Figuring Out My Next Steps

I’m nearing a point in my post doc where I think I’m ready to finally start applying to faculty positions. I’ve gotten a few publications out, I’ve built a lab pretty much from the ground up, and I’ve mentored students in the lab ranging from high schoolers up through grad students. I’ve gotten leadership positions within organizations in my field, and I’ve managed to secure a chunk of time using the equipment at a national lab. Right now, it’s also the time of year when positions are advertised for the few months before the November and I’d have to wait another year for the next one. And though I’m ready to start applying, I’m a bit concerned about leaving.

I’ve posted before about the importance of location, especially as a trans woman. A number of things have improved in the US since I wrote that post, but those aren’t the only considerations I have. My husband moved halfway across the country with me so that I could do the post doc I’m in, and over the past few years we’ve finally gotten some roots planted. It feels like we’ve just recently been able to settle down again. He’s found a job here that he likes and is good at. We’ve made friends, we’ve become a part of a community, and even mentioning that I’m thinking of taking on a faculty position elsewhere has people telling me that I can’t leave, that I need to make the university I’m at make me a permanent position.

Unfortunately, academia as it is doesn’t really work that way. In order for me to stay in the field and advance in my career, we’ll need to move again. To lose the connections we spent years cultivating here, to leave behind the community we’ve found and become a part of. To start over and move to a new place where we don’t really know anyone, or where anything is, or what the community is like (especially in regards to connecting with other LGBT people). Though academically I’m at a point where I think I’m ready for a faculty position, I’m not at all sure I’m emotionally ready to leave.

Even so, I’ll likely be sending out my first round of applications within the next few weeks. Once nice thing is that I still have a couple years of funding in my post doc, in case none of the positions are right for us (assuming I’m offered any). For those of you have made the transition already, how have you handled starting over again so soon after getting settled in the last place?


11 thoughts on “Figuring Out My Next Steps

  1. It’s generally possible to defer faculty positions for a year, sometimes even two. I would apply now and, if invited to interviews, state clearly that you don’t want to start before fall 2017. If a place is serious and wants you they’ll be fine with that.

  2. Are you sure that you can’t have a permanent position similar to what you’ve got? We know a number of people (including the other half of our blog) who have transitioned from faculty or post-doc to non-tenured positions very much like what you’re talking about. Some are soft money, some are hard money. Some are for centers, others are several positions from different areas melded together.

    • I’ve been looking, and I’ve been doing my best to lay seeds with the right people letting them know that I would be very interested in a position that wouldn’t require me moving. I’m just not sure that they’ve taken root yet, and don’t want to miss out on the fairly short time window that seems to exist for getting a tenure-track position.

  3. It seems from the tone of your post, that you would regret it if you didn’t apply for a few, this round – even if it is just to get your application process updated and up to speed (and reviewed by mentors). If you are offered a position (or even an interview) it can be a bargaining chip at your current place.

    • I got this impression as well. Several of the junior faculty in my previous department expressed that they really grew scientifically through that first round of applications and interviews – even though they felt like they bombed in every way possible. But, the comments, feedback, and questions they got in preparation from mentors and the things they heard/discussed in their interviews were really valuable to them and helped them think a little more broadly about their work. This was obviously in hindsight with a TT job in hand, but there are some positives, even if you decide that none of those positions are for you. Good luck!

  4. You have additional challenges, no doubt, but otherwise your situation is not so different from what most people go through. Will you be ready to leave next year or the year after? Seems unlikely, as you’ll just feel even more connected to your current place. So if this is a sacrifice that you and your partner are willing to make for the sake of your career, then go for it — the sooner the better! Rip that band-aid off quickly! You do have a limited window for a TT job — you know that. So apply and best of luck to you! It sucks — really sucks!! — that you have to pull up stakes again, but you have likely survived worse.

  5. If you really do want a TT position, apply, apply, apply! My advice would be to decide your family’s minimum criteria, location-wise (i.e. within an hour of a decent-sized city, no snow, or whatever) then apply to whatever meets those criteria and has a posting with a semi-good job fit. From my experience and others’ it’s almost impossible to predict from postings and scouring websites which jobs will actually be good fits, and which places you’ll actually want to get offers from. The uprooting yourself and family part is super hard, but like others have said, it will only get harder over time. Rebuilding a community of friends is a slow process, made slower by other life and job commitments, but it will happen eventually. That said, if you’re okay with a soft money position, go for it – and look/ask around in your field about whether spending 5-10 years in a soft money position will make you a lesser candidate for TT jobs later. In my field it doesn’t appear to matter too much, as long as you’ve been a productive scholar in that time. Good luck!

  6. All hell broke lose when we moved. We had a small kid, my wife got really really sick and we had no one who knew us. I had to work long hours and I think it was hard for both the wife and the kid. We have settled now but it took around 2 years to reach this point.

    With so much moving in academia as you have mentioned, I have a rule of thumb now. Any move will take you 1 year to sort of settle in and another year to really get into the community. By year 3 and 4 we get really comfortable with the community and the place.

    And then we move.

  7. Reading your post, this quote comes to mind:

    “It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now. And you may as well do it now. Generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.”
    ― Hugh Laurie

    There’s always going to be a reasons to not want to relocate, but that doesn’t mean shouldn’t investigate possibilities. My suggestion would be to start applications, and as Kyla suggested above, determine what your minimum requirements would be beforehand. Apply to positions that meet that minimum and see how the chips fall. If any offers follow you can then make decisions based on specific schools/cities/etc vs the knee jerk reaction of just not wanting to leave. The prospect of moving is much easier to get your head around when you can also consider what you’re moving ‘to’ and not just what you’re leaving behind.

  8. Pingback: Dual Careers, One Academic | Tenure, She Wrote

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