Money matters, Nerdiness is never good, Alcoholics excel in academia, and networking de novo never happens
These are the new rules.
Allow me to elaborate (or stop reading, up to you).
1. Money matters.
In order to get a faculty position, you will need several High Impact Papers.
In order to get High Impact Papers, you will need the following:
In vitro studies (purified proteins)
In vivo studies (cell culture model or something equivalent)
Structural studies (crystal structure, mass spec)
Dynamic studies (something with movies)
A screen, preferably RNAi
Microarray data of some kind
A specific drug that inhibits your pathway and can cure the nearest relevant human disease
An irrelevant animal model (not a mammal)
A mouse model
In order to have all of these things, you need a lab with either a ton of money, or a ton of rich, famous collaborators (preferably both).
I realized today, much to my horror, that I can't remember the last time I knew of someone who got a good faculty position at a Research 1 university for doing solid, low-budget but elegant work in a lab that didn't have a lot of money for direct costs.
I'm so screwed.
2. Nerdiness is never good.
I'm a well-rounded geek. I do lots of things besides science, and while I strive to be social, I suck at being phony and I hate schmoozing.
I've finally decided that ultimately it's just like in elementary school. Despite my hopes that science would be different, nerds are still excluded. You have to be Sufficiently Cool to hang with the Cool Kids, and I'm not.
For example, in my field, many of the Cool Kids and their advisors congregate at a couple of summer programs. Since neither my advisor nor I have ever attended this summer program, I'm simply not in the same job pool as they are.
2. Alcoholics excel in academia.
I don't particularly like drinking to get drunk. That's not to say I never do it, but I don't like being hung over. To me, feeling that awful is a message that I'm ingesting something poisonous and shouldn't do it (thank you, mother nature).
However. I'm coming to the inevitable conclusion, from looking around at the faculty and the postdocs who are getting jobs, and they all LOVE to drink. To excess or near that point.
Someone actually told me that to get a job, I should buy a bottle of expensive liquor, target the chair of a search committee or department chair, and spend the evening getting them drunk.
I think in this scenario I'd have to be able to drink them under the table for this to work, otherwise I'd be passed out and they would take my expensive bottle and leave. However, since this method has apparently worked in the past, while applying to ads alone does not work, it seems safe to say that the whole "apply to ads you see in ScienceCareers and Nature magazine" is not a good protocol.
3. Networking de novo never happens.
So I'm trying hard to meet people at conferences and get them excited about my work. But I ran into yet another friend today who is slated to begin a faculty position next year, and he said the same thing everyone else says: your advisor has to know someone on the search committee.
So here's the mechanism:
Head of search committee calls your advisor or runs into them at a meeting.
If you're there, your advisor introduces you and tells them a little about your exciting work and how wonderful it has been having you in the lab, but that you're clearly ready for the next step.
Alternatively, if you're not there, your advisor tells them you (and not some other guy in your lab) are better than sliced bread.
Assuming you get to this step, it's a foregone conclusion:
Your advisor tells you to apply.
Head of search committee tells the committee you're getting the job.
You interview, along with three other poor schmucks who aren't getting the job.
You get the job.
(Bully for you.)
Here's what does not work:
You introduce yourself to strangers at cocktail parties where no one is wearing a nametag.
They haven't heard of your advisor, but they nod politely.
They try to look you up in pubmed and spell your name wrong, and find 2 papers instead of 12.
When your faculty application shows up, they have no idea that they ever met you.
Thus, I am forced to conclude that useful networking at the postdoc level requires a nucleation event, namely an aggregation of your advisor and several department chairs/search committee heads, in the presence of vast amounts of alcohol.
Copyright YFS Current Protocols.