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imogenshakes

Spouses and Jobs

19 posts in this topic

Hi All,

My random question of the day has to do with the practical side of moving across the country: a job for my spouse. He has decided he's going to move with me (to Davis from North Carolina), so we need to have a job lined up for him soon. California is expensive, as we all know, and while we have some savings and my stipend, we won't make it long on that if he's not working and with housing prices the way they are out there.

He has had some luck at a potential job and it seems likely they'll hire him, but it's in San Fran - it could be anywhere from 1.5 to 2 hours away by car, with traffic and tolls and all that (not fun) stuff. We have a way to make this work (living between, or me living in Davis and him in Oakland), but he'd rather be closer to Davis, where it's less expensive to live and we could be in the same house.

Ok, enough background. My real question is this: do you guys think it would be appropriate or out of line to ask the English Dept if they can help us find a job for him at UCD? There are several jobs posted he would be qualified for, from fundraising to library services (he has quite a diverse skills set). He'd love to work in higher ed, but he hasn't ever worked at a university before, so we are afraid that even though he has great qualifications he might be passed over initially. 

I don't want to overstep bounds, but I have also seen (via google) where people in the sciences have had some luck scoring university jobs for their spouses, but it seems like that was all part of the negotiations pre-acceptance. I don't want to seem needy, especially because we already pretty much have him a job. I'm really just trying to make our lives easier and reduce stress, and the close we are to Davis, the better.

Anyway, this is getting rambly. Let me know what you think. And those of you with spouses, how are you negotiating all of the practicalities? 

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Posted (edited)

I don't think it would make you seem needy, but I'm somewhat skeptical if it would do you any good: universities are pretty siloed, and it's unlikely that your advisor would have any influence on what, say, the university development office is doing. I've only ever heard of universities stepping in to help spouses when it's for a job (post-doc, lecturer, tenure-track, etc) and not for students, though who knows - maybe things are different in the sciences! That said, I don't think it would hurt to email the DGS and ask for advice about finding your partner a job in Davis, and if they happen to have a friend across campus they might put y'all in contact. In your partner's cover letters he should definitely emphasize that he is already moving to Davis because his partner is starting a PhD program so it's clear there's no relocation cost/time involved. 

As for housing, I know a number of couples who live in Berkeley because one person works in San Francisco and the other goes to Davis. There is a shuttle that links the two campuses, though I imagine that this is not ideal, especially if you're trying to get acclimated to your campus and department.

(Also, unrelated note: avoid calling the city "San Fran" or, god forbid, "Frisco": you'll attract the ire of the remaining locals. :D)

Edited by hj2012

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8 minutes ago, hj2012 said:

I don't think it would make you seem needy, but I'm somewhat skeptical if it would do you any good: universities are pretty siloed, and it's unlikely that your advisor would have any influence on what, say, the university development office is doing. I've only ever heard of universities stepping in to help spouses when it's for a job (post-doc, lecturer, tenure-track, etc) and not for students, though who knows - maybe things are different in the sciences! That said, I don't think it would hurt to email the DGS and ask for advice about finding your partner a job in Davis, and if they happen to have a friend across campus they might put y'all in contact. In your partner's cover letters he should definitely emphasize that he is already moving to Davis because his partner is starting a PhD program so it's clear there's no relocation cost/time involved. 

As for housing, I know a number of couples who live in Berkeley because one person works in San Francisco and the other goes to Davis. There is a shuttle that links the two campuses, though I imagine that this is not ideal, especially if you're trying to get acclimated to your campus and department.

(Also, unrelated note: avoid calling the city "San Fran" or, god forbid, "Frisco": you'll attract the ire of the remaining locals. :D)

Thank you! I was leaning more toward the "it might not do any good" side of things. I know that universities often don't have much say in these sorts of things, but if it's worth asking and not going to hurt me in anyway, it's worth a shot. I was really hoping to live near Davis for the first two years at least, and I know my partner would prefer to be in a smaller, more affordable location. 

Re: that side note, thanks. Would not have known to avoid that! haha

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I'm all here for this conversation.  My husband plans to move with me to Florida from NJ, so we're gearing up to have all those talks about relocating, including what the job market looks like in Gainesville. May - July is going to be a whirlwind.

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2 hours ago, imogenshakes said:

Enough background. My real question is this: do you guys think it would be appropriate or out of line to ask the English Dept if they can help us find a job for him at UCD? There are several jobs posted he would be qualified for, from fundraising to library services (he has quite a diverse skills set). He'd love to work in higher ed, but he hasn't ever worked at a university before, so we are afraid that even though he has great qualifications he might be passed over initially. 

