Since this blog began just a few tiny weeks ago, I've been getting some really excellent advice from some really excellent scientists (and non-scientists, too!). They've given me a lot to think about as I prepare my applications, and what it all seems to come down to is...my package. What will search committees see when they look at me on paper? More importantly, what do they want to see?
In response to a recent post, Comrade PhysioProf wrote:
It is more important to explain how awesome your post-doctoral work has been, and how you are uniquely positioned to leverage off of your post-doctoral training to make an impact on your field as independent investigator. This is subtly--but importantly--different than explaining how awesome you are personally, about which no one gives a flying fuck.
Now, as much as I'd like my charming, self-deprecating wit and cocktail-making skills to factor into the hiring process, CPP is completely right. I recently submitted an application for a K99-R00 award (a special grant to help post-docs transition to junior faculty), and had to write about 6 different statements explaining how my previous and current work had prepared me for the work I was going to do in the future. What seems to be most highly valued is having a real focus throughout your career, as opposed to flitting about learning a million methods in different fields.
As I was writing all of these many, many statements and realizing that this is what is desirable in a New Investigator candidate, a sneaky grin crept onto my face because I was also realizing that I have GOT IT. My thesis work and my post-doc work are related in theme but completely different in technique, and no one else in my labs has seemed all that keen on continuing my projects after I leave, so I can probably take it all with me. And I want to! I'm genuinely excited about and proud of the work I've done so far, and am looking forward to building on what I've learned and taking it in new directions.
So that's all sunshine and rainbows, but like my commenters point out, most search committees will probably check out my CV first (and possibly only). In that case, should they not find my Classy Institutions, my several Awards and Honors, and my humble-but-not-laughable publishing record up to snuff, they'll sadly miss out on the captivating and compelling story of how I've been preparing my whole life (er...ten years) for This Job. That would be disappointing, but I'm optimistic that it won't come to that. Why, you ask? Well...I think I have a nice package.
The Plight of the Post-Doc