The offer refused

Recently, I applied for my first academic job at a small state university.  The description for the tenure-track position fit my skill set perfectly.  I have to admit, though, the thought of working for a small university close in proximity and within the same state system as my previous (and very negative, see for example here, here, and here) pre-doc teaching experience gave me reservation in even applying.  In addition, I don’t have any chapters written yet for my dissertation and it likely won’t be finished until this summer, so it is slightly premature to be on the job market. However, a former colleague encouraged me to apply so I did despite my reservations.

I quickly threw together an application packet, including writing from scratch a research statement and teaching philosophy the day before it was due, and sent it in later that night.  Since I didn’t have a chance to have my mentor critique it for me, I didn’t think I would get very far in the application process, but at least I had something written to work with for future applications.  I was surprised when a week later I was contacted for a Skype interview.

This was my first video interview, so I prepared by reading a few blogs (here’s a great one, here, and here).  The interview felt really awkward at first; I waved and said “Hi” each time one of the faculty members was introduced to me.  The interview was brief, and I’m guessing they had a standard set of questions they asked each of the candidates.  I thought I did pretty well for my first Skype interview.  I emailed individual thank you notes to the chair and the faculty who asked me questions or answered my questions.

Within a few days, I was asked to come for a campus visit to give an introductory lecture and a 45-minute research talk in two weeks.  In the meantime, I had to prepare a conference talk and had an unexpected family tragedy that included traveling out of state for the three days immediately prior to my interview.  Needless to say, I wasn’t as prepared for the interview as I hoped, I approached it with the attitude that this is, if nothing else, a great experience and doing my best will have to be enough.  In the interview, I wasn’t as nervous as I usually am, probably because I didn’t expect to get the position and I wasn’t entirely convinced that I wanted it if I did get an offer.  Following the interview, I emailed each of the faculty members and thanked them.

Two days later, the chair called with an offer and gave me a week to think it over.

This was a very difficult decision for me, particularly because I felt like I only had a week to decide once and for all whether I want to stay in academia.  In the end, I turned the offer down because it wasn’t right for my family at this point.   My husband would have supported either decision even though moving to a smaller community would have severely limited his job opportunities.  I want him to be able to get a full-time job somewhere, not adjunct forever.  If the department would have been able to do a spousal hire (which I knew they couldn’t), I would have accepted.  However, moving for a faculty job in which I would be the sole breadwinner at a point when we’re trying to start a family just doesn’t make sense to me.  Academia is shockingly backwards when it comes to maternity leave for instructional staff.  It seems like you either teach your full load, or maybe a reduced load without actually taking any leave, or you take the semester off with no pay, and possibly no insurance (e.g. see here, here, and here).  Um, that might work if you have a spouse that carries insurance and makes a decent income, but what about those of us women who are the major/sole breadwinners??

Perhaps I could have negotiated for a better maternity leave for whenever and however kids come in the picture. Since I’m not married to the idea of going the faculty route, it just didn’t seem worth it.  Maternity leave wasn’t the only reason I turned the job down; more like it was the straw that broke the camel’s back (again, crossroads).  I know I’ll likely be the primary breadwinner when I eventually start my career, but I’m not willing to make my husband always be the one to compromise.  Maybe another faculty job will come down the road; maybe it won’t.  I’m ok with that. The great thing that came from this experience is the opportunity for me (and my husband) to really sort through our priorities, both professionally and personally.  Turning this job down might be a gutsy move on my part, but I’m confident that I will find something that works much better for me and my family.

9 thoughts on “The offer refused

  1. Congratulations on the offer, and on the guts to stick by your guns and make what I’m sure was a difficult choice. I wish you all the best in figuring out what comes next.

  2. The fact that ‘no-one tells you these things’ is the very reason it is important to discuss them in fora like this! Thanks for sharing. I agree with Acclimatrix. it is an important and hopefully long-term appointment you are looking for next, and you are in the early stages of ‘looking’ so you were brave but (hopefully) sensible to use this experience as training wheels.

    All the very best for writing up the thesis, and i hope it is just as smooth running to get a job closer to the one of your dreams, when the time comes. Or at least something interesting and challenging, even if it is something you never thought about before.

    • Thanks d! I have to say that I am delighted to find out that in declining the offer, a good friend, who already has a phd in-hand and is geographically limited, accepted the job. It confirms even more for me that I did the right thing, not just for me, but more broadly speaking.

      Having just a little more time to reflect on the experience, I am grateful for the confidence boost–I am sure I have the skills necessary for attaining whatever I set my mind to. I am excited to finish my dissertation and discover what interesting and challenging things my career and life have in store for me. Thanks for reading!

  3. Reblogged this on Women in the Academy and commented:
    “Academia is shockingly backwards when it comes to maternity leave for instructional staff. It seems like you either teach your full load, or maybe a reduced load without actually taking any leave, or you take the semester off with no pay, and possibly no insurance (e.g. see here, here, and here). Um, that might work if you have a spouse that carries insurance and makes a decent income, but what about those of us women who are the major/sole breadwinners??”

  4. Pingback: The never-ending search for an academic job does end… eventually | The Lab and Field

  5. Oh God, I literally just went through the same situation. I applied for a position that was mostly teaching but did ask for some research. Just threw in an application. Then phone interview, which I thought I bummed, but then invitation to the campus. There, on the other hand, I thought I did well and it seemed to me the Dean was ready to sign me right there and then. Everything about the job was great, the school size (class size was no more than 10 some classes only 3 students), fresh programs (I would set the curriculum for my area of expertise), great colleagues, supportive Chair and Dean and not the least salary (they must have really liked me cause salary was way above what my current school pays)….but this was truly a moment of deep reflection. Am I ready to give up on research as I know it in exchange for a stable well-paid job teaching undergrads? The research they were talking about was supposed be done with very little. I use mass spectrometers and none was there. Add to that nobody in my family was fond of the city we were supposed to move to. IT was a week of real gut check that provided me with clarity as to what exactly is it that I want from life. Chances are this will be my only shot at tenure track as I am well past my prime and it was a miracle that I even got this offer. But sometimes,God gives us these tests to reveal our inner souls and show us who we really are. I am back to my soft money research position doing what I have been doing but with a new sense of purpose.

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