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.