When you are trying to solve the two-body problem, you need a plan. Just as important is to stick to the plan. HusbandOfScience and I are big planners. We knew we both wanted tenure track positions, and we knew we wanted to stay together. Our plan was that we would not take positions apart. These seems simple, but when offers start coming in, it is easy to be tempted to stray.
In our case, we AppliedEarlyAppliedOften, and we could stay at our current positions for another year. It was easy to say no. I told offers that I would say “No” to anything that wasn’t two positions. When I got a couple offers, I started playing one off the other. If my husband had received offers, he would have begun the same process.
This process takes trust. My husband trusted that I would not take a job without a job for him. I trusted that he would not take a job without a job for me. Luckily, you have plenty of time to negotiate, so you don’t have to say yes right away. It is also helpful because playing hard to get is good for negotiating.
Remember that during the negotiations is the only time you have any power. At my interview at BigCityPrivateUniversity, the department chair told me that “anything” is negotiable. For BigCity, we had to stipulate housing, and he was trying to say we should negotiate for better housing. Some people negotiate for better parking, I negotiated my husband’s position.
Through everything, the most important thing was to stick to our plan. As soon as you accept a position, you lose your bargaining power. You cannot take a position and hope to get a second one later. You will have no power later unless you get a second job. At one point, the chair of BigCityPrivateUniversity said that, even though they would only give HusbandOfScience a soft money research professor job, I should still take their job. I said, “You are asking me to destroy my husband’s career for my own.” Of course, he was. Probably a “traditional” candidate may have done this, but we made a plan, and we stuck to it. I think we made the right choice since we are both doing better together, working as a team at home and in science.