My pandemic denial denial

By Wiley Larsen on May 5, 2021

Over the past 13 months, I have barely used the words “COVID” or “Pandemic” at the Graduate College.  We’ve held three conferences online, we’ve transitioned our Lunch & Learn program to Zoom, and we even tried to do a virtual happy hour.  My strategy for the pandemic was keep going – don’t let it derail you. And for the most part, I think we’ve done that.  Even when I had COVID-19 in early January, I managed to host our scheduled Lunch & Learn on Zoom.

Now, President Crow has declared that we’ll return to on-campus learning in the Fall semester, the Governor has lifted the mask mandate and people are starting to return to campus. Yes, there will still be some adaptations and accommodations, but it seems like a return to normalcy is within sight.  

But it’s been hard.  Harder than we even realize. Remember “Fifteen days to slow the spread”? Fifteen turned to thirty, thirty turned to 3 months, then six. Today I saw the sign on the door of a QuickTrip change from “masks required” to “masks recommended.” It has been a tough road. But what did we learn from all of this?


I think about the major events in history that I’ve witnessed during my lifetime:  9/11, the Great Recession, and now the global pandemic. We’ve had to persevere, to keep going and not get derailed.   

Yet, there are some things that are out of our control. The economy is not stable and universities and industry have slowed their hiring. This leaves postdocs in a precarious place. But, with great perseverance and preparation, we can overcome these challenges 

I heard it a number of times during our Postdoc Career Conference. If you find a job you want, you have to go all-out to get it. You have to network, you have to reach out and make connections. You have to overhaul your cover letter so that it perfectly matches the job description. You have to practice interviewing. You have to practice your job talk and your chalk talk. You have to know your five-year plan.  You have to go the extra mile. Doing that takes a great deal of perseverance.  

The Postdoc Office is here to help. We offer lots of professional development opportunities to help you be competitive when applying for the jobs you want. If you have ideas, if you want a practice interview or have an audience for a practice job talk, whatever it is that you think might help, you let us know and we’ll persevere together.