The Job Interview: Part 2

Last week, I shared with you the beginnings of my job interview in Wyoming. Today, I want to highlight some of the things that took place including:

  • my reception
  • the job talk
  • my tour of the local medical facilities

The Reception

I have to admit it. I felt a little fancy-pants when I learned that my first evening was going to be spent at my own reception. I was also terrified because who am I to get a reception??? But it turned out to be a lot of fun. I was blown away that they had the entire thing catered vegetarian. I had explained I didn’t eat meat. I didn’t assume they would cater the entire thing without meat. I saw this as an incredibly polite and meaningful gesture (and the food was delicious!).

The reception was held at the University of Wyoming’s Literacy Research Center and Clinic. I don’t know how long it lasted. I mingled with doctoral students and other faculty. That was it. Everyone was very laid back and nice. It was a great way to get to meet a bunch of people at once and for a bunch of people to meet me.

The First Full Day: A Warning of Things to Come

laramieAt breakfast Thursday morning, I was warned to be careful about altitude sickness. Here’s a fact you might not know about Laramie – they sit at around 7200 feet also know as being at altitude. I was already aware of altitude sickness having gotten it once in my twenties (when I didn’t even know what it was, what I was doing, and was running around in the Rockies immediately upon arrival). However, I’d been to this exact altitude, and higher, since then. I used common sense and was always fine.

I wasn’t concerned about getting sick. I’d started hydrating the day before. I wasn’t doing any significant exercise. The only thing I was doing was walking from A to B and that never took more than five minutes.

And still…it came.

I started to show symptoms at my first meeting between 9:00-10:00, and I knew exactly what was happening. It started with a light headache that would flit in and out. I also knew I was in trouble when I thought crawling up onto the table in the meeting room and taking a nap sounded like a reasonable idea.

I.Am.In.Trouble.

No….I got this. I can do this. I kept drinking my water and going to meetings. Symptoms seemed to not get too much worse. The fact that I was drinking so much water was far more annoying.

But if I’m being honest, by lunch time I had lost my appetite. I got a salad because I thought I could push it around my plate and get away with eating very little of it. And then, before I knew it, it was time to do my job talk. That’s right. I did my job talk with altitude sickness.

The Job Talk

I wrote a little bit about my job talk, and my approach to it, in a previous post (no one knew because I didn’t link it to Wyoming). In designing my talk, I decided that I didn’t want to give a traditional one. I figured that everyone there knew I could do research. I assumed they even liked my research or else I wouldn’t be there. No one needed me to demonstrate that I could collect data or had a theoretical framework.

So I thought – and I just made this up myself – that if I was going to be interviewing for an endowed chair position that I should step it up a notch and just skip the usual approach.

I set my talk up around the phrase Tell Their Stories, and I used it to discuss the responsibilities we have when we use data to tell the stories of others. I then shared stories based on data I had collected over the years. These stories were grouped around three main themes. I included stories from a variety of participants. I ended by saying the following:

It is my responsibility to tell the stories of others. And it is a responsibility we all share. No matter what kind of research you do, no matter what kinds of methods you use, you are telling their stories. Tell them well.

Now, when I conceptualized and wrote this up I thought I just had the best idea in the world. Then I stood up in front of everyone and freaked out because oh my god…this was a horrible idea…why did i not just do the normal job talk…what was i thinking????

But everything worked out. I was later told that the talk was “well received,” but I never got too much into what people thought about it. I was going down.

Let’s Take a Trip to the ER!

Somehow, I made it through the entire day, and my job talk, without collapsing or so much as sending out a signal that I was battling altitude sickness. I thought if I could get to my room and lay down I would be ok. Surely I just needed a nap. Finally, I copped to my problem. We cancelled the tour of the town along with dinner. I convinced the chair that despite how pathetic I might look I just needed to go back to my room. I did, and an hour later I was calling her to come get me and take me to the hospital.

Getting to the hospital required me to go to the hotel lobby. In no way could I do that. First, I needed to be supervised on my way from my room to the lobby. Things had gotten pretty bad. Second, there was a restaurant down there and no way could I sit in the lobby and smell food. And finally, I was sure I was gonna barf at any moment.

A cone would also have worked.
A cone would also have worked.

The chair comes to my room to escort me (and my trash can) down to her car. The hospital is really just around the corner. The ER waiting room is empty (thank you God). I sit at the check in area and get a proper vomit bag. As I am answering questions I realize that I am going to throw up. Not wanting to throw up in front of the person checking me in, I turn to my left (away from her) and throw up in the bag they gave me.

And I threw up about three feet away from the search committee chair. She held out her hand and directed me to hand her the bag.

I just did it. I had no strength to argue.

And before I knew it I was back in a room hooked up to an IV and passed out and being given oxygen. Occasionally a nurse would come by and try to get me to pee in a cup. I would yell, “No!” and then pass back out.

I wasn’t getting up for that. Not at all.

After about three hours we determined I was feeling much better and could leave. I got some anti-nausea pills for the road and was on my way back to the hotel in significantly better condition.

The Last Day

The last day went off without incident. I had my meeting with the dean (who noted that most people just have to move somewhere and hope the medical facilities are ok instead of getting to check them out first hand), and I lead a one hour discussion section with doctoral students. The discussion was observed by at least four faculty members. This might sound nerve wracking. It had freaked me out when I first heard about it. But after the vomiting and what not I was super laid back and mellowed out. My appetite returned, and I had plenty of anti-nausea pills to get me through the day. I really only needed one first thing in the morning, but they were nice to have when my plane hit turbulence on the way home (my stomach was not up for that).

So home I went wondering what to make of this entire experience. Wondering what everyone else had made of the whole thing. Wondering if I’d be the only candidate to throw up in the direction of the search committee chair….

But I knew one thing. I wanted this job. I knew it with all my heart. I knew it before I got out there. I knew it before I left. As far as the job goes – we’ll just set that little trip to the ER aside – the stars aligned. I thought it was perfect, and I hoped they thought I was perfect too.