There is nothing wrong with this at all. It falls under the umbrella of "it can't hurt to ask." I know of a few scenarios in which this has definitively worked out, and I know of at least one current situation where this is at least in the cards. 

Incidentally, when I did my undergrad, I was 100 miles from campus and my then-wife was 50 miles (in the other direction) from where she worked. We lived in a crappy apartment in a crappy little city, but we both commuted for two years, and it was definitely doable. I'm not sure if there is a suitably equidistant town between Davis and Frisco (sorry @hj2012, I had to), but I'm living proof that such a thing is a viable option!

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1 hour ago, biyutefulphlower said:

I'm all here for this conversation.  My husband plans to move with me to Florida from NJ, so we're gearing up to have all those talks about relocating, including what the job market looks like in Gainesville. May - July is going to be a whirlwind.

Man, yeah. It has been hard. One of the great perks of Davis is proximity to so many opportunities, both in Sacramento and San Francisco, so that was definitely part of our decision; we were just really hoping that a job offer would come from the Sacramento side (it's WAYYYYY less expensive!). Also, I just really want to know where we are going to live. haha If he's going to end up in San Francisco, I want to find a room in Davis. It's not ideal, but it's only two years.

1 hour ago, Old Bill said:

There is nothing wrong with this at all. It falls under the umbrella of "it can't hurt to ask." I know of a few scenarios in which this has definitively worked out, and I know of at least one current situation where this is at least in the cards. 

Incidentally, when I did my undergrad, I was 100 miles from campus and my then-wife was 50 miles (in the other direction) from where she worked. We lived in a crappy apartment in a crappy little city, but we both commuted for two years, and it was definitely doable. I'm not sure if there is a suitably equidistant town between Davis and Frisco (sorry @hj2012, I had to), but I'm living proof that such a thing is a viable option!

I'm glad there seems to be an echo of "it doesn't hurt to ask." I think I'll send an email to the DGS today. 

Re: the commute, yeah, that's certainly one of the things we are looking into right now. There are places that are more affordable in between, like Walnut Creek (this was the place recommended to us), and I would certainly be willing to make a long commute if it means I get to attend my dream program. But the selfish part of me just really wants to be near Davis, so I can go to department events and hang out with my cohort outside of class (in the gobs and gobs of free time we will surely have) and not worry about being stuck in traffic trying to get to class. I commuted nearly an hour for my undergrad and I hated it. Doable, but not fun. 

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2 hours ago, Old Bill said:

There is nothing wrong with this at all. It falls under the umbrella of "it can't hurt to ask." I know of a few scenarios in which this has definitively worked out, and I know of at least one current situation where this is at least in the cards. 

Incidentally, when I did my undergrad, I was 100 miles from campus and my then-wife was 50 miles (in the other direction) from where she worked. We lived in a crappy apartment in a crappy little city, but we both commuted for two years, and it was definitely doable. I'm not sure if there is a suitably equidistant town between Davis and Frisco (sorry @hj2012, I had to), but I'm living proof that such a thing is a viable option!

LOL! I'm not actually from the Bay Area so the little monikers don't bother me. But my partner is, and I've certainly heard it from his family and friends for sounding like an egregious tourist. :rolleyes:

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I'm in the sciences, but I actually don't think this matters on the science or humanities side. 

I see the words "negotiate" used a few times here and to make it clear, I don't think this is something you "negotiate" in the sense that if the school can't find them a job, you don't take their offer. This is something that happens more for faculty or other permanent job hires, in the sense that many schools have formal systems in place for this. For a grad student, I would advise a more informal approach. 

What I mean is that you shouldn't give the impression that your acceptance of their offer is somehow conditional on their help for your spouse. Unless you somehow feel in a position to hold that much bargaining power, I wouldn't go that route. Instead, if you haven't made your decision yet, I would recommend telling the school that you are highly interested in them but you and your spouse need to make a decision that works for both of you and that your spouse is worried about finding work. See what they say. 

If they say nothing or if you have already accepted, then it's no big deal, the real "ask" should come after you have already committed to them. Once you have accepted, I think it's a good time to directly ask if they can provide any sort of help for your spouse to find work. I would probably do this informally and ask your advisor first instead of doing to the Chair or something.

Again, it's unlikely that they will be hiring your spouse as "part of the package" for you. But if you get them on  your side, the profs' networks can be quite large and you might be able to get some help/introductions. Remember that these networks likely span outside of the University as well! 

