Ask the grumpies: How to covertly practice for a job interview as a tenured faculty member

Susan asks:

it looks like I may interview for [a new job] soon, so here’s a somewhat urgent question: do you have suggestions for how to sharpen up my interview skills (like the chalk talk) as an already-tenured faculty? The last time I interviewed was as a postdoc, so there were plenty of coaching opportunities, but now I need to be covert. I think I’ll be ok with the talk itself, but it’s all the other soft skills

Disclaimer:  neither of us has applied for a tenured job after being tenured.  #2 has applied for non-tenure-track jobs after, but #1 has really only done one year faculty development leave stints.  However, #1 has been through the hiring process for the other side about a bazillion times both for her department and for related interdisciplinary departments that sometimes need to call in more (female or maybe just well-behaved?) economists for their searches.

Really the job talk is probably the most important thing, so if you’re ok with that, you’re ok!  Depending where you are in your career and what they have asked you to do, you’ll either want to be presenting a new piece of research or giving them an overview of a big chunk of your research agenda (as well as how it fits into your teaching and service).  If they just want a piece of research, you should easily be able to get people to listen to your practice talk just by telling them you need to practice for your upcoming talk.  If you’re doing one that has an overview of your entire agenda, you may want to stick with folks outside your department and/or close friends if you’re keeping things on the down low.

In terms of other soft skills… honestly, I don’t think you will need to practice them.  You’re an already-tenured faculty.  You don’t *need* this other new job.  You’ve most likely been on the other side of interviews and know more about what matters and what doesn’t matter for applicants.  (I am embarrassed now by what I thought mattered but nobody actually cares about!)  Just be a polite slightly more extroverted version of yourself (if you’re an introvert) and you should be fine.  Talk about research and teaching and service.  If it’s for an administrator position, talk to people at the department in advance so you have ideas for what the issues and concerns for the unit are going forward.  It’s ok not to have ideas and to just talk about how you make decisions based on faculty input, but you should be aware of any landmines as well as being able to do some discussion of the pros and cons of major issues.  If it’s for a faculty position, just pretend you’re there to give a seminar but add some more questions about things that you care about, whatever they may be.  Senior hires give so much more power to the candidate and are so much more relaxed than junior hires.

But maybe you’re wondering what kinds of questions you should be asking?  I get a lot of questions about the public and private schools (and I volunteer that information for everyone even if they don’t ask), housing, food, restaurants, distance to the nearest city.  More senior candidates feel more comfortable asking about quality of life information than do junior candidates.  I don’t know if they realize it is important or if it actually is more important or if they feel more comfortable signaling personal information.  Additionally more senior candidates are more likely to have make-or-break things– if X isn’t met, then they don’t really want the offer, and they’re happy to let us know that.  I also get more questions about how people in the department get along and how everyone gets along with the chair and the dean and so on, though sometimes that signals that the person is coming from a more dysfunctional place which can be a bit of a red flag– it’s usually best to signal that you’re happy where you are but you’re excited about this new opportunity for some other reason (like less snow or family or it’s ranked higher or you have friends on the faculty etc.), but not always.  Other than that, talking about interesting research, yours, theirs, other people’s, is always good (unless, of course, it’s a department where nobody does research).  And it’s easier to do as a senior person when you realize you don’t have to know the minutia of every person you meet’s cv than it is when you’re junior and don’t realize it’s ok to ask about things you don’t know or understand (or maybe that was just me).

#2 notes that for the two jobs she’s gotten post-tenure, the interviews were more like conversations.  She wasn’t even really aware the one for the second job was an interview.

So, we don’t really know, but we’ll throw this up to grumpy nation, and maybe send a signal over to historiann to ask for a boost.

Grumpeteers, any advice for Susan?

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A mostly unscheduled weekend snapshot

One weekend:

Saturday:

Extended morning cuddle time.
DH and DC1 go grocery shopping:  8-9:45
DH takes DC1 to robotics (last Saturday before tournament, DH is there because the last two times DC1 went by hirself we got complaints from the teacher about DC1 wandering around):  10-4
I take DC2 out for lunch:  11am-whenever
Kids chores (I help with workbooks) and homework
I do so much laundry and dishes (kids fold their own clothing– usually DH joins too but I did his stuff while he was at robotics) and made a bunch of food (start beet salad, freeze the rocky road liquid that DC2 and DH made the previous night).
Finished and scheduled a bunch of blog posts.
DC1 and DH watch Paddington Bear in preparation for seeing Paddington 2 in theaters. It is too scary for DC1 and we spend the next few nights with hir complaining about being too scared to sleep. Paddington 2 is nixed.

