Monday, September 24, 2007

But, I AM desperate!

Several people have made comments on the CV posts to the effect of "Don't do this because it sounds too desperate."

This is something I fundamentally don't understand about human psychology. But it's true. It's true for dating, so why shouldn't it be true for jobs?

I understand that you don't want someone to settle for a job they didn't really want, just to get out of their current miserable situation, and then be a flight risk when they come to their senses. I get that.

But, um, I really hate being a postdoc??!! And I'm not really sure that's any secret for most people at the stage of applying for faculty positions.

But there are a few who don't seem to mind. I ran into a friend today whose advisor has convinced her to wait yet another year to apply for faculty positions.

She's just relieved not to be out on the street, living in a cardboard box. She talks about it like he's going to "let" her stay in his lab. Lucky her!

But I can't help feeling like these guys don't really have our happiness and satisfaction in mind when they say they can pay us a pittance if we would just be patient and wait. And wait. And wait.

Especially when one of the slowest parts of the reaction is the delay when they make us wait days, sometimes weeks or months, to even have a meeting where we get to beg them for any little crumb of feedback.

Does that seem fair to you?

To me, this is a lot like having children. Should my taxes or tuition go to support someone who has 6 children, no job, and doesn't understand or want to learn how to use birth control? I don't really think so.

Similarly, should I have to wait for my advisor to make the rounds just because he can't make time for all his obligations? Do the accumulated days of waiting actually tack on an extra year, or even two, for each postdoc who desperately wants to leave? And is that really balanced out by the quality of the feedback I eventually get?

I'm thinking it would depress me too much to add up how much time it has actually been, if I counted up a total. I once added up my bus rides from high school and it came to something like more than a solid month of my life.

And is it any wonder after all this waiting if I sound a little desperate? I just don't really think it's fair to say that a little ambition is a bad thing.

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At 5:04 PM, Anonymous JR said...

You are right. They don't have your happiness and satisfaction in mind. The only thing they have in mind is how YOU benefit THEM. Aside from the demand for faculty positions and short NIH paylines, this is a big reason that people jump to industry. Just tired of waiting for the support of your mentor to transition to the next level. At some point you see 30 in your rear view mirror and realize that you have no stability in your life, no spouse, no family, no house, no job. Its time to go. Tired of waiting.

The thing that gets me is what are you waiting for? What is your friend going to get out of one more year? And don't say one more paper. What great development opportunity is there? What will one more year give you that the previous four haven't?

At 5:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only postdocs I know who are content to stay postdocs for another year are those who are choosing the lesser of 2 evils. Which isn't exactly contentment, come to think of it.
You are right to be doing all you can to get where you want. Some people just seem to be bothered that you are honest about it. It's as if it's somehow indecent to talk about our ambition.
Didn't like the welfare mom stereotype - please remember that some of your readers endured the humiliation of being on public assistance.
It's funny though to think with all this education I would make so little.

At 6:01 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...


I didn't say welfare mom at all. YOU DID. See what I did there?


Actually it is one more paper. The minimum now for research universities is 1 huge paper or a couple of solid ones.

Myself included, most of us are still 1 solid paper away from being really competitive for jobs at places where we could actually do our research. My research, I realized some time ago, is not suitable for a SLAC. I rely too much on equipment they couldn't afford.

And we're in fields where experiments are slow. We don't publish one paper a year, nobody in our field does. It's more like 1 every 2 or 3 years, or two papers every 3 years but both at once. So the postdocs tend to be longer.

In her case, I don't know, she has been a postdoc for a lot longer than me, actually, and I haven't seen her CV or pubmedded her lately. There is a boyfriend location issue involved, too, which also makes it tempting for her to stick around until they're sure they can get positions in the same place at the same time. But personal complications aside, I suspect she's a little bit afraid of really being the person in charge.

And her advisor, instead of pushing her ahead or god forbid, encouraging her to have more confidence(!), figures he can get more work out of her in the meantime. He's not stupid, and he's way up there on the self-centered scale, as far as I can tell.

At 7:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do not get the concept of waiting either. When I still had 1 year to go before I graduate with my PhD, I began applying for tenure track faculty jobs at universities where I could be successful. These were R1's with good research rankings in a hard science. I am sure that some of the search committees laughed and tossed out my application. However, one did not. I got an interview and ultimately the job.
There is no perfect time to be looking for a faculty job. If I was a postdoc, I would apply for every single job that looked promissing.

At 11:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

agree with the 4th comment. no one *has* to do a postdoc. the idea is to make yourself competitive for the t-t or industry jobs you want.


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