it’s your Friday good news

It’s your Friday good news!

1.  “I recently graduated with my PhD in Public Health and while I experienced some major burnout and frustrations along the way I’m excited and proud of myself for this accomplishment! On top of this, my graduate advisor was rather unorganized, “hands-off,” and rather frustrating to work with and made progress feel like torture. While I think they recognized that my output was lower than the average PhD student, they’ve made up for the terrible mentorship through stellar references highlighting my work ethic, independence, problem solving, and resilience when it comes to frustrating situations. This is to say I have a mixed relationship with them but I’m still trying to be positive about our relationship because I need it be good but professional to move on.

Since graduation and some recovery time, I’ve had a lot of attention in the job market in academia but I’m not always sure how to interpret some of the postdoc/job processes that I’ve been through. They are all at major institutions (ranked #1 or 2 in the country) so they have well established HR departments but my communication with individual professors vary significantly. One professor in particular has been communicating with me a bit erratically and under the impression I will automatically work for him. This informal communication style hasn’t been the worse- I know of others in my field who simply do not communicate any information at all- so it hadn’t been a red flag for me immediately. However, the assumption that I will automatically work for this group (without an offer letter no less) made me nervous, especially since I feel like this communication will make an impression based on how I react and how positive I seem to taking this position.

Fast forward a few weeks of radio silence after this intial interview process and I get an urgent text message from him asking if I was still interested in the position and there were still some pieces of the hiring process that needed to be completed. I ignored this text as I was busy interviewing at another place and felt like this was unprofessional. The next day I received an urgent call from him with a lengthy voicemail. I called back and left a voicemail only to be texted back about being busy in a meeting and unable to talk,etc but that he needed to know if I was going to move across the country and take the position. Essentially giving me an ultimatum without knowing the conditions of this position (which did have some but limited room for negotiation). I was pretty annoyed- this whole process took 3.5 months and frankly was a test of my patience (professor cited multiple trips out of town and vacation as a reason for being delayed) and I was still being asked to commit without reassurances. I’m not sure how common this is in academia but I turned down the offer. Turning down the offer was the best choice, but I felt really rejected and uncomfortable throughout that process and it really shook my already unsteady confidence (remember unsupportive PhD experience)

As for my good news! I ended up getting another job outside the grind of academic life that I start in two weeks! I don’t have to move my family across the country and will be paid 30% more than standard positions in my field. This position specifically values all my educational/research experience and I was hired at a higher level than another recent graduates because of my previous research experience and dissertation topic. This has been so transformative and I don’t feel like I’m sacraficing the years I’ve spent in graduate school to restart my career in my thirties. My new hiring manager has been nothing but warm and kind answering all my questions and reassuring me that any transition period to something other than research will be part of the process and that I don’t need to do homework on their different systems (I asked if there was anything I should be learning before starting). This has already been a breath of fresh air based on how organized and transparent this organization has been with regards to the communication (no texting), timelines, and expectations within the position.”

2.  “I’m in a job that I mostly like, but have been seeing a few red flags here and there, and lately started looking around for other options in my area. I was delighted to see an ad for a company that is well established, widely beloved in the neighborhood, and hiring in exactly my field! I dashed off a quick cover letter, which turned out to be easy when I really did have all kinds of Good Feelings toward this place, got an interview, which I could *walk to from my house*, was asked back for a second one… where, it really seemed that *they* were trying to impress *me* – and yesterday I was offered a job! I was all calm and collected when I got the call, politely gave myself an hour or two to look everything over before calling back, and successfully negotiated the salary up to where I’d hoped to end up. The hours are a lot better than my current office, and I can’t wait to start there in January 2022!”

3.  “In January of 2020, I learned that my company was going to be acquired. I was one of the first to learn because, as a small company, I was going to be a part of the external marketing campaign. The merger was voted on and approved in May, and in July I accepted a new position with the new company, the only hitch is that it was in another state. My husband and I decided to pack up and move and see what the new company had to offer. I was only 1 of 5 offered a new position so I was flattered and I really believed in the mission of what we did, so it felt like the right move.

After 8 months in the role, I knew I had made the wrong choice. They doubled my work, took away the remote work option (even though we thrived through a merger, covid, natural disaster, etc.) during the last year, AND halved my department which I led. The final straw was when they said we needed to start traveling, up to 40%. My previous position called from up to 25% travel, but was closer to 15-20%. With the reduced staff, no plans to hire more, higher workload, covid risk and honestly homesickness for the whole family, I made the difficult decision to resign. I gave them 4 weeks, with the idea that afterwards, I could stay home with my kid, while I look for another job in my hometown.