Sunday:

Extended morning cuddle time.
DH does online gaming with friends (I help kids with chores and putter with other chores): 9-12
DH helps my students with a tricky programming problem:  12-1
I finish making beet salad and make tuna noodle casserole.
DH and DC2 make angel food muffins with the eggwhites leftover from the ice cream we made Friday/Saturday.
Did a bunch of financial/family chores (2018 IRAs, ordered a book from the library for DC1, emailed about getting on the middle school math practice mailing list, etc.  I had a list of about 9 things that needed to get done sometime that weekend and worked on them in between answering math questions.)
DH and I kiss a bunch.
Cranked through some work emails in preparation for Monday.
Listened to a bunch of 1960s and 1970s songs and sang and danced. Taught the kids the mashed potato and a few arm moves from the 1970s (that I learned in kindergarten in California…) DC1 showed us hir preferred hopping dance move. DC2 has an impressive group of dance moves. I realize that I really need to wear a sports bra if I’m going to twist like we did last summer.
Help my sister with some activism stuff.

I just cannot schedule weekends.  It makes me really unhappy to have them scheduled.  I could be getting more work done, and before kids I worked 6 days a week, but I have a really hard time doing that now.  DC2 especially is really good at interrupting me when I’m trying to get something done that requires thinking.  I really enjoy unstructured weekends.

How do you deal with weekends?  Feel free to link up to your previous weekend scheduling posts if applicable.

In which #1 ends up singing about Dunning Kruger Homesteaders

#2:  My FIL watches a reality television show where this guy from Alaska goes around and saves people who tried homesteading but are doing a horrible job at it

#1: I’ve seen commercials for that. It makes me want to laugh in Schadenfreude.

#2: He recounted one of the episodes with a TSTL* couple for us. It was a bit astonishing. They’d planned like Pa Ingalls, which his to say not at all.  [*too stupid to live]

#1: I have spent enough time on a farm to know the daily slog is NOT for me.  (I hope they get Lyme disease) [ed:  not really]

#2: Even if they’d been doing everything perfectly, their land wasn’t big enough to homestead on, and they were not doing anything right. I don’t understand people who would want to homestead. It takes up so much space and it’s so much labor. Economies of scale! Comparative advantage! Efficiency! Gains from trade!

#1: I mean, you CAN build your own house but you should be some sort of engineer first. And some sort of agricultural specialist. And an herbalist. And a veterinarian. And, and, and….
“Flush toilets exist but we’d rather play house in the backyard until we die of dysentery.”
Let’s make soap! First, lye…(ugh, lye soap)
When ur animals inevitably die, you can boil their hooves for glue….
Also, I wonder if they know what poison oak looks like…
Did you know that goats can get polio and pigs can get rickets? If not, u shouldn’t be homesteading….

#2: How do you know so much about homesteading?

#1: I watch a lot of shows about veterinarians in rural areas.
If you have cows, you gotta know the right (and wrong!) way to pull a calf out alive.
Can you properly sterilize and stitch a wound? If not, don’t homestead. Can you set a simple broken bone? If not, don’t homestead.

*whistles nonchalantly off to my appliance-equipped kitchen*

Also if you hire labor, you’d best know your tax law!

*whistles another tune about rabies and tetanus combined*

This song goes, “Would you like to drain an abscess in an animal’s hooooooof?”

dum de dum, giardia doot de doo….

On knowing what’s out there: loosely connected thoughts from vacation with the relatives

Over the holidays, DH’s newly retired parents kept talking about how truly blessed they are.  None of their kids are in jail.  All are gainfully employed.  They themselves have more money than they ever dreamed and will actually be able to increase their quality of life in retirement (or rather, FIL now has both time and money for all those hunting trips he’s been wanting to do), at least while the stock market is booming.  (A couple of weeks ago, FIL called up to ask DH to ask me whether or not it was ok to have 90% stocks/10% bonds…)

DH’s relative that we’ve talked about before is not doing so well.  He’s got arthritis, which makes being a construction worker difficult.  His oldest two both had children as teenagers (the oldest is living at home with her toddler, the second moved West with her two kids to live with the biological mother who abandoned her as a baby).  His wife is recovering from brain cancer.  His third attempted suicide via electricity socket recently and is depressed because he’s too blind to legally drive.  His fourth has gotten in with a bad crowd and started stealing from family and was recently on suicide watch at a hospital.  We didn’t hear much about the fifth this time around except that she was driving the oldest’s car when it got totaled by an uninsured driver (which means the relative is now chauffeuring everybody around).  Also one of his two much younger brothers (his brothers are the same age as his oldest daughters) has been jailed for possession of stolen materials.

