Back into view

I am fortunate(?) to be spared the whole university HR faux-concern ‘redeployment’ thing: wherein imminently redundant, highly-qualified and competent senior laboratory postdocs are given less than 24 hours (which, on a working day, translates as one evening) to respond to a notice of availability of something relevant to their skills and experience, but all the time in the world to apply for positions such as: ‘Teaching Fellow in Fine Art’, ‘Teaching Fellow in Fashion Marketing and Promotion’, ‘Green Academy Programme Assistant’, ‘Lecturer in Music’, or ‘Rehabilitationist (Adult Cochlear Implants)’. However, I’m not convinced of which situation is preferable. Certainly, being out on your own requires a different kind of pro-activeness, although the motivation of fear and insecurity is no less insomnious.

Anyway, just before Xmas I had my first job interview for… I don’t know how long… fifteen years? And that was fourteen years after the previous one. In all, I’d previously had just five job interviews (six, if you include a stage of the fellowship application process whilst in post) – all but one successful. (I do not like to think about the one failure among that prior number, because it was one of the worst days of my life, and of which I still harbour some resentment.) Quite what this says about me (inertia; satisfaction; trepidation?), I’m not sure. But this latest – I tanked it.

I won’t, for what I deem obvious reasons, name or describe the job, organisation or location to which I had applied. And I certainly have no grievance. Unlike my previous humiliation, I was contacted, received and treated kindly, respectfully and professionally. I was, in fact, surprised, flattered – and somewhat back-footed – at being invited (the morning after an afternoon spent composing my covering letter in the pub on deadline day) for interview. Particularly as my CV is still weighted towards laboratory research, and I palpably did not tick all the requirements on the job/person specification.

So, though I didn’t (expect to) get the job, I’ve no complaints…. except, about the whole convention of the process in general. Interviews. What is it all about?

Although I was certainly not imbued with overconfidence by my prior success ‘rate’, I realise (before and after) that I could have been better prepared. And I might have felt better had I not put on the best part of a stone in the last year, thus making me feel like I was wearing someone else’s suit (a consequence of too much Argentinian beef and weeks in a car seat driving around Patagonia). Yet, despite my lack of interview experience, I have become familiar – despite my deft avoiding of the whole ‘we-really-care-about-your-career’ appraisal malarkey – with the kind of things that come up.

So, if I’m to be doing more of this, I know I’m likely to be asked the “where do you see myself in X years” kind of thing. And (other than suppressing a laugh) I don’t have a positive answer for that. I also know to sit still and stick to saying what’s necessary, remembering that these are formal affairs, and not turning it into a relaxed chat. But one thing floored me: something like being asked to give one thing that summarises or describes me. I didn’t know how to answer that (I’m too embarrassed to divulge here my idiotic response). And I still don’t.

Still, it was a worthwhile exercise (although merely treating these things as practice arguably amounts to an immoral waste of good people’s time). And, having become briefly over-excited the next day by a message, which I mistakenly (arrogantly?) took as indication that I’d got the job, I was subsequently informed – again respectfully and efficiently – that I had not. And (helpfully, although I’d already surmised) why I had not.

What’s next, then…..?

2 responses to “Back into view

  1. Good to see you’re back blogging regularly, Lee. Hadn’t noticed before as I’m an infrequent visitor to NN this last year or so.
    I have one ex-postdoc friend who went through our local redeployment scheme, and I have to say his comments were, errm, unrepeatable. Would be interested to know if anyone has had a positive ‘redeployment list’ experience.
    I’ve often wondered what it must be like to be asked the daft ‘vision-balls’ questions that people report from job interviews. Apparently in Pharma (and likely other industries) you can also get asked similar stuff when they are considering ‘downsizing’ you – see e.g. the story from industry in the blogpost here.

  2. Hi Austin – thanks. Glad you dropped by.
    I do wonder about this ‘redeployment’ process. A few years back, didn’t some EU ruling kick in that was supposed to compel UK universities to grant permanent status to anyone continually employed for four years (handy, in that most postdocs are usually contracted for three years)? I’m not sure if that still applies, but this seems a sure-fire way for universities to get out of this commitment, and so let people go with just a month or so’s salary if there’s no grant to pick them up.
    On the ‘vision-balls’ thing: I had assumed it was for enticing an ambitious response; but I have heard of a postdoc who had to work hard in interview to convince the panel otherwise. It seems to me just a game; one that I am incapable of playing.

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