"You can’t always get what you want…"

“You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need.”

I love that song by the Rolling Stones. For one – who doesn’t love anything by the Rolling Stones? Second – truer words have never been spoken. Why can’t we remember this time-tested truth? We’ve all had our own personal lessons in its validity (or at least most of us have). But we so easily forget about it.

So what’s my point? Well, I’ve applied for about 13 TT faculty positions over the past 8 months, and, at this point, I have 6 positions that I have not received rejections from…yet. I say yet, because there is little to no chance (in my opinion) that anyone would actually hire me for this type of position, at least not right now. I don’t even know that I’d hire me right now. Maybe in a year or so; but right now, unlikely. I still feel so unsure of myself as a scientist, my research plans, my ability to balance the management of a lab with life/family. Because of this hesitancy, I’ve been extremely picky about where I’ve applied – only the best departments with the types of scientists that I know I’d enjoy working with, jobs that come with prestige and lots of start-up money, ones for which I have a preconceived notion that I’ll just love. But why set the bar so high – do I think it’s not worth taking a job until I’m ready to be in this type of position? And will I ever be ready for that type of position? And, if so, will I really love it?

Several weeks ago my boss brought me an ad for an asst professor position at a lesser known institution. The department is in no way my dream department, and the job appeared, at first glance, to be not at all what I would consider a good “fit”. After receiving another rejection letter last week (my 7th), my boss approached me again about this job, and, at his urging, I decided to take a closer look. I’m still not thrilled by the prospect, but the locality would be nice to raise a family (I think). And I’m reasonably sure my husband and I would enjoy living there. So, I thought, what the hell. I’ll send out my app and see what happens.

Of course there’s no end to this story…yet. And this job may not be what I need, which I might find out via another rejection letter in the next few months. But who’s to say? Just because it’s not the most prestigious job in the most prestigious department doesn’t mean I won’t love it anyways. Or that it won’t become or lead to a more prestigious position in time. And who’s to say I won’t decide after a few years that I prefer to spend more time teaching than doing research? Or that I don’t want to run a lab at all. Hell, I might decide to up and join the circus! (Actually, I think interior decorating would be a more apt back-up job since I’m afraid of heights, but that’s beside the point…) The point is, I think I’ve taken an important step. A more open mind about what I want, ahem, need out of my career should lead to more happiness in life, no matter what. Right??

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3 thoughts on “"You can’t always get what you want…"

  1. this last bit, yes. when people complain about the dismal job prospects for new professorial hires and it becomes clear they have a “top 10 R1 style appointment or nothin” attitude, my sympathy is not high. good for you for checking it out. Joe Brady's rule- never turn down a job you haven't been offered yet.

  2. I agree. Go with your gut, and not your “great expectations” that you've had since you were in school. Hope for an interview and see where it leads.

  3. DM and Anon: Thanks for the confirmation. I'm actually about to send off the application for the smaller university in the next day or two. I have to admit, I've gotten a little bit excited about the prospect while preparing the cover letter!

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