Well, things seem to have changed. I now have a number of options (not totally set in stone, but good leads), and I'm utterly confused. Since I had to scrap my way to get some of these chances, in order to avoid cognitive dissonance I convinced myself that those chances were actually awesome opportunities to try something new. So now I have tons of good reasons to do everything on my "leads" list and I am terrified of making a massive career mistake because these jobs are all SO DIFFERENT.
Let me explain. If you have been in the world much longer than me, I'd appreciate any advice, assurance that picking the "wrong" job here will not ruin my life, etc.
Original two leads:
1) One extreme end of a spectrum which I do not have the commodity training for.
Pros: It would involve getting my hands dirty at deep levels of Widget production, and could probably increase my understanding of final products.
Cons: However, I don't actually know anything about Widget production except at intellectual levels, and these Widgets are pretty narrow in scope and applicability. Plus, I doubt I'd be doing any research here - my research career probably ends here. So I'm thinking this has moved to the bottom of my list. I might even want to cancel my onsite interview with them?? I'd have to study for it, and I don't know if I want to, now that I seem to have other options.
Confounding factor: Also, this is ~2 hrs drive from hubby.
2) The other extreme end of a spectrum, which I have sloppy commodity training for. In other words, I was never trained for Skill X, but I had to learn it in order to do my research so I am reasonably competent at it. But not a ninja.
Pros: This company loves PhDs, but kind of like the way consulting companies love PhDs - for the brains, not the specific knowledge. This presents an interesting opportunity to get out of my trained field. Part of me thinks this is a good idea, because this is a boom skill - and having worked here would be a major boon for my resume if I ever wanted to work anywhere in this subfield, I would think.
I think I would be commoditizing myself. Part of me thinks commoditizing my skills, i.e. beefing up a resume that says, "Skills: A, B, C, and D" that would pass company keyword checks, would be a good idea, because in this tough economy I have had a hard time finding research jobs at first, and I don't pass a lot of keyword tests. Plus, at this place I think I'd have a lot of exposure to LOTS of stuff I don't know about - it's a vibrant place to be.
Cons: I think I would be commoditizing myself. I am going to have a freakin PhD, and I don't want to be competing with people over fucking resume keyword tests. Right? I don't know. Part of me thinks knowing about more things closer to the "real world" than academia would make me a better researcher, but part of me is worried about losing my research edge.
Confounding factors: In terms of life, this would be a good option. This could be a place to just have a career and forget about research entirely, go to my job, come home to Mr. Phizz, be near my friends, my sister, and more friends. The quality of life here would probably be pretty good for those reasons. Maybe I do just want to drop out of the research rat race and have a fun and interesting job.
1) Postdocing with a mentor.
Pros: This is an amazing opportunity - it's not certain but possible that NSF funds from the stimulus package could be used for this. This mentor of mine would be an incredible mentor, an incredible advocate for me, and incredible in lots of ways. This mentor believes in me, supports me, wants to help me. This could lead to a fantastic letter if I ever wanted an R1 job later. This is not common.
Cons: I don't know if I want an R1 job anymore. Something in me changed after my last trip to give a talk at an R1. There's a lot of bullshit in academia. In industry too, of course, but lots in academia. I've been reading papers lately and it just all seems like a crock of crap. Interesting ideas that are actually useless. Getting published. For what? For the sake of getting published. Of course, not everyone plays this game, but lots do. And I don't feel like getting into it.
Plus, honestly blogosphere, I get a bad feeling sometimes reading all y'alls blogs. I now think of academia as stress, more stress, grant writing, dealing with assholes, dealing with stupid students and their stupid emails, and basically a piss-poor quality of life. The only person who seems to have a positive:negative post ratio significantly > 1 is Arlenna, and it just sounds like she had the luck to get into a fantastic department.
So if I don't want an R1 job, this doesn't seem to make much sense, right? The minimal paycheck...plus the mentor would be on sabbatical for most of it, this is just a reach-out to try to help me, Mentor doesn't actually need a post-doc.
Confounding factors: This would be 3 train rides or 3 hrs drive from hubby.
2) Big Industrial Lab. I got a ping from a guy I know asking if I am going to apply.
Pros: This would be pretty prestigious and awesome, good research lab, good resources, good resume builder. Probably lots of interesting work, lots of exposure to other subfields. Good company too - benefits, pay, perks, etc.
Cons: The main business of Company attached to Industrial Lab does not have anything to do with my subfield. I'd probably basically be leaving behind my subfield here - could be Modified Impostor Syndrome but now that I'm almost finished, I realize I don't actually know anything about my subfield because there is so much to know. And so going somewhere as Subfield Expert when I don't feel like an expert feels premature.
Also, could be tough to work for this guy. We're friends, but I don't know - my advisor is laid back. I get the sense he isn't. Big personality, really fun. But as a boss? Not certain. This is pure speculation from hints of hearsay.
Confounding factors: This would be on other side of the country.
3) An internship/possible full-time at Industrial Lab right up my alley. Part of why I bitterly complained before is because everything right up my alley was not hiring. That's still the case, but the powers that be think that an internship could lead more easily to a full-time offer, so that's what this is about.
Pros: This is right up my alley. They want to see how my thesis applies in the real world. They might want to put it into Final Products. Damn - I mean, that's huge. Isn't it? It feels huge. Most theses get put into some archive, never to be thought of again. So this is exciting. And they really want me there. They do - this is what I thought a job search would be like - they told me straight up "you don't need to interview, nothing, we have no problems with you whatsoever, we are doing what we can to get you here." THAT is what I was expecting coming out of my degree.
This is a small-ish company, and I get the sense that here, I'd really get to be Subfield Expert because that's the business of this place. I'd get to know whatever I wanted to know, REALLY, about how shit works. That's appealing to me.
Cons: For the internship I'd have to go way away for the summer, and leave Mr. Phizz for several months :(. And of course - with no full-time offer right now....????
This company is a serious underdog. I am not certain of its long-term potential, and certain things like pay, benefits, maternity leaves, perks, etc. are not going to be as great.
This is right up my alley, but I am concerned of now becoming pigeonholed. I thought of all those other jobs as opportunities to branch out and know about other things, at the expense of leaving Subfield "unfinished." This is the opposite. Not only would I be deep into Subfield, but I'd be deep into SubSubfield - and I don't know if that's the best thing??
Confounding factors: The full-time, if it panned out, would be 2 hrs from hubby.
I am planning to take internship - industrializing my thesis just sounds too awesome to pass up. But I worry that it will jeopardize my finishing my degree sometime in the next decade, and I worry that if I decide I don't want this full-time it will be hard to extricate myself. I am trying to tell myself that as long as I am honest and a straight-shooter, no one will blame me for doing what is best for me when I decide it, and I should not worry about offending anyone, ever, when it comes to job selection.
My choices seem to come down to these axes:
Increasing commodity skills vs. increasing depth of knowledge about my subfield.
Big Perk/Big Company vs. Smaller.
Research vs. Non-research.
Life quality vs. doing what I was trained for.
I so don't know what I should be doing. I know it's up to me to decide what I want, and then it will all be obvious. But it's not clear right now. Sigh.