The day after my (to them) very shocking resignation, I had an interview at the first place I applied to in my hometown.I decided to purposely move towards a ‘step down’ role to take care of the burnout I’d had for the last year and a half. Using your advice, I addressed that in my cover letter, so it wasn’t a surprise. The interview was scheduled to be a half hour zoom pre-interview, but extended to over an hour. About 45 minutes later, the woman called me to offer me the job! She was really impressed with me and since she knew I was overqualified, she wanted to snatch me up because she knew that I would be a good fit for not just the role I got, but other roles in the company in the future. The other thing she was impressed with was that I asked, ‘Does anything give you concern about hiring me?’ She said she LOVED that I asked that. She said it was the most honest and transparent interview she’d ever done.

I’m so pleased to say that I’ve been with them a month and I’m so much happier. I’m 100% less stressed, my family and I are thriving, and we are even able to get into our dream house back home. Sometimes, the title and the pay aren’t worth the stress.”

{ 29 comments… read them below }

  1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

    These all make me so happy! I keep waiting for companies to see the writing on the wall that they don’t hold all the cards and learn to make concessions to keep good staff. Good for all of you for not putting up with their crap and landing better deals

  2. my roflcopter goes soi soi soi*

    I’ve been in my state job for 15 years, and letters like these give me hope.

  3. FORMERHigherEdPerson*

    My good news :-)
    TL;DR – left a 16 year career in Higher Ed to move to Organizational Development, using the advice of contributors and Allison. SO thankful and happy, less stress, better hours, better pay.

    Long brag:
    I hit a professional wall in early 2020 – pre covid – and it just got worse. I did a lot of student-facing stuff at a university and was furloughed pretty early on after working from home in March 2020. Turns out you can’t do student facing stuff when there aren’t students in person. And I had to deal with administrative BS as well as angry students who didn’t seem to care that people other than them were impacted by COVID (example, I got yelled at because I wouldn’t let them have a live concert for 3,000 and was told I was ruining their college experience. Meanwhile, I’m sobbing myself to sleep at night b/c of pay cuts, homeschooling an elementary schooler, and fear for my H working in healthcare. Yeah, a concert was TOTALLY at the top of my priority list).
    I asked in here about moving to L&D, and someone recommended I look into Association for Talent Development. I ended up joining, and took their Instructional Design certificate course, which propelled me further in my job search and made me a much more desirable candidate. Thanks to my years of reading here, I also knew what were red flags in interviews along the way (“We’re all family!” or “well…we want someone who can basically function independently and doesn’t need us…”) I also followed Allison’s advice about resumes/cover letters, AND salary negotiation. I’m so dang proud of myself, as I never thought I would be able to “un-pigeon hole” my career.

  4. Retired Prof*

    LW #1: Faculty at research universities are often belligerently ignorant of administrative procedures like hiring. You absolutely dodged a bullet there. Congrats on the great new job!

    1. Anon for this*

      During my husband’s faculty search he got an offer email that went like this: “We’d like to make you an offer but we can only make you an offer if you’re going to accept so are you going to accept the job yes or no?”

      This university had already been rude to him during the interview process, and he already was negotiating a very good offer with a much better university and he was like, “I’m sorry but I can’t accept an offer without seeing it first,” and they were like, “Well then we can’t give you the offer gooddaytoyou!” and that was the last he heard from them.

      Our friends at least got a good laugh out of it.

    2. LinuxSystemsGuy*

      I often wonder how some of these people ever got jobs in the first place. I mean, surely you remember being hired? And like offers? And HR? And making sure you got paid adequately? When I used to work for a university we had a guy just… bring in a post-doc. Like, “Hi I need this person to start working for me tomorrow. Make that happen.”

      As the department IT guy I was mostly insulated from this, other than occasional account requests, but it drove the admin bonkers.

      1. Kat in Boots*

        Yes. This is why there are so many horror stories about faculty in academia. There tends to be a culture of high flyers getting to write their own rules to the extent that you have to deal with many people who act like they can do whatever they want…cause they’ve always been able to! Do they remember when they were first hired? Questionable: they might have been just brought on as a postdoc. So many of them have probably never experienced anything like the usual hiring process, especially those hired more than 2 decades ago.

    3. Squirrel Nutkin*

      Alas, I agree that there is often poor communication and general BS on the academic job market, even for people who, like OP #1, seem to be top-flight candidates. OP, so glad that you landed somewhere else where you are truly appreciated. You’ll very likely be richer, happier, and more relaxed over the long term with the job you took.

  5. Retired Prof*

    LW#2 – I hope there was a happy dance in that hour between the offer and your acceptance! Congrats!

