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Begging for a job . . .

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What is the best way to ask a physics/astro department if they would hire you. Here's the situation. I'm about to get out of grad school, and my wife just found out where she is doing her residency for med school. There are a few smaller colleges and Universities in the area where she will be, but none are really hiring, and I don't personally know anyone at any of the programs. Is it odd to just call them and ask if they want to hire someone? What is the best course of action here, I really don't want to just sit out and do squat for a while, or even worse take some crappy job in IT or something like that. I mean I'd much prefer to be at a larger research institution, but I'm willing to sacrifice on this one, at least for a while.

Any suggestions?
 

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robphy
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What city?

I think it's fair to ask by calling the department. Have a CV ready.

They might have courses that need to be covered... since situations do come up on occasion. [What kind of teaching experience do you have?] There may be unadvertised research opportunities as a postdoc or technician. [What is your field of research?]

Have you looked through http://www.physicstoday.org/jobs/ ?

[You could also contact the medical school and see if they can provide assistance.]
 
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NC, Winston-Salem area. There are several schools in the area, but none seem to be hiring at the moment. My teaching experience is pretty minimal at this point, I've only had to teach a few intro physics labs. I was fortunate enough to have funding through a NASA grant/fellowship. My work is in observational astronomy, I've got lots of publications, but like I said little teaching experience which I'm afraid is going to hurt me in this situation. I got offered a postdoc, but it's not exactly nearby, wondering if it is possible to conjure up some sort of job closer to W-S.
 
robphy
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You might have to look a little further beyond the city limits... Charlotte, Greensboro, etc... and consider the possibility of living someplace midway.

(I'm in the middle of my own search... with the "two-body problem".)
 
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Yup, the 2 body problem is a pisser. Good luck on your search!

Cheers
 
kdv
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What is the best way to ask a physics/astro department if they would hire you. Here's the situation. I'm about to get out of grad school, and my wife just found out where she is doing her residency for med school. There are a few smaller colleges and Universities in the area where she will be, but none are really hiring, and I don't personally know anyone at any of the programs. Is it odd to just call them and ask if they want to hire someone? What is the best course of action here, I really don't want to just sit out and do squat for a while, or even worse take some crappy job in IT or something like that. I mean I'd much prefer to be at a larger research institution, but I'm willing to sacrifice on this one, at least for a while.

Any suggestions?
You might want to focus on places that have people in astronomy and/or which offer astronomy classes (undergrad and grad levels) or have some small observatory.
There is nothing wrong with calling the heads of the department or an astronomy prof and inquiring about if they might need someone to teach a course (sometimes they need someone for a single course and might not advertise this) or someone to help with labs or with the observatory if they have one. What will probably happen is that they will say "no, but send us your cv in case something comes up". At th every worst you will have made contact.

What about calling places and offering to go give a talk? If you have done some research you probably cand present something very interesting. That way you will meet people and they will see how good you are at explaining things so that if you leave them your cv afterward you will have a leg up.

You could also offer to give a talk to local astronomy clubs. Who knows who will be in the audience who you coul dend up helping you.


What about contacting planetariums or other places where there is some things done for th egeneral public in the field of astronomy and asking if they are hiring help (and if not, you might still give a talk)
 
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Perhaps you can also see if anyone you know at your current university has connections with people at universities you might want to work at. And maybe you can discuss your options with your supervisor. How close are you to finishing? Would it be possible to work long distance for your current supervisor for, say, 6 months after you've defended?

Good luck!
 
stewartcs
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NC, Winston-Salem area. There are several schools in the area, but none seem to be hiring at the moment. My teaching experience is pretty minimal at this point, I've only had to teach a few intro physics labs. I was fortunate enough to have funding through a NASA grant/fellowship. My work is in observational astronomy, I've got lots of publications, but like I said little teaching experience which I'm afraid is going to hurt me in this situation. I got offered a postdoc, but it's not exactly nearby, wondering if it is possible to conjure up some sort of job closer to W-S.
That's my home town. What schools have you been looking into? Wake Forest, Winston-Salem State, and UNC Greensboro are all within driving distance. Research Trinagle Park in Durham is about 1.5 hours away too. Lot's of jobs there if you don't mind the drive. Also NC State, UNC Chapel Hill, and UNC Charlotte are about 1.5 hours drive as well.

CS
 
Dr Transport
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Why not look into getting a research contract then use a university depertment close to where you will be living to funnel it thru???? Then you could be listed a s Research Assistant Professor on the books and you get experience.
 
