Helping the Minoritized Achieve in Academic Science

Archive for the ‘Two-BodyProblem’ Category

Other Ways: Lessons Learned

Although we were successful at solving the two-body problem by applying at the same time, we also learned of another way to go about it. While I was on my second interview at MiddleRoadIvyLeagueInstitution, I told the chair that (1) I was pregnant (more on that in other posts), (2) I had a husband who needed a tenure track position, too, and (3) I had two other offers. They were most concerned about the other offers, especially since one was in the BigCity, also.  This motivated them to try to solve problem 2. After searching, they found that MiddleRoadIvyLeagueInstitution had a policy of allowing lateral moves for spouses. This meant that, if HusbandOfScience was already a professor, they would give him a professor job. Since he was currently a postdoc, they would only give him a postdoc.  Thus, we learned that there was another way to do this – the leading spouse could pull in an older, trailing spouse.

I should mention that this does not always work because some places are not as open to bringing in a senior person as a trailing, but MiddleRoadIvyLeagueInstitution was up for it. If this had been our case, and we had gone there, I have no idea how this type of trailing spouse is treated or feels. I have a friend who recently moved as a SeniorTrailingSpouse, and it doesn’t seem to be super great there, but it has barely been a year, so maybe it will get better. Hopefully, my friend will be able to post about her solution to the Two-Body Problem herself.

One Solution: Apply Early, Apply Often

The two-body problem. This is a physics-term given to a wide-spread issue in science of finding two academic positions in the same geographic area. I will have a lot of information about the two-body problem, which will be tagged in various posts. This is not a woman-only problem. This is a family problem. It tears apart families, makes single moms about a leading edge scientists, and is often hard to solve. For other helpful information on this issue, see FSP.

Some good news: The awareness of this problem has increased and many universities are implementing spousal accommodation policies.

I will tell you about one solution that my husband and I came up with. I hope others will contribute their ideas as guest bloggers, too. I call this plan the “Apply Early, Apply Often” Strategy. Basically, we went on the market at each level at the same time and applied every place that was open.

Apply Early: We also went on the market early for tenure-track jobs. Our plan was to try to get interviews the first year, so we could practice interviewing. We assumed we wouldn’t get positions, and the next year we would be simultaneously on the market for tenure track and new postdocs. Many people do two postdocs, and we didn’t know if that would happen to us or not. We had a plan that included a lot of if-then decision branches. We lucked out and got jobs on our first time out, but it was not expected.

Apply Often: We sent out at least 20-25 applications each. We targeted places that had two posted openings. We each got 4-6 interviews at really great places. In the end, I got a couple offers that I was able to play off each other in order to pull my husband into a tenure-track position at the same institution as myself. This took negotiating skills, which are essential in every aspect of high-level careers – in academia or industry. There will be many posts about the importance and the how to of negotiating. More information on our solution will come in future posts!

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