Monday, September 22, 2008

Read these.

Well, I could look for industry jobs online. And decide they all look like they're concentrated in ~ 3 cities, and none of which look like fun.

Then I could read this post about this post.

And then I could remember why I'm not applying for faculty positions.

Next on the list? Maybe a visit to the campus coffee place?

One of these days, I swear, I'm just going to start walking and never come back. Forrest Gump style.

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At 2:07 PM, Anonymous CC said...

What on earth is your idea of fun, cow tipping?!?

Even so, given the housing prices in those cities, you'll likely be commuting from a cow-tippable location anyway.

At 3:31 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Actually, cows amuse me.

But that was just bad writing on my part.

I meant the jobs did not look like fun.

I know the cities are not my idea of fun, but not because they're too far away from cows.

At 3:32 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...


Did go for coffee, with a friend, but now I'm regretting it.

Catching up on campus gossip = not good for the soul. At all.

Would have rather not known.

At 3:52 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

@ YFS : Hey! thanks for the link back! The thing that was ironic about that whole thing was that the very next day I had dinner with another chap, Dr. Big2, and he had a completely different perspective about pedigree etc, which was refreshing. Although... Dr. Big2's opinion about blogging was not all that positive - I chalk it up to a generation gap. =D

At 7:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sometimes I wonder if it's a good thing to send you encouraging words, Ms PhD, since I want you to decide what you want for yourself (and if it's not academia, more power to you!)...

But I didn't have a Kanything when I applied for jobs last year (I was about a year early on the market, but my alma mater opened up a job, and I wanted to try for it. Which put me on the market in general, and in the end I took the offer from my R1 alma mater). I was surprised to get consideration at the schools I did, and outright asked people on the committee why they chose to interview me (I'm a blunt girl, especially after a few saketinis at lovely interview dinners). Mostly I was surprised to be interviewed before I had a C/N/S paper -- which seems to be a requirement for interviews in my field. My alma mater said they made an exception for me (maybe the hometown advantage?), and that all the other interviewees had the requisite C/N/S. The ivy that interviewed me (I was the youngest interviewee) said it was my writing that attracted them to my application -- that it was clear I thought clearly and wrote well and that it stood out against other applications.

Maybe the take home is that it's fruitless to try to guess what search committees are looking for, and it never hurts to try and apply. I spent weeks tweaking my CV, changing the font, trying to control the small number of variables in my control prior to applying... and I have no idea if it made a single bit of difference. But I am helping a friend of mine do the same things as he gears up for applications this year (not in biology, not your competition I promise!)... From what I've seen on this blog, you write very well, so that will come through in your application.

At 11:13 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...


Not to accuse you of what I get a lot of, that maybe you're only blogging the negative, but why didn't you blog about Dr. Big2's different perspective on pedigree? No post about that?

The post about blogging amused me though. Especially the part about how, as a postdoc, you're not an employee anyway. LOL!

Anon 7:08,

Well, I'm happy for you, I guess, although I don't see my alma mater offering me an interview and I'm not sure if I'd want to work there if they did.

I have been told in NO UNCERTAIN TERMS that nobody will give me an interview without a C/N/S paper or at the very least, a couple more first-author publications.

I have also heard more than one story about how search committees don't actually read the research proposals.

And I don't think I'm that great of a writer, actually, when it comes to selling my science. I've been told over and over and over that I'm too honest. I'm not that good at spin.

Maybe the take home is that it's fruitless to try to guess what search committees are looking for, and it never hurts to try and apply.

See, I would completely agree with the first part, and COMPLETELY DISAGREE with the second part. I've wasted countless hours, days, weeks, and maybe even months on applying to places that never considered me seriously because I didn't make it through the most cursory examinations.

I guess I would do it if it were fun, when I have nothing better to do, which is rarely. But I'm past the point of thinking it was fun to work on my CV and my research proposal. That was a few years ago, when it seemed like it was worth spinning the wheel of roulette.

But when you've been told your CV is fine but just not quite good enough, and your research plan doesn't matter, it's not fun to work on them, and I have plenty of things to do that seem less fruitless than compiling applications blindly when I already know I don't meet the requirements.

But hey, more power to you for getting lucky, I guess. Might as well take advantage of a pointless, illogical political mess while you can.

At 11:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not saying things haven't been rough for you... but reading your blog you take very little responsibility for your situation. It is always implicit that you are qualified for the good tenure-track jobs, and that always some form of persecution or unfairness, often involving sexism, is the only reason you are still where you are. Has it occurred to you that your assessment of your own credentials might be biased in favor of yourself, and that you simply aren't as strong as the other applicants? Also, you clearly suffer from clinical depression and that is going to make it harder for you to work, undermining your credentials further. Your competition generally won't have this problem.

Look, I am well aware there is a lot of nastiness out there in academia. But really, if you deny ANY responsibility for your situation (other than things like I should have known so and so was sexist) and just accuse others of being unfair, you will just be denying reality and your job situation won't improve.