Focusing a bit on that third kid– he graduated from high school last year and the plan was to take the year off working (he’s washing dishes at a restaurant) and then spend the next year at community college.  Community college is about an hour away, so he would have to be driven.  He’s really depressed that he will never be able to drive and it’s not clear that he’s actually going to do community college next year, or ever.  He’s smart and has the grades and GPA to go to the flagship school or one of the closer regionals.  The flagship’s admission deadline has come and gone and the closer regionals have passed their priority deadlines but still have rolling admissions.  Over break, he and DH talked about careers and DH tried to convince him to just fill out one of the two page regional applications for either of the closest schools (while DH was there to pay the $40 admission fee), but no luck.

And the thing is, this kid has never been anywhere with public transportation (or even taxis!).  He has no idea what it’s like to be someplace where you can take yourself where you need to go without having to depend on the kindness of someone else to drive you.  It would be best for him to skip community college and to just go straight to a 4 year college with an extensive bus system and counselors.   He should be eligible for plenty of need-based financial aid and what’s left we can pay.  But… he doesn’t know that’s best.  He doesn’t know what is best and his parents don’t have 4-year college degrees (his mom never finished high school) and his dad has been on his own since 16, so they’re letting him do what he wants since he’s officially an adult.

Growing up I knew I wanted to be upper-middle-class because I knew people whose parents were upper-middle-class and I had an aunt and uncle who were judges, and I thought, I want that.  I want to not have to worry about money and to have the temperature always set to something comfortable.  DH never had those thoughts, but his parents were doing pretty well compared to everyone else in his family, and at boarding school he learned a lot about what all was out there.  And his mother had a wide variety of experiences growing up and she told me this most recent trip that she always thought it important to make sure her kids saw places outside the small town, so they went to camps (or in DH’s case, boarding school) and visited relatives (from her side of the family) up north and so on.  She also took them to get professional career testing before college and told them not going was not an option (for DH she also controlled where he was allowed to apply), just as her father had told her that not going to college was not an option.

Going back to DH’s family’s place at Christmas does tend to make one feel #blessed because it reminds us how well we’re doing and how well DH’s immediate family is doing.  It also forces the comparison of how hard it is for so much of America to get ahead outside of our highly educated McMansion-owning bubble.  DH’s relative is plenty smart, but his life diverged dramatically from DH’s at 16 when he got married and left home and had two kids.  But there were also a lot of factors that led up to that point and after– his parents also had two kids by age 18.  Our kids’ lives will diverge even more dramatically.  His kids are not our kids, and we don’t know how to help, or if we even can help.   So, we will continue to feel #blessed and to keep things in perspective while doing what we can to make it easier for poor kids more generally to get ahead.  We have our oxygen masks on, but there are still a lot of people out there who need assistance with theirs, and even more who don’t have access to oxygen masks at all.

Being breadwinner

can be stressful

Right now #2 and I are both breadwinners of our respective family units.  In case you were wondering about #2, after her FIL died, her DH got very depressed and is taking a break from paid employment.  There’s probably a bit more than that, but it’s not my story to tell.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been the sole income of the family– if you recall, DH quit his tenure-track job without anything lined up, so for a few months we weren’t sure what our income situation was going to be like until he got employed.

One of the first things I’ve noticed about being breadwinner is that I feel the need to increase my income.  Asking for raises, getting grants, taking consulting opportunities, all of these seem to be more important now than when DH is also bringing in cash.  Getting my research done and out so that I can be more attractive should we need to move takes on greater urgency.

Combined with this, I let DH take on greater responsibilities at home.  We already have a pretty egalitarian household, and when DH isn’t earning, he starts taking care of more of the daily and weekly chores, especially kitchen stuff and chauffeuring.  And I feel less guilty about him doing so.  I imagine this is how some women get shunted into home production even when things start out equivalent.  I do spend more time on our finances when I’m the only one earning, but it doesn’t make up for the time I’m no longer spending on regular chores.

I do like having DH take care of things at home, but I also like the stress of not being the only person earning money.  I think I like it best when we’re both enjoying our jobs and earning a lot of money.  I would like it least if I disliked my job but had to keep my job because mine was the only income.  My next least favorite would be being the homemaker if DH was the sole breadwinner and hated his job.  I’m not sure how I would rate hating my job vs. being a homemaker if DH was happy with his job.  I guess it might depend on how easily I could find a new job in that situation.  I suspect that I would rather have each of us make 150K than have DH make 300K with me required to make nothing.  I might prefer making 300K myself and having DH at home to either scenario though.  (Note:  I am happy to test any of these three propositions!)  Smaller dollar amounts would probably lead to different preferred combinations.

