I have spent a rather alarming amount of time worrying that I would never get a tenure-track job.
For readers who haven’t been around since the beginning, this worry was in part because of my unusual background: I started my Ph.D. program at age 37 after 15 years of homeschooling my children. Although I wanted to teach chemistry at the college level, the research I wanted to do was found in a geochemistry program, and so I got an interdisciplinary doctorate degree. Then, for several reasons (in large part because I missed teaching), I didn’t do a post-doc as many scientists do. Instead, I took a contract position teaching chemistry at a large urban liberal arts college on the East Coast.
As I posted earlier, my job hunt last year was not successful. This made me very depressed: would anyone ever see past my “differences” and hire me despite my interdisciplinary degree and non-traditional background?
Despite my pessimism, I kept plugging. This academic year I put in 16 applications; of the 16 schools I applied to, three chose to fly me out this fall for in-person interviews. One chemistry department made me an offer…and I turned it down. You see, another school had also made me an offer: a school that valued interdisciplinary education and had specifically offered me a position because of my unusual background, not despite it. (The school also happens to be close to family and some pretty awesome field sites.)
And so, half a year from now, I will move back to the Left Coast, to a school that is pretty darn amazing. I have found my permanent home.