Friday, April 20, 2012

The Last Straw

A few posts back I mentioned I applied to my 'dream' tenure-track position, and, being as a long time has transpired since the original application, I requested a status update.  I am still waiting.  But, as it turns out, I found out in a roundabout way that I was not selected for an interview.

The Last Straw.  This was the job I had structured my goals around when I first moved 6000 miles away to do my postdoc (the first one, that is), although it never really occurred to me that a position might actually open up in my dream city.  But it did.  This opportunity signaled the end of the postdoc experience for me and began the process of transitioning into a professorship.  I had personal contacts with people there (for more than ten years), I had a decent CV, my research was aligned with the target of the application, and I even met the key players on the committee last summer during an informal interview process.  And I applied.

It's a good thing I have been looking into non-academic jobs during the past two months, as it has softened the blow greatly.  I already know I am not totally suited for academia - for example, I can't stand reading journal articles or making sure I am completely abreast of new developments and I am more of a short-term goal person.  The non-academic job search (although grueling and depressing) and the continued failure of academic applications are good things, which promote delving into oneself to truly understand the situation.  When I think about it, and considering there is no longer a tenure-track position there, I really don't want to live in the city I thought was my dream.  It is still pretty scary realizing there is no future for me in academia, coupled with the fact that my non-academic search has not produced any results.

Fifteen years and thousands of dollars later, the door to my future career has finally closed.  Let's hope I can find my way out in the dark.  If only I could find some matches, I could use my diplomas as a torch.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The perfect job

It appears the perfect non-academic job for me has been posted today.  I know, based on reading other's experiences, that the 'perfect job' is not likely to turn out, but in this case, I really hope it does.  However, my previous poor track record regarding non-academic applications has me pretty freaked out.  I sure hope I can get the points across in my resume and cover letter, and I sure hope the HR department can truly take the time to properly evaluate my application.  The competition closes in two weeks, so I will keep everyone posted.  Has anyone had any luck with their 'perfect job'?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

When do you let go?

Of a job application, that is.  I started steadily applying 2 months ago for non-academic jobs, and I haven't heard anything yet.  I am up to 26 in total.  It was my understanding that 'regular' jobs take much less time to fill than academic ones.  This may still be true, and brings along quite a fright for me - that none of my applications were successful in the least.  Sure, many jobs I have applied to have fancy web submission systems that supposedly track the status of your application, but it seems the majority of them are stuck in either the "New application" state or something like "Under Consideration" or "On File".  It doesn't make too much sense to me to have a status tracking system that doesn't track actual progress.  I already know I submitted my application.  My question to those breaking into non-academic jobs is:  When do you forget about a certain application, regardless of what submission sites might be saying?  Also, how long (approximately) do these jobs take to fill?

// START (rant)

I have been reminded recently of the absolutely terrible standards of academic communication that I have written about before.  About six months ago, I had a phone interview for a tenure-track position.  So, when I received the rejection (2.5 months ago), I kindly asked (via email) for an evaluation of the interview and what the interviewer thought were my weak points.  I suppose I was optimistic, but I still haven't received a response.  Is it that difficult to write something back?  You don't even need to give me my requested review - just tell me at least that you don't have the time to think about it.  Or offer a couple of general remarks.  Is it really that hard?  I can't stand it.  I have also asked about a month ago about the status of my last remaining application for a tenure-track job - a nice, polite follow-up email asking about their current search process.  Do you think I got a response?  Of course not.  Again, how difficult is it to write one sentence, saying either, "You suck, and you weren't selected you moron" or, "We are still making our decisions for interviews."  You don't even need to give me a date.  Anyway, I have resolved to never leave an email in my inbox that requires a response for more than one day.  I won't perpetrate this unprofessional behavior.  It's no wonder that academics are regarded as people who can't get regular assignments done in a prompt manner - what are we/they conveying in this first-line of the communication process?

// END (rant)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Skills - I'm not buying it...

Let us suppose I am a medical doctor.  Now, for whatever reason, perhaps I am not a very good doctor, or there are no available jobs in the near future, I need to look outside my chosen profession for a new job.  Let us also suppose that current hiring is concentrated on a specific industry:  construction.  It is obvious that my immediate and concrete skills do not align with those needed for a job in construction - I have excellent bedside manner, I am accustomed to dealing with many patients with different ailments simultaneously, I have advanced hand-eye coordination and dexterity needed to perform surgery, and I have in-depth knowledge of medical treatments and procedures.  Unfortunately, I have never had the opportunity to swing hammers or pull wrenches, which most of the job advertisements require to a certain extent, or, at least, some past experience in these skills is necessary.  Therefore, I must tailor my résumé to highlight the skills I believe are applicable to construction, also known as transferable skills.  Additionally, I would rather a position in planning or management of construction projects, primarily because I believe I am entitled to a position above the entry-level ranks, and I also need a decent income to continue to pay down my student debt.

Current job ads list the following necessary requirements for employment:

1.  Motivated workers with the ability to complete tasks in a timely manner.
  • I have that - I work with multiple patients per day and there are many different evaluations made every day.  Though my experience is not in construction projects, it is easy to see that I can manage my time.
2.  First-hand knowledge in the construction of buildings and homes, with ample past experience in manual labor using common construction tools and practices.
  • Well, I don't have that.  I have zero experience in construction.  But, I can say I have great hand-eye coordination and dexterity and I can quickly learn how to use these tools.  No problems here.
3.  Detailed ability to read blueprints and translate into hands-on projects and the ability to prioritize the building process.
  • I consult anatomy figures daily - isn't that like reading a blueprint?  Sure, the specifications are different, but I have shown I am a fast learner in medical school, so I could easily pick it up.  I prioritize multiple projects every day too.
4.  First-aid certified.
  • Absolutely no problems here.  I don't even have to 'twist' my words.
5.  Excellent knowledge of construction materials and their particular strengths and weaknesses.  Ample experience in wood, ceramics, and concrete mixtures.
  • Once again, I don't have this.  But I am a quick learner...

One singular problem remains:  I have never swung a hammer.  And guess what?  There are multiple applicants that meet the requirements directly, without the need for serious re-wording of abilities into transferable skills.  Consequently, any position requiring any amount of experience will be given to someone else, regardless of my awe-inspiring transferable skills.  I am left with entry-level positions, and I am still in fierce competition with those that may have acquired some of the 'true' skills needed on the job.  I can only hope that there remains a certain novelty in employing a doctor in the construction industry.  Maybe there is a niche job they have that they are not advertising directly.  Maybe I can develop a health and safety guide for a particular project.  In the end, only hope remains, and I am afraid that hope does not produce tangible employment.


I feel I have many things in common with the doctor in the above scenario.  I have the equivalent amount of education/training (perhaps even more) and I am most likely more singularly specialized.  Therefore, jobs that contain a decent amount of science are possibly in my reach, though I lack any real experience in other science fields and I would be competing with many candidates that would certainly have experience.  Jobs outside my discipline, which use business/finance skills, customer relation skills, management skills, etc., seem out of reach.

But wait, I have transferable skills!  I can get any job I want in any field that I think I would enjoy!  All I have to do is take the concrete skills I have, water them down with euphemisms, and hope that an employer doesn't see me as I truly am behind the veil:  an overly mass-produced, specialized cog in the academic machine which is easily replaced by an unceasing line of newer, highly-sophisticated substitutes.

In the end my friend, there is only hope.  And at most times, it is fleeting...