For today, it was confirmed that I achieved the single most difficult goal in my career: I got offered a permanent position at a national research institution in France. Pinch me now!
Besides being extatic and excited, there are two things that I want to write about today, because they will be worth remembering. The first one is that I still don't know how the hell I got there (a.k.a. PTSD) and the second one is that now that I am here, I will make it my mission to improve the life of research position applicants (a.k.a. beware, search committees).
Batrachian models of disease
So, how did you do it? That's always the question you want to ask role models and people who got where you want to be in the hope to understand their success and emulate it. It feels pretty anticlimatic to confess that I don't have a clue.
It may have something to do with the fact that my application is not entirely shabby (objectively, my yearly publication level over the past 6 or 7 years has been consistently meeting the requirements of the French national evaluation agency for *a four year period*), but I was turned down from similar jobs, and people with seemingly less achievements got in. It may have to do with practice - I did fail a good three, four similar interviews this year alone before apparently "getting it". It may have to do with the precious help of colleagues and family reviewing and critiquing my project and presentation slides (many thanks!!). It may even have to do with the wrath of ennemies bullying me in the failed interviews, pushing me to prepare better answers and making me reach the "whatever" point that took the stress away.
The wait for that final and successful interview was excruciatingly long, long enough to overhear committee members on a coffee break praise a presentation they just had from an applicant working on batrachian models of disease. I kid you not. Batrachian models of disease. I just had to laugh out loud at the silliness of it all. My research is so far from batrachian models of disease, that I would not know a bloody batrachian if it kicked me in the face, animal model or regular beast. And yet, they picked me (and my batrachian free research topic)! So it did work out somehow, but it is essential to be well aware that it might have tanked just as beautifully. The whole application process is such an ordeal that I can't say I feel undeserving, I'm just pleasantly surprised.
Have mercy on the applicants!
It did work out in the end, so of course it was worth the effort. But there is such a fine line between success and failure that really, is it worth it? Should it be that hard to get a job offer? And in the end is that really how a country should be recruiting permanent staff? Considering that some places will fly (i.e. cover all travel expenses) applicants (yes, multiple applicants) to a 2-year position to have the opportunity to adequately discuss the potential collaboration, I am left dumbfounded by French practices. While I understand all the legal requirements that formally bound the process, there is some wiggle room, there always is. And I don't understand why hiring committee choose to blatantly walk away from legal opportunities to ease the applicants' financial, logistic and personnal burden. At the very least, videoconferencing should be offered as an alternative to flying 3,000 miles or more for a 25 minute interview. Seriously. So
if - or rather , let's be bold, when I get the opportunity to have a say in the matter, I shall remember this day and try to make a difference.
On that note, I'll go toast to new beginnings at Rumba Cafe, my all time DC favorite and temple of the pink, sparkly and fruity!