Dr Becca can now be found at http://scientopia.org/blogs/drbecca .
My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.
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It's next Monday.
Now, before you go getting all excited, it's for a 2nd post-doc, not a TT job (I think it's a little early for those. [RIGHT???]). But my plan is to treat it like a TT interview dry run, anyway. I mean, I do have to give a formal talk, and I have a full day of interviews, so I imagine the two aren't wholly un-similar. And dammit, I'm going to prove my worth with the confidence and fervor of someone who's ready to be her own boss, even if she's auditioning not to be her own boss.
This lab--at a Classy Institution in the NY tri-state area--would be really good for me. It's definitely a little outside my comfort zone science-wise, but I think I'd learn a ton and get a new perspective on my own research. Commuting would be a bitch, but...doable.
I got my final itinerary yesterday, and I have to admit I'm a little intimidated--I have nine interviews. Nine! How can any one person be expected to talk that much? In addition to the PI I'd originally contacted, I'm meeting with one of his primary collaborator PIs, as well as seven post-docs from seven different labs in the department, many of whom do research that is WAY outside my sphere of knowledge. I'll be honest, I'm not completely sure what the goal is in scheduling meetings with so many other post-docs--is it for me to ask them about post-doc life in general at their Classy Institution, or does post-doc hiring here take more of a department-wide, by-committee approach? Am I expected to have science-y questions for these post-docs? Yesterday I printed out a recent paper or two from each lab, so I wouldn't go in completely clueless. But how much do I need to prepare?
And more importantly, will there be constant access to coffee and snacks? Because I'm much more of what you'd call a "grazer"--I don't have huge meals, but sort of munch (and sip) throughout the day, which means I'm pretty much always hungry, and very caffeine-addicted. When I don't get my snacks, my stomach growls REALLY loudly, and I'm positive this is going to happen during at least one of my interviews (probably 3 or 4). J has suggested I keep a stash of Luna Bars in my purse and chomp down when I get a bathroom break. This is not the worst idea I've ever heard.
Who's got other tips for me?
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I wouldn't count on food or coffee throughout the day unless they have one of those little Café's you can sneak off to when no one is looking. And why can't you take a stab at a real TT interview? You might be surprised, and if it doesn't work out, it'd be great practice :)
I was wondering the same thing, Brian. Why do you feel like you need a second postdoc?
Sorry, I suppose I should have provided a little background, for my new-found LabSpaces fan base! To learn why I need a second post-doc, please see the blogspot site for "There's no crying in science," Part 1 and Part 2.
In short, the grant I've been on is finished, and the other projects going on in my lab are really not my bag. My last day is Dec 15. I'm also applying for TT jobs, and so when interview season for that happens (I think usually Dec-Feb or so), I'll hopefully have some of those, too.
Ok ... that makes a little more sense!
w00t! yes, hide snacks in your purse. presumably one of your 9 interviews is over lunch, as well?
Don't forget to smile.
IME, postdoc interviews like you are scheduled for a pretty laid back. We would have postdocs from outside the lab talk to candidates if 1) the other postdoc expressed an interest or 2) we were interested to see how well someone from "outside" the field could interact with others or 3) there just weren't enough folks in the lab at the time and we wanted more feedback. Meeting with 9 people sounds about right. You don't need to worry too much about reading up before hand. Probably, the other postdocs will ask you a question or 2 about your talk, then tell you what they are working on. Then you ask questions. But they don't have to be super-informed. Something like "WoW! I never knew you could slice the heads off the flies to do invertebrate brain proteomics*! Can you actually measure serotonin* levels that way?!" is sufficient. Also, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, this is your time to ask real questions about how the lab is run and how happy the other folks are in the environment to see if it actually would be the kind of place you would like to be.
As for the food, that is hit-or-miss. On many of my postdoc interviews, I was taken down to the coffee bar for our "chat". I am quite a caffeine addict myself, but that was not a problem. If there isn't a coffee bar onsite you may be in trouble. For tt interviews this was much different. NO ONE offered me anything to drink (water or otherwise!), and I was usually expected to talk while others had lunch. I carried water and cliff bars and scarfed when possible.