Dr. Courtney
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What is the best way to ask a physics/astro department if they would hire you. Here's the situation. I'm about to get out of grad school, and my wife just found out where she is doing her residency for med school. There are a few smaller colleges and Universities in the area where she will be, but none are really hiring, and I don't personally know anyone at any of the programs. Is it odd to just call them and ask if they want to hire someone? What is the best course of action here, I really don't want to just sit out and do squat for a while, or even worse take some crappy job in IT or something like that. I mean I'd much prefer to be at a larger research institution, but I'm willing to sacrifice on this one, at least for a while.

Any suggestions?
Have you considered teaching High School? Most districts are hurting for qualified math and science teachers and there is a program in NC for folks with enough math/science hours to enter teaching without a teaching degree.

Michael Courtney
 
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High school teaching has crossed my mind, I wouldn't mind doing it if I had to but I would like to try other avenues first. Don't get me wrong, I've got mountains of respect for the H.S. science teachers, but I'd like to stay closer to research if possible. You do have to get certified at some point in the enter with no teaching degree program correct?
 
robphy
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Just curious...
were you aware of the possible locations where your wife might do her residency for med school?
If so, it might have been a good idea to send out applications to schools in those areas.
 
Dr. Courtney
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High school teaching has crossed my mind, I wouldn't mind doing it if I had to but I would like to try other avenues first. Don't get me wrong, I've got mountains of respect for the H.S. science teachers, but I'd like to stay closer to research if possible. You do have to get certified at some point in the enter with no teaching degree program correct?
You have to work toward certification by taking one or two educational courses per year. Most can be taken on-line and are pretty easy.

I'm not suggesting a permanent career change, unless you end up really liking it. My point is that teaching high-school is a viable way to tread water at just about any location (after following a spouse to a location) while you wait for a more appealing job to open up. By May, all the research and college level teaching positions for next year will likely be filled, and the High School teaching searches are in full swing.

Michael Courtney
 
Moonbear
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If you can't get a post-doc at any of those schools, my next suggestion would be looking for community colleges and seeing if they need anyone to teach one or two classes. It wouldn't be full-time work, but at least you won't feel like you're twiddling your thumbs waiting for your wife to finish her residency. There is often a need for people to teach a class or two here and there, and community colleges will take people with just a little teaching experience when there's no one else to teach a subject. Plus, if you're at all considering an academic career, the teaching experience will be beneficial in the long run, and when you don't have to juggle it with research, it's a good time to get the practice.

Otherwise, you might want to look into some alternative careers...jobs in industry?

You could also consider working as a substitute teacher...someone who knows science and math would be in high demand as a sub for the local teachers in those subjects. And, it would be something you could easily walk away from if something better opened up...as well as being something you could do while leaving plenty of time for interviewing.
 
Vanadium 50
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Why not look into getting a research contract then use a university depertment close to where you will be living to funnel it thru???? Then you could be listed a s Research Assistant Professor on the books and you get experience.
This sounds very, very difficult to me. First, only a small fraction of proposals actually get funded, including those from established groups. Second, one of the things reviewers look at is whether or not the PI has the resources to do what is proposed. "Not right now, but if you give me the money, I'll try and find a university to give me some lab space" is likely not to fill the review panel with confidence.
 
Dr. Courtney
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If you can't get a post-doc at any of those schools, my next suggestion would be looking for community colleges and seeing if they need anyone to teach one or two classes. It wouldn't be full-time work, but at least you won't feel like you're twiddling your thumbs waiting for your wife to finish her residency. There is often a need for people to teach a class or two here and there, and community colleges will take people with just a little teaching experience when there's no one else to teach a subject. Plus, if you're at all considering an academic career, the teaching experience will be beneficial in the long run, and when you don't have to juggle it with research, it's a good time to get the practice.

Otherwise, you might want to look into some alternative careers...jobs in industry?

You could also consider working as a substitute teacher...someone who knows science and math would be in high demand as a sub for the local teachers in those subjects. And, it would be something you could easily walk away from if something better opened up...as well as being something you could do while leaving plenty of time for interviewing.

Part-time community college work pays so poorly that it is more akin to charity than gainful employment. And the part-timers (adjuncts) rarely get hired to full time positions. (Why buy the cow when you're getting the milk for free?) Most CC's use their full time positions to lure in talent from out of town.

Michael Courtney
 
Moonbear
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Part-time community college work pays so poorly that it is more akin to charity than gainful employment. And the part-timers (adjuncts) rarely get hired to full time positions. (Why buy the cow when you're getting the milk for free?) Most CC's use their full time positions to lure in talent from out of town.

