The Academic Job Search Timeline
The following timeline presumes that job seekers should start to plan and execute a search at least a year before their projected availability. It also presumes a start date in the fall of a given year.
Before the Job Search:
Publish. This is probably the most important factor. A strong letter from your advisor can emphasize publications in the pipeline.
Network. Start networking at conferences at least one year before the job search. Serve on association committees, volunteer. Ask your professors/PIs to introduce you to faculty at target institutions. Don't be shy.
Letters of recommendation. Start lining up letters of recommendation in the summer before you start the search. Ask your dissertation advisor, current PI, other professors, collaborators, etc.
August – October:
Finding advertised jobs. Utilize more than one source: journals, networking, publications, and web sites. Some resources include:
- Science Careers
- Nature Jobs
- Chronicle of Higher Education
- Academic360.com – includes job listings for all colleges in a given state
- Academic Careers Online
Application Packet. The style and content of your materials may vary depending upon your field. Prior to sending, check with your department. You can also contact the Career Counseling Center to schedule an appointment with a career counselor to review your cover letters, CV, teaching, and research statements. Keep track of where you have applied. For electronic submissions, use PDF format, combining all documents into a single document.
- Cover letter
- Refer to the position and department.
- Discuss your research interests, teaching highlights, and fit for the college/university.
- List enclosed materials.
- Keep it up to date.
- List all publications.
- Highlight the information that most applies to the setting to which you are applying. Your choice depends upon the area of focus for each institution: research or teaching.
- Research statement
- Future Research Goals
- Teaching statement (if requested).
- Sample publications or writing sample (if requested).
October – January:
Wait. The majority of calls will come in January.
- Meet with a faculty member to discuss the interview.
- You can also make an appointment at the Career Counseling Center for a mock interview.
- If possible, schedule your 2nd choice schools early.
- Try not to schedule more than 1 interview a week.
Prepare and Practice your Job Talk
- Simplify. Present the big picture and significance of your research so that even 1st year graduate students can ask good questions. Reserve the last few minutes of your talk for broad future research directions.
January – April:
Interview. The interviews are typically two long days.
- Talk. Be prepared for a wide range of settings. Relax.
- One-on-ones. You will have many mini-interviews with the faculty. Ask about their research. Focus on the big picture and where your research fits in.
- Lunch with students. Have fun. A good rapport with students won't help a bad candidate, but a bad interaction with graduate students could hurt a good candidate.
- Dinner. Relax, be yourself, but remember, this is part of the interview process also.
- Job talk.
- Future research plans. Find out in advance how the department typically structures a job talk (chalk, PowerPoint, overheads, etc.). State research schools often are interested in specifics of grant funding plans. At top-tier schools, this is a given. Questions may be more focused on the big picture of your research.
- Diplomacy. You will get questions, some tougher than others. Thank them for their valuable input. A dialogue is important.
- Teaching demonstration. You may be asked to prepare a presentation. Practice.
March – June:
Second Interviews. You are in the driver's seat. Find out everything you can about the department. Ask to meet people outside the department, and ask their opinion of your future department and chair. Talk in general about space, money, equipment, course load, etc.
Offers. Ask for time to think about the offer. Don't panic if you have a deadline – if you are serious and they are serious they will extend the offer. Don't keep a school on the line if you have a better offer.
Negotiating. Almost everything is negotiable. Some schools, however, may not have the budget. Don't pit two departments against each other. You may have some hard choices to make, depending upon other factors such as colleagues, students, course load, etc. Consult with your faculty and the Career Counseling Center about negotiating a job offer.