Category Archives: job interview

clearly I just suck

I just received a rejection letter from the small liberal arts college I’d visited last week.

  • 35 applications
  • 12? phone/initial interviews
  • 8 campus visit invitations (6 completed visits)
  • just 1 offer

Clearly I just suck, given the measly rate of return on all my effort.

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still nothing

I wish I could give a more exciting update, but I still don’t have any job offers. I did, however, receive a rejection letter on Friday morning (the “cooking” job). Not a big shocker, nor a huge disappointment. I’m starting to freak out because my options are becoming more and more limited. I leave for a final interview tomorrow at a small, midwestern liberal arts college similiar to my alma mater (Keep your fingers crossed for me, please!. I also just submitted an application for a position overseas, in Hubby’s dad’s current country of residence.

At this point, I’m just feeling resigned and flat. It doesn’t help that I’m in the thick of the PMDD blues (started taking medication again on Thursday, but it’s not working very well yet), and just feel like a distracted piece of crap while trying to prepare for this interview and cope with my phone’s silence.  It also doesn’t help that Hubby’s going through a crisis at work (i.e., is so frustrated that he’s getting closer and closer to walking away and finding something else), and would love for me to get the job in his dad’s current home country. The fact that neither of us really speak the language spoken in this area is not even on his radar, while I start to panic at the thought of having to lecture in a language I haven’t studied in years.

One thing at a time… one thing at a time…. one thing at a time….

no offers

No news following any of my interviews yet.  I’d hoped to have heard something from either of my two top choices by now, but my phone’s been silent. It should go without saying that this is disappointing. It’s also embarrassing; the individual who had my position before me required 2-3 tries on the market before hu secured an acceptable position, and it looks like history is repeating itself. Plus, the other 2 postdocs affiliated with my lab have already accepted or will soon accept good offers.

Regardless, in the context of my everyday interactions in this lab, I can handle the embarrassment of a failed attempt on the job market. I think I may die of shame if I have to hold my head high while at my national conference in a few weeks (i.e., during interactions with my mentors and colleagues from graduate school, all of whom have secured tenure-track jobs in a timely fashion). Thinking about this is enough to bring me to tears, so I’d better stop thinking about it and just get back to work.

the interviews are finished?

I hope the interviews are now truly finished. There is still one more on my schedule for later in the month, but I hope that I won’t need to go on it. I hope I’ll have an offer by the end of the week, because if I don’t, I’ll probably start freaking out bigtime. Be forewarned. By the end of the week, I will either be on cloud 9 or calling my shrink for a quick med refill.

I had my 5th interview last week, and it was fine. I have grave concerns about the position, and suspect I will be extremely reluctant to take an offer. The fact that I’ve had a sick stomach since eating dinner with the search committee doesn’t help! The big sticking point is that this department “doesn’t do start-up packages.” This is a big problem, but one that probably doesn’t make sense unless you’re an academic.

A start-up package is sort of like a signing bonus, but it’s a bonus intended to help new faculty get their research programs going. In my field, start-up funds can be used to purchase equipment (e.g., computers, software, or any tangible items required for research), pay for expenses (e.g., travel to conferences, membership fees for professional organizations), or pay participants for being in research studies. In my field, the last item on the list is perhaps the most important, because it’s hard to get people to take part in research if they don’t get anything in return. They’ll do it, but it’s a lot easier if you can pay them even $5 for their time. Packages can be as small as $5K or as large as $80K; it depends upon the field, what’s needed to get going, and how skillfully a new faculty member can negotiate. This money sits in an account and gets used within a period of time during the first years in that position. Whatever isn’t used might or might not be lost. Faculty can’t write themselves a check from start-up, as these funds truly are for research purposes.

Not having start-up funds is a huge obstacle. This school mentioned that they will negotiate certain necessary research-related expenses, but won’t call it start-up because apparently that implies that these funds will be used to accomplish X research and if X research isn’t completed by the time the new hire goes up for tenure, then there’s no way the new hire can be tenured. This might seem reasonable, but it actually makes no sense and is very, very odd. What’s not encouraging is that faculty members repeatedly mentioned writing grants to purchase moderately priced software packages (translation: they’ve begged for a piece of software that costs about $1000). The package I work in every day costs $1800 for a single computer.

It’s also problematic that the teaching load has suddenly increased by 1 class each semester, and can’t be reduced unless an undefined “substantial” amount of research is being accomplished.

These are major red flags, and I doubt I will be able to seriously consider this position.

