The short version: I walked into a seminar, ran into someone I met at a conference 2 years ago, talked to her for an hour about what I've been doing, and walked out with a job. Part time, temporary work, but I will have a MENTOR and TITLE and a PAYCHECK! I am overjoyed!
The long version:
Two years ago, I attended a small conference, mostly because of its location and the opportunity to see friends and family. I went on a field trip and spent a few hours in a van with a woman who was working on a similar type of database project and has been supporting herself on soft money (i.e. grants) since she finished her PhD. She said it have her the flexibility to work part-time when her kids were young and I appreciated hearing about her research and experience. Even better, she was at an institution near Jon's hometown, so I made a special note to contact her in the future.
I emailed her in November, saying we were probably moving to Hometown and might she be able to meet with me to talk about my project and funding ideas. I never heard back, and hadn't yet tried to follow up with her further over email. I went to a few seminars at her institution, but didn't see her. Until this week.
She walked in right behind me, and recognized me but couldn't place me at first. I told her I'd recently finished, moved to Hometown to be near family, was looking for work, have a 9 month old child, and told her more about my database project and the applications I have pending. After seminar, she said, "I've been feeling like I need some help on some of my projects and it sounds like you might have just the right skill set. Let's talk more about your experience and availability."
I showed her what I've done. I told her many of my pending applications have start dates still months away even if I do get an offer.
She said not many PhDs have the particular background of mine that she needs.
She said she loves to help other moms in science because she knows how hard it is.
She said she also moved into her parents' basement without a job when she finished her PhD.
She said she can't hire full-time or long-term, but what about half-time for 3 months?
She said welcome to the lab.
I could hardly contain my tears of happiness and immense sense of relief after the meeting. I'll have a paycheck, desk space, affiliation, and another line on my CV. I'll be working with someone who does things I'm interested in, but she has more experience and can mentor me. I will still have time to work on my own projects & applications, and flexibility in terms of when I work. What a day!