03 December 2013

The hunt for a paycheck

a job update for me:

so, in august, once i had finished the project i was working on from my canada boss, i promptly emailed something like 10 people/leads. i hadnt found any concrete, specific job positions to apply for, i was just openly asking people about jobs or advice. most of what i heard back was that budgets werent there to hire anyone though they would be interested in someone with my skills. two people wrote back with potential further leads: a job opening that fit my skill set, and a potential use for me in a professors research group (he didnt get back to me until much later, see far below).

the job opening was for a project coordinator at the finnish institute of molecular medicine (FIMM). the project aimed to catalogue as much of the genetic variation of the finnish people as possible. i wrote the cover letter and sent in my stuff in early september, but the open application time didnt end until the end of the month. a couple days before the application period ended i heard from them that i got an interview, set for two weeks later.

the interview was interesting. things definitely proceed differently in this country than the US. the first words out of the lady who met me in the lobby were 'weve been very busy lately with all these interviews'. oh, okay. glad to know the process is very transparent, but it seemed a little intimidating. then i met with the two lead researchers (one got his PhD at UM) and another PhD researcher. they were all very kind and friendly. after telling me about the job, they let me tell them about myself. there were no 'what are your strengths/weaknesses' questions or 'tell us why we should choose you over another candidate' or anything where they were trying to quiz me on my knowledge, or any power plays of any kind. it felt much more like a date, like they were trying to see if we would work well together, if, mutually, we could benefit each other and be happy. at the end of the interview they said it would take another 3 weeks before they would notify people. damn, they must have been interviewing dozens of people!

in the mean time, i found a posting for a job position at the THL (basically their national health research institute) for a temporary researcher on youth health data. it seemed cool, i was perhaps a bit under-qualified for it (i think you needed a PhD) but i applied. the job application deadline was the next day, so i had to hand deliver my application (im not eligible to apply on-line), so that was a little nerve-wracking.

alas, by mid-november it appeared that both job options were dead for me (though i hadnt officially heard from either), so i signed up for a month long, everyday, all day (9a-2p) class of beginners finnish. well, at least i will have slightly advanced myself in something by the years end.

my next idea is to work unpaid for one of three research groups at the university that do work i have skills for (alcohol research, social inequalities, and genetics), and hope that, in time, there will be money for me. i sent emails out accordingly.

well, two weeks in to my finnish course, a sociology/public health researcher i had previously emailed (see beginning of entry) contacted me and agreed to meet and discuss research projects with me. he is the head of a large research unit but was friendly and approachable. while a busy man, he sat for 1.5 hours with me at a cafe. at the end it still wasnt clear what i could expect in the way of an end result (could i hope for a paid job one day if i did an unpaid project? would i feel pressured to get a PhD?). i was a bit frustrated to realize i would have to start confused, uncomfortable and at the bottom of the research world here. but, after a day of moping, i pulled it together and got to reading the research papers he had sent me in order to help me narrow down my areas of interest. heres hoping for some good things for 2014. im motivated.

**side note: along the way here, ive gotten what feels to be the overarching message that people with masters degrees here usually proceed on to PhDs (at least in the health field). whereas in the US there is a definite use and job market for people with masters degrees in public health, here they dont seem to know what to do with it. i dont want to feel pressure to get a PhD just because those are the only paying jobs/programs. blah. and...hello, there must be a bottleneck in the job system somewhere, once these people are done with their PhDs they want to be employed somewhere right...? well, i eventually heard back from that THL job, 28 people had applied! and like i said, from that FIMM genetics job i got the impression that dozens of people were interviewing for that job, and that many were PhD or post-doc level people. but, i will not be bullied into a higher degree. i'll just get more information on what my options are and find a way to make a place for myself. only IF it feels right and desirable to get a PhD would i choose that path, and previously and currently that is not a goal or desire of mine.**

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