Well, apparently this is happening. 🙂
It’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog. What have I been up to, you ask? Oh nothing, just GETTING A NEW JOB IN MINNESOTA. You know, no big deal.
Many of you who know me in real life or follow my Instagram account have known about this job news for a while, but I wanted to take a moment and write a little more about it, as it has basically taken over my life since last August when I started preparing applications.
First, the details: I’ve accepted a position as an Assistant Professor of Biology and will be starting this fall. I’m absolutely thrilled! After 8 years in Boston doing my PhD and postdoc, I’m beyond excited to be gearing up for the next chapter of my career. I’ll finally have my own office (for the first time in my life), my very own research lab, and the freedom to develop new courses and drive my own research program. For me, the autonomy that comes with a professorship is the huge reward that I’ve been working toward for my entire career, and what more than makes up for all the not-so-great parts of academia, in particular the long hours and abysmally low paycheck. In all honesty, this job is my dream come true. You know, no big deal at all. 🙂
Another extremely rewarding aspect of this job will be the opportunity to train students in evidence-based decision making. In the current political climate in the United States, it is my personal opinion that this type of education is critical. In a society in which the difference between fact and fiction is no longer obvious, I am excited to help students develop the critical thinking skills that will enable them to become informed citizens and productive members of society. I could go on and on about this, but I think you get the point.
Now, a bit about how I managed to get this job in the first place. As you may or may not know, getting a faculty job at a university is extremely difficult. The competition is fierce. You are competing head-to-head with over 100 (sometimes several hundred) extremely well qualified candidates in an international search that will result in exactly ONE person getting the job. And there aren’t many jobs to go around, which is why they are so competitive. This means that you apply all over the country (or internationally, if you’re willing to move that far away) and resign yourself to uprooting your entire life should you be lucky enough to get an offer. I submitted 22 application packages from Boston to California and everywhere in between and, by some miracle, managed to hit the academic jackpot in Minnesota.
The application and interview process was absolutely brutal. It was hands-down the most stressful thing I have ever done in my life. You work your entire career for the opportunity to apply for a job that you have a slim-to-none chance of actually getting, and then you wait (and wait, and wait…) for the phone to ring. Most of the time, it never rings. You sink into a state of mental anguish in which you question whether you are, in fact, a worthless piece of crap. Sometimes you get a phone call – woohoo! – asking you to fly out for an interview. Now you have exactly 2 days to convince a bunch of strangers that you are the best thing to hit their department since sliced bread. You know, no pressure or anything! You practice answering an endless slew of potential questions in the bathroom mirror or in front of your cat. You memorize all the faculty members’ recent papers and come up with lists of insightful questions to ask them over dinner. You prepare a one-hour seminar that, no question, has to be the best talk you have ever given in your life. THE BEST TALK OF YOUR LIFE. Piece of cake, right?
My physical and mental health took a nose dive during this time, topped off by a 24 hour stay in the emergency room with what I now know were stress-related issues. On the flip side, this experience (my first ever hospital stay) opened my eyes to all the wonderful, extremely caring, supportive, and hard-working people who work in hospitals. I am extremely fortunate and thankful to live in a city with such amazing healthcare facilities and talented professionals who were a huge comfort to me during a frightening time.
Anyway, after all the applications and interviews and stress and anguish, I managed to actually get a job. And you know what I learned in this process? Well, A LOT. But first and foremost (in my own personal experience) that getting an academic job really was all about “fit,” as everyone had told me all along. It’s hard to believe when you’re going through the application process because no one can actually explain to you what this mysterious “fit” is all about, or how you can improve your fit, or highlight your fit in your applications, or whether your fit for a particular job is any better than anyone else’s. It’s immensely frustrating. But, when I started going on interviews (both over the phone and in person), it all became painstakingly clear.
You will know when you have a good chance of getting the job. People love everything on your CV (the academic equivalent of a resume). Everyone is giving you big smiles. You say things and can tell that everyone is delighted. You have a long line of people waiting to ask you questions after your seminar. Essentially, you are exactly what this department is looking for. As far as I can tell, there is absolutely no way to figure this out before the interview stage, but once you are having a conversation with live people in real time, you will know.
Likewise, you will know when you have no chance of getting the job. People ask you why things are missing from your CV. You get confused looks instead of smiles. When you tell people what you need to do your work, the overwhelming response is “we don’t have any of those things.” And most importantly, you think to yourself, “I don’t think I would be successful here.” You will know.
With all that said, there is a huge amount of luck involved in getting one of these jobs, and I was extremely fortunate to land in front of the right people at the right time. Based on my personal experience on the job market, my best advice is to apply to as many places as possible in the hope that you will be the perfect “fit” at one of them. The right school will find you. That is their job. Your job is to just keep applying. They can’t find you if you don’t apply.
Now that I got a job, the only things left for me to do are finish up my postdoc work, move across the country, turn an empty room into a functional laboratory, train students, teach classes, develop new classes, pull in grant money, finish publishing my PhD papers, finish publishing my postdoc papers, publish new papers, advise students, serve on committees, continue to go to conferences and give talks, GET TENURE… you know, just a few little things, no big deal. 🙂
Oh, and make sure I have enough winter gear for my new life in Minnesota. I’m coming from Boston, so it shouldn’t be too different, right? RIGHT??? 🙂
Many heartfelt thanks to everyone who reads this blog for all your support and encouragement over the years. To any of you who live in MN, please reach out! I am coming your way!!