Since I haven’t updated this blog in a while, I’ll start by saying that even with a K99, a good number of publications, and a pretty famous postdoctoral co-mentor, I only got two interviews from the roughly 100 applications I sent out.
I wrote about my first interview in my last post, and even though I did like the school and the people there, it was in a city that is economically depressed and far away from family, and overall made me feel anxiety about potentially having to move there. What was even worse is that I didn’t hear anything about their hiring process for months.
I felt defeated and scared to death the day that I had to email the NIH and ask for an extension on my K99 because I hadn’t secured a faculty position. Luckily, the people at the NIH were totally responsive and reasonable and gave me up to a year extension for the due date of submitting my R00 application. However, this did not come with any more money. So my mentor had to start paying my salary again, which meant a major pay cut and a major blow to my self-esteem.
I was still clinging to the notion that the perfect job in my dream east coast city was going to appear even though I knew the hiring season was basically over. I was checking job postings multiple times per day and a very late job posting did appear at a major university in a Midwestern city that I had travelled to many times during my childhood. Leaving the east coast was something I was desperately trying to avoid, but I felt like I at least had to apply since it was a really great school. I sent out this one last application, six letters of recommendation (because they said “at least three”), and mentioned in my cover letter that I had visited many times and had family in the area.
Within a week, I got a call from the department chair inviting me for an interview. Scheduled for four months later. Yes, you got that right. Four months.
I thought all that time was going to drive me crazy, but I used it to get another paper published and to get a new large-scale data set to use as preliminary data for future experiments to talk about at the end of my job talk. And as for the job talk, I totally re-vamped it and practiced it to death! I practiced individual sections of the talk until they were perfect, and then went through the whole presentation out loud (for my dog) every single night the week before the interview. And I got Ambien so that I wouldn’t be staring at the ceiling with a crazy adrenaline rush all night for this interview.
I was still unsure about how excited I was to actually work at this university, but by this time I had found out that the first school had hired someone else. They didn’t actually tell me this. As a matter of fact, officially they told me they were still in deliberations, but I found their departmental meeting minutes online, which clearly stated who their first choice candidate was and that she had accepted the position. This was extremely frustrating. But, it also pushed me to do really well on my next interview.
They flew me out the day before the interview and I went walking around the city. I was blown away by how cool the vibe was in certain neighborhoods. Having lived in Brooklyn for a long while, I couldn’t help but draw parallels. This was a good thing, and made me feel like living here could be more of a possibility than I initially thought.
Maybe more importantly… I killed the job talk, and really liked everyone I met. The department was fantastic and full of outstanding science. My potential lab space and office were also top notch in the best science building on campus. Core facilities were unbelievable. Plus, after meeting everyone, it was perfectly clear to me why they jumped so quickly to interview me. My research fit amazingly well into this department in so many ways, yet in other ways filled a gap that they were missing.
When I got back to work, I immediately emailed the chair about how excited I was. I was their last candidate to be interviewed and within a week I was invited for a second interview and was sent a draft offer letter.
Somehow things were working out in ways that I never would have predicted, yet I was really happy about it. Another strange thing that happened is that when I emailed the chair from the first school to tell him I had a job offer that I was going to accept, he actually called me the next day and gave me a verbal job offer as well. I have absolutely no idea why having another offer suddenly made me a more attractive candidate, but I politely declined.
I went through the second interview, negotiations on startup, moving, and have been here at my new university for almost a year now. Time flies when you’re really busy! I got my lab set up and recruited two lab techs and a student. I think we’re going to get a short paper out pretty soon, and I even submitted my first R01 application this year. The more, I think about it, the more blog posts I need to write! Depending on my score, I’ll definitely do a post about writing an R01. It’s a whole new ball game compared to the K99 application.
Anyway… I just wanted to write an update to let those on the K99 path know that sometimes faculty job searches do turn out well, even if you end up in a totally unexpected place.