I applied for my dream job. And did not get it. Fuck.
What I want.
What I want to do is dig a deep hole, climb into it and close the lid. A hole deep enough that would represent the vast emotional abyss that I am feeling on the inside right now. For the most part I feel empty and defeated. But then intermittently, the grief and sadness over this, what feels like a loss, crash over me. What I want right now is for questions to stop swarming my mind—was it my answer to this question or that during the interview? Did I talk too much? Was it my suit? Or the wrong color of my heels? Or my lack of experience and/or projected self-confidence? Why not me? I thought I was “the one.” Why not me? What I want is to know is that once I am out of this emotional dive, will I be able to see the bright future ahead of me? Will I be able to, some day soon, pick up the broken pieces and fit them together into another supposed “dream job” and this time actually get it? What I want is for this emotional turmoil to end, but I know things will take time to heal. But seriously, why not me?
Why I wanted it.
A few years ago, I became involved in supporting the postdoctoral community at my university. I did it or a number of reasons. First, our health insurance got changed from the employee plan to a student one. This was the beginning of it all. The rage it caused among the postdocs translated into a creation of a focused group we called the “Postdoc Council.” I served on it. We discussed many issues with HR that postdocs faced at our school. In addition to many various changes, we pleaded to get our employee health plans back, and advocated for the creation of a Postdoctoral Affairs Office. Besides the Postdoc Council, I was involved with a group of postdocs that served to enhance the postdoctoral experience at our university by fostering a community of scientific peers. The group supported professional development through constructive scientific feedback, networking opportunities, and career transition seminars and also provided a forum for the discussion and advocacy of postdoctoral issues. And lastly, I joined the Alumni Association, and through them I served on Awards Committees and organized successful large-scale networking events for postdocs and graduate students. So in addition to my very specific skill set in lab techniques, I had a slew of extra-curricular activities that I a) greatly enjoyed; and b) beefed up my CV.
Being in the role of someone who advocated for postdoctoral needs and played a supportive role within the postdoc community, made me realize that this was the career path I wanted to take. I spent a lot of time thinking and weighing my options, deciding if it was right for me. After many months mulling over it, I came to a conclusion that a job focused on similar activities to my leadership roles would be ideal in my future. I waited for such a long time for it to be created and advertised. When the position for the Office Postdoctoral Affairs was finally posted, I thought this was it, and I jumped at the opportunity. This was my dream job. My experience and passion for supporting my peers, and knowing first-hand what issues postdocs have and how to best address them drew me to a position of this nature. I knew, given the opportunity, I would be good at it. Sure, I realized I was “putting all eggs in one basket,” when applying just for this one job, but I knew that I would be a strong candidate for the position, and I had a shot.
The application process.
So I applied. After taking a “resume tune-up” and “interviewing for success” classes, I got my first interview. I nailed it. I got the second interview. There were four candidates in the final round, including me. And as nerve-racking as it was to be interviewed by a panel of ten people, I thought I did as well as I could have. Then I waited. A week later, I heard that the hiring committee needed more time to make a decision. Another week went by, and I got the very kind “warmest regards”-sort of rejection e-mail. And it broke my heart.
I poured everything I had in me into first advocating for this position to be created, then gaining the experience in order to qualify and then finally going through the interviewing process. Now that I have been rejected, I have nothing left to give. I don’t know how to start over. I am a seventh-year postdoc. I need to find a job. Preferably one that I love, that I am good at and one that I enjoy. Is that too much to ask for? And before someone reading this post cringes and says “she applied for just one job, get a grip,” I would like to say that yes, I understand that it was just one job. But I waited for a long time for it—a year and a half in the making. And that it was “The One” for me, or so I thought. And in the end, it all came down to just one rejection e-mail to crush my dream of running this office.
On top of it all, I am presented with a three-body problem. A classic two-body problem, where my spouse is a postdoc in the same field as me + the third body presented by city that I love living in. I can’t imagine moving away. I am in love with this town–it is just the right fit for me and for my family. But there are no jobs here for us. After not getting this position, and having my husband receive not even a single phone call from the 60+ jobs he has applied for in the last year, I feel so hopeless and rejected about our job prospects and about staying in this beautiful magnificent Pacific Northwest town.
And lastly, what I want to know is, what will be my plan B when I had no plans for it in the first place?