Phase 8: The Tough First Year as a Post-Doc

This phase covers the first year after my degree completion. Yesterday marks the one-year anniversary of my PhD completion date. This year has been marked by the rising threat of Covid-19 and race to develop vaccines and get them out to the public. This year has also been heartbreaking seeing the treatment received by African Americans, followed by protests, and followed by reactions to the protests. This year has seen a lot of people completely polarized over social, political, and medical issues and unable to have conversations about the issues. Sometimes the three appear intertwined in places that are unexpected. This leaves a lot of confused people out there hurting. In the midst of all this suffering, confusion and pain, I needed to get on the job market. I needed to obtain a job that provided enough income to offset the added cost of the student loans that would be due roughly six months after graduation. This phase for me personally was a highly stressful one trying to cope with all of the above concerns along with the added stress of a depressed job market mainly caused by Covid-19. I did not realize the full extent of this pressure on my field until SBL put out the annual jobs report this March, roughly eleven months into my first year post-doc. This reports showed an overall decrease in jobs at 17.9% less than the year prior, but this number is a bit misleading relative to me. This number is a raw number and reflects many jobs I wouldn’t be eligible for. Something that this number does not show is that many of the new positions this year were in new areas to make up for the fact that these were offered in too small a number in previous years. A lot of the new positions related to various aspects of the effect of the pandemic, thus not my field. From my perspective, which focuses on New Testament, Greek Grammar, and places where Linguistics might intersect either or both, there were less than half the number of positions that the previous year. This was true for both post-doctoral research positions and teaching positions.

That being said, I began my job search. The first thing I did was warm some older applications. That is, I updated my information from “PhD Candidate” to “Doctor,” from “ABD” to “completed,” for a number of applications I had already sent in materials for that still were considered open. I only heard back from one of them, and it was an unlikely one anyway, but they let me know that they went with someone else. After that, it was a very long time before any jobs were advertised. This was in the midst of the lock-down in Europe, and the beginning of the one in the USA. Right as I had gotten home from the UK, I was asked to stay home by one of my employers due the Covid situation, until I was stronger. I was still very weak and was constantly getting sick with a number of fresh Covid symptoms (not fever though) every 4-6 days that would last anywhere from 1 day to 3 days. Many days I had a delirious sensation and could not think straight for a few days, coupled with vertigo. By June, I was able to be out and about a little bit and went back to work outside the house. I needed money and this was money. I still had to call off a number of times due to fresh symptoms which would go away in a day or two. I had been tutoring online a bit before Covid became a global situation, but I did not get any students interested on that platform most of this year. I did some contract jobs online as the work was available and as I could focus on it. In July, my youngest contracted Covid, so we all had to isolate several weeks. I re-experienced some really powerful symptoms of the virus, without any fever. He is a young man, but was very ill. His symptoms reminded me of my time in England with the sickness. He did not have as much fever as I had, but some of his symptoms were worse. His skin shed after he became well, and he had lost 25 pounds or just a bit more. His face was sunken in. After this, I applied to a Covid vaccine study for Pfizer, and was accepted in their study.

In August thru September, the annual Stone-Campbell Journal Conference was attempting to be held again after being cancelled earlier in March. As we prepared to launch the conference in Knoxville at Johnson University, it became apparent that we needed to go virtual. Johnson was prepared for this alternative, and the Conference went well. My role in the conference was a bit different, since normally I am there in person managing the displays and book-selling stations. This time I managed the gathering of logos and links, and each exhibitor had a page on the conference website instead. I got to attend a lot more the conference itself this year, and participated in more of the groups than I usually do. This was the first fellowship with fellow academics since my defense. I was also my first fairly robust social gathering where nobody had to worry about masks, distance, or contact during the fellowship. I was contacted by Nazarene Theological College to teach New Testament Greek online via Zoom. I began teaching online in late September. This was just one course, but it was a start. Later in October I was invited to give a seminar at the Ehrhardt Seminar in Manchester, also a virtual event. I presented some material that was a development from my Thesis that I had been thinking about since the defense. This was well-received by the attendees, and the social event afterwards was also something I needed. I met some people there that I would see again later this Fall at SBL. I had an online graduation celebration via Zoom mid-October.

