Visiting Professor Opportunity in a SLAC. Worth taking it?

Today was one of those days that I’m really glad to be on twitter and have awesome followers! All started when I had my weekly skype meeting with my collaborator and we talked about a possible 1-year visiting professor position at the SLAC where she teaches. Then I posted this tweet, and you can follow all the input that I’ve got from there all day long:

After talking (and thinking) about it during this whole day I believe I can write down my thoughts so far. Most of the people said “Apply anyways, you can always decide later if you take the job or not”. This would be true, if this was not a position in a place where I have a strong collaborator (and friend), where I’ve taught the last two springs, and personally know the chair. If I eventually apply and get this job, I can’t turn it down, unless I get a permanent offer. If our grant is not renewed, the decision becomes much easier – a job is much better than no job. Period. However, our grant is very close to the payline and there’s still hope it will be funded.

But even if the grant is funded, should I stay here? I’ve been in this lab for 7 years, clearly doing research that’s not competitive enough for getting grants. I’ve been doing much of the same and not being able to grow (research-wise) at all. My R03 was not discussed because I’m a senior PD with no strings attached to the University. My PI said that if our grant is renewed, I would be promoted to research staff and then I could re-apply for my R03 grant. But there’re no guarantees that it will get funded and even if it does, I don’t think it would make my CV improve that much in order to be realistically competitive for a TT position in a R01 Institution.

I really don’t want to give up academia and research. And I really enjoy teaching, so a position in a SLAC looks appealing to me. However, despite having some experience teaching here and then, I was never fully responsible for a course and that’s a big gap in my CV when applying for SLACs. So staying here in the same lab will not improve this, unless I find some teaching side-job in a community college around here. Most of the comments on twitter were positive about applying to the temporary position to get teaching experience and improve my CV, if ultimate goal is to apply for SLACs positions.

Of course, I don’t even know if I’ll get the job to begin with. But it’s good to be forced to think about it, because in the end of the day it’s not about this job in particular, but where I want to go with my life! So far, the pro’s of applying are that I’ll get more experience teaching and will have a more competitive CV after that year. I could use this year to doing another PD somewhere else, but I believe the research hole in my CV (no grants or glam pubs to get a regular TT position) is much harder to fill than the teaching deficiency (needed for a SLAC position).

On the other hand, there are several things that terrifies me. First, the SLAC is in a tiny town (7000 ppl). I am really a city person, and for me, the bigger, the better. I’m currently single and usually I stay home 2-3 nights per week. Simply cannot stay one whole day at home and crave for social interaction all the time. I know getting this job would mean a LOT of work and this will probably slow me down for a while. But I know how miserable I get when I don’t go out and have social interactions. I know small town doesn’t mean that I won’t have social opportunities, but the idea of living in such a tiny place scares me. A lot. And I’m not talking about being not confortable about it, I’m worried about getting depressed and not able to make it. I had 2 experiences when I tried to spend a weekend out of civilization and had panic attacks. Literally, I cannot take silence, green and peaceful environment. It sounds weird, but that’s exactly how I am.

Then you may say, it’s only for 1 year, it will pass so fast you won’t even notice it! True. But then comes my second point. Regardless my professional life, I still have dreams of finding a partner and having kids. I’m almost 40 yo now, and in my mind, spending this year in a temporary position means to literally give up any dream that I still have of having a family. And last, as I said, it’s a temporary position. What are the real chances of getting a real TT position in a SLAC after that year is done? I’d be applying for new jobs after being there for 3-4 months, and interview process would be in the middle of that crazy year.

I believe I covered everything I wanted to say. I’d love to hear your thoughts about it!

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I’m scared

Earlier today in response to this very powerful post, I told Dr24hours: “Because we all get scared, but only some of us have the courage to write about it”. So here it goes…

Every time that there’s something that bothers me, I tend to set it aside my thoughts. A la Scarlet O’Hara I always say “I think about that tomorrow”, and keep postponing it forever. I know that our grant is going to finish in the beginning of next year. I know there’s little chance of it being renewed. I know I’m too old to look for another postdoc somewhere else. I started applying for TT jobs, tried to aim to “middle options”, avoiding the really famous and the really small Universities. I know the job market is tough lately, but i thought that my CV was ok and it was worth a shot. Received a couple of rejection responses, but that still didn’t alarm me. The wake-up call started to come when I started to attend to job talks at my University. I’m at a tier 1 research institution, but I wouldn’t consider it as one of the top Universities. All the candidates either 1) have glam publication(s) and/or 2) have grants. Then I looked back at my CV and without any of those attributes it seems pathetic. Then I regretted having overlooked those small Universities, those teaching positions.

Today I’ve attended to a talk about tips to find jobs outside academia. I’m not hopeful at all about my job applications, and the thought of being jobless in about a year terrifies me. If there’s no place for me as a TT, maybe I could expand my horizons somehow? Big mistake. That talk was not really about finding jobs outside academia but career change. Alternatives for what to do if you hate graduate school. At every slide and through the whole talk, the only thing I could think was “But that’s exactly what I love about my job, that’s exactly where I want to be”. Realizing that brought me a tremendous pain. I believe that even without realizing that’s the reason I never really looked for jobs outside academia. I think about that almost everyday, but there’s always something else to do. Me and my usual denial. I don’t look for jobs outside academia because I don’t want to get out. And on the other hand I stopped applying for jobs at academia because I feel like I’m not good enough for that. And that left me with the sensation that I’m not doing anything and can’t do anything to avoid being jobless in a year.

I know I’ve neglected some precious years of my academic life investing in my personal relationship. I wanted to get married, to have kids and build a family. Of course, I was still working, but without a professional goal. My partner didn’t want to leave this city or his job, and I just passively lived my life by his side. When I finally woke up and realized that things were not going to work between us, it was already late. It took me a while to set my feet on the ground and look towards the direction I wanted to go. Then my visa problems kept me one year out of the US, and despite still working, all I could think and wish was to be able to come back. When I finally came back, I was ready. I spent a whole year hoping and planning what I was going to do once I was here. I completely immersed me into a working mode, wrote a grant, started a collaboration, worked on job applications. Totally closed myself to relationships, at first in home country because I knew I didn’t want to stay there, and later here in the US, because I just don’t want anything or anyone to muddle my goals.

About a month ago I started to have second thoughts about that. I started to miss feeling something, and unconsciously started to lay down my guards. Allowed myself to look around. And to be looked. It’s amazing how being alone is just a matter of how you feel about it! Then it happened. I met someone. Everything was unexpected and we still haven’t met again after our first rendezvous. Before anything he was really honest and told me he was still recovering from a broken relationship and I thought “Great. I’m not looking for anything serious, so let’s go”. But words and feelings are such different things! After a couple of hours I started to realize it was a big mistake. That he was a really nice and sweet guy. I secretly wished that he wouldn’t ask for my number so I could avoid trouble. He asked. Then I thought that he would never contact me and he just asked for my number for politeness. He texted. We’ve been texting everyday since then and despite feeling happy to receive his texts, deep inside I wish I had the strength to cut it off. I know I may fall in love for him. I know I might get hurt, but what terrifies me the most is to let my feelings get on the way of my professional goals, again. But he asked me to get together and watch a movie sometime this weekend and before I could even think about it, I said yes.

I’m scared. But at least writing this post made me stop crying.