Dream job not happening

Everything went great until my last meeting. The dean was late as is his usual, apparently.

Then he made a small amount of small talk about his son going to the school. Then he asked me if I wanted to work there and why. Then he was basically like, you do not currently have an R01, therefore I will veto anybody that wants to hire you.

And I’m like, NIH doesn’t fund the work I do. Does it have to be NIH? I’m between grants right now, but I’ve been getting NSF funding more recently. And he said NSF was fine, but it had to be government funding, foundation funding doesn’t count. But the next two grants I’m scheduled to submit are both foundation (and he’d never HEARD of one of them, which, dear readers, many of you have likely heard of because there are celebrities involved with the larger organization). But he said, no, overhead is important and he wants 67% overhead, not 15%. (My colleague who works there says the majority of her funding comes from this specific foundation so the dean has definitely heard of it.)

Then he said that he’d decided not to do a targeted hire and there would be a job posted with a search committee and I was welcome to apply and the search committee was welcome to do what they wanted, but he was going to veto anybody who was not bringing in government funding with the appropriate overhead rate. It’s an equity issue, he said.

NSF deadline is in January, they say what is being funded sometime in the summer. It usually takes two tries. This is not going to happen.

Also he said, this is probably illegal for me to ask, but what does your husband do? When I was on the job market the first time I told off two guys at Berkeley (for a post-doc that I did not get) who asked me that. He’s not a coal miner, there are jobs for anybody in Silicon Valley.  (And yes, they only asked women with rings that, and they did stop the next year.) This time I answered, but I HATE it when people do that. It’s not a state school, where doing that actually would be illegal in this state, but I’m willing to bet they have guidance that they’re not supposed to ask.

Unless I move over into health, it would be very difficult for me to keep up a steady stream of government funding and also get publications out. My work is of strong interest to foundations right now and they are much faster to fund. But they don’t allow more than 10-15% overhead. Even though this job is hard money, I just don’t think it is a good fit for me. I can think of a couple of people it would be a good fit for, but they’ve recently just moved to other jobs that are hard money without the additional funding expectations.

So, a nice visit, but I shouldn’t have spent so much time looking at housing and schooling in the area. It’s not going to happen.

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53 Responses to “Dream job not happening”

  1. Coree Says:

    Ugh, that’s rubbish, I’m sorry! =

  2. Leah Says:

    Oh, such a bummer. How ridiculous, too, to be asking about a spouse. It’s so frustrating when a job looks great on paper but turns out to not be a great place.

  3. Steph Says:

    :( I’m sorry. I’m pretty sure it’s illegal for them to ask about your spouse no matter whether private or public? I’ve definitely been told it’s illegal at some specific private schools, at least. And it’s shitty of him to behave like this no matter what.

  4. CG Says:

    Ugh, I’m so sorry about your crummy experience and disappointed for you. I would have been right there with you with the house and school search–it’s hard not to get excited about a genuinely exciting opportunity. Several years back, we had a stellar candidate for a position. We made hir a verbal offer, which ze accepted. We just had to wait for the paperwork from the dean’s office. The dean told us he didn’t like where ze had gotten hir Ph.D. (not the main campus of the institution) and the deal was off. It was horrible. We had to go back to hir and say never mind, you don’t actually have the job. The person eventually got a job at a much more prestigious program and has gone on to have a terrific career and be a great colleague, just as we predicted ze would. So, f deans. And obviously you’re not obligated to do this, but if you have the energy to and feel like doing it, you might consider letting the search committee know what they are dealing with in their administration so they don’t waste other people’s time. Again, so sorry about this. But also, don’t lose heart. Something else will turn up.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I had dinner with them right after. They then shared some other not so great things about the dean’s effect on their program because of this focus on grant funding at the expense of everything else (there is no program building, for example).

      Your experience sounds way worse!!!

      Right now I’m stuck because I need rec letters or at least 3 references to apply anywhere else (I’ve applied two places– one near where DH can get a job easily and one in between all of DH’s family) and it is getting really late to ask and I don’t even know where to start with that. (Plus, I have a nice internal grant that has another year left in it…) It’s easy to get stuck on “one more year.”

