I applied for it.

I am frequently asked by graduate students and postdocs, “How did you get this job?”

I usually answer, “I saw an ad and I applied for it.”

It’s true. There was no inside track. I didn’t know anyone in this research center. It’s not always a case of who you know, after all. I saw a job ad on an academic email listserve and I thought, “That looks interesting.”

The hard part was writing the application. On the surface, it appeared that I did not have any experience in administration. But in reality, as a postdoc I ran my PI’s lab. I had a ton of experience managing lab personnel and negotiating collaborations. I had written not only peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters, but also progress reports and final reports for grants, IACUC protocols, and reports for the university – both for myself and for my PI. This job running the research center really wasn’t all that different – just on a bigger scale.

So I agonized for much longer than usual over the job letter, finding ways to highlight my experience and make it relevant to the job I was applying for. I demonstrated my communication skills with the letter itself. And I got an interview. And even though I didn’t understand the jargon in the question about management styles, I convinced them that I did indeed know what I was doing… and I got the job.

So if you’re interested in this kind of non-traditional academic job, you probably already have relevant skills and experience. It’s all a matter of presentation.

And being enthusiastic never hurts, either.


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