As we’ve noted before, this time we’re in a better position than last time DH stopped bringing in income.  As I look through that old post discussing what to do with finances, I am happy that we don’t have to move so much around.  There’s no mortgage to stop prepayment on.  No private school to save tuition for, no mother’s helpers to pay (though we do have summer camp and daycare throughout the summer).  No IRAs to fund (though if DH’s jobless situation continues, I will be eligible to contribute again).  And we have a nice cash cushion.  My plan is to convert this cash cushion into tax-deferred savings (by continuing to max out my 403(b) and 457, even as we dip into savings) with the thought that doing so will make us more likely to be eligible for financial aid when DC1 goes off to college.

I also don’t know how long I am going to be the breadwinner.  DH’s company is supposed to be getting back on track in July, but i’s have not yet been dotted nor t’s crossed on the contract that will put the company back to work for the next couple of years.  We can wait, as can DH’s direct boss, but much of the rest of the company cannot afford to take more than one month unpaid.  If waiting for the contract lasts too long, the company might just go under and the contract will fall through entirely.  My bread-winning this time around may end up being longer term than we had hoped.

Have you ever been the sole breadwinner of a multiple-person household?  How do things change?  Do you feel stressed?  Do you have a family income combination that you prefer (breadwinner/homemaker/dual-income, etc)?

Do you need work or would you love 100% leisure time?

#2 and I were talking the other day.

She is happiest when her money needs are taken care of but she doesn’t have a job.  She reads.  She rides horsies.  She plays with kittens at the animal shelter.  She enjoys life.  Employment requires a higher dose of anti-depressants.

Her DH is the same– he enjoys not working.  He has no work stress if he has no work.

If they were independently wealthy they’d never work again!

I, on the other hand, vacation very badly.  I hate not working.  I mean, I love not working on weekends except to read novels, do chores, and hang out with the fam, and probably a 30 hour work week would be ideal if I could just get everything done I needed to get done in that time, but I like having a job.  Depending on where I am and what the activities are, after a week or two weeks of forced vacation I start getting depressed.  Whenever I get 3 months off, I start writing a (very bad) novel.  Thankfully a summer is the most I’ve ever not had either school work or research to do.  These days, summers mean I get to work on research with fewer interruptions.  I’m happiest when I have a manageable to-do list that I can just crank through.  It is true that I prefer having done things to getting things done, but it’s hard to have one without the other.  And I love the feeling of flow.  I like helping people and things grow.  I like getting checks for things I would have done anyway.  I love money and income so much.  I love not having to think about our expenditures.  I don’t know that I’d do this job without this paycheck, but I would be doing something work-like.

My DH needs work too, but his reasons are that he needs regular feedback and validation on what he’s doing and he needs to feel as if he’s making the world a better place.  He doesn’t actually need paid employment, but he does need a regular occupation.  It is no surprise that whenever he shows up at a non-profit meeting (be it activism or DC1’s former school) he’s immediately given assignments which he carries out faithfully.

What about you?  Do you need work or would you be perfectly happy entertaining yourself non-productively?  Or are there productive things you’d like to do outside of the work framework?  (To be fair, petting shelter-kitties is both enjoyable *and* productive, though not lucrative.)

A solution for DH’s snoring

This would probably not work with #2’s husband who is all CPAP’d up and whose snoring was so bad prior to CPAP that they once had to have separate beds on *separate floors* of a house.

My DH’s snoring hasn’t been quite so bad.  He’s had a couple things checked for it but it isn’t anything dealing with the dentist or some other thing that the doctor checked out.  It also tends to disappear when he’s in good shape and only creeps up when he tips into overweight, which is most of the time.  Obviously the best solution would be for him to get buff… but as that’s not a realistic forever solution, I appreciate this one weird trick that seems to be working.

Basically he bought this cylindrical pillow.  You can get it for <$25 on Amazon (you can also get it for >$60 on Amazon– choose the <$25 option… it is the same pillow either way).  And it works.  I don’t know why it works or how it works, but I sleep so much better when he’s using it than when he’s using his beloved regular pillow.  He doesn’t find it as comfortable as his regular pillow, but you know the saying, Happy Wife, Happy Life?  That’s a good saying.

(Reminder that we’re amazon affiliates, so if you click and buy we get some small percent.)

Do you have any snoring stories or solutions?