Over the weekend I had another one of these unpleasant conversations with a guy I already knew I didn't like. This one went like this:
Guy: So, what do you do?
Me: Well, I'm unemployed right now. So, nothing.
Guy: What did you do before?
Guy: What kind of job were you looking for?
Me: Well, I really wanted to be a professor. I did x # of years of postdoc.
Guy: You really don't look old enough to have done all that.
Me: Yeah, uh, thanks. Actually, I think that might be part of why I've had so much trouble getting a job. Nobody seems to think I look like I could be a professor.
Guy: Well, you could always go back to school for nursing.
Me: Uh, yeah, because I'm so nurturing and I really want to go back to school. Great idea, thanks.
I realized later that in that short conversation, he managed to reveal that he clearly thought that my most salient features are:
a) not credible
b) too young
c) very female
So naturally, I thought of my blog handle, and the subject of my last post about change. Some things really don't change as much as you'd think.
I had a conversation last week with an older woman who is not a scientist, but she has a friend who is married to a scientist. She seemed to think that because her friend's husband was able to get a job in a flyover red state, I should be able to get one if only I'd be willing to move to a remote, anti-choice anti-gay marriage location. And truthfully, I don't think I'd want to do that now. Up until last year, I would have done it. But not anymore.
Anyway, she seemed unwilling to believe that it's orders of magnitude easier for an older man to move to a new department after already being on the tenure-track than for a younger unemployed woman to get hired into an assistant professor position anywhere.
Because she had the authoritative dataset of (n=1).
Oh, and let's not forget the conversation with the woman whose teenage son wants to go into the biosciences. She said he's working in a lab at the university!
I said that's great, I did that when I was his age.
Her jaw dropped.
And I went on to get my PhD, I told her. And I did all this postdoctoral training. And I can't find a job.
Maybe all mothers are like this about their sons, I don't know. She seemed to think her son was like, exceptionally gifted or something. And maybe he is, but I suspect she has no idea how many equally smart people there are with similar aspirations.
I tried to explain that the job market is very crowded, and will probably stay that way, so he might be better off finding a different career path now, while he's still young and has the freedom to look around easily.
Of course she seemed to think I must be insane, or stupid, or both.
So what else is new.
Labels: jobs, science