Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Last year's job market: post-mortem

Before this year's job market starts, I want to recap last year's.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I started on the job market in October, rather than in the summer, and the bulk of my applications went out much later than that.

In vague outline, here are the offers that I had and what happened with each:

1. A postdoc at a good place where no one does research even slightly related to mine gave my first offer, even before some places had interviewed me. The offer was exploding, and I had exactly six days to decide. It required teaching one course a semester, and the salary was so low that I couldn't help but think what a bargain they were getting to get someone to teach for so little money, only a bit more than teaching assistant pay. The guy making the offer said he really wanted me to come, but he seemed impatient about answering my questions --- by this point, I'd spoken with dozens of people on the phone, and compared with all of them he just didn't seem so interested in me. I asked my other prospects if they could hurry up with offers, and one place ponied up with an offer, and I decided I liked that one better, so I turned down this postdoc.
Salary: X

2. The offer which replaced the postdoc involved teaching too. I had really liked them. They really liked me. And for many reasons, the job just seemed to fit really well into my life narrative. I negotiated what seemed like a substantial increase in my salary. And I was so much on the verge of accepting the offer that months later, friends that I don't see very often ask how I'm enjoying it there, and I liked the idea so much that holding the offer in my hand as I went on one interview probably cost me that job because it affected my mentality. At the last minute, I was advised that for a non-tenure-track job a purely research-focussed job would be far better for my career, even if I ultimately want to focus on teaching. So I turned it down.
Salary: 1.5X

3. One research position made me an offer for a 10 month position, renewable yearly. They said it was pro forma that the position would be renewed, but right there in ink all I had was 10 months, not even 12. And for substantiative reasons, it was not a good position. Salary: 1.8X for 12 months, but it was only a 10 month position, so effectively 1.5X

4. A research position which was good in some ways and not in others. Particularly notable, one of the mentors was fantastic, but there were some serious drawbacks. Salary: X

5. A postdoc at my current school, which let me do whatever I wanted. They were really bright and interesting, but there were also some concrete details of the position which were undesirable and somehow it felt wrong. Salary: 1.1X

6. My current position, which I'll discuss in another post. Full-time salary: 1.7X.

I also had a lot of interviews, and a few notable almosts:

Almost (1) An offer letter for a tenure-track job sat on the hiring administrator's desk for apparently more than a month. They had had me down for one interview, and they kept expressing extreme interest, they mentioned a (very good) salary and terms, and acted like this was an offer and asked me for my reply. I kept asking for the paper. They wanted me to come down for another meeting, perhaps with the big cheese. I kept asking for the paper. I finally agreed to go to this second meeting, though it seemed like potentially a waste of time since I still didn't have a letter. We set the date, and I was on the verge of buying tickets perhaps a few days before the meeting, when I got a call from one of the prominent profs who happens to be a real straight-shoooter, the kind of person who's just brimming with good will and everyone likes and trusts. The straight-shooter apologized and said that the position had been retracted for the foreseeable future due to a circumstance that I'd known about. That circumstance had given me reservations about accepting the position, but the person recruiting me assured me that it was fine. The person recruiting me had been my continual contact throughout the process, speaking with me before I applied, and reassuring me that the delays were normal and the position would go through in the end despite the circumstance. The straight shooter had said the person recruiting me would give me a call later, but of course I didn't hear from them again. The position will presumably come up again eventually; I'm guessing they won't ask me to apply, and something makes me think that if I did apply they might wish that I hadn't. Salary: 2.6X

Almost (2) The interview that I had when I was holding offer #2. They liked me, but they weren't sure that my focus aligned with theirs. Which they were absolutely right about because I was convinced that I was going to accept offer #2 so my interviewing must have been off as I was thinking of myself at the type of place of offer #2 instead of theirs. Unfortunate. Some institutions will not hire you ever if you have an unsuccessful interview. In this case, I would guess it's not forever closed to me. Salary: I don't know, but about 2.5X.

Almost (3) A tenure-track job at a good school said that I was their close second. The person they hired instead had tenure somewhere else, and was willing to take a non-yet-tenured position in order to relocate geographically. Clearly no contest, but boy was I flattered. Salary: 1.6X

Finally, beyond the offers and almosts are the "not even close" calls --- a few jobs that I applied to did not seem to really exist. I don't mean cases like almost (1) where they were really trying to fill a position and the position didn't go through, but cases where there was an inside candidate or cases where they were hiring for a position that they didn't have recruitment funds for. The latter was particularly eye-opening.

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