I have found that the New Year has not brought much more in the way of "peace" about my particular part time academic position. I have spent an enormous amount of energy trying to put a finger on what makes this so hard, with the mindset that I might identify an aspect that I can change for the better. It's not like I haven't been in this situation before........
Job Recruitment 1: Husband takes first academic position at new University. I'm 2.5 years into my Assistant Professorship at current University where husband is postdoc, just landing first R29 NIH grant. Husband signs contract prior to any negotiations for me regarding a job. My negotiating power - zero. (We both agree, rookie mistake on his part but done not out of disregard for me but in the excitement of first independent academic position and pressure from University to sign; marriage survives) The department creates a faculty position for me. No real start up package -$20K to replace some of big equipment being left behind. R29 pays for technician and $800/month for supplies. Time in situation: 3 years
Pros: Had my own lab space, connected by a door with husband's. Had my own technician. Put out some nice papers. Had an extremely supportive Department Chairman. Chairman supported and I received promotion to Associate Professor.
Cons: No office; gave space up to be converted into a TC room for both labs so had a desk in the lab. Didn't have the respect of the department's other faculty. Wasn't in a department related to my primary research focus. Had to fight to get my own mailbox (no really, this required the Chairman's intervention!) No money to grow the lab and become more productive.
Pros: Had my own lab space. Had my own office. Had a full recruitment package including decent salary. Got to work with two colleagues that I've known for 10 years! Was very productive with a group of 4. Supportive Chairman who realized it was important to keep me happy if he wanted to keep husband around. Flexible schedule works well with arrival of first child.
Cons: Not in a department with others focused on my primary area of research so not much chance for local collaborations.....uh, that's about all the cons I could think of.
Pros: Flexible schedule made it easy to accommodate the year of constant illnesses that my two kids experienced going from an in-home Nanny to a Montessori preschool! Established a good relationship with the family pediatrician, ENT, and opthalmologist at big-time Children's Hospital. ummm, can't think of any other pros!
Cons: Didn't ask for lab space so lab has been absorbed by husband's; maintaining a bench. Despite having both names outside the door, no one considers it part "my lab space". I am invisible to the other faculty members of my department. I didn't interview and I didn't give a seminar; sometimes appearances can mean a lot. I still haven't been added to the birthday lists for which a monthly lunch is held. Don't have a supportive Chairman; has no idea what I do, and doesn't care. No mentorship, no support - no start up package; maintaining one project on an R01 subcontract; other main lab project dead in the water. Trying to develop another project with minimal funds. Hate feeling invisible; not appreciated for what I could add to the department.
1. Don't start out by giving up too much. You can play second fiddle but make sure you still get to play. I should have never put myself in the position of joining a department where they didn't feel it was worthwhile for me to come down and give a seminar to the rest of the faculty. I am not seen as an important member of my department's faculty.
2. Pick a supportive Chairman, especially if you are moving to support your husband's career. Never take a position where the Chairman doesn't feel it necessary to have face time with you to talk about your work and how it will fit/help the department. You need a Chairman who can "think outside the box" and find a way to use your expertise to build and expand his department strengths. I remember reading "The Door in the Dream: Conversations with eminent women in science" by Elga Wasserman. It's a collection of personal stories about how they succeeded in their careers. One of the messages I took away was the importance of having a Chairman who is open-minded, interested, and supportive.
In all fairness, we did make a mutual decision early on in our relationship that his career would take priority and the reasons for that, both professional and personal, were solid and good. But within that framework, the decisions need to be made carefully and wisely. Which is why, given my previous experiences, I'm surprised I made some of the same mistakes in Recruitment Scenario 3 that were made in Scenario 1. But I did and now the next step is to try to find ways, in this sparse time of funding, to work my way back to a position of respect from a position of weakness, if that's even possible. I don't know if it is......