It’s getting real

A friend and fellow researcher is currently trying to decide whether or not to hang up her PI lab coat and move completely into the clinical side of her job. She’s had trouble securing an R01, is about to run out of funding through other mechanisms, and can take cover under hospital support for only a short time longer. Another job that would replace her research time has now been offered, and we talked today about her options. The biggest question was, in the current funding market, how much longer can she wait for the money to show up? I provided as much encouragement and advice as I knew how. Of course, I’m asking the same questions of myself right now.

As of today, I’ve gotten 5 rejections out of the 22 job applications I’ve sent out. I figure there are a few more jobs that have slipped away – I just won’t hear anything because some search committees don’t feel the need to inform you of jack. So that leaves 10 to 15 jobs that might still be in the works.

I also received an email this morning stating that my days as a postdoc at MRU are numbered. I basically have until the end of 2011 to move on, or my mentor will have to promote my unemployable ass. If he does promote me, my time in his lab still has an expiration date since he’s retiring very soon.

I know it’s too early to be freaking out. The rejections I’ve received were for long-shot jobs, and the apps that are still out include jobs for which I really would be a good fit. But the possibility of leaving the academic research track becomes more real every day that goes by without an interview invite. I don’t know that I can or should give the TT search a third year if this round doesn’t work out. Hubby and I are ready to start our lives. As long as I’m out on this crappy job market, I’m keeping that all on hold.

On the other hand, I hate the thought of walking away. I love my project. I love learning more about the system I work on. I love coming into work each day knowing that I could discover something that nobody else knows. I love teaching and watching younger scientists develop. I love writing grants and papers (yeah, I know – I’m crazy). How can I leave all this?

I think it was Dr. Becca Biochem Belle (corrected) who referred to this song a year ago when pondering career choices. It’s now on my mind as well.


10 thoughts on “It’s getting real

  1. Oh god is sucks. I'm so sorry. I had to go through this in 2008 and it was was not easy. But, as I wrote in Another Place, you have to have a Plan B and C and even a D.

    Keep your hopes up, but plan for the worst. What are you good at, what could you do, where would you move. Editing, managing, curating, writing etc., and does your CV show your skills in these areas?

    If not, you need to start padding and buffing up your 'translational' skills.


  2. I have a pretty solid plan B in the works – I think I'd really, really enjoy it, and it would give me more time with Monkey. So I'm not so worried about the back-up plan. I really do HATE the idea of leaving this path, though. After all the time and work I've put in, I can't imagine giving it up.

  3. I've been there too, Dr O, believe me. Am still there, really. I've gotten 2 rejections so far but also haven't heard from almost everywhere I applied. I am of the opinion that it's way too early to start freaking out. Your K99 got a good score, which means that your research statement is probably very strong! Don't give up hope.

    And I think it was Biochem Belle who referenced the excellent Mr Rogers, but I wholeheartedly approve.

  4. Well, since I've made all of my career decisions based on (1) who will pay me and (2) if more than one paying job is on offer, which sounds like more fun- I'm in no position to offer advice. I basically left academia without even doing a postdoc because the other job on offer sounded like waaay more fun.

    All I can tell you is that a lot of the things you love about academic research are out there in other career paths, too. I have discovered things no one else knows, I have taught and mentored, and I have written a boatload of things, and I haven't been in academia since I got my PhD.

    I hope you get your plan A, but if you don't, plan B might turn out to be pretty awesome, too.

  5. @Dr. Becca – LOL! I knew I'd get that one mixed up. As soon as I hit the “Publish Post” button, I thought to myself Was that actually BB that used that song? I'm holding out hope on the interviews. I keep telling myself that someone out there will be interested in my research. The waiting just sucks so bad!

    @ Cloud – I definitely think my plan B would be a great job – one that I would love and do very well. I think the BIGGEST attachment right now is to my project. Plus, since my mentor is retiring soon, I don't really know who would pick it up. It feels like a child of mine after all these years, and I'd hate to see it orphaned. 😦

  6. oh, it's tough those times when you feel like freaking out and wondering “what am I doing”?

    I went through this during my post doc – and what killed me was the uncertainty after sending those job applications out and never hearing back…. you either see the job's been filled or they tell you “interview” or “no” but I had plenty of “into the void”.

    Somewhere here I should remember that it's usually not as stressed as you think. Your score on your grant was good, you got another year, who knows what will happen until next spring (another or two application rounds)?

    Which ever road you take though, I know what you mean about making an orphan…. I still miss mine (i hope someone can take it up sooner or later but… ). Sappy I know, but it was Mine 😉

  7. I totally understand how you feel about orphaning your project. Since I work in biotech, I've walked away from a lot of great projects. The first one was definitely the hardest, though.

  8. I am about 2 years from applying for TT jobs. However, I think I started worrying about it my second year in graduate school. Sometimes the thought of making it and running my own lab makes me just a nervous as not. I find the back-up plans keep me sane…sort of. 🙂
    Oh, and I totally understand the whole ready to start your life bit.

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