Yes, you need a high-impact paper
Finally got some honest feedback on my job apps.
Got in touch with a professor at another university, who works in another area altogether, through a random acquaintance. She basically said the following:
You need a high impact paper.
You have to explicitly say what your contibutions were to middle-author papers that are submitted but not yet in press.
You have to say very explicitly how you'd fit into a department, e.g. you work on flies (I don't, but just as an example) and they need a fly person.
Oh yeah, and you need a high impact paper.
Really wishing someone- anyone?- had been honest enough to just tell me that a year or two ago, when I was struggling to figure out whether to continue to battle to get my 'big' paper into a top journal, or just get it published somewhere and get it over with. I went with option 2, and I guess now that would have made all the difference.
Too late now.
Oddly enough, even just a couple months ago, I was ready to quit science. But my stuff is getting very interesting again, so there is another chance to get a big paper, if I can finish this project. It will be a while yet, and I think it won't be in my current lab. But it is so strange how these things happen. I guess you have to quit when nothing is working, or you're really stuck.
And always the same carrot.