Knowing what you don’t know

Knowing what you don’t know is almost as important as knowing what you know, and knowing the stuff that you know. Corollary: realize you’re not going to know everything, so stop beating yourself up about it.

Friends has a postdoc. Postdoc did a grad student rotation with me yonks ago. Then student, now postdoc, did not fit my lab. I saw a BSD in the making, and was too caught up in other issues to want to take him on as a project for the betterment of all peoplekind. Now he is busy applying those nacent traits to finding a job. Friend is pulling what little is left of hair out, I dodged the bullet.

Biggest proplem: postdoc doesn’t know what he knows. He is busy requesting letters of reference when the job ad explicitly asks only for names of referees. He figures that they will be so impressed by his letters that he ought to send them. He doesn’t know job searches.

Despite all the talk on the web about who and what gets jobs, there are still subfields where the pool is still small, and you can’t publish in Cell (paleontology, evolutionary biology, ecology, evodevo, comparative physiology, anatomy, etc) (and besides everyone knows that the paleontology that gets published in NS are “new fossils”, preferably in the human lineage, dinosaurs, or first mammals, first snake, first bat) (and most people recognize that finding fossils is not the same thing as  doing science). The number of applicants is such that none have glamour pubs, and that looking for a specific match (invertebrate ecologist who can collaborate with tropical rainforest plant ecologist) with solid pubs is the key criterion.

The postdoc doesn’t get this either.


One thought on “Knowing what you don’t know

  1. Pingback: Difficult Chairs and Difficult Faculty | Mistress of the Animals

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