27 and a PhD

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Randon thoughts. Thought # 2

Welcome to my blog!

Hello there, awesome reader. My name is Dr. 27. I'm older than that now, but I'm staying faithful to the origins of the blog.

This blog started 2 months before completing my PhD in a pretty southern university back in 2009. It was a way to practice my writing and take a break from all things thesis. My PhD is in a branch of structural biology where I studied some rather impressive stuff.

After completing the degree, I packed my life of 6 years in 3 days and moved to Canada to do a postdoc in a completely different field. Two years later, and after attending a lot of seminars, workshops and doing some much-needed soul-searching, I ended up getting out and looking for an alternative path to academia and industry.

The blog chronicles my mishaps, ideas, musings and tips on entering, staying and finishing grad school. It also talks about some (or a lot) of personal stuff. For a while, the blog became a place to talk about the frustrations of not knowing what to do after PhD. I wanted to explore alternatives to the traditional paths of research (academia, industry and goverment) whilst going back to my field of training (if at all possible). Eventually a job materialized. Follow my quest as I navigate the waters of being a staff scientist at a core facility.

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So apparently I am not the only one who thinks about stuff like this. Thanks be to God! Hehe.

But random thought #2 isn’t funny or quirky. This is just genuine curiosity. As regular readers and tweeps alike know, I am job-searching and have been for a while. I’m aiming at my former field of study which I feel is a better match to my wants and needs. I’m emailing tons of people on a regular basis, I’m listening to my mom’s advice on applying to jobs that I like and where I meet most of the requirements. I’m trying to be proactive about it, knowing that I shouldn’t get frustrated by hitting the send button on application form #77 … because who knows if this is THE ONE.

Anyways, random thought #2 comes from the adventure that is looking for a job. It isn’t as random … but I’ve thought of this stuff even when I wasn’t job-searching. Recently I got a call from one of the places I applied. This place is high-profile, and I was scared out of my mind when I got the call. It was just for a pre-screening interview. Since the application process is still going on it may be weeks before they let me know if I get an invite  for a talk or not. I’m not sure of how well it went, since the person I talked to was a bit hard to read. I probably spent the first 10 minutes babbling on. I kept playing parts of the conversation over and over, things like, “but you ARE familiar with X and Y protocol” … “why, yes I am, but we did it a bit differently in my lab” … to, “did you read such and such paper which proves the point you made on X paper?” “Why, yes I did … but I didn’t look at the materials and methods in detail.” “Well, you should have, can you guess how they obtained X value for Z?” “My best guess is “… and yada yada yada. I’m such an idiot when it comes to interviews. I get all flustered. Even when I practice. I had this boyfriend in college who used to say that I knew how to sell myself. I don’t know if I was really good at it and lost it or what … but lately I feel that whatever talent I ever is gone, or at least well hidden.

Long after the phone call was over, I started thinking about the other side of the conversation. The image that this person has of me, my body of work and my experience. But more than anything, the whole process made me wonder if, when a prof or high-ranking lab person makes a screening call, they get as nervous as the interviewees gets? Are their palms sweaty? Do they fear they’ll stumble? Confuse names, CVs or any other sort of info? Do potential employers worry that they’ll say something which will scare a great candidate away? I know that when you get a call for an interview the ball is on their court up until the point they make an offer … but, even knowing that, do interviewers get nervous when conducting an interview?  I want to know whether they are anxious, relaxed, happy, pissed or even bummed when talking to a dead-end candidate. I want to get a feel for what’s on their minds.

Once I joined my grad lab there was a vacancy for a tech position nd the boss started to actively recruit people. I liked how the ex boss ran stuff regarding interviews, and even manuscripts. Even when I was just a few weeks in and still doing large amounts of reading to try to understand the language my former lab spoke, boss started sending manuscripts my way. I was a bit surprised since I was the newest lab member and had no clue what was going on research-wise … or it felt that way anyways. So I asked other lab members if manuscripts came their merry way also, to which they replied that the boss liked the input from everyone in the lab regardless the stage they were in.  I can certainly appreciate that now, it’s a way to bring you up to date when you’re new and clue you in as to what other people are doing, and you’re providing a fresh perspective, which may help to bring to light issues that aren’t obvious to those fully immersed in the topic. This process helped a lot. I think I still have some of those early manuscripts. And boss was also the same way when it came to interviewing people, meeting prospective graduate students, and guest speakers.

So, back to when we were interviewing people for that position. I remember meeting with them for 30-45 minutes, asking them anything and everything, and paying attention to everything they did … from the way they sat to the reason(s) they wanted to join our group. It was also interesting that one of the candidates, while very married and with a pregnant wife said that they were divorcing and started to lean forward in my direction, asking me questions about my life, interests and other details. You have no idea how this sleazy bastard was behaving … it is one of the yuckiest experiences I’ve ever had. The best part was telling the boss that he was a no go … and thankfully the boss felt the same way. But the whole “interview” creeped me out so much and I was so ashamed about the whole incident that I didn’t even mention until after I had my defense. I said that if the lab was ever considering someone again they’d better make sure no female grad students or postdocs were there because he will more than likely hit (and impregnate) them. Ewwww, just gross. Yuck.

So you could say that as part of an interviewing team I’ve never been really nervous or worried I’ll say something that will scare a candidate away. Unless said candidate is creepy, very married and with a pregnant wife. I haven’t felt too nervous … but I don’t think I was in a very powerful position as I was still a subordinate in the lab.

I ask you dear readers then, if you’ve been on the other side of the spectrum, how do you feel when interviewing candidates? Are you ever nervous, worried that you’ll mess something? What’s been your worse interviewing experience, from either side? I appreciate any and all input, and all sorts of creepy/weird/OMG crazy stories.

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