      • CG Says:

        I hear that on the internal grant. A wise colleague long ago referred to that sort of thing as “golden handcuffs.” Luckily you are also a wise person who will be able to regroup and figure out what the best way forward is for you and your family (whether it’s sitting tight for a bit or figuring out who to ask for rec letters or whatever). This is like an R&R of life!

  5. Nanani Says:

    May this dean step on all the legos, and have incontinent pigeons over his car.

  6. xykademiqz Says:

    :-( I’m so sorry.

    • xykademiqz Says:

      He sounds like a very heavy-handed, authoritarian dean, and he decided before meeting you that he didn’t want you around (him being late is a power move, meant to communicate he’s above you and you’re not worth impressing). He knows he’s not supposed to ask about a partner, but does it anyway, because it’s his turf, his rules, and he knows you can’t do anything about it (again, authoritarian). It doesn’t seem like there was anything you could’ve done in the interview to change his mind. He probably would have been very difficult to work for anyway. You probably dodged a bullet, honestly. But I know it’s disappointing and I’m really sorry.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Yeah, all of this stuff could have easily been communicated before-hand through less surprising channels. Like, they did not actually have to fly me out!

      • rose Says:

        You are lucky to not work with this dean. Track his name and avoid institutes that hire him. Very sorry! Hope the next spot works out better. Might you go all the way and work for outside educational institution?

      • Shannon Says:

        Will also say I am sorry, but also amplify that you probably dodged a bullet. I have a colleague at another institution who is working with a nightmare of a dean, who is making her life a living hell. I know it likely doesn’t feel that way now, but maybe that idea will help you feel a bit better about it in the long run.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Yeah, I do feel a little bit like that, but also a bit depressed because like, is there anyplace that would have me that’s better than where I am currently when where I am currently is not great? If it weren’t for DC2 I wouldn’t be so worried about all of this.

  7. Debbie M Says:

    Well, that was creepy. And of course terribly disappointing.

    I wish you good luck in your continuing work adventures.

  8. bogart Says:

    Oh ugh. I’m so sorry. I get that there are rational reasons for F&A, for institutions to seek grants that provide lots of it, etc., but it creates such perverse weirdness when it comes to whose scholarship is valued, etc. We need better systems (and better deans!).

  9. Cloud Says:

    What an ass of a dean. I’m sorry it isn’t going to work out. I hope you can find something else and also that you at some point get karmic payback for that dean.

  10. Lisa Says:

    I’m sorry! It is so disappointing to get your hopes up and then realize that things just aren’t going to work out. Luckily, between grant review and manuscript review, I’m sure you have lots of practice with this! I wonder if you could use one of the colleagues who thought enough of you to fly you out despite the dean’s $#@!-ery as a reference?

  11. SP Says:

    I’m with Nanani! What a frustrating (enraging?) experience. It would have been a disappointment in any case, but why bring you out there only to THEN tell you all this? Super inconsiderate. Agree he would have been terrible to work for, even if the rest is a dream job.

    And, I kind of… don’t even understand why it would matter what a spouse does. Crazy that people are STILL asking that.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      It is really crazy.

      The main reason we want to know is because we have a really good dual-career thing within the university and we want to tap any networks we can outside the university to make it more attractive for people to come. But we do not ask (well, we mostly do not ask– sometimes I’ve stopped a colleague and apologized to the candidate, but the candidate always answers anyway).

      Williams I thought did a good job with this 15+ years ago by having a completely separate meeting unconnected with anybody remotely related with the hiring process to talk about dual-career concerns and what Williams could offer. I did not get that job though.

  12. omdg Says:

    I hate when people flex on you in obvious ways. It’s like OBVIOUSLY you are a powerful dean, you don’t need to make sure I’m aware of it by being late. Ugh. I’m sorry this happened. Onward and upward!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      The more I think about it, the more the power thing seems to be right. Like, he didn’t even try to sell the school to me. Our deans have always started with how great we are boilerplate, no matter who they’re talking to, though our deans also have never vetoed hires, at least once we’ve had someone out even if it’s just a getting to know you before deciding on a targeted hire thing.

