Choose your own adventurePosted: August 26, 2012
I know there are many opinions on this, but I’m never sure where the consensus is, or if there is one, or if it would be useful for there to be one. The 2-body problem comes in many forms, in my case it is a natural scientist and a social scientist. In some ways, I think this is better: the same department wouldn’t have to come up with 2 jobs. On the other hand, at many places, natural and social sciences are under different Deaneries, which then becomes more complex. Or simpler. One of the two. It would be difficult to convince me there are any patterns in these things – it is probably all particular circumstances. Anyway, this all needs to be broken down into very specific decisions about when to broach the topic with a prospective employer.
1. At an institution where there is a job listed that is appropriate for one of us, bring up 2-body stuff…
A. Cover letter. Trailing spouse contacts relevant department (without a job posted) at the same time.
B. Shortlist. BTW, here is my brilliant spouse’s CV, who should s/he contact?
C. Offer. Awesome, I would love to come but we need to discuss my brilliant spouse first…
2. Where there are jobs listed that are appropriate for both of us (n=1), bring up 2-body stuff….
A. Cover letters. PS: Spouse is applying for position X and we both love a skyline with grain elevators.
B. Shortlist. I can’t wait to see the grain elevators. BTW, we’re also waiting to hear from Dept. X re: spouse.
For #2, I think the earlier the better? Maybe the relevant departments could confer and shortlist both or neither. Otherwise, what if just one I shortlisted? You bring it up later and expect the other department to retroactively shortlist someone they passed over? Sounds like trouble.
#1 is harder. From the institution’s point of view, the earlier the better if they would seriously consider making a position for the spouse. But you don’t want a search committee thinking either a) This is going to be a pain in the ass or b) S/he probably won’t come if there isn’t a spousal position, so why bother.
The truth is, we would consider a place where there is a job for just for one, because we have both made peace with the high likelihood of non-academic futures. That doesn’t make it easy or not fraught with anxiety and guilt. And that doesn’t mean it’s a good strategy to let any prospective employer know this.