Thursday, May 31, 2007


Greetings from Finland... I'm just out of the demonstration lecture, having coffee at the university cafe. I'm drained and exhausted, partly due to the stress that is slowly releasing its grip and partly due to not having slept much last night.

The trip started ominously by the Stansted train breaking at Cambridge station. There was luckily another, slower train connection to the airport, and luckily things went smoothly at the airport and so there was no problem making it to the flight. Unfortunately I had to overturn my promises of never flying Ryanair again, but I blame shortage of funds and decision taken by the uni here for not reimbursing my travel expenses. Some universities do pay the travel expenses of the shortlisted applicants, but that is not the case here. Perhaps because there is no shortlist, and they are required to invite everyone who is even remotely qualified to come and give a demo lecture. I was the only non-local in this selection but I suppose it is a matter of principle.

Speaking of principles, seeing the application process from this side, it looks deeply flawed. I'm decidedly writing this before I know of the outcome so that it doesn't sound like sour grapes or simply pointless (touching wood...). The overriding principle in the process is objectivity. I always thought this was a good thing, and I understand the logic behind it (this should also lead to maximum transparency and no corruption). For this reason, the decisions are mostly based on past merits, and mostly those that can be easily quantified and "objectively" documented. Publication record is one of these important factors. Teaching matters as well, which is why I'm here today. The weird thing is though, that no interaction is allowed in the lecture. And more importantly, there is no interview. Who selects future employees without interviewing them first? The Finnish universities, that's who. It's so difficult to make sure that the interview is fair and the same fo all applicants, so even in those rare where interviews take place, they are structured and usually one person just reads the pre-written questions and the applicant answers them.

It feels weird (although probably because I study what I do) that the purpose is to strip the selection process of all interaction, when in Real Life that is one of the most important things that effect a workplace.

So, how did it go, then, I hear you ask. Yes, I've delayed answering that question because I don't really know. The lecture is 20 minutes, and in the last rehearsal it took me 30 minutes to get through. So I decided to skip one thing and speed up the beginning to get to the end in time, but this speeding up didn't really work. I had planned a 50-50 split of general and specific stuff, but it was more 75% general drivel and only 25% beef. Not really happy about how that panned out. Also, there were smart points to make and witty remarks to crack smiles on the stony faces of the board that I simply forgot.

I used to say that sleep is the best preparation. I still believe it is true, as a rested mind functions better than an overtrained and -strained one. But as always, I'm better at giving advice than taking it (even my own).

So, I'm not really relieved and satisfied, but somehow a bit happy that it is now over. I'm soon off to home and to the cottage, looking forward to sauna, nature and those kinds of things.

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