Networking FTW (part 2)!! Or how to get the job you really wanted in 10 short years

(See Part 1 here)

How to get the job you’ve wanted for 10 years:

Step 1:  Graduate from graduate school.  Be a lecturer for a year and some change because the job market sucks.

Step 2:  Get a faculty position.  Occasionally meet people who work for the place you will want to work because your research overlaps with theirs.  Apply to where they work a couple times when a job looks particularly interesting since your partner still lives in Paradise and you hate being without him.  Hear nothing.

Step 3:  Decide to quit your tenured faculty position.  Decide you really want to work for this other place, but it is several states away.   Apply along with a bunch of other places in Paradise.  Fail to hear back.

Step 4:  Move to Paradise, where the place you want to work is located.

Step 5:  Apply again and again as jobs come up and never hear back.

Step 6:  Get a different job where you regularly meet with people who work at the place you want to work because that is part of your job (one of the parts you like best, solidifying your desire to work there).

Step 7:  Find out that your applications for the other place never made it through the hiring screening system for reasons that nobody understands or can tell you, but the screening is automatic and very bureaucratic.

Step 8:  Do a great job at your current job, learn new skills and research areas (including writing under review papers!) that make you more attractive at the place you’ve wanted to work for several years, and as time passes, be more convincing that you’re ok with not being tenure track just by dint of not being tenure track.

Step 9:  Realize that while you value the flexibility and academic freedom aspects of your current job, you dislike the personal assistant parts of your job and you kind of wish you were still working more in your research area as part of the job that you get paid for.

Step 10:  Apply for jobs broadly.  Get a couple interviews for places that you would have enjoyed working at probably (or at least would have enjoyed the higher salaries at), but you weren’t a slam dunk fit for.  Fail to get those jobs.

Step 11:  Get an email from someone at the place you’ve wanted to work at for 10 years asking if you or your boss have any students who might be interested in a position that has opened up that looks like an even better match for you than the jobs you’ve applied for there previously.

Step 12:  Respond, “YES!  ME!!!!”  Have a conversation with the person.  Then apply, but this position also doesn’t require the full system for various bureaucratic reasons not detailed here.  Your application does not get lost.  Ace the interview which is more like a conversation because you’ve been working directly with this person off and on for the past few years and had met her even before that.   Hear from a friend that your references have been checked.  Have your boss tell you that he’s sad to lose you.  Hear the person you interviewed with tell your boss that she now owes him.  Get the job offer.  Note the salary and benefits are both better than what you have now.  Accept.  Get paperwork.  Get a start date.  Tell your boss your last day.

Step 13:  Get a terrible terrible cold because you always get sick after deciding to quit a job.  This time it better not turn into pneumonia.

Step 14:  Document and organize everything because you want to leave your previous position in a much better place than you found it!

Congratulate #1 in the comments below!


Career Change Neepery

When I go to the library to pick up my books that are on hold, I often browse around and come home with a bunch of books that look interesting at the time.  This time I got How to Find Fulfilling Work by Roman Krznaric.  Of course, who can resist an alluring title like that?  Especially when working on a career change!

It’s got an interesting exercise that I hadn’t heard of before.  It’s the “reverse job ad”.  Instead of looking at what a job advertisement wants, you advertise what you have.  So you write a half-page about yourself, but it doesn’t include any previous jobs or qualifications.  You write about your passions, interests, skills, and any dealbreakers.  For example, you might write that you speak Norwegian, love cats, make excellent pie.  Your personality is bubbly but impatient and you hate sports.  You want a job with flexible hours and not in a cubicle.  You are habitually messy, and passionate about reproductive rights.  Or whatever it is.  Don’t specify the job you’re looking for.

Now here’s the interesting part.  You send this “personal job ad” to ten different people who have very diverse jobs and backgrounds and lives.  For example, a police officer, vet tech, organic gardener, banker, cartoonist, bus driver, accountant, teacher, doctor, and a welder.  Ask them to be very specific about what kind of job they think you should have, based on the description.  The book uses the example, don’t say ‘you should work with children.’  Instead say, ‘you should do charity work with street kids in Rio’.

You are likely to get a wide variety of answers, some of which you’ve never thought of before.

#2 is skeptical that following these exact steps would work well anywhere outside of, say, Southern California.  But maybe a more muted and more professional version that’s presented informally (say verbally at a cocktail party, or as a facebook/blog post).

Has anyone done something like this, or would you?  How would you describe yourself?

Networking FTW! Or how to get a job in 11 easy steps

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 (

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.