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My husband has accepted a postdoc position in a city in Australia with two great institutions where I think I'll have a good shot at securing a postdoc for myself. I have some great connections to researchers there through my advisor and committee members. I'm now doing the groundwork to get my foot in the door as I've not met any of these researchers in person.

How/should I get around mentioning that I'm moving there as a trailing spouse? It will be pretty obvious, correct? Why else would I be moving there? Should I just be upfront about it?

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    Funny, my wife accepted a postdoc in Sydney, Australia recently. My approach has been to be very upfront about being a trailing spouse, including boasting about how prestigious my wife's position is. We are not moving for quite a while so I cannot say how well it is working yet. May 22, 2015 at 2:32
  • I'm in a similar situation (wife accepted a tenure-track job and I'm moving with her), the most significant difference being that I personally know some people in the destination university. I've been very upfront about my two-body problem and the experience has been very positive so far ---i.e., they revealed that they anticipate to open a tenure-track job in my area of expertise a couple of years from now, and they are happy to help me apply for federal funding to bridge the gap between now and then. So yes, be very honest about it.
    – Koldito
    May 22, 2015 at 8:54
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    You can even say something like, "we both thought this would be a good place to do x, so we both want to move here. My spouse has already found something". This way it's a positive decision on your part, not just...trailing.
    – RedSonja
    May 22, 2015 at 11:34
  • The explanation for the move to Australia can go in a cover letter; but leave it out of your CV. - - By the way, if no postdoc materializes, that's okay, just find a department that will give you an office and a friendly, collaborative environment. May 25, 2015 at 13:37

2 Answers 2

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There's no point in disguising the reason for you moving to Australia. If you give some kind of prevaricating answer to the question of why you're moving, then this will look unprofessional at best. The people with whom you're going to chat about possible postdoc positions for yourself will of course know about the academic two-body problem.

The fact that there are two institutions where you might be able to find work is in your favour. Cultivate your contacts and opportunities with both institutions, at the same time. Don't be coy about the fact you're shopping around for positions.

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I don't think it is relevant to mention why you are in Australia nor do I think people would automatically assume you are a trailing spouse. Unless I am misinterpreting 'great institutions' then the city you have moved to is high on the list of places many people want to live, so there could be plenty of reasons why you are looking for a job there. Are you an Australian or a permanent resident? If not, the Endeavour Scholarships are open right now and provide a postdoc fellowship for 4-6 months. It's usually a lot easier to contact a prospective supervisor by proposing that you apply for funding to work in their lab. Even if the application doesn't work out, applying for a fellowship could indirectly lead to a postdoc if the lab has spare money and is sufficiently impressed by your ideas.

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  • I'm coming from the US as a US citizen. So, I'm accustomed to not discussing marital/family status when it comes to applying for jobs. I can envision how a potential postdoc advisor might see my marriage as a complication/benefit. From a professional standpoint, I normally wouldn't mention it at all. But then I'm leaving the researcher to wonder why I'm picking up and moving to another continent and I wouldn't be able to mention that my moving and visa expenses are already covered. May 21, 2015 at 23:54
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    I'm not sure how much luck you'll have contacting researchers and hoping they have money available, especially considering that most grants (e.g. ARC Discovery Grants) start in January and so will have already hired postdocs, but I suppose it can't hurt. One strategy could be to look at the ARC (more general research)/NHMRC (medical)/industry grant outcomes to see whether your contacts have recent funding. Depending on your field, it can be very tough to get a postdoc if you are limited to a single city (even if Melbourne or Sydney).
    – user49483
    May 22, 2015 at 1:07
  • As I said in my answer, I'd try to submit an Endeavour fellowship to work in one of the labs. They aren't anywhere near as competitive or time-consuming to write as a fellowship like the DECRA. If you choose a lab that has current grant funding then you might find that proposing a fellowship in their lab is the 'foot in the door' you need. Also, if the lab is interested in supporting a fellowship application then I think there is absolutely no problem telling them why you are coming to Australia - I just don't see why disclosing that at the beginning is going to change anything.
    – user49483
    May 22, 2015 at 1:13
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    Fortunately, I've got some time and I've got a list of fellowships that I'm planning to apply for. I'm happy to hear that I've been correct in assuming that it'll help me to ask for support on an application (even if I don't get it). I realize I'm severely limiting myself in my options but 'tis the nature of the two body problem. Best case scenario, I get an awesome postdoc. Worst case scenario, I engage in some unemployed kangaroo watching for a few years. Life could be worse. May 22, 2015 at 3:24

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