In my previous entry, I mentioned that over the last few months I had a lot of changes coming at me, almost all at once. I promised to talk more about the interview process, and how I went from being a staff scientist to, all of a sudden, becoming a full-fledged lab manager. I hope this will be of interest to you.
Near the end of 2012, I got a curious email from a contact of mine at my PhD institution. I’d been out of there for a few years and was enjoying my job as a staff scientist in NYC. Life was going well and, while I wasn’t making a fortune, I was doing what I loved in my field of training, surrounded by great scientists of all levels of expertise.
I took a quick glance at the email, expecting it to be some sort of a request for collaboration, or perhaps, as a reference to a person whom I assumed would apply for the job of lab manager at my former school. It was none of the above. Turns out, my contact briefed me on some of the latest happenings at school, including recent departures and changes in command. They mentioned that the position was still open, and they were wondering if I’d be interested in applying.
This all took me by surprise. I think I spent the rest of the day in a daze, wondering what to do. I talked to my partner, who said we’d talk about it after work, and that I should reply and acknowledge I have received said email and would let them know soon.
I also mentioned the email to my then supervisor, as I considered him a friend. He was also the lab manager for my lab in NYC, and I trusted both his opinion and expertise. He was just as surprised as I was and said he had my back, no matter what I decided. He added that situations like these didn’t happen often, so I should consider carefully what they wanted and were asking, and what I wanted to do with my career.
That night I talked to my then boyfriend, now husband, about it all. I remember around two years back, I saw the same job posting, and in my desperation to get back into my field of training, I did a postdoc in something totally unrelated to my field of study (and regretted it) and I’d almost applied for the job, seeking a way out of my crappy postdoc situation.
But my former boss never approached me (perhaps, they were forbidden to do so by the institution, or they were mulling over a change of scenery, which eventually materialized). Long story short, I never submitted an application, and instead applied for, and got, a job in NY-a decision I have not regretted.
After going over the email with my husband and thinking about what to do, I decided that I didn’t have anything to lose. Whatever happened, if they liked my CV and invited me over for an interview, I’d get a chance to see old friends, see how things were going, and then go back to my life in NYC.
The next morning I arranged for a call with one of my contacts at my old school, sent along a CV and waited. We talked for about an hour, and everything seemed in order. They explained the situation, asked about what my current position entailed, what sorts of instruments, projects and people I was looking over, and extended a formal invitation.
Two weeks after I flew to my former school, a bit nervous, but confident that I could always stay in NYC and enjoy life there. I didn’t prepare a formal job talk, though I did tweak my thesis talk and added a few slides on what I’d done as a postdoc and as a staff scientist. Once I arrived at school, it was all business, but in a very casual manner (if that makes sense). I met with faculty, grad students and other people involved in the lab and I had hour-long one-on-one talks with the head honchos. I was asked about my expertise, though not much, as people trusted the name and training of my former PI. I was asked about how I handled difficult people and projects in NYC, and I was asked a grand total of 0 questions on my time as a postdoc.
Eventually I met with the big boss, who, besides giving me a big hug, asked why on Earth I hadn’t applied to the job when it first came out. This took me by surprise, and I took it as a good sign. We mostly talked about how he envisioned the lab going from now on, and how I could help achieve that mission. We spoke about how things were organized now and eventually other big people joined, at which point, I was made a job offer. We talked about things they wanted to include and things I considered important (time off, benefits, growth within the organization, responsibilities, and of course, a timeline of events). Had they had their way, I’d been back at school the week after, but I had to go back to NYC and figure out how to get to the new position, leave the old one and rearrange my life once again.
In the next instalment, I’ll talk more about how I navigated the job offer and departure and how things played out so I could start working as a lab manager at the start of the year. Thanks for tuning in!