Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Two Body Problem: Cultural Differences?

Sometime last year, we had a great discussion in this post about whether it's better for an academic couple to be upfront about the fact that they are both looking for academic jobs at the same institution (as opposed to, say, applying as individuals in the hope that things will somehow work out). Many people were of the opinion that it was better to be candid about the "second body" right at the time of applying for the job.

That was in the Indian context. Would this advice hold in other job markets as well?

I just read a similar discussion -- the problem is the same (i.e., when is a good time to disclose the "second body"?), but the context is American. The difference is pretty stark: many commenters there appear to share the view of gerty-z, the author of the post, that the candidate has to wait until an offer is in hand before bringing up the second body. Here is the advice, in gerty-z's words:

Here is what I would advise my hypothetical postdoc: Bring up the second-body the minute you have an offer, and not a second sooner. At that point, the faculty has decided they REALLY want to hire you. There is incentive to "solve" the "problem". Instead of just avoid it.

The US laws prohibit personal questions about the candidate's spouse (and about many other things, including the candidate's age); they don't, however, do a good job of preventing people from prying / spying -- one of the commenters there says she "was quizzed once by the chair's wife while we were sightseeing post-formal-interview"!

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Update: Just a couple of links suggested by commenters in two previous posts on this topic:

  1. Coming as a Pair: Finding Jobs and Managing Careers in India by Jonaki Sen (who is a faculty member in the Department of Biological sciences and Bioengineering at IIT-K) at the India Bioscience website.

  2. Love and the Two Body Problem (published in 2001 in Physics World -- free registration required).