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Post Archive
2020 (0)2010 (39)
December (3)

It's not "goodbye," it's...
Friday, December 17, 2010

I can haz music warz?
Thursday, December 2, 2010

Two weeks
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
November (10)

Interviews, for reals!
Thursday, November 18, 2010

Can I get a pdf of this?
Thursday, November 18, 2010

SfN 2010 Day 5: A video featuring Tideliar and Dr Becca
Wednesday, November 17, 2010

SfN 2010 Day 3: A video featuring Tideliar and Dr Becca
Monday, November 15, 2010

SfN Day 2 (better late than never)
Monday, November 15, 2010

SfN 2010, Day 1: a video blog featuring Tideliar and Dr Becca
Saturday, November 13, 2010

30,000 people is not actually that many people
Wednesday, November 10, 2010

We have a winner, and a cocktail!
Sunday, November 7, 2010

You. Immortalized. In a cocktail.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Time for BANTER!!!
Monday, November 1, 2010
October (8)

Your PowerPoint and You
Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Have I told you lately that I love you?
Thursday, October 21, 2010

So I have an Interview.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010

It's bribe time
Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Research Blogging: The Postpartum Brain
Tuesday, October 12, 2010

It's Business Time
Friday, October 8, 2010

That time I was on TV
Thursday, October 7, 2010

What?! Only 300 thread-count and no robe? Two stars!
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
September (5)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Let me give you my card
Thursday, September 23, 2010

I gotta have some of your attention, give it to me!
Saturday, September 18, 2010

My Science Enemy
Monday, September 13, 2010

What I wish I knew before...I moved to New York City
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
August (9)July (4)
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Dr Becca, Ph.D.

Dr Becca can now be found at .

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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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

As we move into the final weeks of summer, one can just make out a faint buzz as the TT job boards gear up for another hiring cycle. Accordingly, I'm re-vamping my CV and research statement to reflect all the awesomeness that's occurred in '10, and checking the ads on a semi-regular basis. I know it's early, but I'm disheartened to see so far how few of the openings seem to match my interests and skills. I find myself wondering whether I could spin my statement to fit, or whether my time could be better spent. On that note, I thought I'd re-post what I wrote last year on the topic. Enjoy!

I recently went back to my grad school to attend the public thesis defense of one of my good friends. During the pre-talk mingling I chatted with a PI I'd known while I was a student, and when I mentioned that I was job hunting, he said, "Oh, do you know about the job opening at the Fancy Liberal Arts College up the road? That could be great for you." I had not heard about the FLAC job, and was very interested, as it really is one of the top FLACs in the country. But then he said, "be sure when you apply that you make yourself look like a cell biologist, because that's what they want."

Out of respect I simply smiled and said, "Oh, OK!" but what I really wanted to say was, "Dude. I know you know that I am no cell biologist. Sure, I'm peripherally interested in receptor signaling, but mitochondria and I do not hang. I have no real plans to conduct research that would qualify as cell biology. So why would I want to give people the impression that I do?"

A recent commenter said,

The most important thing to do with your cover letter is to show that you're a good "fit". A cover letter that doesn't show you're a good fit says one of three things about you:
(1) you aren't a good fit
(2) you aren't interested enough in the department to figure out what they want or you don't really know what they're about
(3) you aren't skilled enough to even fake 1 & 2

My big question to this commenter (and to all of my readers) is, why would I want to fake it? Is it too idealistic to imagine that they'd want me for me, and not for my ability to craft a cover letter that feeds them what they want to hear? I mean, I understand the idea that if they seem to emphasize teaching, then I should emphasize teaching in my cover letter, and likewise if they emphasize research. I've been doing that. But I can't lie about the kind of research I'm capable of or intend to do...can I?