  13. rose Says:

    You are lucky to not work with this dean. Track his name and avoid institutes that hire him. Very sorry! Hope the next spot works out better. Might you go all the way and work for outside educational institution?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I don’t really see myself leaving academia, but who knows. Soft money positions like think tanks seem really stressful, government jobs are all in DC and I don’t think I want to move there (though people have been saying living in Maryland might be safe for DC2 for the next X years, even if we’re not sure about Virginia), and my phd specific skills don’t translate well to industry (I’m not I/O, for example).

  14. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    Ugh, I’m sorry he’s such a jerk. Not working for him sounds like it would be better but what a complete waste of your time and energy.

    It was shitty of him to ask the spouse question at all even if not illegal to ASK because frankly he was already extra shitty IMO (and maybe it’s normal in these interviews, I don’t know) with how he bluntly said that he’s going to veto you. I suppose it’s good to know the truth but this didn’t really have to happen.

    I hope he steps in a foot deep mud puddle EVERY TIME he’s on his way out the door. May every doorknob meet his hip and every doorframe greet his elbow.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Definitely shitty. Like, why do it except as a power thing? If he actually wanted to know about joint spousal things because he actually wanted to hire me and wanted to start finding a placement for my spouse (he didn’t) or if he thought hiring a power academic couple would be easier, that info could have been gotten from the faculty member who invited me since I volunteered it.

  15. First Gen American Says:

    Sounds like it would have been an upgrade to your personal life and a downgrade to your work life. Still sucks though when you were so invested.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Still would have been half the teaching load and I wouldn’t be doing as much service because there isn’t as much service and it still has a ton of people who work in my area. So not clear about the work life trade offs.

  16. Smita Says:

    Sneakers: So sorry about the job. And the question about what your spouse does??? Is this 1970? And that he gets to be such a xxxx as well – and knows that he is.

  17. Matthew D Healy Says:

    So sorry you ran into such a jerk.

    A long time ago I knew somebody who didn’t get tenure because their biggest grant was from a foundation that didn’t pay as much overhead as NIH. The Faculty in my Department were strongly supportive of the tenure application, and vocally angry at the Provost for killing it. A few years later this individual was Department Chair elsewhere.

    My Dissertation supervisor was one of those the next place asked for a recommendation; he told me his reply was basically “just because our Provost was an idiot doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hire this person.”

  18. Michael Nitabach Says:

    Ugh, so sorry. Fucjen deans…

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Another weird power thing…

      I’d said I’d be fine either as an associate or a full. That came back before my visit as I’d be hired as a full if I was hired, which was a surprise because some very excellent people who have been out longer than I have seem to be stuck at associate there. Then he referred to someone being hired as an associate needing to have that R01 in hand.

      • Michael Nitabach Says:

        It’s sort of interesting that they are so open & explicit about the R01 bsns. Because most places (even Yale who mostly DGAF abt appearing sociopathic) who obviously have this requirement for tenured appointments/promotions use squishier language like “a record of external grant funding”, but everyone knows what it means.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        It’s so weird because back when NIH funded what I do, I got an NIH grant. And I’ve had multiple NSF grants. I have a track record!

        I also talked to a soft money place, and they were 100% fine with foundation funding. But I’m not ready to move to soft money yet. It’s so hard.

        I still don’t have recommenders so I’m about to miss the econ hiring cycle for this year for any place that requires them. UGH. (Sometimes) I wish I were more egoistical and less worried about burdening other people.

      • Michael Nitabach Says:

        Sometimes some decision maker fuck just doesn’t like you for no reason at all & just finds some bullshit to tank you. I’ve had it & so has anyone who’s been around for a while.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Yep. Which bodes ill for actually working there.

  19. middle_class Says:

    Why is it so important to have government funding over foundation funding?

  20. accm Says:

    What a jerk. Here’s hoping another opportunity shows up.

  21. Turia Says:

    Well, shit. I’m really sorry. The dean sounds like a total asshole so maybe it’s a lucky miss, but that’s still disappointing.

  22. Linda Says:

    I’m so sorry dream job didn’t materialize this time. Sounds like that dean would have been horrible to work with.

  23. Grumpy Rumblings 2022 Year in Blogging | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured) Says:

    […] Dream job not happening from October 2022 (Boy I’m really starting to get depressed right […]


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