A less terrible but still somewhat personally intimidating way to do this is through a 360 Degree Assessment, which one of my bosses did recently as part of her PhD program. Rather than an in-person "focus group", it was an online anonymous survey that she had to have peers, employees/supervisees, and supervisors complete. She says it was very useful, but I think it still sounds scary as hell.
I have so many things to say about this (as someone who has always wanted a PhD and am now grappling with the idea that its probably not my best option) but I don't even know where to start. In short, being part of a community of scholars can be so awesome but there is so much bullshit you have to go through to even have a chance of getting there, let alone keeping yourself afloat.
I was on a hiring committee last year for the first time in my life and we kind of did this. Not on the first interview, but definitely in the second round interview. The directors who conducted those did ask primarily questions about interests, hobbies, background, etc, because the candidates had already been vetted for technical appropriateness at my level. For us, it's about preventing turnover - someone who fits well, who wants to be here and seems like they could be happy here is less likely to leave in a couple of months & force us to retrain and rehire.
@Michelle Cultural fit doesn't really mean becoming friends, though. It is (or should be) about people's personalities, working styles, communication styles, and how they'd fit with the rest of the staff/organization. We put a lot of stock in cultural fit in my department, but no one's going out for drunken karaoke.
That's my rent for 2 YEARS. Or I could rent a house. Dayum.
@Madeline Shoes Where are you traveling?!?
@Madeline Shoes I know! I am excited about the free money months, but the announcement made me nervous because I had literally just signed the lease on a new, slightly more expensive place. My first "free money" month isn't until something like May, though, so I'll have a few months with lower income to get through. And my very first paycheck of the year will be tiny, just because of how it's situated & the transition from monthly pay. It'll all be fine once it's settled, it's just the beginning that's anxiety-producing...
I'm feeling a lot better about 2013 than I had expected. My work is switching from monthly to every-other-week paychecks which means I'll get paid the same for the year, but a little less every month. BUT I got a 3% raise right before Christmas that should help with that. And, if I did my calculations right, I can afford a trip back to London in March/April (if I stay with a distant relative). SO I'M GOING TO LONDON YEAH. (...I am excited, if you can't tell)
I don't know how much I spent on supplies (food, booze, garnishes) for my NYE party, but it was probably too much. Although I do have some leftovers, so that's good. And then I spent $10 on NY breakfast at the boss French bakery near my house (and another $12 on breakfast to bring back to the friend who was too hungover & injured from a drunken fall to get up for breakfast).
@IDrinkYourMilkshake I'm only making the tiniest amount of headway, which is also a bummer.