A significant percentage of my current position at George Mason University is devoted to facilitating graduate student professional development workshops and initiatives. Because the academic job market is now in full swing, I find myself talking to groups about application materials more and more these days. In individual consultations, in small groups, and in Mason’s “Preparing for Careers in the Academy” program, my mantra is always the same:
- Do not go on the job market before you are absolutely ready. It takes so much out of you cognitively, emotionally, and physically that you are being unfair to yourself if you go on the market before you have a reasonable chance of success. This “reasonable chance” looks different for everyone, though, so it’s important to consider a variety of factors. I have developed a job market readiness checklist (PDF) that might be of some use.
- You can really only control two parts of this process: 1) your decision regarding to which schools you will apply as well as your research on these institutions, and 2) the excellence of your application materials. Everything else is out of your hands, from the composition of the search committee, to the needs of the department, to those you are competing against. Focus on what you can control and try to take a broader view of everything else. In other words, to twist the George Constanzaism–it’s not you; it’s them.
- The CV is probably the most important of all the job application materials, even though it is the least flashy. I wrote an essay for The Chronicle in April outlining why I think this is true.
Those are just a few of what I think are the most important bite-sized nuggets of job market tips. I’m happy to help and to answer any questions at any time.