Recently my spouse and I accepted positions at the St. Louis College of Pharmacy. We’re thrilled to be joining an expanding program with a committed group of educators and researchers. The college “integrates the liberal arts and sciences with a professional program,” which is a pretty perfect description of what we want to do. Now to just finish the semester, sell the house, pack up and move across the country. With three kids. breathes into a paper bag

Anyway. The same day I announced the news on Twitter, a discussion about dual career challenges started, fueled by a post from scientistonfire. The career/family dichotomy has always bothered me, but I find it especially worrisome in the current academic climate. I would hate for someone to decide to focus on their career to the detriment of their social life only to discover that it didn’t matter, the climate sucks, and landing a job in academia can be a crap shoot.

During the conversation, Lara put it best:

This is exactly right. I can’t offer advice, because what I have done is entirely specific to me and my situation. Some would look at what I’ve attained and be envious, some would be horrified. I’ve documented how I landed at King’s College before, so I thought I would share what we did to land the positions we just got.

To be brutally honest, I had kind of given up hope that my family would live in the same city I worked in. We moved here in 2004, and everywhere I have worked since has been 60-70 miles away. Commuting 60+ miles a day for 11 years has taken its toll. In 2007 we started a family, and in 2010 had twins. That I am not a crumpled, twisted wreck in the middle of the Pennsylvania turnpike is a minor miracle in and of itself.

Almost every year (2007, 2009, 2010-2015), one or both of us has applied for positions elsewhere. Eight years of applications. Eight years of interviews (sometimes), of wondering if we would be here in 6 months. Eight years of having it fall through and carrying on. The distance I have held friends at, the projects that I could have started but didn’t, keeps me up at night.

But in the end it worked out. So my advice would be to work as hard as you can and in the end it will work, right? Sorry, I can’t give that advice. The academic job landscape is not the same as when I entered it ten years ago. I’m relatively certain my position will be replaced by a tenure-track hire. That wouldn’t be the case in many colleges. I also got into the teaching game ahead of the curve. As funding has tightened, more PhD’s/postdocs have realized that small colleges offer a chance to have a modest career teaching and doing research with undergraduates. As a consequence, competition for those jobs has increased as well. Honestly, the fact that STLCOP was looking to hire two associate level faculty in our exact subject areas is a mind boggling coincidence. A coincidence for which I am extremely grateful.

Dual careers: my experience

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