Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Job Search Saga: An Offer And An(other) Interview

I had been told not to be surprised if I received a job offer within a few days, but I couldn't help but take that advice with a cautionary grain of salt. So I was somewhat surprised, and very elated, to arrive at work, my first day back after the interview, and discover an email with the job offer in my inbox. It had been sent barely 24 hours after my first interview began, had landed in my inbox while I was still on a plane flying home from the interview. I wanted to leap from my chair, to shout the news to all the graduate students in nearby offices. But I continued to sort through the emails received during a full day of travel, while I tried to decide how I would tell my advisor.

What I had not expected, and was both very surprised and somewhat panicked to see, was an email from another college expressing interest in my application and inviting me to do two phone interviews in the coming weeks. Given the current financial environment, all my planning had been focused on getting a single job; I hadn't spared the slightest thought on actually having to make decisions about accepting interviews or accepting offers. It never rains but it pours, and there I was caught outside without an umbrella.

My email to my advisor thus became a slightly panicked request for a meeting, the first time I have ever marked any communication "urgent". I had a job offer I was supposed to decide about within the week, an request to do phone interviews the next week, and no idea how to begin to respond to either. I needed someone to stem the tide of rising stress by first, rekindling the thrill of having been given an offer and another interview request and being wanted, and second, giving me some idea of what to do next.

My advisor demonstrated just how supportive she could be by coming through for me, offering to be on Skype for a conference (from her sabbatical location) within half an hour. In this meeting I heard her vicarious thrill at my achievements, and got very soothing guidance about what I could do next. It would be reasonable to ask for an extension on the job offer deadline, up to a week. I could mention the interview when making the request if I thought it would improve my chances of negotiating the offer. It would be reasonable to agree to tell the second college that I had an offer deadline, and ask to do the phone interviews early, to find more about that college as I decided. Meanwhile, I should put together a rough budget of my start-up needs, to determine how much I could do with the package I had been offered, considering a list of the hidden expenses my advisor provided.

I still left that meeting with a hearty dose of excitement, mingled with a dash of panic, but I'm not sure I would be human if I could have been calmed so easily. Whatever decision I was going to make, I had proof now that I was qualified for my chosen career, that I had chosen wisely in choosing that career, that I could fit in as a faculty member on a liberal arts college - and that more than one college thought so. The trick was going to be holding on to that excitement while navigating the stress of simultaneous interviews and decisions.

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