At 11:40 AM, Blogger Jonathan said...

@ MSPHD : As for blogging the negative - I don't think workingthebench could be characterized in that light. Sure, I have had my fair share of rants, but there's also been some hilarious thingsand some useful things as well.

Also, as for blogging about the positive interaction with Dr.Big2 - I had planned on it, but that weekend I got swamped and invariable I forgot to post it. TYVM! You've just reminded me to do so!

... i hope it wasn't me who accused you of negative comments... Google save me! ...

At 11:44 AM, Blogger tnk0001 said...

Ever consider leaving the states to find a research job? If I only had in mind my career and work environment I would be sticking around Europe post grad, pay is nice, labs are incredibly well funded (neuro, chem, bio, and engineering that I can confirm) plus good insurance and good amount of respect.....I just miss Tex-Mex and ... family

At 12:06 PM, Anonymous CC said...

(I'm a blunt girl, especially after a few saketinis at lovely interview dinners).

I'm glad this worked out for you, but in general would advise against:

a) Drinking alcohol on interviews unless you're a pretty steady drinker.

b) Drinking anything under any circumstance that ends with "tini" and doesn't begin with "mar".

At 1:42 PM, Anonymous anon5434 said...

Hey Ms.PhD,

I just discovered your blog, and can quite sympathize with your day-to-day struggle of living the research career. Since you seem to have gone through a lot, and I like your honesty, I am asking for your advice, on my following (probably very common) dilemma:

I hate the feeling on envy or jealousy that I get when some peer publishes a good paper. To be honest, I used to thrive on this, it would fuel me to work my ass off. Then during my PhD, I had a moment of zen (or I hope it is zen, otherwise I'm screwed!) and I realized that such a life was not worth living. So I have tried to 'shed' off my old worldview, and now just try to spend my days trying to do research, which I enjoy, which will survive long term, and which has benefit for society. I used to publish a lot, but after my epiphany (doctors called it a breakdown, but whatever), I slowed that down, and now publish 1/3 of what I did earlier. But I work on harder well-known problems (as opposed to before, when I worked on anything to get it published).

While I'm happier, and enjoy life more, there are moments of envy/jealousy/panic attack/cold sweats when I find some prestigious paper from someone I know. And I *hate* myself for it. And I really feel I don't want to live like this. I invested so much effort into making the change, yet inside, I really have'nt changed at all. I still have this overly-developed competetive drive, which I can't seem to get rid of.

What to do? The temptation to just say 'fuck it' and jump right back into the rat race is getting so overwhelming, that its destroying my peace of mind. Getting a living wage is not a problem. I'd be perfectly happy, if not for myself. Do you experience something similar, ever? And how do you fight it?

At 1:55 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Anon 11:39,

You clearly haven't read all my blog. I constantly beat myself up for my mistakes.

I've had lots of people assess my credentials, and I can't get a clear answer. Many people tell me they can't understand why I haven't already gotten a job, based on my credentials.

And I disagree that my competition is any less depressed than I am. It just comes and goes, for most of us, and everyone handles stress differently. Maybe I have more of it now and they'll have more later. The vast majority of people I've worked with have been on some kind of depression medication, but in most cases they're no more functional than I am.

But your comment makes no sense. On the one hand, you say I'm clearly depressed, and on the other you say I'm denying reality. Which is it? Why would I be depressed if I were in denial? I think I'm depressed because I'm NOT in denial.


It wasn't you. See comment above!


Yeah, for a while I thought it would solve all my problems, but over time I've gotten more information and overall, just got a bad feeling about it.

Don't like tex-mex... and would not miss my family. But not quite ready to leave yet. Canada is a real consideration, except maybe for the weather?

Anon 5434,

Um, that's great. I don't actually have that kind of drive, not really.

I think if you can be motivated that strongly, by anything, and you can figure out how to use it to your advantage, then you should.

Unfortunately it sounds like it didn't work out for you because it's hard to be healthy about it, right?

I'm sort of the opposite, in a way. The better my peers are doing, the more I feel like a loser. I'm not a competitive person, actually, never have been. Always hated sports and contests. Would rather sit with a paintbrush and watch butterflies. That sort of thing.

But I especially when I know my scientific work is just as good as theirs, but for a variety of reasons (my lack of skill at spin, my own personal shortcomings that make my interactions with my advisors less fruitful than theirs, bad luck with timing, politics, etc.) I will not be as 'successful' as they are.

Today I just want out. So I can't really identify with being tempted to jump back into the rat race. I was never really like that.

So, um, more power to you?

At 2:43 PM, Anonymous anon5434 said...

You are very lucky indeed if you don't have that kind of a drive. For the lack of it, you might be at a disadvantage in the short run, but trust me when I say this, you'll be a much happier person in the long run. I'd take feeling like a loser any day over feeling like I don't deserve to live cause I'm so fucked up. As Nietzsche said, that when fighting monsters, one should take care not to become one in the end. I reached the end successfully, but now I cannot enjoy happiness, cause of what I have become in the process. meh.

