Wait Your Turn
"Wait your turn" is what my advisor said to me yesterday when I told her I'm not sure what to expect from the job search business.
She was complaining that one of her former postdocs- and this is a very common complaint- doesn't want to be bothered finishing up some publications since he left. I told her there's no incentive once you get out, unless you actually think you're contributing to society or the general progress of scientific knowledge. If it doesn't get you anything immediately and personally, most people just don't care.
Anyway it took most of the day for her comment about waiting to sink in.
She meant it in terms of her own grants- everyone knows now that most grants don't get funded on the first try, but that perseverance counts for a lot. So I think that's what she meant- just keep trying.
But. I also think this betrays a certain female attitude, that good things will come to those who wait patiently, fold their hands prettily in their laps and smooth their hair.
Screw that. Men aren't going to wait. Men say, "Give it to me!" and they get it. They go out there and they demand a job. They're never going to assume it will eventually come if they're just... what, passive enough? Give me a break.
Yeah, yeah, some men are passive too. But women are usually terrified to be aggressive, because we're usually punished if we stand up and insist on being counted.
I just think this is something my advisor doesn't even realize has hurt her own career. I can think of all kinds of examples where a little more assertiveness on her part would have helped, rather than complaining after the fact that nobody noticed that she was doing a good job and deserved more, or whatever. To me, this is a trap women always fall into, and I'm trying to learn how to avoid doing it myself.
I think we have to start by getting rid of the attitude that waiting is a worthwhile activity- sometimes it's just not worth the wait. I decided a long time ago that I'm not going to stay a postdoc for 9 years just to get a faculty position. To be honest, I don't want one badly enough to do this for that long. I think I've paid enough dues, and if I don't fit the profile of what most search committees are looking for at this point, I give up. They want to complain that there's not enough innovation in science, but they're looking for the wrong thing if all they're hiring are people who did 8 or 9 years of postdoc.