Good luck and have fun!
*I totally made this up, and serotonin is about the only neurotransmitter I know. Also, I realize this question makes no sense. That is sort of the point. If you can be excited about what is going on, and they get the sense that you are interested most people will give you the benefit that you would be able to learn stuff in a new field. Unless you ask the same silly questions over and over, of course
I agree with Gerty, it will likely be pretty laid back, and they will be expected to talk to you about their work and you to ask a couple of questions. I've had a couple of interviews that were like this, in the one for the lab I'm now in everyone had a little presentation prepared to show me what they were working on. In the other they just wanted to speak to me about what I was interested in, and one of the postdocs actually used her time to give me a 10 minute run down on precisely why I shouldn't go to that lab and why her life was miserable because no one had bothered to tell her the truth, which I really appreciated, everyone else in the lab kind of skirted around the issue without being so blatant.
Definitely take some snacks and water with you and anything you get will be a bonus!
Yay! Kick ass!
You might not need to worry too much about getting snacks. At the start of meeting with new people, you could always suggest grabbing something. Wouldn't surprise me that most of the people you're would jump at the chance to get a coffee as well. Whenever I talk to post doc candidates, I suggest we start by getting coffee.
It allows me to check their all important opinions about coffee. I ain't too fond of those caffeine teetotalers.
I think as with most postdoc interviews, they are trying to convince you to go their lab rather than the other way around. So use your time with the postdocs to ask a lot of questions about the lab and the environment in that department. Bring backup snax, but it is not inappropriate to suggest to some of the people that you go out and grab a snack or coffee.
good luck! I agree with everything, but most importantly, don't forget to ask every single question you can think of regarding the ambience, the way they intereact (if they do at all, I've heard horror stories of labs/groups who didn't see each other/talked until someone showed up for an interview .... basically a front to get the intended postdoc to join). Ask about any resources you currently have and like and see if this is similar at their place (lab cores, computers, gym, hell whatever you like/find comfortable at your current place which would enhance your experience). It's only fair-game. Yes, bring a bottle of water and snacks ... the same thing happens to me .. I just chalk it up to low blood sugar and eat me some snacks before the next round of interviews/visits/etc.
Thanks, everyone! You're making me feel much less stressed.
Gerty, you are hilarious, and impressive! Usually the one neurotransmitter people know is dopamine, so you're ahead of the game!
And Zen, don't you even worry! I'm a big smiler. :D
W00t!!! If they don't feed you at some point during nine interviews, then thay are douches. Just smile and ask questions and make sure your fly is zipped.
I agree with Candid. Totaly douches.
Seriously, just have fun. If they are spending a whole day to talk to you they are probably "recruiting" more than "interviewing". Just don't be creepy or get defensive if folks ask questions at your talk. If you are excited about the science (and your fly is zipped) you will do super!
Agreed with the others...I'd bring snacks just in case, but they're probably going to be very interested in making you feel welcome and convincing you of how great they are. I bet they'll be asking you lots of questions about your research, and you'll be offered lots of time for breaks/food/bathroom/etc. Also, as others have said, use your time with the postdocs to ask lots of questions about the lab, department and institution...collaborative environment? training opps? postdoc office/association? Sometimes these indirect questions can get you good info on how happy they are there.
FYI, I know of at least one case when fly unzipped didn't cause postdoc interview failure. ;P
Great job on getting the interview. I kind of have to agree with everyone else that it will probably be informal and relaxed, and will just give you the opportunity to see as many people as possible and get an idea of what is going on in the lab(s). They probably do this to give a bit of structure, don't think of the sessions with the other postdocs/postgrads as interviews but more informal chats.
Good news about the fly, but make sure you don't get your skirt wedged up in your knickers after you've been to the toilet, could be equally, arguably more embarrassing! Probably more difficult with a pencil skirt though!
oh good luck!
