Should you apply for our assistant professor position?

IMG_2992I know the feeling. There is a job posting that might be attractive, so perhaps you should apply. But to do that you have to update your CV, write a statement of research and teaching interests, and generally agitate your brain with the thought of moving. It might be worth it, but only if the odds are good, so you ask the search chair. Surely she can help out.

Guess what?  I can’t help. I don’t know what the pool is. I don’t have anyone in mind. I don’t know how broadly or narrowly we will interpret evolution. I will tell you what I tell everyone, that the only thing I can safely guarantee is that if you do not apply you will not get the position.

Do I have any advice? Of course. I think everyone should keep their CV and their statements of research and teaching generally up to date. Your university and funding agencies will ask for versions of these at least annually. Even if they do not, thinking about what your goals are can be good. Stepping back and taking an overview on teaching and research comes along with writing the statements and is always good. If doing this is too much work, maybe this is not the job for you, for we ask a whole lot more later on, though of course the rewards are great.

My other big piece of advice is that you should not get too emotionally invested in applying. Don’t worry about what school your children will attend, whether you will once again have an into-the-sun commute, or what exactly you will teach. Leave those worries for later when you have the offer.

This does not mean you should apply all the time to things you have no interest in, but just that you shouldn’t make decisions before they need to be made. If you are happy where you are, don’t apply for jobs. If you are content, only apply for ones that might make you even more content. I don’t think it is good for anyone to move around too much.

The late Ross Crozier, famous ant population geneticist from Oz once told me he heard one should move about every 10 years and he more or less did so. I don’t really agree with that because I think it is wonderful to embrace one place and get depth rather than breadth from the landscape, the community, and the university. Also, these days it is so easy to collaborate across the continents.

But sometimes a move is a wise decision. I am happy with the move I made here to Wash U a little over 2 years ago. But in the last 25 years I have only applied for three positions, though I was asked to apply to others. (OK, if you are so nosy, we did not get the other two offers and that was not too recent.)

This moving stuff is a tricky business, so don’t ask me if you should apply. But if you do, and we make you an offer, you and we will be overjoyed when you accept.

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About Joan E. Strassmann

Evolutionary biologist, studies social behavior in insects & microbes, interested in education, travel, birds, tropics, nature, food; biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis
This entry was posted in Jobs, Moving a research group and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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