I agree with the other person that said Universities are often siloed so that it's not like your Dept can arrange it so that another Dept will hire them. It's way out of their powers. But someone in the Dept might know of an opening and can make an introduction. Your spouse should also keep looking on the HR website for Davis to seek openings. Often, they are filled internally and I know that at many places, a big chunk of HR postings are posted with a candidate already in mind, so it helps to know someone and know about a job before it even opens up.

And, having you be a student at Davis may increase the chances of another part of Davis hiring your spouse over a random person with similar qualifications. At my current school, the application straight up asks you to list a bunch of people you already know at the school or in the department you are applying to and knowing the "school culture" goes a long way in the hiring process. My spouse works at the same school I attend and when I think about most of the staff and faculty in my dept, most of them have spouses or other family members employed elsewhere in the University.

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22 minutes ago, TakeruK said:

And, having you be a student at Davis may increase the chances of another part of Davis hiring your spouse over a random person with similar qualifications. At my current school, the application straight up asks you to list a bunch of people you already know at the school or in the department you are applying to and knowing the "school culture" goes a long way in the hiring process. My spouse works at the same school I attend and when I think about most of the staff and faculty in my dept, most of them have spouses or other family members employed elsewhere in the University.

All of this is really helpful, thanks @TakeruK! I accepted my offer from UCD several weeks ago, so I'm not planning to negotiate or anything. I'm going regardless of what happens with my partner, who is thankfully quite flexible and has been open to searching for jobs in a pretty wide radius. And, like I said, he pretty much already has one, it's just a matter of whether or not we want to be 2 hours away or 20 minutes. 

This last point is something I hadn't thought of. I forgot that applications typically ask these types of questions. I will mention this to him and make sure he doesn't gloss over that bit! Thanks!

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Posted (edited)

I'm not one to ask for favors, so I likely wouldn't try to secure a job for a spouse by asking someone directly to pull strings. Nepotism happens everywhere, but rarely in a flagrant way, so I would be concerned over that. 

However, there's a section on every university application for every university job that asks whether someone you're related to works for the university. I'm not totally sure of all the reasons they ask this, but that's a good place for your partner to state your name and role at the university. Your partner could then casually stress in a cover letter the fact that you are relocating because of your doctoral work, which might incline them more toward doing you a favor. 

When I applied to Davis, I had similar concerns. My husband works remotely for a large software corporation, and the only stipulation is that he has to be within 40 minutes of one of their offices. It turned out that the closest office to Davis was, like your circumstances, in San Francisco. The midpoints we were looking at were the Fairfield and Napa areas, but those are very expensive areas. Oakland and Vallejo are more affordable options, but you have to be very careful about which streets/neighborhoods you check out, as there is legitimate gang violence and crime in certain sections that I don't imagine you'll want to deal with. And frankly, what I heard from friends in SF that commuting into SF is hell anyway you slice it.

I definitely advocate for living in the same house--not just for the health of your relationship, but also for the sake of your finances. Paying rent in CA is tough enough, let alone paying two. Good luck; I'm sure you'll find a solution!

Edited by orphic_mel528

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As a former Davis-ite I definitely suggest looking at jobs in Sacramento, Vacaville, Roseville, and possibly Napa. The commutes to those cities (the exception of Napa sometimes) are a lot more manageable than San Francisco. 

I'd also say I'd definitely have your spouse include something in their application saying that you're starting a program. I know multiple people who have experienced success with this strategy.

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10 hours ago, orphic_mel528 said:

I'm not one to ask for favors, so I likely wouldn't try to secure a job for a spouse by asking someone directly to pull strings. Nepotism happens everywhere, but rarely in a flagrant way, so I would be concerned over that. 

However, there's a section on every university application for every university job that asks whether someone you're related to works for the university. I'm not totally sure of all the reasons they ask this, but that's a good place for your partner to state your name and role at the university.

In general, sure, nepotism (especially the connotation it carries) is bad, but I don't think it's always/objectively bad/wrong. I think that the hiring process should have well defined goals and decisions made during the process should advance these goals. So, if nepotism gets in the way of these goals, then nepotism is bad. But sometimes nepotism actually advances these goals so I would say that it is justified and preferable to favour someone's relative/family member in these cases. 

For example, at my current university, we are a very small school and we care about hiring people that will understand the "campus culture". When I was on the hiring committee for a position in student affairs, we placed a lot of value on candidates who either knew our school culture, came from a school with a similar culture or demonstrated ability to adapt to our culture. Typically most hires are internal but this particular hire ended up with external. 

