Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Letter solicitation

"Solicitation isn't good because it will land you in jail"

That's the quote I got from a friend when mentioning that my referrers (referees?) have been getting solicited for letters of recommendation. 

I applied to a crapload of schools. I mean, a lot, a shitton...a bunch. I did this to hedge my bets.  In industry (and probably other places) we call it 'minimizing risk'.  I figured a small portion would be contacting me, so I needed to apply to a ton to maximize my chances. It turns out that when several schools are interested in you, they will all email those on your List of References. And those references have to tailor the letter to each school. I'd imagine it's time-consuming so I feel kind of bad. Should I feel bad? My spouse says no because these people want to see me succeed. But I know I would be peeved if I was getting new requests every week to put out letters of recommendation.  When I write letters for people it is time-consuming, and getting ten requests from different schools would tax every last bit of patience have.  And I'm not sure if they're going to get more.  The applications were due three weeks ago, and I thought letter requests wouldn't go out until December at the earliest.  I have no idea about timescale for these things.

I'm not 100% sure of whether asking for letters is a good thing or just a formality, or what percentage of applicants get pushed to the letter stage, but I'm feeling optimistic. I don't want to get all bundled in a warm blanket of hope only to get it ripped away, leaving me exposed to the elements, but dang-it, I'm going to get excited!  Or maybe I won't. There's nothing I can do about this but sit on my butt, since my advisor said it's bad practice to email the committee just to check up on things. This is really different than the industry job search, where I cyber-stalked my way to multiple job offers.

The only thing now, is what's the best way to show my appreciation to my references for writing all these letters?


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    1. Wow! I just stumbled upon your blog......we are exactly opposite. I have a faculty position and I am seriously pondering leaving academia -- it is just too much, getting grants is hard, teaching is hard too (teaching evaluations can be quite mean), mentoring students and post-docs is very rewarding but also very time consuming -- service never- never ends. I like my work, specially the science part and being able to work with the good students, but I work 24/7, all my friends/colleagues do work the same, when I go to meetings and I talked to them in a “personal” level, everybody confesses how tired they are, loving part of the work, but being very tired and having a lot of guilt about not spending enough time with family.... For me is the same, I am not able to have a decent life/work balance -- I miss being able to spend more time with my family – I also wish I had a little bit of guilt free leisure time…..this professor gig is very hard!

      Do not let me get started with the academic politics – academia can be a very mean environment sometimes, there is a lot of politics, you need to learn how to play the game…..

      Check this article http://www.the-aps.org/mm/Careers/Mentor/Career-Choices-and-Planning/Early-Career-Professional/Considering-a-change-in-career-/Transitions-Between-Academia-and-Industry

      See this question in particular, answered by someone that has been in both sides:

      What is your opinion on industry versus academia demands for having a successful personal life and family?
      Amy Arnold
      Vanderbilt University
      Having been in both environments I feel that it was easier to achieve a balanced life in industry compared to academia. I have found that in academia I have many more competing obligations and deadlines to juggle than I had in industry; consequently, since returning to academia I find myself spending many more evenings and weekends working just to keep up. In general I have found that in industry I had access to more support staff that made my job more efficient, thus I could accomplish more during regular work hours. While I often worked long hours in industry, I have found that my working hours are much greater since returning to academia. It is especially bad during those times when I am teaching and when grant deadlines are approaching. Overall, I would have to say that I felt like I had more flexibility in industry than I have in academia. I would also have to say that the overall stress level is higher for a junior person in academia than in industry.
      Sue Bodine

    2. Thanks for the post. The article was great to read, and like most experiences in life, each one is a unique snowflake (thanks Fight Club...kind of). Each person has their own experiences and perceptions. Optimally, I would get the faculty post and future Phindustry would come back in time tell current Phindustry whether to keep on the pursuit. I really like your post, and so this is something I'm going to dedicate an entire post to. Mainly answering the questions at the end, reflecting on conversations I've had with faculty I've talked to that made the industry switch, and my current situation professionally and personally. Happy Thanksgivukkah!

    3. Thanks for your kind reply, looking forward to your post about this subject. These decision are hard indeed! I really want to get out of academia, if you have nay advice on how to land an industry gig, it will be greatly appreciate it.

      Happy Thanksgivukkah!