A conversation with an anonymous commenter
Wait, science actually works like this? I've been through this end of the job search process twice now, once when I was looking for a faculty position, and once when my spouse was. I don't think that other than criteria 1, we had anything going in my favour. Yet here we are, both with faculty positions in great departments.
What's a great department? I'm not being sarcastic. What should we look for? And is your university generally good, or is it someplace we might not have heard of but that's great for your field?
1) Get that high impact paper (easier said than done!)
2) Make sure it is in the right field at the right time
First of all, I still think it's very hard to get a high impact paper if you work for/with people that no one at the high impact journals already knows. I think there's a lot of bias in that system, which prevents us nobodies from getting past that step (see other posts on related topics).
And to that end, am I supposed to switch fields? How does one guess the right time a year or more in advance, in order to set up the experiments?
I worry that I've already had my once-in-a-lifetime chance at working on something just before it got big, and in that case my advisor blocked me from even trying to publish in a high enough impact journal (this was a while ago). My current advisor isn't like that, but the other part of the equation (the great idea, at the right time) has to be there, too.
The rest I don't think actually matters. I had never met a single person in my current department before and what I do is so alien that I am still shocked that they hired anyone doing this kind of work. Ergo, right place, right time.
That's actually really heartening. Did you apply to an advertised slot? How was it advertised? Did you call the department first or just mail your package? How many applications did they get? Do you think your cover letter mattered, or was it just the high impact paper? HOW DID YOU GET THEM TO INVITE YOU FOR AN INTERVIEW?
In fact, while some of my colleagues who were hired at the same time worked for famous people, the only common thing that links all of them is the quality of their work (criteria 1).
My point is partly that there are a LOT more quality workers out there than can get hired.
So which ones get hired, of the ones who don't get screwed out of their jobs by bullshit politics where some well-connected moron gets the job?
Answer: The well-connected quality workers, who have high impact papers BECAUSE they're well-connected.
Networking, alchohol or any such quality played no role in their hiring.
a) Are you sure? It took some digging to find out the real, indirect, and very powerful connections people at my university used/took deliberate or inadvertent advantage of to get their current faculty positions.
b) I don't know a SINGLE person who didn't get their job through a connection, +/- alcohol.
I know a LOT of people who think/tell themselves/pretend it was not because of their connections.
That's the weird thing about being connected- you can't get rid of it, so even if you don't exploit it yourself, it still helps you. Unless you change your name, everyone will know who matters will already know who you are or associate you with something that triggers a 'good' signal in their brains.
The difference is, if you don't have the good connections, or if you have the misfortune to be associated (or mis-associated) with not-so-good connections, there's not much you can do about that either, and it works silently against you in the background.
But my impressions are based on a small sample, so take it for what it is worth. Don't lose hope!
Thanks. I'll try.