This November, I attended ETS annual meeting, and SBL annual meeting, both the national-level ones. These were scheduled to be in-person originally, but had now moved onto a virtual platform. Just like I had seen with SCJ Conference in September, the publishers and other exhibitors had links in the conference website. Normally there is a job fair at SBL, but this program was cancelled prior to the event. I was disappointed as my biggest need was employment. I decided to concentrate my efforts with the publishers as they might have some work needing done. Around this time Peter Lang agreed to publish my Thesis as a book. This was one of my goals to become more employable. A number of jobs also got posted near this time, so I applied to everything that made sense. My referees were busy writing letters for me. I applied to post-doctoral researcher positions that made sense based on the type of research I had done and to New Testament teaching positions. I heard back from very few of these. The few I did hear back from politely let me know that they went with someone else. One smaller place told me they had over 800 applications for the one position they had posted, saying they had never seen this many apply before. I am sure they were overwhelmed, but this was the story everywhere I heard back from. Two places let me know that my materials were top-notch, but they had gone with someone who had already published more than I had. At least now I was informed. I really needed to get a few pieces published. I updated my online profiles in anything that gave me an online presence. (I generally do this around SBL time). Soon after, someone contacted me via LinkedIn and asked me teach Hebrew. I interviewed and was accepted at Israel Institute of Biblical Studies. I began teacher training which took all of December. They wanted to have all of their professors and lecturers using the Zoom platform in the same manner.

Over the Christmas and New-Year holiday period, I worked as much as I could on some contract work and my one outside job. I also worked over some pieces that could be published in theory. I began teaching Hebrew in January. This was just one class, but I was told to expect more. I got one article submitted in February and received the notification that it was being peer-reviewed. I got some editing done on my defended Thesis to get it ready for publication. My oldest son became sick with Covid in January, but was not very ill with it. We all isolated the full time. My old symptoms reemerged in force while he had it. By February IIBS gave me two more classes to teach for Hebrew. Later they added several new ones to start in March and May. In March they also asked if I would teach Greek also. I said yes, so after some teacher training, they added 3 Greek classes to my responsibility list. Now it seems I am fully employed, but this is not the case. These classes are a blessing! I am “adjuncting” in all of these roles. I am still listed on LinkedIn as “open to work.” I am looking for a full-time position somewhere that involves New Testament, Greek Language and hopefully Linguistics. I found out that I had received placebo in the Covid study, so got the vaccine for real in March as they unblinded the study. As March drew to a close, another sad social issue raises its head, “hate crimes against Asians.” In addition to that, new strains of Covid-19 are being studied. Some of them are more spreadable than the first ones, and others can reinfect a person who previously had it. Along with this are some strains that mutated the protein spike, which is what most of the vaccines are designed to recognize. Little is known yet if these with protein spike mutations will spread like the others have as it is too soon to tell. In addition to this the numbers of sick people globally have spiked again though the last month of Winter and into Spring. I am trying to stay optimistic about job opportunities, but I think this coming year will test all of that. At any rate, I am concentrating on getting more published and teaching as much as I can as Adjunct. Up to now, as the courses I am currently teaching finish, I will have taught first-term Greek four times, second-term Greek three times, first-term Hebrew nine times, and second-term Hebrew three times. That should enhance my Curriculum Vitae nicely.

Author: James E. Sedlacek

I have an avid interest in teaching the languages used in the sacred literature texts, explaining the background for each piece of literature and structuring a method to interpret the literature. The goal is that an interpretation is based upon a thorough analysis of the language, text and background for the text.

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