Money, jobs, etc.

Deborah A. Cook dcook at CAU.EDU
Mon Sep 22 11:46:50 EST 1997


Susan Forsburg writes:
> The rule is, there's no rule.
> Pedigree matters, but it won't get you the job.
> Publications matter, but won't get you the job.
> ....
> What will get you the job is the indescribable mix of
> doing what the committee wants, being fundable, being the sort of >colleague they want to have, having enough track record to be a save bet, >having enough people say positive things about you, and the number one >thing: an enormous amount of luck of the right-place, right-time kind.

I second this!  As a chair of a search committee and having a spouse
who's a member of one, I can attest to the accuracy of Susan's remarks. 
What I would add is that it really comes down to is a matter of right
fit in a particular department or program.  

I have known of people without postdocs or no postdoc publications get
positions at small liberal arts colleges and I have known of people with
pretty impressive pedigrees and publications opt for the liberal arts
position as well.  In a recent multiple position search at my spouse's
university, the field was pretty deep.  My spouse observed that you
can't just be solidly competent anymore, you have to be truly great.  I
don't think anybody had 12 pubs from a postdoc, but what they did have
was quality, interesting research questions, as well as some success at
independent funding.

I can personally attest to the luck/right/time/place factor as well.  
After 8+ years of trying various agencies and research projects, I
finally landed a major grant from NIH.  As a plant scientist, I find
this incredibly funny, especially since what funded the preliminary
results was from the USDA.

What's really scary out there is it's hard to tell the
departments/programs/universities that invest in young faculty expecting
them to succeed apart from those that invest in them and expect them to
fail.  Smaller places with a greater emphasis on teaching are
problematic,
because the more senior faculty may have never had to balance teaching
with the demands of funded research or even comprehend the amount of
work that has to be done to generate a publication or a grant proposal.

As for relative success, it still comes down to dumb luck and a lot of
perseverance!   

Deb Cook



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