Beki Grinter

Location and Career or Location or Career?

In academia, academic management, discipline, research on August 11, 2011 at 9:49 am

I just finished reading a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education about recruiting. They suggest that even in a tight labor market that the person recruiting also ask themselves whether they can live in the city in which the job is located. I understand what they are trying to say particularly in this situation, where it would turn out that there was a vast gulf between the candidate and the setting.

It reminded me of my first recruit. I went further than this applicant did. All the way to Australia, and to an interview for a position that I would be offered and decline. I joined Bell Labs instead and moved to Naperville Illinois. Even though it was 6500 miles closer, it was a choice I made based on career not location. Although I did learn to love Naperville, thanks to the friends I made there, and I think I would have learned to love that part of Australia too.

Immediately after graduate school I found it impossible to optimize for both career and location. Based on that I optimized for career. I am curious how many people got both immediately? I think that the first few years post-graduate school are the time when a career is really defined. I am sure that I was a risk for Bell Labs, I had a Ph.D. but that is only a partial training for what comes next whether it be industrial or academic. Four years later I recruited again, and I was able to secure a position that combined career and location. I believe that it was due to my being able to establish my career that I found it easier.

So, while I understand where the author is coming from, I think it’s important to consider the possibility that it may be a trade-off. And of course, also the possibility that the first place you end-up post graduate school is not the place that you will ultimately end-up in. You can always recruit again. I’ve done that three times, and while I may be unusual by comparison with other colleagues, I think that there are significant rewards that come with having multiple employment experiences. I can compare industrial research labs, and compare that experience with academia. And then there are all the amazing colleagues I’ve been able to work with as a result of being in so many different places, and all the access and exposure to different fields within Computer Science.

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  1. Great post beki. As a student about to go on the market it is nice to be reminded that one’s first job out of school is not necessarily one’s last. I’ve found it especially easy to fall into this reasoning when it comes searching for jobs in academia. The idea of spending 5-25 years in a less than exciting area of the world is frightening. It’s nice to see a new perspective on the issues of career vs location. Thanks!

  2. that’s right. even if you hope that what you do next will be the thing you do all your life, you can never really predict how it will all work out. I think that’s one of the things that makes it all so rewarding. It’s an adventure, but it’s *your* adventure.

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