In the meantime, I’ve been reflecting upon my limited success on the job market thus far. I have to admit, I’m pretty disappointed about my prospects. I already know I’m off the list for one position, and only one of the remaining possibilities is truly great. A second would likely be workable, but the other two would be challenging at best.

I’m also disappointed that I’ve had so little interest from my primary discipline, and that 3 of my 5 interviews have been in programs/departments that are compatible parallels. An analogy: if I were an actor, I’d be getting lots of interest from the television industry, but less from the film industry. In the minds of many in this field, my primary discipline is superior to the parallel discipline.
On one hand, there’s a part of me that feels like I should do better, given my training and skills. This part of me says that I should spend another year in my postdoc if I don’t get an offer I *really* want this time. This would give me more time to get the articles I currently have under review into press or publication. It comes at a cost, however, since it would be yet another year of comparatively lower income, which makes a huge difference in terms of saving for retirement and meeting other life goals. I’d be embarrassed to be four years behind my peers who finished their Ph.D.s at the same time as me. I’d have to go through this exhausting process yet again, too. Most importantly, I’d have to do a lot of explaining to search committees about why I’d stayed in my postdoc for 4 years, and this alone might decrease my chances at certain institutions.

On the other hand, part of me feels like I should be grateful for whatever comes my way. The fact of the matter is that no matter how much I hide it, I *do* have a disability that’s interfered with my progress and productivity. I’ve worked hard to compensate for those pre-ritalin years of limited productivity, but it doesn’t seem to have been enough. I can’t guarantee that I can keep up my current pace indefinitely, especially once I have to take a break from ritalin to start a family. Just because others think less of “tv” jobs versus “film” positions doesn’t mean that I have to think less of it, provided I can do my work and continue to do it well. A job is a job, particularly if it’s not a postdoc!

Perhaps it’s best just to plan to swallow my pride, accept what’s offered to me, and do my best work wherever I land next.

three interviews in ten days

I made it through 3 interviews in 10-11 days. Here’s the breakdown: 5 days of interviews,3 days of interview-related travel, 1 day at work (cumulatively; in practice, 2 half-days at work), and 2 weekend days. In the meantime, I have prepared 1 section of a grant, and have come down with 1 head cold.

Last week’s Interview #3 was okay, albeit a bit bizarre. The schedule was less organized than my others (e.g., it didn’t mention whether I’d have breakfast with the faculty members who picked me up at the hotel or if I should eat on my own, etc.), and had longer meetings. There were some odd moments during the actual interview itself, and in two instances, people were downright rude (i.e., when the search committee ignored me for most of the dinner on the 2nd night; when one of the search committee members bemoaned all the extra search-related “obligations” in front me at the same dinner). A third happening was just strange (i.e., the department chair asking me if “anything had happened to make me less interested in the position” during my campus visit. Well, actually, the search committee ignoring me during dinner did make me less interested, but I couldn’t exactly say that, could I?). The big draw for this position is the big startup package. It’s huge, and I could do a lot with it. The expectations are about the same as at the other places I’ve interviewed, and the family leave policies are very generous. I just don’t know if I like the people enough to seek tenure there. We’ll see what happens in another 2-3 weeks.

I have another 1.5 day interview later this week, but fortunately I can drive to this one instead of messing around with flights! It’s only 1-2 hours away by car, in good driving conditions. With luck my ears will be unclogged and I will have ceased blowing my nose by that point.

One of my biggest concerns throughout this whole process has been managing my medication schedule. Most of the time it’s gone ok. Each day I’ve carried only the doses I need of my medication in a small, decorative pill case. The prescription bottle is buried deep in my suitcase, usually mixed in with my dirty laundry just in case anybody decides to snoop… I’ve carried a bottle of water so I won’ t have to find a drinking fountain. In this way, I’ve mostly been able to take my medication mostly on schedule. When there have been gaps, they have luckily been during times in which I haven’t needed to think or express myself too clearly. Having a big of a cold has helped, because it gives me a “cover” when I have taken my medication in front of people.

Another big concern has been thinking of questions to ask people, especially administrators such as provosts and deans. I’ve always found this difficult, especially since I get rattled when I’m not sure what types of questions are really appropriate to ask in these sorts of situations. Fortunately, I’ve found a list of example questions online. This has helped reduce my anxiety, so I can focus on getting the information I need during the interview.

In essence, I’m getting through this one day at a time. It’s taken some creativity and flexibility, but it seems to be working ok so far.