Thursday, October 20, 2011

Career Love

My job hunt is officially over. Yay! Those two final round interviews that I had back in August both worked out, and I received job offers from both of them on the same day (a month later...). I negotiated a bit with both places (it really really helps to have more than one offer, so the timing actually worked out well) and ended up with two very good options. Then, of course, I had a hard time deciding between them. (Horrible problem, I know.)

Normally, an advisor is instrumental in helping a brand new PhD get a first job after graduation. I have sent emails to AdvisorA throughout my job hunt and she has never so much as replied to any of them, much less helped me to network or suggested other places to apply. But, because I am an idiot who never learns, I wrote to AdvisorA and asked her for an opinion on the two offers: Company1 or Company2? And she eventually wrote back with gee, I don't know, you should probably work for Company3. To which I had to reply with, thank you so much for your input, but, as you know, I was already rejected by Company3, so that is not really an option. (Why don't you also give me a nice paper cut and pour lemon juice in it.) And she replied that I should really consider Company4, where she happens to be visiting at the moment, so she went ahead and gave them my CV. To which I had to reply with, thank you for (finally) taking an interest in my job hunt after ignoring me for six months, but waiting until I have two good offers in hand that I need to respond to ASAP really isn't helpful, and besides, Company4 is located 800 miles from where I live and you know that I am not going to relocate so what the hell is wrong with you?!?

So, instead I turned to an old mentor of mine from a job that I had straight out of undergrad. He was several levels above me in the management chain but we got along really well and became close. (Bizarrely, we mostly bonded over college basketball and matzo ball soup recipes.) He has since retired, but we have kept in touch over the years. He has introduced me to a lot of the people that I know in my industry, and he had recommended a few places to apply for jobs, had personally contacted people at a few companies for me, and was generally helpful at keeping my spirits up during this job search. He's a little short on personal boundaries, but I find that endearing. (As an example: when I was working for him, he shamelessly and repeatedly tried to get me to date his son. It didn't bother him at all that I had been dating S for several years already, since he thought that his son was better for me than S. Also, it didn't bother him at all that pressuring a 23-year-old college hire to date your son is wildly inappropriate behavior for a corporate Vice President.) He has been around forever, so I knew that he would have opinions on both Company1 and Company2, and would help me to evaluate the career prospects at both. He totally helped me to clarify how to evaluate the offers, which was exactly what I needed.

So, I finally made a decision, and I'm feeling good about it. The offer brings me into the company at a slightly senior level instead of at the usual new-PhD-entry-level, so it is nice to feel like my work experience pre-grad-school is being taken into account. My future manager jumped through a lot of hoops to make me a good offer, mostly because he is excited about a few of the previous projects that I've done, and he is giving me a ton of freedom to set my own research agenda. And the job has a bunch of life-in-general points in its favor -- great work environment, lots of good coworkers, relatively low stress, no required travel, flexible work hours, short commute.

One of the guys who interviewed me for this job is in charge of the entire research division (a good 3-4 levels above me, and working on the opposite coast from me). I'll call him R. Given the size of this place, there's no way R interviews every new PhD. Also, this is one of those guys who has worked in my field forever and is very very well known. He wrote a textbook for one of my classes in grad school. At the interview, the first thing he said to me is that he is close personal friends with three of the four people who wrote letters of recommendation for me. Somebody noticed the connections I had to people he knew, and showed him my resume, and he knew that he had to talk to me. AdvisorA used to work for him at a different company. AdvisorB went to grad school with him back in the 70s. (He had this to say about AdvisorB, who is the more supportive of my two advisors: "I've known AdvisorB since before you were born. I love him like a brother. He wrote a very positive letter on your behalf, which surprised me, because in 30 years, I've never known him to write a positive letter about anybody!" I am apparently awesome at picking advisors.) And BossLady from my last job co-edited a journal with him for many years. He spent most of the interview complaining about what an embarrassment it is for their company that I had to apply for a job through their website -- why in the world didn't AdvisorA personally hand him my resume, since it is so obvious they should hire me? (Incidentally, I had the same question. When I asked her to make a connection for me, she ignored me.) It's nice to feel loved.

I told this story to my other mentor, and he immediately said, "Oh, it is awesome that you have already met R! As soon as you start the job, you need to send an email to R, tell him that you're excited to be at the research lab, and suggest that you have coffee together next time he's in town. Make him into your next mentor!" Which sounds like a great idea, and I was working up the nerve to do it, when R emailed me himself and suggested we meet for coffee when he's next in town. All good signs, no?

And, as if all of this positive job stuff wasn't enough, I've fielded no less than four phone calls from people at the company whose offer I rejected, including two from the CEO, trying to change my mind. The first one was flattering, the second one as well, but by the end it just felt a little awkward. (I gave them the job equivalent of the "It's not you it's me" speech, and they kept responding with the job equivalent of "Oh come on baby, I can change, just tell me what you need!") Ultimately, the CEO told me that if I change my mind any time in the next year, I should give him a call and he'd extend another offer. Which is awesome, but where was all this love when I started interviewing for jobs months ago?

I start working in December, to give me time to set up childcare for Kermit and finish up all the home stuff still on my plate. I'm excited to start, but also feeling very hormonal about the whole thing, because Kermit is 9 months old and in that super cute phase where I just want to play with him all the time. Haven't even started the job, and already feeling torn.


  1. Congratulations!!! I have been following your blog for a long time now.. I am really really happy for you.

  2. What exciting news! I'm so happy for you!

  3. Sounds awesome. Congratulations!

  4. *dang it - I have two different profiles and posted with the wrong one! I tried deleting the comment to post with the correct one and see that it still leaves up my real name, which completely defeats the purpose of posting with the "anonymous" profile. So, here's the original comment, under my real name:

    Congratulations! That sounds like a really awesome situation!!! And just remember Kermit will be even older in December and will probably love getting to play with other babies! :)

    I'm not a weirdo stalker...another PhD mommy like you...I've commented before, just under a different name!

  5. Congratulations! I'm so glad you seem to be in with a good mentor (after your grad school experience you deserve that)! Here's wishing you success in your workplace, but it's so nice to have a second one to fall back on!

  6. Hooray!!!! I understand the bit of bittersweetness, but what a huge relief to have such an awesome position. Of course you are super smart and personable so it's not surprising, but always good to get confirmation that people love you. :) Hope you are celebrating!!!


Talk To Me!