Response to Comments on Cover Letters
Thanks, that helps a lot! I guess when I applied for jobs before (after my first postdoc publication, as suggested by Anonymous #1), I did write kind of a mini-scientific biography of where I came from, why I got into science and why I'm currently in my particular field, what got me interested in that, etc.
I think I will have work on how to making it sound short and sweet, even though it's a little more complicated than that.
Someone said to me the other day that I'm "too honest." So there you go: I suck at lying. That must be why I find this part difficult. But see the comment from Anonymous #1, who thinks I should quit academia just because I find this part difficult. Challenging. Let's say it's challenging.
You come off sounding pretty negative but I don't think you mean to be. Yes, this part is painful to me. That's partly because I'm doing it with very little mentoring/support.
No, I don't like the attitude that just because one part of your job is hard you should run away from it. Most things that have been hard for me, I've gotten better at them through practice.
Actually you might have seen, there was a little blurb in Science recently about how chess masters are good because they PRACTICE. Past a certain point, everyone is talented. The ones who win are the ones who practice the most. This is my general approach to life.
Yes, I have long suspected that some people don't read cover letters at all. But I know some people do. However, you make a very good point to try to include any pertinent information in the research proposal even if it's in the cover letter, since they are more like to read the research proposal than the cover letter.
I didn't think it was limited to females, but it is always comforting to hear that other people have had this problem. I find it interesting that your committee helped you with this, though. Maybe I wasn't like this in grad school, but my committee, while generally helpful scientifically, was no help whatsoever on career advising. The main thing I got from your comment is to discuss "motivations" and "help from other people."
One of the things I've been struggling with is who would actually be willing and able to help me with my application package. The first time I applied for jobs I had at least two new Asst. Profs look at my research proposal, and I took all their advice but didn't get any interviews. Needless to say I won't ask them again, but seeing how they just went through the application process, I guess I thought they would know, and they were very willing to (try to) help.
This time, I was thinking I would try to get people who have done the hiring rather than the applying. But I don't know too many people who have sat on hiring committees, at least not in my field, and the ones I do know are not good mentor types. At all. Either they're not available, or they're incapable of giving advice.
You know, the kind who think that good professors are just born knowing how to do everything, not that any of this can or should be taught. What are people like that doing in academia, one might ask? But they are pretty good at research, and they were hired in an era when mentoring wasn't even a vocabulary word yet. They certainly were never trained in teaching or mentoring!
That's awesome, I will definitely try that. I do think the righteous indignation concept works. I fall into this trap a lot, that I've done a lot more than I have effectively broadcasted, because formal communication in science is pretty limiting, in my opinion.
So unless someone asks, I might not have a way to tell them and they would definitely not have a way to know.