Michael Courtney
But if he's only there while his wife is doing a residency, he's not going to be looking to get hired on permanently. It sure is better than sitting around twiddling one's thumbs, and provides a chance to get some teaching experience on the CV before looking for a proper post-doc position to build up the research experience when he has a better idea where his wife is going to settle after her residency (or when she can take a turn following him). And, if he starts contacting people now for post-doc positions, something might open up in January that's not open now, so he can get a year and a half of experience after just a semester of community college teaching to keep him from going stir crazy. The LAST thing one wants on their CV is a long gap of complete unemployment. And, if he didn't get any teaching experience during his graduate school training, it's really unlikely he'll get any during a post-doc, so this is a perfect chance to get some.

Residency matches were only announced about 2 weeks ago, so this is the earliest he could really start looking for anything. There is still a chance he could locate someone with some funding and the ability to take on a postdoc with enough time for the position to be created and advertised and hired for a September start date, but since residencies start in July, he's still going to have a couple months of thumb-twiddling when it might be possible to teach a summer class at a community college.
 
robphy
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Residency matches were only announced about 2 weeks ago, so this is the earliest he could really start looking for anything.
How many possible locations would be in play?
In anticipation of the announcement, I would have sent out applications to institutions in those areas.

In my own two-body job searches, my wife and I have sent out applications to numerous places with nearby opportunities in various capacities (tenure-track, visiting, postdoc, corporate)... often with different timelines for announcements, deadlines, conducting interviews, and making final decisions.

Is it just that there are too many residency match possibilities to target effectively?
 
Dr. Courtney
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How many possible locations would be in play?
In anticipation of the announcement, I would have sent out applications to institutions in those areas.

In my own two-body job searches, my wife and I have sent out applications to numerous places with nearby opportunities in various capacities (tenure-track, visiting, postdoc, corporate)... often with different timelines for announcements, deadlines, conducting interviews, and making final decisions.

Is it just that there are too many residency match possibilities to target effectively?
I agree, the two body job search is best done in parallel, with both spouses actively looking for jobs in a number (5-10) select locations. Yes, it's a lot of work to send out all those applications, but beginning an academic job search in April is sub-optimal because most of the good jobs are already taken.

Michael Courtney
 
Dr. Courtney
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But if he's only there while his wife is doing a residency, he's not going to be looking to get hired on permanently. It sure is better than sitting around twiddling one's thumbs, and provides a chance to get some teaching experience on the CV before looking for a proper post-doc position to build up the research experience
I'm not sure CC teaching experience counts for much for most PhDs looking to teach at research schools.

CC teaching experience says "I gave away credit in physics to students who probably did not earn it."

Michael Courtney
 
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I'm not sure CC teaching experience counts for much for most PhDs looking to teach at research schools.

CC teaching experience says "I gave away credit in physics to students who probably did not earn it."

Michael Courtney
It makes me feel at ease knowing that even Doctors can say completely stupid things.
 
Dr. Courtney
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It makes me feel at ease knowing that even Doctors can say completely stupid things.
My wife and I have both taught at community colleges and then subsequently applied to a number of four year schools. There is a definite impression in the mind of many people on the subsequent hiring committees that many community college students have not eared the credit.

This impression is mostly formed from the experience that professors at 4 year schools have with transfer students from community colleges. Most have noticed that transfer students entering a 1st semester physics course are unlikely to have the proper pre-requisite math skills and that transfer students entering a 2nd semester physics course do not have the pre-requisite physics skills (vector analysis is usually weak).

I taught the second semester of an algebra-based physics sequence a number of times. Over the years, we had a number of community college transfer students in the course who had the first semester of the sequence at a community college. Not a single community college transfer student ever passed the course.

Most faculty members at four year schools know from direct experience that there are real quality control problems at the community colleges. I'm not saying that it is impossible to get hired at a four year school after teaching at a community college, but one's application will probably be received with the impression that one was giving away credit at the community college. My wife and I were able to counter this impression by publishing several papers emphasizing our interest in academic rigor. PhD's from Harvard and MIT didn't hurt either.

Michael Courtney
 
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She had to apply to a LOT of schools, like 45-50 due to competition, and they were fairly homogeneously distributed across the nation. We did try to concentrate on D.C. area to some extent, lots of schools up there.

I decided to take the postdoc anyway, away from the missus. The good thing is that I have considerable freedom to work from where ever I want, as long as work gets done. So I'll split time in between locations and rack up miles on the 15 year old car. I'll keep looking and/or tricking local departments to hire me, so I'm in the same boat really. I thought things were supposed to get easier after the phud :)

Cheers
 
Dr. Courtney
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The challenge with a PhD is that there are usually only a few PhD level jobs open in academia in any given year once you fix the geographic location.

Michael
 
robphy
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I think having some non-trivial teaching experience would make one competitive for visiting positions at the smaller [and more numerous] colleges.
 

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