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A recent question asked about applying for tenure-track jobs before the end of a postdoc. I'm in a similar position, also in math, and would like to ask the same question with an additional twist.

I'm in the middle of a postdoc. I've been advised to apply to places I'd definitely accept offers from this year, but my wife will also be looking for a job. She is not quite looking for an academic job, but the ideal outcome would be for her to work at the same institution as me, in a non-faculty job. (Let's say she wants work in the registrar's office.) The hiring for her sort of job doesn't take place so far in advance.

I would be very reluctant to accept a job a year early if I did not know for sure that my wife would also be able to find something there, especially if we were not moving to a big city (and we would prefer not to, if we can help it).

I'd be grateful for any general wisdom, but here are a couple concrete questions:

  1. If I get an offer and turn it down because she can't find anything, and finish out my postdoc instead, would this be a very bad move?

  2. If I get an offer and she can't find anything, is it possible I would be able to defer a year to help her job hunt?

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    Seems like something that would be easy enough to ask about during the interview process. "My wife is looking for jobs in the area; if I accepted a position here, would the university be able to provide support in helping her find one?" – tonysdg Jun 9 '16 at 18:33
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    Tenure-track jobs in mathematics are very rare and competitive. Turning it down, at least for this sort of reason, is a bad move. – anomaly Jun 11 '16 at 4:48
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    @tonysdg I'm not sure what sort of answer you would expect to get. I'm sure they'll tell you they're very committed to dual-career couples and that they'll do their best to connect her to opportunities, but everyone will say that, which makes it not very useful. – Ben Webster Jun 22 '16 at 17:43
  • This question is weird, because waiting one year doesn't make any difference whatsoever. That said, for something big like the registrar's office, it seems well within the realm of possibility that a school could arrange a job for her. When you interview and are talking with the chair, tell the chair what kind of job she wants, that way there's some lead time so that the chair and the dean can see if something can be arranged in the event of an offer. – Noah Snyder Jun 22 '16 at 22:08
  • Short answer: apply for positions now, accept any (or the best) offer that comes from your efforts, once you are established your wife can apply for jobs in the registrar's (or similar) office of your university. – J. Roibal - BlockchainEng Jun 23 '16 at 0:28
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I'm a little confused about your thinking on this matter: given that hiring for the sort of job your wife has generally happens on a shorter timeline, how could you ever know that your wife will have a job when you have to make a decision about an offer? I think you may just have to go for it and hope for the best. You can always apply for jobs again if things don't work out (I've done this twice); if you can afford to be choosy about jobs now, then likely you can get another. The one wildcard is that if you get an offer, you may be able to negotiate a job for your wife before you accept. A non-academic position is an unusual request, but on some level its a smaller ask than, say, a TT position for her. The situation might be clearer if you said more about your wife's experience and skills. About your specific questions:

  1. Well, it's not a good move. Probably the interview and offer process will move too quickly for your wife to reasonably expect to have found a job for six months hence, and people in the department might reasonably ask why you applied and went through the interview stages if you weren't willing to take the risk of moving there.

  2. If you make the decision before you accept the job, this is a reasonable (and often made) request, but probably not after (and I'm a bit confused as to why you would ask). As with 1., the timeline on TT job offers (often 1 week) is too short to really know anything about her job prospects, so I assume you mean after accepting. Negotiation about start dates should happen before you accept the offer; of course, you can try to organize it after, but that is more likely to be received poorly (of course, it all depends on the situation, how much they are counting on your teaching, etc.), and you've lost all your leverage. Given that your wife's job search will be easier once she's in the location (and can network, etc.), it will seem like an odd request and will likely give your colleagues the sense that you already have one foot out the door.

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1) You absolutely have to start applying! The job market in math is better than in other fields, but can never rely on being able to obtain a tenure track position in any given year.

2) Two-body problems can be negotiated. This is very common these days. Indeed, the department chair at any university that you may negotiate with will be overjoyed that your wife does not need a tenure track position.

3) The tricky question is always at what time do you bring this up (when you apply, when you interview, or when you get an offer)? Typically not when you apply, but I tend to think you should bring it up when you interview. Given that this is not tenure-track (which requires more time), you can also wait for an offer.

4) The details of whether you defer, whether you and your wife defer, etc. can always be negotiated.

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