- in this case, a calling to work at an institution with a graduate program. Furthermore, the surest way to know that you have conquered a fear is to face it head on, and for me, that meant trying the market one last time. That quest paid off: This fall, I will be an assistant professor of English at a public institution in the West.
His advisors told him to be open, and indeed he was successful when he finally was. It's sound advice.
When I was first looking for professor jobs in economics, I applied for every job I could find. Although I had training in applied theoretical microeconomics with emphases in labor economics and IO, I applied for jobs in macro, econometrics, international trade, etc. I also applied for jobs all over the country. In interviews, I tried to make myself look like I was the best match for a job. After all, I wanted a job and I figured I could make myself fit in. I ended up in a job as a researcher and professor at my institution. My primary research responsibility was macroeconomic forecasting, a job for which I had little training. It was interesting at first because it was new, but after awhile I realized something I wish I had realized earlier... I was not a macreconomist.
But there was something about myself that I did know: I liked living in the midwest. I have spent my 40+ years either in Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, or Minnesota. When it came time to apply for other positions, I restricted my choices to the upper midwest.
Upon graduating, a lot of people probably don't *know* who they are or just precisely what they want to do. Like me, they want a job and it's reasonable to do what it takes to get that job, even if that means pretending to like something you aren't sure if you like. Others, like the person King blogs about, know themselves pretty well. For many of those things about you that you know, it's best not to pretend to be someone you are not. You probably won't be very happy.
Update 1: King has some more thoughts here.