Thursday, March 6, 2008

My job dance card

Pending decision: I've interviewed in person for 6 postdocs and one industry job: 3 rejections, 1 probably rejection, 2 unknowns, and I don't care about the industry.

* Fall interview 1: This was the postdoc that turned everyone down.

* December interview 1: Silent. I think that's a rejection, especially given how nervous she acted around me at a conference in January. This was the interview where the role of the postdoc is to get tenure for the junior faculty member; i.e., lots of papers where I would be at best the second author or probably the third or fifth, with almost no time for first author papers.

* December interview 2: They'll let me know next week. This is the only job that asked me to give a talk for them, and the only one where any large number of faculty made an effort to meet with me. It's in an awful city, but I really appreciate the respect for my work that it shows to have asked me to come speak.

* January interview 1: I turned it down because I was overwhelmed by all the travel and pretty sure I liked my current job better and thought it was disrespectful of my time to ask me to fly down for a 75 minute interview (spending all day in airplanes). In retrospect, that may have been a mistake, though I'm still pretty sure that I wouldn't have wanted it. It would have been nice to have an offer by now, though.

* January interview 2: Same fellowship as January interview 1. Had 49 applicants, and reviewed 13 applications for the slots around the country. I think there were 5 people interviewed for this slot. They sent their rejection last week.

* February interview 1: I was really excited about this postdoc until after I visited. They talked about how well they prepared their postdocs (they have a whole cohort of them) for applying for funding, and I was initially impressed by their thoroughness and professionalism that they instilled in their postdocs. All of the postdocs took the optional 3rd year, and the job outcomes for the alumni of the program were not terribly impressive. The combination of these factors made me realize that both funding and the job market in this subfield must be really tight, so the postdoc may not be the best career move.

They list two dozen research projects on their website and I thought that I was a good match for many of them, and was particularly excited for one of them. I applied for the postdoc because this professor who does exactly the same thing that I do (and I've never had a mentor in my exact same area of research) said he would work with me if I came. It's a training grant and so theoretically postdocs can work on anything, but only 4 of the 24 projects were "funded" and so eligible to take postdocs. Likewise, this mentor didn't have the right kind of connection with them. While writing my application, I had mulled over the 24 projects and mentors, and it turns out that most of them weren't eligible. During the interview, it was a complete surprise that there were only four eligible projects, and really just one or two were remotely plausible given my interests.

They rejected me almost exactly a week after my interview. They said that I was a solid candidate, but not a match for the research projects, which I agreed on. Still, the head of the postdoc seemed to like me, and seemed to hint that they would contact me.

* February interview 2: These guys told me that they didn't take my application seriously until they met me. After meeting me, they said they took me seriously. "And now that we take you seriously, maybe we will bring you back so you can meet a larger array of potential mentors." They only met me because they are not too far from February interview 1, so it wouldn't cost them anything to bring me in.

Before I came, they told me that they weren't going to reimburse anything and that they never reimburse anyone, so after staying in a nice hotel for the first day, I took a long long public transit ride out to stay with a friend the night before this interview. I did have to change my flight plans in order to come to the interview and I couldn't submit that expense to the first interview, so I submitted the $100 receipt for the change to them, and they told me that they will reimburse it. Apparently, (1) they are taking me seriously; (2) the administrator may have lied about the reimbursement policy; or at least (3) it really never hurts to ask. They bring in enough people for interviews for this postdoc that I can't imagine that they don't reimburse anyone.

No idea when I'll hear, but I do appreciate their frankness. Honestly, though, they're doing a project that is inferior to a similar project at my current university. The only difference between the two projects is that my current university has a mediocre reputation and this university has an elite reputation, so the project might receive more recognition out of this university in spite of its inferiority.

* February interview 3: Industry. They'll tell me at the end of the week (so presumably tomorrow since that's Friday), but I am not accepting it. I hope they offer so that I know what the salary would have been, though!

With only two already-interviewed-for job possibilities left, I am getting nervous. I had a phone interview this week that went well, and have another 10 applications out that could still turn into phone interviews, but I am starting to think that I should apply to more jobs. Yikes.

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