The Job Search in France – Part II

Fig 1. Lots of hallways to get lost in.
Fig 1. Lots of hallways to get lost in.

So, after writing the last blog post, futzing, practicing my talk, calling home, saving my talk as a PDF, remembering semi-transparent layers in PowerPoint don’t save properly as PDF, fixing the whole talk again, and then saving the files twice, to two different memory sticks, I headed out to the UPMC. The building itself is one giant interconnected set of hallways, all raised up in the air, and all under construction (apparently), but I got to walk to it through the beautiful botanical gardens (once I got out of an alleyway I inadvertently got myself locked into).

The Botanic Gardens in the 5th Arrondissment just before a storm blows over them.
The Botanic Gardens in the 5th Arrondissment just before a storm blows over them.

So I arrived at the site of the interview about 20 minutes ahead of time, just incase there was last minute paperwork or anything. It was a pretty nondescript room in the hallway of a geosciences department (from what I could tell), the two other candidates scheduled in the same block as I was were already there waiting. The jury gets a break just before each session, so before we got started they all came out. They were very nice, an represented a broad cross-section in terms of disciplines.

I was the second to go in, I just had to show my drivers license (in case I had sent a ringer in my place), sign a paper, and then I was off. 12 minutes and a couple seconds later I was done. I answered my questions in English, but was able to answer questions asked in French (thankfully). And then, after 15 minutes. . . pouf! Done.

It was strangely anti-climatic. There were answers I wanted to explore more, but obviously, there was one other candidate waiting, and I’m sure the jury wanted to go eat dinner, or just sleep!

So that’s it. In a week or so we’ll find out. Had I applied for other sessions this all would have been more complicated. Section 52, the interdisciplinary (human, nature, climate) section doesn’t meet for another two weeks, so it makes coming for an interview much more difficult if you are not on the Continent. I had intended to apply for two sections next year, but I think I might keep it to a minimum, if I do apply again. It’s very difficult to take this much time away from family, friends and work, even if it is, effectively, work-related.

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Assistant scientist in the Department of Geography at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Studying paleoecology and the challenges of large data synthesis.

4 thoughts on “The Job Search in France – Part II”

  1. I am a CNRS researcher in France — originally American, recruited in 1994, but actually have dual nationality and have lots of French experience like doing a French postdoc. It was brave and original of you to go through the CNRS application as a foreigner. Something that is hypocritically not made clear AT ALL in the instructions is that the job is going to you AND to the lab. Your destination lab basically has to sponsor you, to let it be known that they want you to come above all other possible candidates this year and for a few years to come. Your research proposal has to fit in with the lab — to be something that they do, but that they need your additional skills to help them accomplish. And the lab has to be deemed worthy of getting a CNRS researcher that year — it has to be of sufficiently high quality and to be “due” for a CNRS position, i.e. not to have gotten too many CNRS researchers in the recent past. The documentation makes it look as though it is a contest among individuals, but it is only very partially that. You had French contacts, yes, but did your destination lab do everything possible to communicate to CNRS that they wanted you — you and only you? I have not been on the lab side of CNRS decisions, so I am not sure of exactly how this is done, but it is absolutely necessary. I applied three times, the first time myself, like you, and the second and third times coordinating very closely with a lab, so as to write the right kind of research proposal. It is a very hypocritical exercise, in my opinion. I mean, the people who get CNRS jobs, especially nowadays when the competition is high and many more outsiders are recruited, are almost all very good, but the application process is not transparent and fair. It’s a wonderful job, though, I consider myself to be extremely lucky.

    1. Thanks, and thanks for re-posting! I agree, there is lots that isn’t apparent when you first apply, but the benefits of the position really are great, even if salary is a fairly common complaint.

      I knew that there were people ahead of me, but at the same time, you can’t get in the queue if you don’t go. So it was a good dry run, and I hope by writing about it, and through your excellent comment,some more people give it a shot. It was a great experience, and a great opportunity if (and hopefully when) it works out.

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