Another example is one of my former (non-academic) workplaces. In the summer, when the regular workers at the warehouse went on vacation, they hire university students to replace them and pay them pretty well (we'd earn enough in the summer to pay for tuition). They favoured relatives of current staff over unrelated applicants. The goal of this program was to provide some sort of tuition assistance programs to dependents of their full time employees. 

In some cases, I do believe we want to hire on the basis of merit primarily. But there are plenty of other reasons to not put merit as the primary or sole factor. I would never argue that it is a good idea to hire someone unqualified just because they are related to someone. However, some jobs are seeking the "most qualified" candidate while others just want candidates to meet some qualification level and then it's other factors that determine who gets the offer. In the latter case, if being related to a current employees is one of the other factors advance the employers' goals then I don't think nepotism is a bad thing.

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10 hours ago, TakeruK said:

 I would never argue that it is a good idea to hire someone unqualified just because they are related to someone. However, some jobs are seeking the "most qualified" candidate while others just want candidates to meet some qualification level and then it's other factors that determine who gets the offer. In the latter case, if being related to a current employees is one of the other factors advance the employers' goals then I don't think nepotism is a bad thing.

1

I think we agree more than you think we might agree :)

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3 hours ago, orphic_mel528 said:

I think we agree more than you think we might agree :)

lol sorry. In "real life" I have been having similar conversations recently with people who think any sort of advantage due to a personal or familial relationship is bad all the time, and I unfairly and incorrectly projected these conversations on your post!

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33 minutes ago, TakeruK said:

lol sorry. In "real life" I have been having similar conversations recently with people who think any sort of advantage due to a personal or familial relationship is bad all the time, and I unfairly and incorrectly projected these conversations on your post!

 

It's totally okay! 

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On 4/18/2017 at 10:38 AM, hj2012 said:

LOL! I'm not actually from the Bay Area so the little monikers don't bother me. But my partner is, and I've certainly heard it from his family and friends for sounding like an egregious tourist. :rolleyes:

As a born and bred Bay Area native, I can concur, the words "San Fran" make me cringe big time. The proper ways to refer to San Francisco beyond its actual name are "SF" or "the City" (I know, New York people say that too, but bear with us, that city is far enough away that there's no confusion. Maybe it has something to do with crossing a bridge to get there?)

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1 hour ago, maelia8 said:

As a born and bred Bay Area native, I can concur, the words "San Fran" make me cringe big time. The proper ways to refer to San Francisco beyond its actual name are "SF" or "the City" (I know, New York people say that too, but bear with us, that city is far enough away that there's no confusion. Maybe it has something to do with crossing a bridge to get there?)

Thanks for concurring! Yes, I definitely made a few people cringe when I moved out here and I've learned to avoid certain terms (e.g. "The Five"). It's always fun to observe all the small linguistic differences across the country...

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Dear god, do not do anything that has your spouse commuting 3-4 hours a day. Imagine the tension that could cause in a marriage: "You read Chaucer today? I spent 4 hours (or about 1/2 the amount of time a professional trucker is allowed to drive per day) on the freeway to get to a job I don't like as much as the one I left." 

(I know that studying literature isn't just fun and reading, but when your spouse is in a bad mood, it might seem that way.)

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1 hour ago, heliogabalus said:

Dear god, do not do anything that has your spouse commuting 3-4 hours a day. Imagine the tension that could cause in a marriage: "You read Chaucer today? I spent 4 hours (or about 1/2 the amount of time a professional trucker is allowed to drive per day) on the freeway to get to a job I don't like as much as the one I left." 

(I know that studying literature isn't just fun and reading, but when your spouse is in a bad mood, it might seem that way.)

I disagree with this. We all make sacrifices in relationships -- some big, some small. An understanding partner will "take the hit" sometimes to help the other out. I mentioned my former situation above, wherein I commuted 100 miles and my wife 50 miles to make things work. One of my friends, a second year Ph.D. student at UMD, commutes from Delaware three times per week -- his wife got into U of D last year, and it made the most sense for her to be close to campus (her field requires labs etc.), and have him drive 100 or so miles. He crashes at my place sometimes, and whenever we talk about it, he certainly doesn't love the commute, but there's not one iota of resentment toward his spouse because of their situation.

This is just to say that it all depends on the kind of relationship you have. In some cases a long commute could be a relationship killer, but in others it's just one of the compromises you make for a better long-term situation.

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