I really like Matthew Baldwin’s site Tricks of the Trade, which is a repository for tips and hints that most of us would never think of, but that people in specific professions have come across. For instance, not long ago there was a tip about cat’s whiskers and thin sectioning which I will be passing on to my colleagues at work (just as soon as I collect up a few of KC’s whiskers).
I have to say, though, that the latest trick is just plain bad advice:
If there is a job announcement for a position you’d really like, but it’s in another city, arrange your travel schedule so you “just happen to be in the neighborhood” prior to the application deadline. Set up an appointment to visit the department and pretend you don’t know about the job opening.
Try your best, during the course of conversation, to get the department chair or someone influential to tell you about the new position and they’ll probably suggest that you apply for it. Sound really interested, ask them what they’re looking for, and make it seem that you never would have applied for the job if this person hadn’t made this request of you.
For the price of an airline ticket, you’ve gone from “just a name” on an application to a familiar face that was personable and open to suggestions from faculty members. Also, the colleague who suggested the job to you will feel somewhat responsible to be sure your application gets considered attention.
It’s a good thing for Barbara, who submitted this, that Matthew doesn’t publish contact info or last names. This is advice to lie, plain and simple. It’s worse than that: not only is it unethical advice, it’s wrong and foolish. It’s not at all common for strangers to “drop in” on a research department with whom they have no connection, even if the stranger in question is a scientist working in a similar field. It will trigger spidey-senses all over, and unless you’re a much better actor than most people, the fact that you’re visiting on false pretenses is going to be pretty obvious. Moreover, your chances of “dropping in” on “the department chair or someone influential” are approximately zero unless it’s a fully-tenured position you’re trying to sneak into. These are busy people. They probably won’t suggest you apply for it, either, unless you’ve made it clear you’re looking for a job — in which case you’ve “blown your cover”. Finally, suppose you do get the job — you’ll be working with people from whom you have to keep a secret, one about which you presumably, since you’re the type to do this in the first place, feel pretty smug. How long before you screw yourself (don’t think for a moment that faculty will forgive such a thing when your first tenure application comes around).
This may or may not be useful advice for other fields, but it’s labelled “scientist” — for which field it’s frankly idiotic. If you want a job in science, just apply for it. If you’re willing to pay for a plane ticket and put aside time to attend an interview, so much the better — if you’re at all an attractive candidate, that willingness will only push you further up the shortlist.