How to get a cool job while living in Paradise:
Step 1: Send out dozens of carefully crafted applications to highly selected jobs that interest you, culled from want ads from a number of sources (indeed.com).
Step 2: Get a few phone interviews and an in-person interview for a job you’d really like that goes to second round. After a long wait, fail to get those jobs.
Step 3: Decide maybe it’s time to apply for jobs that aren’t quite as much up your alley. Carefully craft individualized applications for job openings you find via want-ads and company pages but secretly hope you don’t get that consulting job (which is highly paid but uninteresting and will probably eat your soul in less than 2 years).
Step 4: Mention to the extroverted wife of someone you went to high school with that you’re looking for a position.
Step 5: Said wife notes that their kid goes to preschool with another kid whose mom is a PhD in your field working in a job that sounds exactly like the kind of job you want. She puts you in touch.
Step 6: It turns out that although kid’s mom has a job that is like one you would want, the mom doesn’t actually have a PhD in your field, but her husband does. He sends an email to say hi and says they’re looking for someone right now where he works. He sends you a want ad for a position just like the one you want (that you are overqualified for) at the center where he works. Only catch: cutoff for applications is today (on the day that you are emailing).
Step 7: Thankfully, the salary range is posted right in the ad. Decide it is ok and apply for said job at 4:16pm on day applications close.
Step 8: Just a few days later, receive enthusiastic phone call from founder of center, asking you to come in a few days from now. Nail interview with the amazing guy who runs the center. It is conversational and does not include dumb interview questions like “what is your biggest weakness?”. He talks about how, if you got this job, you could increase your income above the stated range by doing various things. The base salary is hard money (not dependent on grants). Hours are flexible. Like things more and more.
Step 9: Have a great time on the informal second-round interviews, talking with the other PhDs working at the center. Answer lots of questions about why it’s ok that you’re overqualified. Note that they’ve started mentioning things you want to do that are outside the scope of the originally advertised job description, like mentoring graduate students and writing grants to increase your salary (which, although low for a PhD in your field, is still higher than what you were making as a tenured associate prof in Blasted Wasteland).
Step 10: Have your references give you glowing recommendations when the center guy calls them. Also have them tell you that the guy who runs the center has a reputation in the field for being a great mentor. He is hiring his trainees and former students to grow the center. Some members have worked with him for 15 years.
Step 11: Do a happy dance when you get the job offer on the phone! Look sort of like a chicken/’80s dancer. Pump fist in air, go “Eeeee”. Have 30-minute conversation with institute founder in which he is already more respectful about your skills and expertise than your previous 2 bosses.
~~~~now have job!~~~~
Step 12: Inquire with HR person about benefits. They are pretty good. Formally accept offer at top end of published range. Your new office (with door!) is shared with 1 other person and a fantastic view out the big window. Your new email is set up right away.
Step 12a: HR person sends you offer letter via email. An hour later you get another email: Please disregard that offer letter and use this one instead. The center director has begged Provost for increase in your base salary; this new letter has the increased salary. Pay is now above the posted range in the job ad, and is a number you feel much happier about (#2: A number that is more than my engineering PhD DH was making when he was on the tenure track…). Accept that one and print it out real quick. Start telling friends & family you got job (#2 said YAY!). Converse with staff about what kind of laptop you want. Get lunch invitation for your first day at work. Feel like a ROCKSTAR. Send grateful messages to people who served as references. Discover that all your friends in the field happen to know your new boss, and say he is phenomenal, influential, and a great mentor. Keep feeling more rockstar-y all the time.
Step 13: Hash out benefit contributions and household finances with partner (future post!). Fall asleep on floor while trying to read book before bed. Start new job 5 days after offer.
Congratulate me in the comments below! After over a year with no job I was starting to feel nervous about the growing gap in my CV. Hang in there, job searchers.