  6. MediumEd*

    #1: Academia can be a very abusive working environment if you are at the wrong institution. That type of behavior does not end once you finish graduate/Ph D studies! I am in academia myself and have witnessed some truly awful behavior over the years and am trying to leave academia as well. Good for you!

      1. MediumEd*

        True. It is a race to the bottom. I am still hoping that one day I will hear about kinder academic environments where people are not abused or exploited. Haven’t yet.

        1. Cedrus Libani*

          The thing is, your experience in academia is ultra-dependent on who you work for. I did my PhD in a place that’s known for being super collaborative – and this really was true, the number of random professors who saved my butt in one way or another was remarkable, I had a rough time with my projects and I’m not sure I’d have graduated from a median-friendly department – but there were professors who openly bragged about being mean to their students so they’d work harder. I did my undergrad in the same field, but that department was a legendary snake pit – by sophomore year I’d heard stories, and by junior year I believed every word of those stories and then some. And even so, there were still decent professors who treated their students with respect.

          The other thing is, there’s very little incentive to change. In industry, if you’re a jerk, people are mostly too old for this crap; they quit and find new jobs. Your department is understaffed, so you can’t meet your goals. People above you get cranky. You’re hurting the bottom line. In academia, there’s an inexhaustible supply of naïve but ambitious people who have built their entire self-concept on being good at this sort of thing, and if you threaten their self-concept they’ll work till they drop. And until they drop, they’re getting the results you’ll be evaluated on, so the rational thing is to push them hard. It’s almost a flex to refuse to play that game: I’m so talented that I can afford to handicap myself with this golden-rule nonsense and still get ahead.

  7. The Cosmic Avenger*

    LW#1, as far as I can tell you had nothing to turn down, because you never received an actual job offer! I probably would have said “Sure, just have someone in administration or HR email me the details!” to try to get them to actually make a real job offer…but then, that’s probably one of the reasons I’m not in academia!

    1. Bumblebee*

      Yes, as a higher ed person I feel pretty sure that the professor had never talked to HR. Otherwise, they’d be handling the offer, not him, and not through a bunch of texts and voicemails.

  8. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    LW2 – working near home can make punctuality very difficult. I had a job within five minutes of my house and found it very difficult to be on time, especially when I went home for lunch.

    You still need to have a decent contingency built into your “commute”, ha ha!

    Best of luck with your new job.

    1. Enna*

      HAH! No kidding, there is no slack in a short commute. You can’t even text your coworkers to say you are running late because by that time you already are.

      Tuesday I was driving to work and I got caught behind a city leaf pickup, a spot of construction and the entrance to my parking lot is across from a lumberyard and sometimes they block the road using fork lifts to unload lumber trucks because their lot is too small. All 3 in a 1 mile drive TRIPLED my commute time.

      1. LW2*

        True true! I’ve lived 5 minutes from work before, although in a rural area so walking wasn’t really an option – I hear you on the discipline needed there!

    2. allathian*

      Hah! I was never so often late for class as when I lived in a dorm on campus, literally across the street from the faculty where most of my classes were.

  9. Maggie*

    I got a compliment on my reworked cover letter this week (reworked of course with help from this site!) – no clue yet if it will result in an offer, but the fact that I’ve made it to the final round of an interview with a company infinitely more prestigious than anything on my resume (have had zero luck before with any of their competitors) seems like a massive win to me. Fingers are crossed as it would be a 30% salary increase and by FAR the best benefits I’ve ever had

    1. Tabby Baltimore*

      This is indeed a massive win. Please keep us posted on how things work out. We’re rooting for you!

  10. Bagpuss*

    I realised I posted in the open thread when I meant to post here as I had good news! So apologies- but …
    I had 2 bits of good news this week.

    The first is that our preferred candidate has accepted the job we offered – they will be taking over from someone who has been a poor performer but not bad enough to fire, who gave notice recently and I am so looking forward to having someone I can work *with* rather than having to run myself ragged trying to get someone to do the basics, plus the new person has a slightly shorter notice period then we do, and the hiring process went really smoothly, so there will only be a week or so gap to fill between the two of them.

    And secondly, we had an audit/assessment this week – it happens every year, with a major review every three years.This year was a ‘big’ year, and it was the first time that I have been responsible for getting everything together for it. We passed – with lots of very positive comments from the assessor, and only three minor things to be corrected, which is fewer than we’ve ever had before!

    Feeling as though I shall be able to relax and enjoy my weekend, now!

  11. Lady Danbury*

    All great success stories! LW #3, can you share more on how you addressed taking a step back in your cover letter?

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