Academic Job Market Timeline

Later today I’m participating in a professionalization panel in my department about academic planning. My contribution will be to walk through the timeline of applying for academic jobs. I’ll break the tasks down as follows, according to my experience in the field of Sociology.

Spring of the year before you go on the market

  1. Communicate with committee members. Make sure they are supportive of you going on the market in the fall. This includes having a conversation about the likelihood of you being ready to finish your dissertation within the next year. It also means asking how much of your writing needs to be completed before they will be willing to write letters of recommendation on your behalf.
  2. Communicate with other potential letter writers not serving on your dissertation committee, and confirm whether or not they are willing to write you letters, and what their availability will be for the following year. For example, will they be on sabbatical and unable or unwilling to write letters during that time?
  3. Ask your advisors and other academic colleagues about regularly offered postdocs and think about which ones might be a good fit for you. Many postdocs require you to already be in conversation with a member of the faculty at the hosting institution when you apply. That can take the form of a requirement for a faculty member to officially sponsor you, to write you a letter of recommendation, or to work with you on a collaboratively developed research proposal. Use your academic networks to get introduced to appropriate faculty members at the host institutions. The earlier you do this, the better. However, if you don’t get to this task in the spring, keep trying in the summer and fall.

Summer

  1. Ask to see the job documents submitted by any friends who have gotten academic jobs in the last few years.
  2. Prepare the following documents for use in your applications. Not all applications will ask for every one of these documents, but if you do a large search, you will need to use all of them at some point. You may also need to prepare a Diversity Statement, though only a small minority of applications require this document.
    1. CV
    2. Cover letter
    3. Research statement
    4. Teaching Statement
    5. Evidence of Teaching Excellence
    6. Research Proposal (for postdoc applications)
    7. Transcripts
    8. References
    9. PDFs of your publications and/or writing samples
  3. Tell friends in your academic networks that you are going on the market this year, and ask them to send you job announcements that they think might be a fit for you.
  4. Sign up for job announcements. Ask your advisors and other colleagues what listserves and job banks frequently post jobs in your area, and sign up for them. I looked for job announcements in the various professional listserves that I belong to, one of which I joined specifically for their job postings. I also used the following job banks:
    1. American Sociological Association Job Bank
    2. California State University job bank
    3. Vitae
  5. Create a system for tracking jobs that you plan to apply for, or have already applied for. Here’s a copy of my JobSearchTemplate.
  6. Get access to software with which you can edit pdfs. Many of your job applications will ask for multiple documents to be put together in a single pdf, so you will need to be able to combine and divide pdfs for different purposes.
  7. Shop for interview clothes, but keep in mind you might not get any campus visit requests in which to wear them in your first year on the job market.
  8. Consider signing up for the Employment Service interview program at the August meetings of the American Sociological Association. In most cases, if you can still apply for the same jobs even if you do not do these 20 minute interviews, but it can be a good place to practice your interview skills and learn more about the positions in question. Even though these mini-interviews typically won’t require you to turn in your job documents, the more work you’ve done on all of your job documents by this time, the better prepared you will be to present yourself in an interview setting.

Fall and Winter (Sept-March)

  • Watch for new jobs to apply for, and continually add them to your centralized spreedsheet.
  • Apply for the jobs you as their due dates approach. For each application, tailor your job documents accordingly. This process will be the equivalent to taking on a part time job on top of your existing obligations, so lean on your friends and support structures for help dealing with the stress. My first job application was due (unusually early) on August 4. Application deadlines start in earnest by September 1st, and are in full swing by September 15. Postdoc applications tend to be due a bit later than tenure-track faculty applications.
  • If you get any phone or Skype interview requests, set time aside to prepare as needed.  This involves coming up with a list of questions you may be asked, preparing answers for them, and asking friends to run you through several practice interviews.
  • If you get any campus-interview requests, set aside time to prepare for them as well. You will also likely need to prepare a job-talk based on your research, and perhaps also a teaching demonstration.
  • Keep applying for jobs! I am grateful to a friend who told me to stick it out and just keep applying when my energy was starting to flag. You never know which job might end up working out.

Spring

  • By March and April, most of the tenure-track job application deadlines will have finished, but lingering postdoc opportunities will continue. At this time there will also likely be an upswing of non-tenure-track job opportunities. Calls for lecturers, adjuncts, and visiting assistant professors will continue through the spring and in some cases the summer, before the job market starts all over again the following year.

Resources

  • For guidance on how to create the job documents listed above, see Karen Kelsky’s blog The Professor is In, which covers all of them in great detail. She also covers phone interviews, Skype interviews, and campus visits. Her advice covers applicants applying to tenure-track jobs in all academic settings except for community colleges.
  • With the increased workload of the jobmarket and the increased uncertainties about your immediate future comes increased stress. Plan as much self-care as you can to help get through it. If you have access to the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity, take a look at their webinar on “Strategies for Dealing with Stress and Rejection.”
  • Read the job-market advice at The Professor is In, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and Vitae. It is invaluable. However, these sources of insight and advice can also be demoralizing, so tread carefully. The trick is to learn how to present yourself as best as possible on the job-market, but not to get so overwhelmed and demoralized by the process that you stop applying for jobs or throw away your career plans. Unless, of course, you decide that the academic life is not for you, in which case Karen Kelsky and others also have advice about how to transition into an “Alt-Ac”  or “Post-Ac” job – a job outside of academia.

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