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January (1)

A new start in 2011.
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
2010 (32)
December (6)

Happy Festivus!!
Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wimminz in Academia Answers!!
Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The chalk talk
Saturday, December 11, 2010

cute? or THE CUTEST?
Friday, December 10, 2010

10 mo in the life of Gerty-Z (The one-year meme)
Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Today I had to fire someone
Thursday, December 2, 2010
November (6)

The joy of the interview
Monday, November 29, 2010

Are you writing an tenure-track job application?
Monday, November 22, 2010

Women in Academia Q&A
Wednesday, November 17, 2010

muddling in mentoring
Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Lost in translation?
Saturday, November 6, 2010

If you were an incoming graduate student, how would you choose where to rotate?
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
October (6)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

How NOT to work in my lab
Monday, October 25, 2010

Out on the job market
Friday, October 15, 2010

Make it rain!
Sunday, October 10, 2010

If I wasn't doing this...
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I *heart* conferences!
Monday, October 4, 2010
September (6)

Should you pay undergrads that work in your lab?
Sunday, September 26, 2010

The scientist-in-training
Sunday, September 19, 2010

It's not a pissing contest
Monday, September 13, 2010

What I wish I knew...
Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Beery Bladder-not necessarily from a Beery Friday
Friday, September 3, 2010

Ambition, in the world of grant-writing
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
August (8)

A quick note.
Thursday, August 26, 2010

Moving on up...
Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sunday afternoon panic attack
Sunday, August 22, 2010

Advice for the new grad student
Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The purpose of the K99/R00
Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Am I ruining your marriage?
Friday, August 13, 2010

All about ME!
Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wednesday, August 11, 2010
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I am starting my lab as an Assistant Professor at a Big Research University (summer 2010). I have a super partner and an adorable kiddo, Mini-G. I tend to rush into things and then figure them out as I muddle along. I'm sure that will be true here, too. I hope to use this space to maintain my sanity and share my perspectives on science and academia. These perspectives may sometimes qualify as rants. There will undoubtedly be some crazy times on the tenure track. Gmail me [at] primaryinvestigator

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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Comment by microbiologist xx in Wimminz in Academia Answers!!

I've been busy and am just now getting around to reading all of these entries. Very nice. . . .Read More
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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Let me start by saying that I don't fall victim to panic attacks frequently. At least, I haven't in the past. But, seriously, thank you to everyone for the encouraging words. I am no zen master, but I am closer to the state suggested by The Tideliar (CHILL THE FUCK OUT). OK, now. Moving on.

Get ready for the 2010 academic job market!
I have been thinking recently about the academic job search. 'Tis the season, after all. And also I have been asked to sit on a panel to discuss "getting a TT job" with a group of postdocs. I have NO IDEA what I am going to say to these pour souls. I sat in a similar workshop last year (it was part of my career development plan for the K99). The air stinks of desperation. I want to be positive, but I don't want to give any false hopes. In any event, I have been thinking a lot about what to tell folks going out on the market this year.

My credentials for giving this type of advice are pretty weak. Sure, I went through it. The past two years I have been pretty attentive to the job market. First as a spectator, then as a full-fledged participant. And, hell, it worked for me (I have a job, after all). But I don't think that there is a formula that will work for everyone. My experience is n=1. Nevertheless, I'm going to share some of the things that I feel like really helped. This year I will see how this whole process works from the other side, so I'm sure after that I will have a different perspective.

Before I start, some disclaimers and crappy statistics: I am speaking from the perspective of someone in the biomedical sciences. Generally, in my field, you have done at least 1 postdoc (probably 5-6 years). To be competitive you must have secured funding (a fellowship) and high-quality pubs. Realize that for every job advertised 200-500 people will apply. The most important thing you have to do is make it into the favorite 1-5% of those (most places will interview 5-8 people). Then you have to have the "best" interview out of those. This post is NOT about the interview process. And I am not going to duplicate drdrA's super advice on putting together a job application. Instead, these are general tips that helped me get through the process.

First, don't fly solo. I was surprised when I started advertising that I was going out on the market how helpful people were (you should have been in full-on advert mode for several months by now!). People, even big wig faculty(!), offered to read my research statement and cover letter and I got really good feedback. I am even more indebted to these people now that I know how busy they really were. Sure, some of these offers were made after a few beers at various poster sessions. But you know what, when I followed up later they were all SO helpful. So, my first and most important nugget of advice: if someone offers to help, take them up on it!

Second (but related), band together with your fellow job-seekers. We had an informal "support group" for postdocs that were going on the market last year. A friend of mine told me how useful this had been when he went out and IT IS TRUE! We set up a Google spreadsheet with all the job listings we could find, we had coffee/beer to bitch talk about how things were going, we went to practice talks. Even if you are applying to the same positions, you are probably NOT competing. In my group, there were many of us with similar credentials but with our interests and personalities there was no real way that we would ever be considered by the same programs. When folks started to get interviews and offers, I genuinely felt happy for them (and vice versa).

BTW, I operate under the philosophy that the more people you can get feedback from the better. Realize that there is not a "right" answer when it comes to the job search. You have to please everyone on the search committee (and most of the other faculty). Even if you don't agree with some feedback, take it seriously. It could be a view that someone in your *future* department shares.

