Much like the reaction I’m seeing in my comments (which is lovely and important to me, so thank you so much for offering your yays! or congratulations!), the general sentiment here at the office has been primarily relief, followed quickly by a pleasant amount of pride.
“Did you get the job?” Ken asked when I walked in. Someone asks – and has done so – at least every day. But this time, I got to say yes.
“I got the job!” I chirped happily, and he glanced up to grin while Marlie turned and asked a couple of questions. I soon wandered down the hallway and knocked on Boss’s open door before entering his cluttered domain.
“Industry made an offer,” I told him with a tentative smile. When we’d discussed options, he’d thrown his admittedly gentle support behind academic roles. I understand that – we’re trained to write grants and do science and teach and learn, not watch bottom lines and compete and sell. But instead of mild disappointment crossing his features, he closed his eyes very briefly in what looked like abject relief and smiled before reaching for my hand with both of us.
“Congratulations,” he said softly. “I’m so proud of you and think this is a wonderful opportunity.” So we talked salaries and start dates and how to finish up these last 3 papers before I bolt from campus life for good. “You’re not cutting off any future opportunities though,” he mused. “Many people go back and forth between academia and industry.” Then he proceeded to list names of people who’d done well in both settings and moved back and forth pretty freely.
“You should tell Dr. Bus,” he said of the man I see most frequently on the rides to and from work. I like him – he’s smart and kind and funny, so I nodded. “He’s been worried about all of you,” Boss elaborated. “We’re trying to place four of you here in the near future and we were all starting to put our heads together to think of contacts we had to find you all jobs.”
“Oh,” I said, thinking briefly of the three men who started right around the time I did in 2005. “Are we all struggling?”
“I think everybody’s struggling,” Boss said sadly, looking down and nudging a pile of papers with his foot. “Even grant applications are fewer than normal – I don’t know if people are giving up and getting out or what. But it’s not good right now.”
I frowned, growing concerned for my peers as I thought through the situation. I’m much more aggressive than any of them for the simple reason that I’ve had to be. These past few years haven’t been particularly easy (which you know – you read my blog. It’s not like I have to welcome you to the whining). But I’ve grown up – even Adam (which is what I think I’ve settled on for my first industry boss after calling him several things here because I didn’t really think I’d get the job) – stated that the post-doc has been very good for me. I’ve published and presented more. I’ve talked enough that I’m pretty good at it. I’ve met people and pushed hard enough to eke out a job here before my time ran out.
“How’s it going?” I asked Dan, one of my fellow job-seekers at a meeting this afternoon.
“Could be better,” he muttered. “I’m starting over again. Which means I have nothing to show for the past 3 years. Which means it’s going to be hard to convince anyone to hire me to do more of this nothing I seem to be good at.”
I nodded, made soothing noises and came back to find an email from Pseudo-Academic job. They did not pick me. I quickly filed the email, not wanting to look at it and dwell on the fact that I came thisclose to resorting to Plan 'I Don't Want To'. Had I given up when Adam didn’t return my calls, had I not pushed for the fourth time to get an interview, had I not gone and played it confident because I didn’t think I was going to get it anyway – it’s somewhat miraculous that I’m not staring at unemployment in my parents’ basement with the tiny windows at ground level. That’s terrifying, honestly, and makes me want to cling to Adam’s ankles in gratitude while I beg him not to change his mind.
Instead, I decided to ask for more money and to push my start date back a week. Not that I won’t fold like tissue paper – nary a whisper of protest in me – should he refuse, but it seemed appropriate to at least ask. I’m currently waiting to hear back from him – since this very state will likely define my life from here on out, I’m OK with it. (He called back and easily gave me $5K more than the initial offer and was fine with starting in July. I love Industry!)
In the spare moments when I stare at the items on my desk that will soon be tucked into boxes, I smile over comments that have arrived during the day. Some pop up in Gmail where I can coo over them. Other people poke their heads in the door to nod proudly or offer hugs. I’ve received calls and emails from former group members and Advisor. I even went to the bookstore to begin putting together thank you gifts for my references.
I’ll admit to ducking my head sheepishly at the number of times someone expressed how concerned they were that I was looking narrowly and running out of time. I was worried too (Very Worried, actually), though a friend of a friend was just named director of a center and offered me a spot in the southwest. (That was Plan 'I Don't Want To.' Not because I don't think highly of this person - she's really talented and fantastic - but I don't want to move farther away from home! That's not the goal!) There was just another industry position posted that sounded rather perfect for me, though not nearly as good as the job I’m going to take. Then Advisor wrote that she thought she could get me a post-doc at my graduate institution. So there were options – none of them great – that made hanging on for word from Industry and/or Pseudo-Academic semi-justifiable.
As for what comes next, I’m going home this weekend. I need to sign a contract sometime next week, after they work out some details up there. I want to go see Carrie for a few days while I still have vacation time to speak of. I’d like to get these 3 papers accepted somewhere, which means we need to finish revising. And I’m going to bask in the flexibility of sleeping late and leaving work early. And there's the pure joy that comes occasionally when I think about opportunities and challenges and a new house and being home again.
I'm happy. And it's very nice.