Beneficial faux pas
Well, it has been a strange week, but today I had to laugh because I was the recipient, along with a couple hundred other unsuspecting applicants, of a major email faux pas. Yes, that's right, we got our rejection letters with everyone's email address showing at the top. Unfortunately I can't tell you what the school was, but I thought this is actually the most informative rejection letter I've gotten so far, because I can finally get an idea of the competition (or rather, my fellow rejects). After all, we're probably all applying for many of the same positions all over the US.
They said they got a couple hundred applications and narrowed it down to 4. Of the email addresses, I googled and pubmedded a few of them (who wouldn't?). Here's what I figured out:
Many of them had similar publications to mine (in the 10-ish range, not tons of top-tier journals.
Many were women, contrary to the whining most search committees do about how they don't get enough qualified women applicants. The women I looked at had very good resumes, or at least, as good as mine.
Many were assistant or associate professors, so of the people they sent this email to, we were not all postdocs.
Many more than I would have expected worked in fields similar to mine, which makes me think either
a) there are way too many of us working on similar things, or
b) they just didn't want anybody working on anything like what I do, so all of us who worked on related things, however good we were, got rejected because of our areas of research.
Frightening thought, because when I started graduate school, nobody was working on this stuff, but now my esoteric little research area seems to be very popular. I hate the thought of competing with peers in my own field. In contrast, I have no problem knowing that many of us work on different things, spanning all the way from neuroscience to developmental to biophysics and so on. It's hard to take it personally if a department really is looking for expertise in a particular area.
So I may continue to mine this 'data set.' It's particularly interesting because I found four other people from my school who applied for this job, and quite a lot of people from Harvard and Yale, not all of whom were postdocs. Makes me wonder why people are so eager to relocate! Perhaps they are all the recipients of non-tenure.
And I continue to wonder, because I found out that a colleague of mine is getting interviews this year, after 9 years of postdoc. Yes, 9 years seems to be the magic number. I have a handful of friends/acquaintances who are now PIs after 9 years of postdoc. Why? Why?? Why do these people do this? Why do the search committees want them? It's utterly baffling. This guy in particular doesn't have lots of publications, and as far as I know, he doesn't have lots of political contacts, either. So I'm a bit stumped. I think it must be the 9 year contract: sell your soul, and in 9 years, we'll let you have it back.