It’s time for some self promotion coupled with the release of frustration. Back in December, at the Annual American Society for Cell Biology meeting in Philadelphia I met Jenny (Rohn) and suggested an idea for something that might be of interest to the readers of LabLit.com.
For many years now–in fact since my Masters degree when I published my first paper–I have been continuously barraged with an array of applications for postdoctoral positions. Until eight years ago, when I received the reins of my own laboratory, these applications were nothing but a futile footnote for me. Recently however, the styles, content and general lackadaisical appearance of these applications by so-called professionals had begun to irritate me.
Out of this primordial soup the idea to write an instructional/comical blog: “How NOT to get a lab job” was born.
Jenny, of course, did a great job editing and arranging the piece, which consisted of nine letters (applications) that I received verbatim (without names or institutions, of course), along with a translation of how a PI would view such a letter. A few of the letters were graced by cartoons drawn by my daughter.
I was thrilled when Jenny wrote to me that the piece appeared to be quite popular and was receiving a lot of traffic.
I was less than thrilled when I began to receive e-mails accusing me of being disrespectful to other cultures, insensitive, not at all funny, and even–yes even chauvinistic.
I know from experience that every time one takes a stand–one way or another someone will find a reason to be insulted. However, I also know that by not taking a stand and keeping my mouth shut I will also not be immune to criticism.
I went back and read all of the letters and my “translations”. I read the introduction and the summary (that Jenny had me write) again and again. In summary, I had written the following statement:
“There is an old story about the mother who takes her child to kindergarten on his very first day, and says to the teacher, ‘My child is extremely sensitive. If he ever misbehaves, please reprimand the child next to him – that will be enough to make sure he gets the message.’ So, I hope that those of you planning to go out on the job market will take this into consideration and learn from the examples of how not to get a lab job.”
I answered a few of the angry e-mails, doing my best to convince the authors that a cartoon of a woman holding onto her husband’s tail as he peers through a microscope does not mean that I think the male component of a couple is necessarily a better scientist. This cartoon merely accompanied a very poor letter written by the female component of couple who made no attempt whatsoever to explain why she deserved or wanted a job in my lab, except for the fact that her husband received a position in my Institute.
It’s easy to take an isolated letter–or in fact just the cartoon and the situation– completely OUT OF CONTEXT and turn this into a vendetta against a male chauvinist. After all, politicians are experts at this type of manipulation.
But I sincerely hope that those of you who know me and have had a chance to look at the context will realize that these letters and my portrayal of the authors has nothing to do with chauvinism or disrespect–but merely an opportunity to explain and teach others the importance of carefully crafting proper job application letters.