27 and a PhD

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Daily Archives: February 10, 2011

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Why are you asking for a letter of recommendation?

I started this entry on Feb 8. It would have started like this: “Inspired by this entry on committees not updating candidates I’m venting about search committees and letters of recommendation and the lack of communication once you get them.”

But it has since changed a bit. See? I was ready to give up and get pissed off at the world once again. One of the things I am good at is giving up, especially when it comes to work. I am a professional at giving up on me, on my scientific and technical aptitudes, on my worth, both as a woman and especially as a scientist. If you doubt it, read this. Or maybe this. My high school BFF always said that I was fishing for compliments. Maybe I was, maybe I am. But the truth is that when you think that you have what it takes to apply for a job and all you get back are replies about how the committee didn’t think you were good enough or how there were more qualified applicants, it starts to look pretty bleak. Also, those things piss me off. A lot. And I have a temper, and I get pissed off very quickly.

It all leads to me beating myself down on top of everything else. And I am good at it. And sadly, sometimes, it pays off, it becomes a reality. A self-fulfilling prophecy. I guess I do it because I fear that if I dare to hope, my worst fears will come to the surface and I’ll have to face them dead on and not run away. This is scary.

What I fear the most right now is that, as my the end of my contract is mere months away, I may not have a job, or a real job prospect in place. This is hard because, from now until my very last paycheck, I have every cent counted. Every cent has a purpose. I have very little room to wiggle. I have to file taxes in two countries again. I also have to deal with (possibly) maxing out one of my credit cards to deal with yet another move when the current gig is up. Why you may be asking? Well, in order for me to work (legally), I need a work permit. The thing costs over 150$ (including copies of documents, sending it via expedited mail … seriously, mailing things here is a ripoff). It takes over 2 months to process it, if you go the slow way. They never update you. One day it just shows up. Not only that, but since I already told the boss I am actively seeking job, he may not be up to extending my stay … given my lack of passion for what I do. He could, but I fear he won’t. In his credit, I haven’t brought up the possibility of extending my stay. It would give me the chance to tie things up here, and that would be good for the two of us. But I really don’t know what to expect. These things worry me … and it worries me even more that, as I try to go back to my former field of study, in a supporting role, I am not finding job postings, or people interested in me.

Yesterday it was especially tough. For God only knows what reason I was very, very down. I was beyond down. It seemed as if all the news I was getting were about  friends moving on, getting new jobs, getting ready for interviews. In the meantime, I was not getting calls, or interviews, let alone replies to my informal inquiries. I am extremely glad that people I love and care for are moving on and finding bigger and better things … but I felt like the one girl in school who wasn’t asked out by anyone to the prom (actually, I did the asking, a week before prom, the guy was older, but very awesome). I was beginning to think that maybe I needed to step back and reconsider whether I was doing the right thing. I thought that maybe I needed to “man up” and apply for a TT job instead. That maybe the universe was trying to tell me that by having people not reply to my emails or inquiries I was knocking at the wrong door and I needed to reconsider my path. I was fed up. Tired. I wanted out. I was so ready to give up and say “ok, universe, the hell with it, you win, I lose, I’m out, I don’t know what else to do.” No one had answered. And I knew that things take their time … but it had been a weeks already, and nothing. What I forgot was that a staff position usually takes consideration not only from the PI, but from a committee that evaluates you and your merits, especially if it’s a core lab where multiple funding sources make sure you’re paid and work gets done. I should have known better.

Yesterday morning I had an argument with the hon. I can’t remember what started it, but he was pissed. And I think with good reason. Anyways. As I check my email first thing in the morning I see a message from a guy who asked for letters of recommendation a little while ago (mid January to be exact). I didn’t want to talk too much about it for fear of jinxing it. But I am very candid and honest too, so it was hard to keep it quiet. So, said guy says that though the search committee for a staff  position at fancy-pants structural biology institute is still accepting applications, he’d like to have a chat with me, since he thinks I have some valuable experience that matches what fancy-pants institute is looking for. I am scared shitless, and excited. And scared! Fancy-pants prof is doing the weeding out of candidates, which means that my professional life for the time being is in the balance. This job has the potential of having me meet with one of the gods of my former field. It is also a permanent research position … which aligns well with what I’m looking for. But this preliminary interview/weeding out stuff has me crapping in my pants!!

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