I last wrote about the ongoing and slow-going job search two months ago, in the aftermath of an interview in southern Maryland. Since then, I'm in roughly the same place, but dealing with an entirely different set of people -- and happy to be doing so.
At the Maryland interview at Calvert Cliffs, I was told that they'd have a decision shortly after Thanksgiving. They didn't. I e-mailed them on December 3 about expense reimbursement, and they said they'd have their decisions make that week. By the evening of December 7, I had heard nothing but silence, and it was one of those moments that really tested the resolve of my diet. I was seriously considering picking up a six or twelve pack of beer from the supermarket and just binging out. I opted instead for a couple of scoops of ice cream, which were sufficient to settle me down.
Also on December 3, I heard back from Nine Mile Point near Oswego, New York, wanting to schedule an interview. Nine Mile Point and Calvert Cliffs are both operated by Constellation Energy Nuclear Group, and I felt it necessary to have the hiring managers at both plants know that I was simultaneously engaged with them both. I was asked whether I preferred upstate New York or Maryland; I opted for the former, having previously lived there. At this point, the communication between the plants, and between each plant and me, got very disjointed. I assumed they were on the same page, which wasn't the case at all. On the 13th, I contacted Calvert Cliffs to attempt to move things forward, and after a couple of fits and starts, I was given an okay to interview at Nine Mile Point. When I was asked for my preference, I figured -- correctly, as it turned out -- that I was being asked to pick which applicant pool I wished to remain in. By picking Lake Ontario over the Chesapeake Bay, I was ending my candidacy at Calvert Cliffs, though I thought my interview there had gone better than some of the others.
Finally, on December 19, I drove up to Oswego, and interviewed at Nine Mile Point the next day. It was a short interview, and not much different from any of the others I'd had to that point. I was told that they expected to have decisions made by January 2. When the day after New Year's came and went without any notice, I started to become concerned. On one hand, they were clear about that date. On the other, they had not said that they wouldn't contact me in the event they weren't making me an offer. And since Calvert Cliffs had remained silent while they still were deliberating, I didn't know what to make of the lack of a response from upstate. I didn't want to communicate that I was expecting them to pick up the pace, but by January 8, I'd reasoned that it had gone on long enough. I checked in with Nine Mile Point (piggybacked with checking up on the expense reimbursement from that interview), and an hour later, they said they hadn't selected me. Oh, well. At least, thanks to having driven to both those interviews and the distance involved, I turned a bit of a profit on each.
But wait, there's more! The Friday before New Year's, the phone lit up with a number in the 623 area code. That's Phoenix, and it probably meant Palo Verde. That's the largest nuclear power plant in the United States, and the only one that doesn't sit adjacent to a natural body of water. I'd submitted my résumé months ago for a posting clearly marked "future opportunity." Apparently, the start of 2013 was the future. I spent most of last week out there; flew out Tuesday, back Friday, and spent Wednesday and Thursday in various interviews. That was the first sign that this would be different than the other places I'd visited; by contrast, I spent less than two hours at Nine Mile Point. I met with several different operations personnel, one of the heads of operations training, and finally with the site vice president on Thursday afternoon. I was impressed with the way things were done out there; the interviewers were very candid about past deficiencies (one said that many years ago, they'd gotten so good at operating the plant that they were reading their own press clippings, and thus had gotten complacent). Another thing they were very open about was ensuring not only that I'm the right fit for them, but that Palo Verde and the Valley of the Sun are right for me. I knew I had to be especially concerned about this, as I'd never visited the Phoenix area before. Nothing about my experience out there dissuaded me from thinking I'd enjoy making it my new home. The only big concern I had (and still have) is my ability to adapt to the heat. Had I visited in July, I would have had the chance to evaluate that firsthand. But not only was I out there in the middle of January, they had just come out of an especially cold stretch. On Tuesday night, the driver of the rental car shuttle at Sky Harbor International Airport got on the intercom and greeted us with the words "welcome to Alaska." It was 47 degrees at the time. I had to wear my jacket as I left the hotel for the plant on both mornings. When all is said and done, I think I can adapt to the different weather. Hydration and sunscreen will be hard to forget in that climate.
There's one other job offer I've put in for. After getting the rejection notice for Nine Mile Point, I looked at what positions Cornell had available, just on a whim. And as chance would have it, there was one that fit fairly well with me right on the first page of listings. It's for a "Repository Administrator/Project Associate" with the University Library, overseeing arXiv.org and assisting with Project Euclid. Going completely outside the realm of nuclear power necessitated writing a cover letter for the first time. I tried to convey the strengths I brought to the position as best I could, even though some of my knowledge base isn't an exact match with the specifications. I also played up how awesome it would be to have the opportunity to move back to Ithaca. Whether it's this, Palo Verde, or something else entirely, I'm due for a positive break -- but I fully realize that's no guarantee one will come.
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