Monday, June 6, 2011

The Unknown Adversary

When you get that initial letter (or email in my case) that states you're getting a tenure track offer, it's essentially life-changing. As you can barely restrain yourself in your office chair (or in bed checking your iphone at 3 am...), you want to rejoice in pure happiness. There's fireworks going on in the background. You're having delusions of grandeur thinking you're going to hit 9 out of 10 proposals. You're going to be an awesome teacher with near perfect reviews. Blah blah blah.

Fast forward a few months. You're settling into your new position. Working on your first proposal. Finishing those last few papers that you need to do otherwise you'll never get them done. Oh, and then DrWife reminds you to finish submitting your relocation reimbursement. So, you collect your receipts and head to the department administrators who will undoubtedly help out the new guy. You're handed a folder with a bunch of papers from the interview and hiring process. You start browsing the paperwork as you're chatting with the secretary when you notice something very peculiar.

There's a misplaced piece of paper in your folder with the information of another interviewee of the university; someone they've passed over. You can help but look at the name, address, and current institution. And it turns out this is someone that you've met before and has a "name" in your field...

And then it dawns on you. There are a lot of people that submitted for this position and you're the one that got it. But it doesn't stop there. There are also people that you probably know and they were passed over for you. And eventually you'll want to make a splash in your field and undoubtedly some of the people that were passed over may resent you for it. Killing your proposals, negative comments in professional societies, etc etc.

So that begs a few questions. If you're in academia, do you eventually find out if other people applied for the position? And if those persons reveal themselves, have they been good sports about it? Or should I expect some backlash during some of my proposal reviews, paper reviews, etc etc? If you're out in industry, how does it work out there? I have no clue if things are as tight-knit as they can be in a specific academic field.


  1. You should not. In the end, you have to believe that everyone will act like grown-ups professionals...

  2. During interviews, sometimes the job talks are posted on the department website, so you can see who your competition are while you're in it! For the job I ended up getting, I admit I couldn't help but google-stalk when the situation presented itself.

    Personally, I wouldn't worry too much about backlash. I'm not "mad" at the people who got jobs I applied for in the previous cycle--it's a tough market out there, I think everyone knows that. And plus, if these people are reviewing your papers and grants, there's a good chance they got a job, too!