Physioprof has posted over at Drugmonkey today about the foolishness of limiting where you apply for a faculty position – in response to a post from Dr. Brazen Hussy at her site. I’m here to tell you he’s right on the money on this one. Both PP and I have posted on this previously at various times (I’m too lazy to dig up the links right now)- – and I started writing a rather lengthy comment over at DM about limiting where you apply based on geography (in response to a couple of the comments), and thought I’d just make a blog post out of it instead.
Just as a disclaimer from the outset: IT IS COMPLETELY SILLY TO LIMIT WHERE YOU APPLY BASED ON GEOGRAPHY UNLESS YOUR HEART’S DESIRE IS TO GO OUT ON THE JOB MARKET AGAIN FOR ANOTHER YEAR. Your goal is to get a job, and in this day and age it is HARD to get an academic job … as Whimple nicely pointed out over there- in 2008 you take any academic job you can get. You increase your chances for this by getting multiple offers, you increase your chance of multiple offers by having multiple interviews… and you have the best possible chance of multiple interviews if you apply as widely as possible.
Now, let me say a thing or two about geography- because I know what I’m talking about here. I grew up in the extremely scenic great northwest, have traveled all over the world (I have a parent and a spouse that are not US born or raised), and I lived in the beautiful northeast US for about 15 years. I have lived most of my life in fantastic, culturally aware, cosmopolitan urban areas in the United States and abroad. I am not a small town girl that has not seen anything of the world. Now, I live and work in a place where I once said, out loud in fact, I couldn’t be dragged even after death.
I WAS WRONG ABOUT THIS PLACE. Let me say that again- I was wrong about this place, and I wouldn’t have realized this if I had closed myself off from this opportunity.
I’m happy here, I have a job that I love with all the right factors to make the best possible career moves, I can raise a family safely and sanely, I never have to deal with traffic, I have great colleagues and a supportive department, I have the facilities I need to work (which only exist in a handful of places in the US, none of which are in the places that I lived and worked previously). To me these factors determine my day-to-day happiness and job satisfaction vastly more than the ability to look at some mountain every morning.. or to have the privilege of sitting in traffic for two hours a day….. and I’ve done that too. I recognize that the trade-offs won’t be the same for every person.
Certain places/departments/locations/facilities are not what you expect- and you won’t know this unless you visit. You won’t be invited to visit, if you don’t apply. Find the best job for you- regardless of geography. Also- because you have a poor opinion of a place when you are 25 and single, does not mean that you won’t find that place the perfect place to settle down and raise a family later (if that is something you are interested in doing). You can not predict these things in advance. You limit your opportunities in ways you don’t even realize if you start applying based on geography.
And one last thing that has more to do with casting a wide net, and less to do with geography – interviewing for an academic job is a networking opportunity. Regardless of whether you decide to take a job in a place- you will have met all of their faculty, you develop a better picture of your field, and people in fields that peripherally interact with your field if you go out and meet people. These people won’t all be located in geographic areas that you find attractive. Don’t use that silly geography logic to miss out on that chance.