I opened my inbox recently to find a mass email from someone I'd known in grad school. He was in a different program and I wouldn't say we were good friends, but if life is a Venn diagram--and oh, it is--our circles most definitely overlapped. I hadn't spoken to him since I left, but it seems he's done very well for himself in that time, because the purpose of the email was to notify apparently everyone on the planet that he'd just taken a faculty position at a very Classy Institution here in the city. I had two thoughts:
1. Three words, dude. Blind. Carbon. Copy. Perhaps you're familiar?
2. I have got to pick this guy's brain.
So I sent him a quick email congratulating him on his new job and asking if we could grab coffee so I could grill him on his techniques and strategies for successfully navigating the current market. He happily agreed, and we met up yesterday at the local Pain Quotidien for a little tartine and tenure-track talk.
The first piece of advice he offered was, "Be sure to have multiple offers, so you have some negotiating leverage." First, not last. I cleared my throat and asked if we might back up a few steps? As it turns out, his story is quite awesome, and his path somewhat unconventional. Apparently he hadn't been planning on looking for jobs until this current cycle, but last spring he was invited to give a job talk at one of NYCs Classy Institutions. When that went well, he thought it might be a good idea to shop himself around a bit, so he asked friends and friends of friends if they knew of any departments that were also looking, sent out a few CVs, gave a few more talks, and here he is, just a few months later, an Assistant Professor with what I understand to be a ridiculously kick ass start-up package.
Now, this guy is a real superstar. His research is achingly (and I mean achingly) sexy, and he has genuine expertise in very specific and powerful techniques. He was surprisingly modest, attributing his success partly to being in the right place at the right time with respect to his post-doc work. This may be true, but I think that he also recognized that he was in the right place at the right time, and knew how to take advantage of that.
But additionally, he must have had some good interviewing skills, so I asked him about that. He said that everyone is going to ask you where you see yourself in five years, so to be very, very prepared to answer that in as concrete terms as possible--meaning, knowing exactly what sciencey questions you want to have answered, what techniques you'll use, how that will set you up for work further down the line...etc. You have to have your life all planned out, essentially. No biggie. This is fine for me, actually; since the research proposal part of my K99 application was well-received, I in fact do have a 5-year research plan that I know well and am excited to talk about.
When I got home, I checked the job boards and there was a new one: THE job. The ad said something like, "we have two open faculty positions in the area of Dr Becca's Big Ideas." I mean really, it's like they read my K99 proposal and created the job (two of them!) just for me. I am so excited to apply for this job I almost can't sit still. The ad states that I have up to 4 pages to describe my research, which is a lot, and means I can really hash out my plans. I am going to wow the pants off that search committee!
PS--are you dying from how clever the title of this post is? I'm really patting myself on the back, here.
The Plight of the Post-Doc