Why can't I save them ALL?!?

Oct 13 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

You know how sometimes you're just walking down the street, minding your own business and being a generally decent human being, when suddenly you walk by the pet store or animal shelter, and see that the evil pet store/animal shelter people have put giant cages of adorable baby animals out on the sidewalk for you to fall in love with? It is impossible not to stop and coo, is it not? And then, while you're making kissy faces and trying to touch those super soft velveteen OMGSOCUTE baby animal ears through the wires, something in the way those poor, helpless creatures looks at you takes hold. It is your duty--nay, your CALLING--to rescue these tragic, ADORABLE  things from the cruel hand fate dealt them. To take them home and give them the life they deserve. All of them. I mean, how could you choose just one baby animal? Impossible! Wrong, even!

I'm currently hiring a lab tech, and it's kind of the same thing, except for the bit about touching their ears. That may be illegal, not sure. NJC has no shortage of fresh-faced post-grads who may have actually held a pipettor in their lifetime, and for that I'm quite fortunate. My ad generated nearly 40 responses, and I've interviewed at least 7 or 8 candidates, many of whom I'm sure would be a great tech. I want to hire them all!

It's killing me, then, having to tell most of them that I can't hire them. The complete and utter suckage of the economy is right here, in my face--there is no reason any of these people should be unemployed. Wide-eyed and 22, agreeable and eager, college educated, they would probably be good at anything. And I mean, I was there, sort of. When I was 22 I was working in a lab for free, pulling espresso at Starbucks for $7.25/hr, and working the day shift at a sad, sad little bar in Berkeley. I remember going into the Dollar Store once and thinking, everything I own is going to have to come from here.

But at least I had a job(s). And I was applying to grad school and everyone I knew in Berkeley was sort of in the same financial place, and also there were no iPhones or much of the crap people (including yours truly) feel compelled to own these days. It was easier to be a young person. I think it's different now, and going through all of this with the Occupy movements as a backdrop has been...meaningful, in a way that I did not expect. I am grateful that I have the opportunity to bring someone truly exceptional into my lab to help me get the next stage of my career going, but  I am also sad for the people I won't be bringing into the lab, and I'm sad for the shitty situation most recent grads have been thrust into. Hang in there, you guys, and hopefully soon our country will find a way out of this ridiculous mess.

11 responses so far

  • Gerty-Z says:

    Look on the bright side. You ARE hiring one person.

  • It's even more difficult when you get random emails from uber experienced people who are desperately looking for a job and mention that they would be happy doing menial tasks like washing flasks.

  • GEARS says:

    I totally understand, which is why I guess I have one PhD student, one MS student, and an UG working for me already...

    And it seems like everyone wants to work on my research (mainly because I have money :- )

    It's very hard to tell a desperate student "no, you can't have an RA from me"

  • Dr 27 says:

    Hang in there Prof. of Awesome .... take it from someone who got a "no, sorry" so many times this year, she almost gave up. Almost. Even before I got a job, the feedback I got from some of the places I applied was very valuable, and needed, in a moment I was so down and so ready to give up. It is tough, it really is. But as you get to know more people in your department and university, maybe you'll be a bridge that connects those 6 or 7 candidates you had to say no, to other profs or facilities.

    Hugs to you. I'm really positive that you'll make a difference in this economy on more than one person/applicant.

  • DrLizzyMoore says:

    It's the hardest thing that we have to do! What's harder though is giving one of those bright young things a job and then realizing that that person isn't going to work out after all...then you feel like you are tossing them right back out on the street. So just shove that emotion in the same drawer that you have your big lady balls (oh, i know you got 'em, sister) and sit down and write in all caps, "I was hired to do this job and my job is to hire someone to support me". Once I wrapped my head around that gem, the whole hiring thing got slightly easier. The bonus is is that you are providing one bright person a chance--and that is not trivial these days!!! Good luck!! You can do it!

  • Kelli says:

    For a new TT assistant professor, would you hire a foreigner whom you know would be great at helping your research started and moving forward, or a recent graduate who lacks skills and experience?

    Suppose you received a R01 grant, do you have an obligation to hiring Americans instead of foreigners to help ease the unemployment issue.

  • drugmonkey says:

    You, by dint of your professional work, created one job so far. Just think about that everytime some chattering class dingbat is on the teevees talking about job creation. Then get back to work, securing funding to create more jobs.

  • becca says:

    Dr. Becca- ha. That may explain a look I got in a job interview the other day. I was busy trying to pretend I thought I was a cute-enough kitten that someone would pick me out no matter what.

    DM- bullpockey. Not that you aren't better than the dingbats, just that it's all pretty much magic thinking.
    In this case, it's extraordinarily likely the job would be there if not for you- it's not like there's a shortage of good places for NIH money to go. If, in the long run, your work makes Congress want to give NIH more money, maybe you've got some kind of leg to stand on (but then, you have to be sure that you're creating more jobs than the average for the federal government).
    On the other hand, if you get a company to fund stuff that they wouldn't otherwise have considered funding, and you keep some of their money out of their stockholders hands, then that's another story; that's actually shifting money from being part of the passive income economy to the active labor market economy. And possibly a little bit from the 1% to the 99%.

  • drugmonkey says:

    You could say that for any industry, becca. People gotta eat so if you don't grow the food, someone else will. Community needs rental housing so if you don't landlord, someone else will. Bike repair. Car dealer. Gas stations. Etc. Your critique is nonsense.

    DrBecca is part of the general science industry, convincing the taxpayers to buy our science product. Sure. But the individual deserves credit. Any industry is made up of individuals, not some fantasy Borg creature. That department might not have hired *anyone*. they might have hired someone who decided *not* to expend startup on job creation. But they hired DrBecca on the strength of her accomplishments and ideas.....and her science brought her to create a job.

    She gets the credit for job creation.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Kelli- there is no obligation to hire people of any particular national origin to work on the R01 award.

    There are pluses and minuses to hiring experienced vs inexperienced techs and postdocs. Harder to get the experienced to do things your way and they cost more. Naturally, their experience could make them much more valuable but ymmv.

    I lean towards hiring newbs and training them, personally.

  • Dr Becca says:

    Thanks for all the comments, guys! I do feel good that I'm able to hire at least one person, and I think she's just the right combination of experience + n00b. I'm also passing some of the runner-up CVs on to colleagues of mine who may also be looking for a tech soon, which eases my conscience slightly.

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