How picky is too picky?

This post also found on LabSpaces.

“You can’t turn down a job that hasn’t been offered.”

I’ve heard this statement a gazillion times during my tenure-track job search, and, for the most part, I agree with its sentiment. After a fruitless year on the market, it’s clear that I can’t be too picky about the jobs for which I apply right now. As a result, I’ve started applying for positions that aren’t completely ideal, in that the institution 1) might not be able to provide the start-up package of my dreams, 2) won’t have the kinds of collaborators I’ve imagined working with, and/or 3) doesn’t carry the same prestige that other big Us would. These are all things that I can live without, to a certain degree, and my application portfolio has reflected this.

However, there are some things I just can’t live without; with a baby on the way, one of these is a happily-employed husband. Hubby makes much more money than I doing a job he loves, yet he’s willing to leave his home and jeopardize his career for me. As a compromise, I’ve granted him full veto power over any job I’m interested in. If he looks at the destination and finds that he will have a difficult time finding gainful employment, I don’t apply…and that’s that. We can’t afford to have one of us out of work for a year or longer, especially with a baby on the way, no matter how great my job might be. Hubby and I also have no intention of doing the long-distance thing for any length of time, so living in two different cities to make my career work just isn’t gonna happen. Enough stress occurs during a “two-body” career transition, and this agreement has worked for our marriage, eliminating what I’m sure could have resulted in countless arguments.

On the other hand, I’ve been told time and time again that I should be applying for absolutely everything out there, even those jobs I have no intention of ever taking. (“You can’t turn down a job you haven’t been offered.”) And I can’t help but suspect the sentiment is that I should be considering every job out there, even if it would be bad for my marriage…that somehow I’m not as dedicated of a scientist because I’m not willing to put my personal life on the line for my career. But I’ve always believed that being a good scientist, or even a fantastic scientist, does not require sacrificing your personal life. As a postdoc, I’ve regularly worked 9-10 hour days, taking time in the morning to blog or work out and getting home in time to cook/eat dinner with Hubby. I’ve enjoyed most of my weekends, making Saturdays and Sundays in the lab short unless a grant deadline is looming or I have an experiment that requires an extra day of the week to complete. I may not have a two-page-long list of publications, but my CV is strong and I have a well-developed project that will come with me when I start my own lab. So why should I start compromising my personal life, especially my marriage, now?

So okay, let’s play devil’s advocate for a moment. Say I apply for one of these jobs that I have no intention of taking. Maybe nothing comes from it, so no big deal, but maybe I get an interview. I take the interview, “just for practice”, the interview goes well, there’s a second interview, and suddenly I’m confronted with an offer I can’t refuse. Hubby begins feeling guilty about wanting me to say no and starts looking for jobs near the university. In many of these places, this likely includes a part-time clerk position at the local map store – not really a stimulating job for a guy with a masters in engineering. Or we start considering living apart for a while, with an infant in the picture. Or I turn down the job, but always wonder what it might be like to work at Forbidden U. Just about any way the scenario plays out, our marriage takes a hit.

Hubby hasn’t asked for much in this process…only 2 or 3 jobs have been taken off the list at his request. This seems a small sacrifice for a girl who has gotten so much out of her life already, and I don’t mind it at all.

So why can’t others mind their own business?


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