At the SfN meeting I ran into a friend who's been in a tenure-track faculty position for maybe 7 or 8 years. He had lots of great advice, but one thing he said was particularly interesting--the best possible situation, he said, is not when you can convince them that you're The Scientist They Want, but when you can convince them you're The Scientist They Didn't Know They Wanted. We didn't get a chance to hash out how you actually make this happen, but I'm thinking this may involve perhaps a in your cover letter to get your foot in the door for an interview/job talk, where things will presumably play out like this:

Dr Becca: And that's the end of my job talk on non-cell biology topics.
Search Committee: Um, but we thought you said you did cell biology?
Dr Becca: Oh, hmm...I suppose I did. I don't, actually, but isn't this much, much better???
Search Committee: Now that we think about it, it is!! It totally is. Would you like to join our department?
Dr Becca: Yes, thanks very much.

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I think that you should also realize that not every search committee actually KNOWS what they want. In many situations, if someone that is AWESOME comes along and seems like they would be a good fit in the department, but doesn't *actually* do cell biology you might still give them a shot. I say let the search committee decide if they are not going to interview you, don't do it for them!!

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Hahaha.. I like the end part.

If you really have no interest in it, then I would say no don't bother. But if you do think that once you get your foot in the door and actually get some face time w these people, that you could find youreself happily working in their lab and pull the direction to what you really want to do, then hell yea do what you gotta do to make that happen.

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I genuinely have no idea TBH. I would assume you can bluster and bullshit in your cover letter all you want, about your totes awesome cell biology skills. But then they look at your CV and refs and pubs and realise you're bullshitting them...

...but if you are good enough, they might hire you anyway. I've only been one search committee and the job posting asked for a developmental neurobiologist. We hired two people, both awe-inspiringly talented electrophysiologists (with pedigrees that make people like me quit looking for TT jobs before we've even started!) and neither doing developmental neurobiology...

Genomic Repairman
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Hey my uni is going to start up a job search again for junior faculty, so as soon as they begin I'll let you know. I think they are making the position description vague as they are trying to attract an outstanding junior scientist and not a particular discipline.

Dr. O
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One of my grad school labmates got hired for a TT position that was created for her after she applied and interviewed for a somewhat differently-focused position in the same department. The chair of the dept went to the dean and requested additional funds for the extra position (knowing they were going to be conducting another search the following year), and they ended up hiring two junior profs instead of one. I'm sure it's rare, but that's at least one example of applying somewhat outside the posting description working out. I'm opting for more apps than fewer this year myself...especially considering the dearth of jobs that are highly specific to my research (only 2 so far). I figure the worse they can do is triage my application immediately.

Dr. O
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Didn't mention in the first comment, but I'm fairly certain she sent nearly the same cover letter/CV/research interest packet that she sent to other jobs. The "spin" had to do more with telling the search committee why they wanted her, instead of trying to make herself look more like what they advertised for.

Dr Becca, Ph.D.
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Great advice, everyone! And yeah, GR--definitely let me know when your uni begins its search again!

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PS: another reason that search committees don't know what they are looking for (besides the fact that it is impossible to predict who is going out in any given year) is because people like me sit on them :-)

Link pops

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That link totally didn't work. Oops! Here is another attempt:
I feel the same way. I'm happy to apply for things that say, "We want people who specialize in Theoretical Programming Languages of Toadstools..... or other highly qualified candidates." But for ones that just mention the toadstools, I don't see what the point is. Chances are they need someone to teach a class in that area, and that's just not me.

As for number of ads, I've been shocked by how few there have been so far in my field in general. I guess departments are still waiting to find out about their budgets. When do neuroscience jobs get advertised?

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I'm a TT prof, pre-tenure. I was hired for a position that was specifically seeking for a topic on which I am not an expert. There is often a lot of politics involved in getting a search ad approved. At my school (private R1), the dean must approve all ads. And sometimes the dean thinks we need more people working in field X, while the department just wants to hire the best person they can find. Also, I've definitely seen search committees "think" they wanted to hire in a specific field, but then be convinced otherwise after seeing the candidates.
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