Jobmageddon

I believe most of you know that our R01 grant was not renewed. Our score was pretty close to the payline, what means that “maybe” it can be funded in a couple of months. The thing is, we don’t have a couple of months. After the money from our current grant ends, that’s it. Everybody is jobless. I know we’ve made several mistakes along the way, and now we are paying for them. But there’s no time to blame or shame, now it’s time to look forward! I cannot say I was surprised. I saw it coming, and I guess I had my deep crisis during the holidays. So now when the news was finally out, I just had one thing in mind. It’s time for jobmageddon – apply to ALL the jobs!

As weird as it might seem,  I was almost happy with the news. Reading @IHStreet post about feeling you are just not enough, I realized that’s exactly where I was before the grant news. I receive several job alerts in my email, so I knew that there were jobs that I could apply. However, after having applied to several jobs in 2013, unsuccessfully, impostor syndrome was all over me. I thought I was just not good enough for TT, so why bother to apply? But there’s nothing like a kick in the butt to make you move forward! In reality, with luck I will have a paycheck for a couple of extra months. So now I NEED TO BE ENOUGH FOR SOMETHING. Anything.

And it made me think. What are my options? What’s out there besides academia? I talked to several people on twitter and IRL, read articles, really tried to open my mind. The more I read, the more I felt I really love academia and didn’t want to quit. I am not saying I could not be happy working in industry or something related, but I realized I simply LOVE the academic environment. I like working in the bench, but not for the sake of pipetting. I love the whole research process, with a purpose! To come up with ideas of new experiments, designing and performing them… and then getting the data. There’s a special joy on plotting your data that’s almost addictive! And then there’s mentoring and teaching. Showing a whole new world to your students, and feeling really rewarded to see their progress. How can I live without it?

Then I made up my mind. I am not quitting. I am not giving up. Not yet, and not without a fight! On the other hand, the idea of getting a TT position in a R01-Institution kind of started to scare me. The actual funding situation and the constant pressure to get grants and to publish. And also realistically, I know I missed the TT boat long ago. There are holes in my CV that cannot be filled anymore – my research is not very sexy (at least not for NIH standards) and I don’t have any US grant or glam publications in my CV. But R01-Institutions are not the only available jobs in academia! There are SLACs 🙂 I cannot say how lucky I am to have a collaborator working in a SLAC. As a foreigner and academically ‘raised’ to just aim for a R01-TT job, I didn’t really know what a SLAC was until starting our collaboration. I know my CV also has holes for a SLAC position, I have very little teaching experience. But this hole it’s easier (and more pleasant) to fix, IMO.

So here I am now. I am not literally applying to ALL the jobs, but now that I see no light at the end of this (grant) tunnel, I started to look at job adds with a different mindset. I am focusing on job adds in the Chronicle website instead of Naturejobs or Sciencecareers (more SLAC jobs there, and also more VAP, that could buy me some time AND improve my teaching skills). I am still applying to TT jobs, and with my eyes opened to local *alternative* jobs. I am hopeful. My applications look better. I am still the same candidate, I still think I am not enough for a big tier 1 University position, but I must be good enough for SOMETHING!

Now I see that if our grant had been renewed I’d probably just have continue here, doing more of the same and with no real perspective of a future in academia. It may still not work, and I may have to try to be happy outside my beloved academia, but at least I am trying. And in a way I feel I must thank NIH for denying our grant. Without this shake in my life, I feel I would be forever still.

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I feel like I’ve failed

So lately I’ve been focusing on trying to understand why I’m in such a mess lately. Of course, a lot is going on in my life, but seriously I’ve never been so beaten down as in the last couple of weeks. It’s not just that I don’t know if our grant is going to be renewed and I’ll have a job next year. It’s not just that I don’t know what I want to do next. It’s not just the end of my “relationship”. Or my green card that never arrives.

Deep inside I feel like I’m a failure. Feel that I’ve failed in my professional life and I’ve failed in my personal life. I am almost 40 years old and I see myself in a foreigner country, with no stable job and no family around me. Deep inside I know that we make our own choices in life, and I know I could still be “married” if I wanted. But after that I also know I focused myself so hard into my professional life, leaving every feeling and every possibility of relationship for a future “after I get a job”. Years went by, I had to spend a year away in home country, and when back everything I did was to find that dream TT job. That never happened.

It seems that this last short relationship just made me aware to the fact that I am getting old, and I’m getting out of time. I still dream to find someone and have kids, but, can I really dream about that AND a TT position? While I was with him it seems that I lost my focus in a certain way. It was good, I was happy. But I lost my focus. Now that I’m finally seeing things clearer now, I can see my fear of the unknown was indeed fear of having to choose between my work or love life. So, as everything is over now, I should be happy and just focus on my career again, right?

Wrong. The little bug has been awaken. It’s there, all the time. Your biological clock is ticking and you have to be aware of that. Don’t shut yourself down like you’ve done during all these years, find someone nice and just settle down. I wish things could be simple as that. I’ve never been that kind of woman. If I was, I’d be married to my long-time BF from UG and be *happily* working as a dentist in a little town in the middle of nowhere at home country. I always wanted more. I always had big dreams. I wanted to be big. Today I realized I can’t be scared of being alone. Maybe a family is not for me and I was born to be by myself. Maybe I’d regret it someday. But I think that’s just the way I am, and I’m way to old to change it.

Academic Job Season

It’s that time of the year. Job Season.

After being more than a year away from the US, it took me a while to get everything on place again. When I finally did it, decided to write my very first NIH grant proposal. Just an R03 to begin, but still, it took me A LOT of time to write it. Then when it was finally done I started to look at TT job adds. There are many positions out there! Of course, lots of glam places where they expect you to have a CNS paper (at least). Then there are those adds that are very general: “The Department invite applicants for TT positions in Neuroscience”. Do I fit there? Of course, but so do another 300 candidates!

Anyways, started making my first list. Came up with a big number for me: 26 positions. After discussing the list with some people and having in mind that I wouldn’t have time to apply to every position accordingly, came up with a short list: 11 positions. This sounds very little for what I’ve been listening around. People say that they applied to 50-80 places to get a job! What I also hear a lot is that some places don’t even read your cover letter if you don’t have funding. As a foreigner, all my history of funding has been fellowships on home country. They are really competitive and hard to get, but who gives a damn about it here? Afff

Against all the odds I’m applying to these 11 positions. There is one, a lone one, a beautiful one, that I’m a little more hopeful. They are looking for someone in the specific area of Neuro…ology that I currently work. It’s a very good University and people say the city is beautiful. I’m always afraid of having expectations high and be devastated later on, so I protect myself with a self-inflicted impostor syndrome. It will probably won’t work, but I still have some hope.

I’ll keep you posted.