Well, it turned out that I got a masters’ degree in social work at basically the worst possible time to do so, and there are NO jobs in this area. So I’ve been working as a CNA. I applied quite a while ago at Vanderbilt (university) for one of the research assistant jobs they had listed (I went to UT), and actually had a call for an interview because they’re looking for another one now. They’re looking for a Research Analyst I to replace the current assistant at the Vanderbilt Center for Quality Aging. I’m not going to reprint the entire job description, but basically, it’s about data collection, data entering, and data analysis, conducting interviews, (probably) administering standardized scaling instruments such as the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) and Mini Mental State Exam (MMSE), direct observation, using SSPS statistical software. They require a bachelor’s degree in a field such as social work and prefer experience in a nursing home setting and licensure as a CNA, LPN, or RN.
Well, let’s see… I have the data stuff down, I know how to do everything in SPSS that they’re looking for, I do have an MSW, I have nursing home experience, I have CNA licensure, and a big part of what I do is monitoring and recording resident food intake, nutrition, and weight (the current study is on resident outcomes related to weight loss and nutrition.) I had a year internship with a large organization for seniors, and a year internship in the area’s biggest community mental health organization where I organized and led therapy groups. I worked a little bit on a research project through the same organization. The biggest weakness is that I never got to do structured interviews or administer any of the scales. I’m afraid they’ll want someone who has literally done exactly this job before. I have never done anything that could strictly go by the job title “research analyst.” Normally, anyone who fit this description would either a.) be chosen from the ranks of students, but for some reason, they’re not doing it that way or b.) not be at all willing to work at a part time job for such low pay. In this job market, however, it seems to be necessary to have a PhD in astrophysics to be a fry cook at McDonald’s.
So here’s a question for anyone who has any experience with research assistant jobs or knows anything about the subject: do you think I have any kind of realistic chance?
The biggest question will be whether they have any of their own students in line for the job. If they do, then an outsider doesn’t stand a chance, but in that case, they probably wouldn’t advertise the job to outsiders, either (unless some red tape requires them to).
In my experience in academia, in any given department there’s usually either a glut of students and not enough jobs to place them in, or a glut of jobs and not enough students to fill them. The fact that they’re advertising outside the department at all probably means they’re in the second situation right now, which is a good sign for you.
I would say your profile is quite good for this job. The fact that you know how to use SPSS and have experience on nursing home are very good points. Conducting structured interviews and administering scales is not difficult, it is in fact quite ‘mechanical’.
It may be that they have already someone in mind indeed, but well, you don’t know about this. In academic jobs, the key is to be motivated. Show that you are, and together with the good points I mentioned earlier, that will make a very good application.
And another thing: if you make a good impression, even if they have already someone else for the job, they may be willing to help you and tell you about other people who look for someone similar.
Oh, and again, a propos SPSS. If you are good at statistics, ready to invest yourself in ‘field research’ (i.e. collecting data, interacting with subjects etc…), and able to perform data analysis and interpretation in an independant manner, then you are very precious. People like this are not so easy to find.
And finally, I will repeat what was said previously:
Regarding the interviews part of the job - maybe their concern (and why they may be having trouble finding someone) is how comfortable the people you will be interviewing will be with you since the subject matter might be uncomfortable for them to talk about. Your internships could be a big plus.
Thanks guys! Regarding the point that Chronos made, I guess that one problem could very well be that they’re required for some weird reason to interview people for the job even though one of the students is already guaranteed to get it. But on the other hand, not a lot of students are likely to have all the experience working with older adults that I do. There are absolutely not a lot of people who can interview those with moderate to severe dementia (and I can) and who have worked as CNA’s (that would be me too!) Also, “If you are good at statistics, ready to invest yourself in ‘field research’ (i.e. collecting data, interacting with subjects etc…), and able to perform data analysis and interpretation in an independant manner, then you are very precious” Me! Yes, that’s me! I guess that going in and saying “I’LL DO ANYTHING” would probably not be a good plan. Not so much. But all I can do is to put myself out there. Thanks to everyone for all the advice!
The best advice I heard about job searching is to not screen yourself out - that’s their job. It sounds to me like you’re hitting the highlights of their qualifications - I’d say you have a good chance.