Recently a former postdoc of mine was offered a nice tenure track faculty position. In talking with her about negotiating startup packages, teaching load, etc. she mentioned an interesting conversation she had with her normally very supportive PhD advisor. Her PhD advisor told her that she would be happy to write her letters of recommendation for her job applications (and she does write her good ones), but that frankly, at her age it was going to be very unlikely she would ever get an offer. Of course she did get an offer, and her former advisor’s comment really surprised me, especially since she (the advisor) is someone I respect and has given me good career advice in the past.
My former postdoc had a long break (about 10 years) between college and starting her PhD, doing a series of activities, some related and some unrelated to science. She had a very productive PhD and a very productive postdoc in my lab. She then did a short second postdoc where she got another paper (and one on the way) before applying for jobs. She didn’t take particularly long to finish her PhD and her postdocs. In this case, it seems like evidence of continued productivity is what matters, not actual age. I know at least a couple of other people who started their faculty positions in their 40’s and age was never an issue. I’ve been through several job searches in my department and age has never been discussed.
I wonder how much people here think age is a factor in landing a tenure track job? Has anyone come across this before? For those who have faculty jobs, how old were you when you landed your first faculty job? Does this perception affect women more than men? Discuss!