Unsolicited Advice: Job search (Pt. 6)

Well, now that you have a few ads to respond to, start sending those applications already! Once you have sent 30 or 40 applications come on back and we can wait together. And wait, and wait, and wait. As I have said previously- it takes a some time for search committees to slog through all that paperwork- so expect that from the time you send in your application there will be a pretty hefty lag – this can last several months so don’t quit your day job (or postdoc, as the case may be). Also- there is no rhyme or reason about if or when you will be notified that your application is no longer under consideration- so don’t take it personally if you don’t hear anything.

Actually, the waiting is perfect- (and you should be a pro at it by now you’re a scientist after all, and nothing in the lab happens THAT quickly)- because it gives you some time to do a little homework about potential departments, and to prepare for the next steps including attending an interview, giving a job talk, and possibly also giving a chalk talk. Ready sources of information about the departments you have applied to include the department web page and faculty listing and any insight from your colleagues. You can use CRISP for determining how many faculty are federally funded, and pubmed/medline/google scholar for getting a feeling for their publication records. Also useful to check out departments within the institution you are applying to that might have investigators whose interests overlap or intersect with your own (potential collaborators…). Don’t go hog wild on this now though, you will launch full scale into this when you are invited for an interview- but a little look around at the departments that you find most interesting won’t hurt. This preparation is very useful for getting a feeling for the institution, the department, and for having a few faculty to request to meet with when the request to interview comes…

As for preparing presentations for potential interviews- it is great to start thinking about what slides you are going to put together, gathering them up, and deciding what additional data you would really like to have if you should be invited to interview. And the chalk talk – well, that’s a whole different ballgame for which you have already laid the groundwork with your ‘research interests’ statement. Interviewing itself, the preparation, the presentations, how to dress and behave, how to follow up etc… will be the subject of several future posts.

Unsolicited Advice: Meeting Reports

My postdoc advisor had a terrific habit that I have shamelessly stolen and use frequently. When he attended a Gordon Conference/CSH meeting/and the like, he would send me (and others in the lab) emails at convenient intervals summarizing the interesting talks that he attended during that session or day. Needless to say, I like to have my finger on the pulse of what is going on in my field- so I ate up these emails. When he returned from whatever meeting he was attending he would co-opt lab meeting, and give a rundown of all of the talks that he found interesting or relevant to what we were working on.

I have taken this habit and practice it in my own style… Since I was in professional school back in the dark ages before paperless curricula, and syllabi that contain the lecturer’s every utterance were not even a twinkle in anyone’s eye- I am an incessant note-taker. When I worked in industry and couldn’t take my lab notebook of the premises- I developed a habit of carrying one of those bound composition notebooks (the cheap ones) – at that time for thoughts about experiments, notes on papers etc. That habit has stuck with me, and now I drag one of those notebooks with me to every seminar and every scientific meeting (these notebooks are great because when you have a full one you can put in those little sticky tabs so you can find things easily… or you could just do this on a laptop like the rest of the 21st century universe). I send my lab members updates from meetings by email, and when I return I give a summary of everything that I picked up, not only for my lab- but for a group of 3 labs with similar/complementary interests to ours. This exercise serves two purposes for my people…it’s still shocking to me that I actually have MY OWN people. First, they get the newest and greatest from the meeting, so hopefully they actually learn something.… but second- they also learn from my example that I have a very serious attitude about scientific meetings (although I’m no saint so there is always a teensy-weensy bit of goofing off they don’t need to hear about), scientific meetings are professional gatherings and are all about business, best behavior and game face on. And, when I come home I try to treat them like a learning experience that goes beyond just me.

When I send a student or postdoc to meeting that I don’t attend, I expect them to deliver a meeting report in similar style to all of us upon their return…