I am an academic in Australia, in a social sciences/humanities field that I have mentioned before but would rather not repeat here for googleability reasons. I am currently employed until the middle of this year. I have a job offer in another city that I think I'm going to accept. I'm worried it might be the wrong decision.
posted by lollusc to Work & Money (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I am at a university ranked among the top 10 in the world in my discipline. My husband is a scientist also at this university, who has managed to cobble together contracts here of between six months and three years continually since 2004, is currently unemployed (since November) but expects to be able to put together more short-term contracts in the future if he hangs around.
Australia doesn't really have a tenure system (any more). The best you can get is a "continuing contract", which means your contract has no fixed end date. Usually a new appointment to a continuing funding line would be fixed term for three years or so, with a performance review followed by a confirmation of continuing status.
The offer I just got is at a university elsewhere. It is for a fixed term contract of five years, with the "possibility" that it would be converted to continuing at the end of that time, subject to performance and available funding. It seems like a great department, an exciting role, with just the right mix of teaching and research.
They are offering me nearly twice what I currently earn, at an academic level much higher than my current appointment (high enough that I could apply for promotion to Associate Professor within three or four years.) They are also willing to offer me a generous start-up package of research funding.
There is nothing at that university for my husband. They don't even have a department for his discipline. There are, however, six or so universities in that city, of which at least two do have small groups of people working on things that are at least tangentially related to his research. I doubt they'll be able to offer him paid work, at least at first, but maybe eventually. And they'd probably be willing to offer him visiting fellow status, so he can use an office and a computer. We are not willing to live apart or do a weekly commute between here and there, especially since he doesn't actually have a job here either.
The university is ranked low, low down the rankings. Like, 600th or so in the world. However, they are really keen to increase their research profile, so are pumping money into research, and the specific people in my discipline there are good. (They pretty much all got poached from my current institution!). I don't care about rankings purely in terms of prestige, but I care if it will make me unemployable later, especially since this position isn't guaranteed to become continuing. Also if it makes it impossible for me to attract good PhD students or to get external grants.
We would have to move cities. We bought a house here a few years back. It's not a huge deal to move: I know people do it all the time. But it does mean that all else being equal (which it's not), we'd prefer to stay here. The new city is one I would like to live in, but the university is in a part of the city which is not so nice, and traffic/commuting etc in this new city is pretty horrible.
I applied for a postdoc at my current institution back in October. In November I was interviewed, along with a few other people. Their first choice turned them down. They told me I was the best of the rest of the candidates, but that they wanted to readvertise to try to get a wider pool to choose from. They told me to reapply, in case they "can't get anyone better". I reapplied and they are holding new interviews late next week.
The selection committee confirms I am still definitely in the running. They only have five applicants total who are at all viable, and they won't be interviewing them all. Some of the committee thinks I am the strongest applicant. But the chair of the committee gets the final say, as it's his research funding. I asked him if he could hold the interviews any sooner due to my job offer from Other University, and he said no. So I take that (and the fact that he wouldn't hire me back in November) as evidence that he is, at the least, unexcited about my application.
If I got it, this job would be a lower academic level, at about half the salary of the other job, a four or five year fixed term with no possibility of continuing afterwards, and working for someone who is unenthusiastic about employing me. The actual work would be fun, and actually very similar to what I'd do at the other university. And it would be continuing at this highly ranked university where my husband has a better chance of getting future employment.
So what to do? Should I even wait and attend the interview next week and then wait to find out whether I am successful, given that this means delaying my acceptance of the other job by longer than they would prefer? (They initially asked me to make a decision by early next week, but I might be able to persuade them to wait.) I'm tending towards thinking that the other job is so much better in so many ways that I should just accept it and withdraw my application for the postdoc here. This is what my husband says he thinks I should do too.
Secondly, am I really screwing up my husband's career here? He is willing to make the sacrifice for me, but it is a big sacrifice I am asking. It's kind of his turn (I came to Australia for him), but I don't want to ruin his life.
And finally, I haven't mentioned this other job possibility to the university I have an offer from, because (a) I don't actually have a competing offer, just an interview, and (b) it is a worse job on paper in every way, so it doesn't seem like great negotiation fodder. Is this a mistake? I am currently still negotiating the details of salary with the other university. If I mention the postdoc, and they ask about the salary, I'd have to admit it's ridiculously low, which would seem to work against me. But I know that being (perhaps) about to have a competing offer is traditionally something someone brings up in negotiation.