Learning to Negotiate
When it rains, it pours, or so Morton Salt always claimed.
I just returned from another interview this afternoon and I am pleased to report that I was hired for an Adjunct position for the first term of summer semester. I will be teaching Anatomy and Physiology I again, but this time, I will be teaching at a different community college than the one where I currently work.
Last week, when I told my fellow Adjuncts that I had an interview with this particular school, they informed me that this school is probably as bad as the school where I currently teach (in terms of poor faculty support and few resources), so I was not very excited about this position.
It's just a survival job, I reminded myself as I wandered around the building before my scheduled interview. But when I walked down a short hallway, I unexpectedly found a glass display case full of zoological specimens in jars of alcohol. So even then, I began to suspect this employer might be different from my current employer, whose hallways and classrooms are devoid of such biological wonders.
Even when I emerged from the subway station, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the commute was very fast. I also discovered that the building is fairly new and the school primarily serves Spanish speaking adults. As a single blonde woman, I am very unusual here, even among the faculty. Nevertheless, I am untroubled by my minority status because I am also a minority in my own neighborhood, which consists mainly of Dominican immigrants.
As I walked in to the conference room where the interview took place, I met one of my fellow Adjuncts who had recommended me for this position to the department chairman a few weeks ago. After a several minutes of good-natured joking with him, the panel invited me into the conference room for the interview. I was pleased to find that the faculty are quite friendly and helpful -- a sharp contrast with my current employer -- and the interview went very well (no one asked me to name any muscles, for example).
Because I am still frustrated by the poor resources available to my current students, I remained skeptical and tried to ask every difficult question that I could think of. When I asked about dissections (as you know, this is a real point of frustration), the three faculty exchanged quick glances before naming which dissections they routinely provide to their students. These turned out to be more dissections than what my current students have.
The Department Chairman, also a member of the interview panel, had clearly decided he wanted to hire me before I had even walked through the door. He jumped in to tell me that a previous class had not used all their piglets so my students were welcome to dissect them. I was extraordinarily pleased with this very small victory on behalf of my potential students, realizing that I had accidentally accomplished something very important for them before the formal letter of offering had even been written. The panel then encouraged me to bring in dead birds or other animals for the students to dissect, if I had the opportunity to do so.
This short, casual exchange was enormously instructive: suddenly my eyes were opened to the power that I wielded at that moment. The panel clearly wanted me and were willing to provide my potential students with special favors to get me to teach for them. Until this moment, I had no clue that these sorts of negotiations occurred behind the scenes, but from now on, I will anticipate such negotiations in all of my interviews. Thanks to this one interview, I learned something very important today and hopefully, all of my future students will learn more from me as a result.
Certainly, this was a victory, but it would not be my last today. At the conclusion of the interview, the Department Chairman surprised me by declaring that I was currently not being paid enough, and offered me a $10.79 raise per contact hour (note: "contact hours" are not the same as hours worked. I typically work 3-4 additional hours for each paid contact hour). It hadn't occurred to me to ask for anything for myself, so I was surprised and grateful that the faculty were thinking about me. This raise will help me survive that looming dry spell of unemployment in August and September following the first summer term. Since the second term of summer semester is devoted to teaching non-science subjects, there will be no Adjunct science teaching positions available then and even worse, the demand for science tutors -- one of the other ways I earn a few dollars to keep myself fed -- also dries up.
So now I wait for the paperwork. For those of you out there who are keeping score on my job hunting successes, my current employment status for the near future appears to be;
Summer semester, term I: 6 weeks of Adjunct employment, teaching A&P I (contract pending).
Summer semester, term II: unemployed, hopefully receiving the last of my Unemployment Benefits earned from my postdoctoral fellowship (I can claim these benefits for one calendar year from my last paid day from my postdoc).
Autumn semester: two different Adjunct positions at two fine institutions, one will be teaching A&P I (I told you about this yesterday) and the other will be teaching genetics (both contracts pending). Both of these institutions claim that they want me to apply for a junior-level tenure-track position that opens up sometime this autumn.
Spring semester: Unknown at this point. I am preparing to interview for a spring semester lecturer position that, if I get it, will provide the best pay I've earned since my postdoc ended and will be with the best school I've taught at so far. If I get this position, I will be mightily tempted to tell you who I am teaching for because I will so want to brag about it.
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