Long story (sorta) short

Some background about my professional life and how I ended up in a horrible job search during a global pandemic.

In the ten years since my partner and I finished graduate school, neither of us had ever had a permanent job. Yes, we’ve had full-time jobs in careers that we wanted, but they were 1–2 year contracts with specific end dates that we had no control over. In the winter of 2018, my partner and I decided we’d move to Duluth, MN for his chance at a (somewhat) permanent teaching job. We were excited and ready to move. I knew my job search would be challenging, maybe I’d be unemployed for 3–4 months? We’d been in Los Angeles for 6 years and I knew my job would be ending in 2020 anyway.

In April 2019, I started my job search, focusing on scientist/engineering/research jobs in materials science and electrochemistry in Minnesota. In August 2019, I left my job in Los Angeles and we moved. I had already lined up a few leads: alumni association event, giving a talk at a company, sending my resume out to a local university’s physics department, informational interviews and phone calls.

By October 2019, I had not gotten a single interview for any job in Minnesota, out of about 50 applications and a few solid leads. All my leads fell through, people ghosted me and lied to me. All the seeds I had planted dried up. I had to pivot and restart my search on the West Coast. This was a devastating realization and I was basically starting from scratch again, after 6 months of focusing on a specific geographic location. I already had a very difficult time in 2013 (no full time job for 6 months) — and I thought this time around would be easier since I had held the title “engineer” at a prestigious institution. I was now a mid-career job seeker with lots of publications in a very specialized field, not a fresh, malleable PhD. What combination of ageism, sexism, racism was I facing? There’s no way to know and no way to predict how difficult this would truly be, even before a pandemic. I’ll go into specific anecdotes and statistics in future posts — who ghosted me? who lied to me? who gave me ridiculous non-evidence based advice? what companies were interested in me? which of my contacts were helpful? how much does networking matter? how did this effect my mental health?

By January 2020, I had a few phone interviews for jobs on the West Coast. By February, March, I had 11 first round interviews (1/2–1 hr phone calls or web meetings). When the shutdown started, many of those contacts told me they would not be able to continue the process and to keep checking in over the next few months. By December 2020, I had 27 interviews (about 10 final round interviews), 2 official offers, 2 unofficial offers, and applied to 400 jobs in 8 geographic locations. To this day, none of those interviews were from companies in Minnesota. I’m still waiting to hear from 2 final round interviews I had in 2020 . . .

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A. Shinde

A. Shinde

I’ll be writing about my job search experiences as someone with a PhD in Physics, focusing on my job search in 2019–2020.