Don't feel awkward about asking for letters from your references. I applied to a LOT of positions. I made some comment about the letter-writing burden to my PI and he set me straight quick-fast. Everyone needs letters. Everyone writes letters. It's part of the business. That being said, make it as easy as possible for your letter-writers. Be organized and as helpful as possible.

OK, this last bit is probably more opinion-based than others (but what the hell, it is my space): don't try to be something you aren't. Now, I really believe that you have to try for everything that is even remotely related to your field, as I indicated in my comments to Dr. Becca . Places can be a lot different than you expect when you go to interview (good OR bad), and you shouldn't limit your options based on YOUR interpretation of one little paragraph in Nature Jobs or wherever. Not to mention that the more places you have to compare the better. At this stage, there is no such thing as a throw-away interview, and you can't get interviews if you don't apply. Whatever you do, make sure that your application reflects what you actually want to do. I may have mentioned I applied to A LOT of positions. It really was A LOT (~100). But every place got the same research plan (and the cover letters weren't very different). I just threw my hat in the ring.

Anyhoo, I think that is enough for now. Please let me know in the comments if there is some aspect of the job search that you would like me to talk about more. I was considering making this a mini-series, since it is on my mind so much right now. I figured that the next one would be a more personal story of my search, and how I dealt with the whole lesbian thing. But I'm open to suggestions.

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biochem belle
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A neighboring institution where I am runs a job talk series. Postdocs on the market (or going on the market) can sign up to practice their talk, and the fellows office recruits faculty members (at least 2) to come to the talk, ask questions, and provide feedback. The fellows office also sends out a summary of the more generalizable advice to the fellows in attendance. Typically, fellows present their research talk, but at least one went through the chalk talk (on proposed research plan). It's quite enlightening to sit in on these talks and hear what the faculty have to say.

Dr Becca, Ph.D.
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Great advice, Gerty!! I realized way too late last year that I was "flying solo." I got way too little feedback on my research and teaching statements and didn't seek out nearly enough general advice. This year will be different!

Dr. Glitterbear
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My n=1 experience was quite different but with similar results. I did not have any support system of other post-docs or faculty except for my two mentors. Because I was also preparing a K99 application, I applied for only 11 jobs in the fall of 2008 and submitted the K99 at that time. Since those job applications were originally thought of as "practice", I selected only those jobs that fit my field in neuroscience. Lo and behold, of those 11 jobs, 3 were suspended, 4 rejected and 3 asked for an interview. The first interview was in the fall, the second in the winter and third in the spring. My interview skills and preparation improved for each one. Therefore, almost on the exact day, I was offered a position at an MRU and was awarded the K99. The institution was quite willing to delay my start date so I could take full advantage of the K99.

My meaningless opinion/tip to job seekers is to carve out a research niche that is as novel and/or synthetic as possible. I think the reason that I was successful is that I was proposing to use established protocols and techniques in neuroscience to a "new" field. All three position told me that is what set me apart from the 200-400 applicants. It also helped with receiving the K99.

Gerty, I'd love to hear more about your experience with "the whole lesbian thing". As a big ol' bear of a 'mo, I certainly did not shy away from the topic. I don't think I could considering who I am ~ the nickname says it all.

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Gerty, I'd love to hear more about your experience with "the whole lesbian thing". As a big ol' bear of a 'mo, I certainly did not shy away from the topic. I don't think I could considering who I am ~ the nickname says it all.

That's is so funny and cute I jsut genuinely LOLd. My black and twisted heart is softening. I need to go punch a happy freshman.

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Dr. Glitterbear, thanks for stopping by! I know of several folks that had experiences similar to yours. My K99 funding started at an awkward time, which certainly influenced how I went about things. I agree that, as a postdoc interesting in a TT job, that you have to find a "niche". Of course, if you haven't done this before you are ready to go on the market it is WAY too late!

Tiddles, I hope no freshmen were wounded in your attempt to regain badass balance. But that mental image is priceless!

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This is an awesome post GertyZ. I feel like you wrote in my voice or something.

I totally agree that people shouldn't limit themselves at this stage and in this market. I'll add that I applied to a position that was not explicitly focused on what I do, but I made a case in my cover letter and just generally looked interesting enough to them that they ended up interviewing and hiring me anyway--and it's a perfect place for me.

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Absolutely accurate! Especially about responing to a wide array of adds.

Usually, departments have a lot of freedom in whom they hire. They want the best person available, and often have broad strategic goals. Even if they wanted to hire a person in field A, if they have so-so candidates in A but a bunch of excellent ones in field B that is also of interest, they will likely just try to snag the best candidate in field B and defer the hire in A till next year. So respond to adds even they don't look like they exactly want your expertise (these adds are always fairly terse -- priced by number of words!). Often departments have several directions they would like to strengthen and it is about a great potential hire and a personality match.

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Thanks, Arlenna! That is quite a complement. I think that it is easy for folks on the market to think that you "don't fit" the advert but, as GMP also notes, the job ultimately goes to the person that best fits the dept., not the ad! And hey, if you don't play you can't win!
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