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Negotiating for Your First Faculty Position

Posted on March 30, 2009

Take advantage of your strong position when you negotiate, advises Keith A. Trujillo (bio).


When you're negotiating for your first faculty position, you're probably in no stronger position than you'll ever be in because the institution really wants you. And they reflect that in what they'll offer you to get started up. And so start-up funding, particularly in the biomedical sciences, people recognize they need to come in with that money.

And so you should negotiate strongly, from a position of strength. Again, you're in a very strong position at that point. The institution really wants you, and after they hire you, you don't have that position of strength. And so you need to come in with that confidence and negotiate for a good start up package because that will allow you to get the things that you need.

And so the money, particularly as a first-time investigator, it probably isn't so hard to find, to get yourself going. But then figuring out what to do with that and how to manage that is kind of a struggle. And I think that, again, reflecting back to what we were talking about earlier, having a good post-doc is critical for that. Because then you look around and you see the tools that you really need.

As a graduate student, you're not really paying attention to that. You've really got the blinders on. You're really focused on your research. As a post-doc, you're much closer to that next point, and you're starting to look at, "Well, what do I need to establish my research laboratory? What sort of research do I want to do? Do I need this piece of equipment? Do I need that piece of equipment? How many people do I need working with me in order to get the data I would like?" And so, again, I think the post-doctoral experience is critical to really helping you prepare for knowing what to do with the money once you get the money.

In that transition from post-doc to independent investigator, one of the first things you need to do is make a list of the things that you need in order to establish your research independence, and that would include the equipment and the personnel and all of those other things that go along with it. And so doing the background research and having that list really helps in that negotiation because you come in and say with that piece of paper and show them, "This is what I need." And often times they will come through.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher at the 2008 National Hispanic Science Network on Drug Abuse Conference in Bethesda, MD.


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