Book recommendation: "My father, Bertrand Russell", by Russell's daughter, Kate. She went to grad. school at harvard, dropped out in desperation. A real nice read.

At 2:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anon 11:39 here. I think depression leads one to not be able to judge things accurately and be more susceptible to denying reality as I put it. I am not in your field, so I don't know how common it is there... but really it seems you have it pretty bad, and that it might, despite the best of intentions, cause you to see things in a more negative light than they really are.

I'd prefer not to give much identifying info... but there was a time several years ago I was in that kind of rut, everything seemed hopeless and my colleagues seemed horrible. After my last postdoc I actually ended out leaving academia for a few years. I got my life back together and eventually returned in a tenure-track position (yes, this can happen in my field). While I can't say I love some of these individuals in my field, I can handle them much better and I don't really worry about them anymore. Once in a while I have to put up with some unpleasantness at a conference but that's about it. The main difference now is I'm less depressed and more functional. All the academic crap is MUCH easier to deal with. Also I found there's a similar abundance of assholes on the outside, just a different kind.

At 6:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

'I have been told in NO UNCERTAIN TERMS that nobody will give me an interview without a C/N/S paper or at the very least, a couple more first-author publications.'

that is the same stuff that I heard. But I said fuck it, I am going to apply anyways. I had a interview rate of about 15% and I got more than one offer. I was sure to tell the person who said I had no chance 1st.

my point is that there is no central control system, so anybody who says that 'nobody' will give you an interview unless you get XYZ is full of shit. You can't win unless you are in the game.

At 7:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Anon 11:39,

You clearly haven't read all my blog. I constantly beat myself up for my mistakes."

Actually, I've been a regular reader of this blog for the past 2.5 years, and I have to agree with his/her assessment. Not to kick you when you're down, just calling it like I see(read)it.

At 10:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

MsPhd, if you want out, get out. Be brave! I also feel that those who truly want back in can get back in eventually (although that may be field-dependent).

Love your blog! I am excited for you because you can't postdoc FOREVER, so something will come of this. we just don't know what yet.

At 11:55 AM, Anonymous expat postdoc said...

I have to agree with some of the responses here. I stumbled upon this blog a few days ago and found out that it has SOME useful information.

However, the amount of griping is almost unbearable.

In addition, some of the info is flat out INCORRECT (especially when it applies to NIH finding).

For example, I already have 15 months of PD experience and was just awarded 3 full years of NRSA stipend support (just activated it). She does address the NIGMS policy, but not that of the other agencies.

Not to be an ass, but people (including me, because her tirade freaked me out enough to contact the NIH) should remember that a blog isn't more the repeated second-hand information.

However, all is not bad, sometimes I find this quite an entertaining read.

At 7:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been reading your blog for over a year and I totally identify with your experiences. I go through cycles of depression too and want to just keep walking myself on many days. I've told you to keep on keeping on before just as I am doing. But I'll say, I'm fucking tired. And I'm way beyond tired of the preponderance of assholes (acad, govt, indy). I'm also blunt... my PhD advisor told me to keep my mouth shut on interviews. Not possible. I've been interviewing at places that I would never want to be... they looked good on paper, or sounded good by someone else's standards... but not for me. Nothing really seemed right to me. And I have the ability to know in my gut what feels right - I'm lucky that way. So, I'm just breathing and taking things day to day hoping that I fumble on what's right for me (and permanent!!) and unfortunately, my advisors and friends can't help me find that feeling. A govt gig seems best for me (which is what I'm doing now). I check your blog almost daily - you're in my thoughts! JC

At 11:38 AM, Blogger Marta said...

You're not right in saying that industry jobs are concentrated in only 3 cities. There are small science companies everywhere. Why not apply to some companies in places where you might see yourself living and see what happens at the interview? I hated my postdoc and switched over to working at a startup biotech this year. This was such a positive change for me. You might be surprised.

At 11:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To echo Marta, I heard all sorts of cr*p about industry before I joined it, while I was miserable as an academic postdoc. Most of the sh*t that I couldn't stand in academia - dysfunctional co-workers, arbitrary recognition of accomplishments, etc - went away. I still do mostly basic research, but I have 1/10th the BS to put up with on a daily basis, have much more reasonable hours, work with people that are reasonably happy and motivated to be there (and competent! No trainees..), and also get paid well too. Also, having access to the right equipment isn't a problem..

I keep on trying to relate this to some of my former classmates who are still in academic postdocs who don't generally listen; it's like they've contracted a case of Stockholm Syndrome where they can't imagine not being in academia or not going for an academic position. It makes sense; after going after something for so long, the easiest thing to do is to just continue in the same path no matter how miserable you are in that path. Self-reinforcing the mess is that almost everyone you run into in academia is clueless about what the average person does in industry - and there's a huge spectrum of positions and projects in industry.

There's still politics in industry (like anything else involving people), but you might be pleasantly surprised about how the other half lives..


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