One thing that has helped me in interviews, is to go through the list of people and print out one sheet of whatever university or lab page they have that that has their picture on it, and then based on the little research blurb, write down a few potential questions for them (like, if I see that they use the same subjects as I do, I can ask about that, while it might be pointless to ask someone else, who I could instead ask about certain equipment, or whatever). For me, I think mainly it helped me feel less anxious to know what people were going to generally look like, and also I could sneak a quick peek at the paper on the way to the meeting so I could remember what they worked on and what kind of stuff I could ask them.
That either worked, or just provided some kind of anxiety-soothing displacement activity in the day before the interview, but I felt like it helped so I recommend it!
(and take a big purse with a small water bottle, kleenex, and a granola bar, for emergencies).
I have no idea what a pencil skirt is, but I agree with much of what has been said. A PDF interview is going to be much more laid back than a TT interview and as long as you give a good talk, don't threaten anyone with violence during the interview and appear to be an interesting person, it'll be fine. These people are interviewing a colleague for a 1-4 year commitment, not a potentially career-long one. The snack stash is a good idea as well.
Good luck and have fun.
Not too much thigh,
not too much cleavage.
Try not to use your teeth too much.
be funny, but not a comedian
be nice, but not a push over
be strong, but not a bitch
be confidant in your abilities as a professional scientist
be yourself. You fucking rock, and you know it.
and not too much teeth.
Oh, and if anyone is a dick, hits on you or acts otherwise all d00dly, punch 'em in the fuckin throat. When his hands fly to his throat, you can grab his head/ear and pound his face into the table. Whilst doing this say quietly, "Little boys need to learn respect"
Excellent advice, Tideliar! No worries on the teeth thing, as I happen to be missing a few.
Damn...scars, missing teeth... you'd fit right in down here!
I'm a couple of days behind on bloggy reading so apologies for being late to the party. A few simple suggestions ...
1. Wear comfortable clothing, particularly the shoes. No short skirts.
2. Carry a water bottle with you.
3. Don't be afraid to ask for a toilet break in between meetings.
4. Be yourself.
5. Kick ass.
I'm also late, but not too late - huh? it was Monday right?... Anyhow, I think everyone has said what I wanted to say but maybe repeat "they need to show you why you should go there too". It's not all about you fitting in there, you need to get some kind of clue of the peeps in the labs you are interviewing with.
So, questions and attentive about the things they don't mention ;) I've gotten the lots of information abuot the things that people don't say anything about - like "where did the old post docs go after this" [enter quiet and "don't know" - danger bell sounding in my head], "if they interact in the lab and share stuff" etc.
and PiT has an excellent point; comfortable shoes! (Best to find good looking and comfortable but.... noone looks good limping in high heels in the end of the day [again, someone might have done that in an interview... ;) ]
PiT and chall, it's never too late to comment! The interview is this coming Monday, so I will definitely take your advice. Luckily, the Medical campus where I'm going isn't too sprawling, so my feet should be OK in my very hot (but not slutty-hot) Calvin Klein black patent pumps. And the skirt is your standard knee-length suit skirt, so I think I should be the paragon of professional dress!
Why are people dissing the 2nd postdoc. Apparently (according to a seminar I went to this week) it takes on average 6 years+ from once you have received your PhD to getting TT (the average age is 39). Are you advocating staying in the same lab for those 6 years or do you think that it should take less time?
You probably don't want to stay in one place for those 5-6 years. If you have to have such extended training take advantage of it and move around. Learn new techniques, perfect old ones, write papers with new people network, network, network...
"black patent pumps"? And you accused me of being fancy over a suit? I'm calling "shenanigans!" :P
And I heavily agree with Tideliar. Network and expand.
In all sincerity, best of luck at the Classy Institution interviews! Knock em dead... and then sign off on the paperwork, forge their signatures, and turn them in to the appropriate offices before the people regain consciousness.
Why, thank you for asking!
It was exhausting, but overall a really fun day. I met a lot of people in the lab and in the department, and everyone seems to be really happy, and the lab is doing quite well. The PI is interested in bringing someone with my skills in, and has an interesting project that I would be on if I went there. There was some good discussion during my talk, too, which also made me happy. So all in all, very positive experience!