Since the start of October, I’ve been in full-on job-hunting mode. Courtesy of Ph.D. Comics, this pretty much sums up how I feel:
Something any prospective doctor of philosophy should know: academic and industry hiring processes are very different. Universities are going to follow the academic calendar, and therefore are going to advertise start dates near or around the fall of each new year. Given the number of applications they receive per open faculty position, and the process through which hiring takes place–faculty visits, talks, rounds of interviews, committee meetings to decide on candidates–this takes awhile. So be prepared to start applying for positions nearly a full year before you think you’ll be done.
As of Jan 1, I’ve applied to quite a few universities that span the spectrum from R1 to more teaching-oriented academic institutions, spread pretty well across most of the lower 48. It’s a little bit nerve-wracking, considering the level of competition for these positions, and the fact that I’ve decided against an explicit postdoc. I know I can succeed as a member of the faculty, so I’m set on joining those ranks either within a university setting or an equivalent position in industry.
Which brings me to a very exciting announcement: I have an on-site interview scheduled for next weekend at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA!
I’m working on my presentation as we speak. Good vibes are always much appreciated. The phone interview a handful of weeks ago went extremely well, and I can’t tell you how thrilled I am just with the opportunity to visit and meet with the folks I’ve spent so much time reading about.
Broadly speaking, here’s my only problem with academia: the tenure process. It’s a lot more than a little intimidating, especially in the current economic climate. I’ve watched my own advisor struggle through this process, and I thoroughly admire the grace and elegance with which he’s handled extremely crappy situations (with an outcome entirely deserving of his strength of character and intellect, thankfully). But I can’t exactly say I’m excited to enter that process myself.
This article, on the other hand, gave me a glimmer of hope that, independent of the system itself, there were things I could do to mitigate potential problems on my end. This is probably one of the best articles I’ve read in years on how to not just survive academia, but to thrive and enjoy the process itself (reminiscent of my new year’s resolution?). I won’t rehash the article–I highly recommend reading it in its entirety–but I will post the main seven points around which the article revolves.
- I decided that this is a 7-year postdoc.
- I stopped taking advice.
- I created a “feelgood” email folder.
- I work fixed hours and in fixed amounts.
- I try to be the best “whole” person I can.
- I found real friends.
- I have fun “now”.
I consider myself an expert in a few of these points already (being a “whole” person, having real friends), and some of them I royally suck at (taking advice, fixed hours in fixed amounts, having fun “now”). They’re all excellent points, and I hope to emulate them going forward. At the end of the day, it’s the research and teaching that really engage me, not the cutthroat competitiveness, something I appear to have in common with this article’s author. A little competition can be fun and motivational, but when it defines the process itself, it loses its allure.
I want to succeed and see others succeed not because we published a paper two days before our competitors, but because we made a freaking awesome discovery or computational pipeline that others find useful. Isn’t that the point of science and teaching?
Without going too much into the industry side of things, I wanted to make one quick mention: I will indeed be applying to industry positions, but only after this semester. I’ve contacted / been contacted by a couple already, but given that hiring spans the entire year, I’ll need to be closer to graduation before those processes can move forward. I’ll certainly update as things progress!