It's no cake walk to go out on the market pre-tenure- especially in this economy where the number of open spots are few. Even fewer institutions have multiple open spots that could accommodate both me and my husband. We decided to "go-out" because my husband had had so many unsolicited invitations to apply elsewhere, and he was unhappy with his present situation. All places know that he and I are married, so they knew what they were getting themselves into when they were soliciting him. Mr. JP is going up for tenure soon, so a lot of places were jumping the gun in inviting him- I came along for the ride. (But, I'm quite a catch myself!).
Last fall, Mr. JP started responding to the calls. We attended the major conference for our discipline, and we networked as a couple. By the end of the conference, we had a good feel from friends and colleagues on who was interested in the two of us. We narrowed down the list of possible universities, and Mr. JP sent off his application. He listed me as his wife under "Personal Information" on his CV. I did not apply to any place formally. My old PhD adviser said that it would reflect badly upon me and my current institution if I were to send out apps. After all, these places were recruiting Mr. JP, not me. Our institution of choice invited Mr. JP out to give a seminar, and then invited me out for a "special seminar" the next week. Both seminars were covert interviews. We then had a second visit for the "official interview" - this time joint.
From my side, the interview process was deja vu from three years ago when I was on the market. This time, I knew what to say. At first, people were treating warily as a trailing spouse, but their demeanor changed for the better after I had a chance to "prove myself." During my research presentation for the faculty, I pretty much interviewed myself, saying, "I know you are going to ask me how I'm different from my advisers, where I'm applying for funding, blah, blah, blah." And then I addressed each point. I was relaxed because I could always return to status quo, what did I have to lose?
By the beginning of the second visit, we were negotiating our start-ups. I simply wanted a start-up comparable to what I currently had (which is ridiculously large). I got it. I wanted my tenure clock reset - got it. I wanted lots of student and post-doc support - got it. I got all of it and more. My lab space doubled. My student office space doubled. I have a matching funds program. I am starting my career all over again, but there is no reason I shouldn't succeed at this new place.
Not once did I mention my RA. I don't think it relevant to the hiring process. When I arrive, I'll talk with the chair and explain that I need more flexibility for when I am unexpectedly sick. All I need is TA support to help with classes, ergonomic tools, less service work, and whatever else equates with the situation. I will also go to the office of disability at the new place to get myself documented. I'm excited about going to this new university, because I have a greater chance to socially make an impact. There are far more students at the new place, so I have a greater opportunity to mentor aspiring impared and women scientists.
My PhD and post-doc advisers were key in making this work. They knew the situation before we started interviewing, and they were prepared to write letters all over again. They guided me in how to navigate the process the second time around, and their advice was sound. I owe them some flowers. Or a cheese log.