Wednesday, December 28, 2016
Applying for academic (i.e., professor) positions is tricky. Especially if you're a bit of a newbie, like myself. This post is just covering the finding opportunities and submitting of materials phase of the faculty job hunt. Interview experiences come later.
Resources for the Entire Faculty Job Hunt ProcessThere are some good resources on the process, including timelines, advice on creating & tailoring application materials, interview tips, negotiation advice, etc. Particularly:
- Stanford's Postdoc & PhD Career Guide: A lovely overview of that week-long jobs workshop I took. Invaluable.
- The Professor Is In: The blog *and* the book. Both very useful, like a job workshop. Really handy if you don't have a mentor who's useful for this bit of professional development. The author also provides consulting services, and a variety of $50 webinars. I attended a week-long workshop at my university called "Jumpstart Your Academic Career" which was a near equivalent going over the cover letter, research statement, teaching statement, and diversity. If I did not have that support The Professor Is In webinars would be worth every penny. Karen Kelsky is the career advisor you never had. A bit polarizing, but better than complete ignorance!
- Philip Guo's Timeline of His Faculty Job Search: The author is in my field, which yields this day-by-day rundown of events incredibly useful for me, but it's nice to get a rather frank insight into the entire process. The timeline at the end could give you great insight into how the whole interviews/offers/negotiation thing might work on a day-by-day scale.
- Your usual mentors: PhD Advisors, collaborators, peers who have graduated, Post-doc mentors, department heads, etc. etc.
- University Resources: Does your university run a careers workshop for people with PhDs? Or a CV review? Or even just a writing/speaking center for improving your written materials and job talk?
- Your Friends'/Peers' Successful Applications Materials: Do you have a friend who proceeded to the interview stage in their faculty job search? Get their cover letter, research statement, and teaching statement. For research institutions. For liberal arts colleges. All the jobs. People don't mind sharing :)
- I'm probably missing some good ones, but these are an okay start.
Places to Look for Faculty Openings
- Chronicle Vitae: (Chronicle of Higher Education) Search lots of job postings.
- Higher Ed Jobs and Inside Higher Ed Careers: Similar to (and with lots of overlap with) Chronicle Vitae.
- Academic Jobs Online: Most of these jobs are posted in the above websites, but Academic Jobs Online is also an application platform - you apply to the jobs through the AJO interface. More on that in a moment...
- Professional Email Lists: Some professional societies have email lists and some of these email lists have job specific email lists. I found quite a few good postings on ' CHI-JOBS@listserv.acm.org' for my field.
- Randomly Visiting School Websites: Search 'InstitutionName Faculty Openings'. That'll usually get you what you want. True story, I applied to Wesleyan University because Lin-Manuel Miranda went there. Their job postings did not show up in my line-by-line hunt of Chronicle Vitae.
Applying CriteriaAt some point I had to narrow down the options, so I used the following criteria, which are proxies for could I be happy and productive here?:
- Less than 2-preps per semester teaching requirement.
- Applications submitted through anything but email or snail mail.
- Closer to the East coast.
- Reasonable endowment.
- For teaching-oriented schools, a sub-specialty match.
- Hindsight addition: Departments with more than 2 instructors.
Faculty Application MaterialsGet examples of successful materials, from all kinds of institutions, from all kinds of disciplines. Working from examples is really the only way to go here. The Professor Is In Blog has slightly redacted posts on the cover letter, Research Statement, Teaching Statement, the CV, but look elsewhere for advice on the oft optional Diversity Statement (mostly just for California schools). This is a case where you may really want to purchase Dr. Karen Kelsky's 'The Professor Is In' book. It'll be worth the $12. I generally had two versions of most of my materials, including the CV: a research-oriented one and a teaching-oriented one. I had a "base" version of each, with yellow highlights for spots that needed customization (mostly just replacing department/university names, courses of interest offered at the school, and a few sentences in the cover letter for position/mission-statement-tailoring). So, 2 CVs, 2 base cover letters, 2 base research statements, 1 base teaching statement, and 1 diversity statement. Once I had the base materials reviewed by my advisors, the writing & speaking center, and the PhD career coach, I started submitting applications. Each institution's packet ended up taking 30-60 minutes each to customize. My CV is 7 pages, cover letters are 1 page, research statement is 3 pages, teaching statement is 2 pages, and diversity statement is 1 page, although these page numbers vary by discipline. I felt pretty good about the conciseness of my materials. I had about a 50% positive return rate on my materials, which also made me feel pretty good. Just be very mindful that not every institution wants the cover letter, research statement, and teaching statement in separate files. Some want varying combinations of these put into 2 pages. Since your materials get 2.5 minutes max, schools wanting you to reduce materials is no surprise. So, a list of materials you may or may not need, depending on all your applications:
- Curriculum Vitae
- "Teaching Experience" before "Research Experience" for liberal arts colleges.
- "Heavily" Tailored Cover Letter
- 2+ sentences alluding to the school's mission statement, requirements in the job ad, or potential within-department collaborations
- This is essentially a 5 paragraph essay: (1) introduce where you are/were, (2) Summarize dissertation research, (3) Summarize future research plans, (4) Describe teaching philosophy, and (5) Conclusions with "Please feel free to contact me...I look forward to hearing from you." See The Professor Is In for more insight into writing your cover letter.
- Lightly Tailored Research Statement
- Include future publication plans ("in process", "submitted to").
- Number your future project plans (2+).
- For liberal arts colleges, also state how undergraduates can get involved with each of your future project plans. Options: (1) "I've worked with undergraduates on preliminary work in this vein", (2) "Junior undergraduates can start using X method while they build X capacities that contribute to longer lines of question formation", (3) etc. etc.
- (optional) Mention departments or projects you wish to collaborate with.
- Lightly Tailored Teaching Statement
- List courses you'd be interested/qualified in teaching (look up the exact course names).
- (optional) Diversity Statement
- (optional) ~3 Peer-reviewed Publications
- (optional) Teaching Evaluations
- If you ever TA/teach a class, always get formative mid-semester evaluations from your students.
- 3-4 Confidential Recommendation Letters
Submitting Reference LettersThe trickiest bit of all this is keeping track of those reference letters! Every institution uses a different system. Some want a PDF with the reference names in them, some have you type directly into the system. Academic Jobs Online and Interfolio store and submit general letters on your behalf. Some systems email your reference writers upon submission, some wait until you pass a certain vetting by the search committee. There is no way to track any of this. Don't stress too much about it. However, there is a way to somewhat manage the reference letter portion of the process:
- Create an Interfolio Account ($20?).
- Request a generic letter from each of your 4 letter writers through Interfolio. Provide a deadline before your first application deadline. The first reference letter is the hardest to write!
- Create an Academic Jobs Online Account (free)
- Request a generic letter from each of your 4 letter writers through AJO. Be sure to press that green arrow, or the system will never send the email! (Alternatively, you can have AJO request a generic letter from the stored one you have in Interfolio, if you're willing to pay $4/letter. Interfolio has instructions, here).
Due to some confusion with AJO, I also paid 4*$4 to have all my generic Interfolio letters stored on AJO as well. For the other ~3 letter writers, when applying to a university that did not use AJO nor Interfolio, I had the system send them a request. Occasionally, I'd realize I had a remote interview while still missing reference letters and would hunt those down with follow-up emails. As the above image suggests, there's a lot to track and it's pretty much impossible to really keep an eye on everything.
At least missing reference letters shouldn't keep you from getting the remote interview.