I've been writing on and off all weekend, trying to answer the sample questions my friend provided. Yesterday, I started writing answers to the issues posed in the position description. Yesterday evening, I met with the guy who is leaving the job I want. He was really helpful and friendly. He's a bit odd, but heck, so I am. The first thing he asked me is why I want to leave my current job. We all know the "real" answer, though this is a job I would apply for in any circumstances so that makes it a bit easier to answer. I'm glad he asked because it gave me a chance to practice my answer. I was a little worried that it sounded too rehearsed, but oh well. He told me a lot about what it was like to work there and what he'd done in the job--then he gave advice about what strengths I have that make me suited for the job (I'm a good writer, I can conceptualize research projects, and a couple other things) and where my weak spots are (fundraising!). My sparse management experience didn't even come up, though I'm sure it will in an interview.
My answer to the "why do you want to leave" question: I have some great projects and the work is really interesting right now, but there is no room for advancement in the organization. They have a great leadership team right now, and it's not changing any time soon. That's just how the government works. I've also wanted to work more on policy for years but given that I'm really good at my job, I just get more projects to manage--I understand! But it's time for me to grow and branch out and apply what I know more directly in the policy sphere. I'd like to work more on the advocacy side because you're really precluded from that in the government--and I'd like the research I do to have a practical application. This job is really exciting and even though I have great work right now I can't pass up the opportunity to put my hat in the ring. I am ready to move to a different sphere, get more directly involved in the research and policy world, and I think most of my skills are transferable and highly relevant.
Something like that. I like it because it's all true.
The other thing the guy told me was that they're looking for the passion. I have it. I am a true believer. I can do this. I can at the very least make a really good impression in the interview. Even if they don't hire me, they'll know me better and that could lead to good things too.
One issue, one other weakness that I'm hiding maybe not so well is about my research agenda (or lack thereof). In this organization, I would be responsible for the research agenda. That doesn't mean I'd be creating it from whole cloth, I'd talk to the staff, our constituents, etc., but clearly I have to have some ideas about what my personal ideal research agenda would be. I won't have the same kind of resources available as I do in my current job, but I will have more freedom. What would I do with it? One of the things I like about having a job is not having to make so many decisions. I have a large role in shaping the research projects and designing them but my input on the topics is pretty small. Almost nothing. And it does't bother me much. I sort of like being told what to do! And then being left alone to do it. Heh.
Anyway. I do have some ideas--projects that we never got off the ground, issues that should be important to the practitioner community, etc. And I'm going to go write them down right now.
Grateful for: time to think.