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Author Topic: Surviving the Job search  (Read 791600 times)
Distinguished Senior Member
Posts: 2,655

« on: August 07, 2007, 8:28:31 pm »

As the academic year begins, a lot of you will be undertaking a first job search.  With that in mind, I'm posting my top ten tips for surviving the process.  These are things that helped me keep some level of sanity; they are not helpful hints on how to do well in your search.  I hope other forumites will contribute things that were helpful in their searches.

trabb’s top 10 list for surviving the job search:

1.   Find a non-academic hobby that requires your complete attention.  You will want something that completely clears your mind as this whole thing goes on.

2.    Listen to advice from everyone in academe, including mentors, colleagues, and forumites.

3.    After listening to advice from everyone in academe, make carefully considered, rational decisions and stand by them.  It’s your job search.  Own it.  There usually are not right or wrong answers to questions like “should I staple or paperclip,” and you’ll feel better knowing that you’ve made the decision that you think is best.

4.   Do not let yourself get competitive with friends who are applying for the same job as you.  If you can’t have the job, your close friend is the person whom you’d most want to have it.  Celebrate each others’ successes.

5.   Set “check the wiki” breaks during the day.

6.   Do not check the wiki unless it’s a “check the wiki” break.

7.    If at all possible, find a non-academic friend who will listen to you talk about your job search without attempting to offer advice.

8.   Spend the money to have delivery confirmation of all applications.

9.   If at all possible, do not look at real estate, apartments, cost of living calculators or anything else like that until you have a campus visit scheduled.  Projected-future-lives syndrome can lead to emotional disaster.

10.   Exercise.  It really will make you feel better.
The Very First
Distinguished Senior Member
Posts: 4,867

« Reply #1 on: August 07, 2007, 8:33:00 pm »

Excellent list, Trabb! I would add that folks going on the market in the fall should have versions of cover letters for different types of institutions drafted, evals collected and copied, references contacted, and a writing sample or two selected before the list becomes available, as well as revised versions of research interests, teaching philosophies, etc. ready to go. Try to make a packet of materials now so you don't have to scramble later.


As always, CBL rules!  All hail the CBL!
Empress &
Distinguished Senior Member
Posts: 7,260

« Reply #2 on: August 07, 2007, 9:15:02 pm »

Great list Trabb.
For me, the single most helpful thing was to do my absolute best not to get my hopes up about any particular job.  I'm not saying that you should be discouraged or unenthusiastic, but simply that you should not pin your success or failure on any one institution.  Do the best you can on your materials, proofread them and polish them to a high sheen, and then put them in the mailbox and out of your mind.  I know it is hard, but this is where all of Trabb's other advice comes in handy to keep yourself occupied and keep your mind off whatever you think might be your dream job.  There is no such thing.  Certainly there will be jobs that are preferable for you and your skill set, but try to be open to whatever possibilities might arise as the search progresses.

Good luck!

We broke a six-pack in the store to get just one
Distinguished Senior Member
Posts: 5,429

пошлите законоведами пушки и деньг

« Reply #3 on: August 08, 2007, 8:36:18 am »

Eat right.
Do not complain to your friends, it gets old.
Write write write write write.
Show your faculty that you are a pro so that they can tell prospective employers the same thing.
Write write write write write.

"History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme." Samuel "Steroid Free" Clemens
Senior member
Posts: 863

« Reply #4 on: August 08, 2007, 10:16:28 am »

Thanks for posting this list, trabb!

I want to add another to the list.   For those of you--like me--who are on the market to escape a tt job in a toxic environment, don't let your current situation bring you down or make you desperate.  Just go forth and be your fabulous self!
Gainfully employed
Distinguished Senior Member
Posts: 4,994

And so it goes, onward and upward

« Reply #5 on: August 08, 2007, 10:44:59 am »

Great list, Trabb!

Here's what I'm doing: exercising like crazy (I love it), reading good books (I'm on Allende, House of the Spirits), and playing my banjo.  Here's what I'm doing wrong:  feeling sorry for myself, eating too much, drinking too much beer, and spending too much time alone.


If you're not doing clinical trials or trying to keep people in outer space, it's not worth getting all anxious about.
Legal Alien
Distinguished Senior Member
Posts: 1,362

« Reply #6 on: August 09, 2007, 8:25:45 am »


Excellent list. However, regarding point #9, I think sometimes it is necessary to do a quick search on realtor.com or apartments.com in order to decide whether or not to apply for a particular job. Just as there is no use applying for a job in Alaska if you hate winter, there's also no use applying for a job in an area with pricey real estate if you want a decent standard of living. I actually did this yesterday and determined within five minutes that housing in a particular area was way too pricey.

"Dublin, Dundee, Humberside ..."
Distinguished Senior Member
Posts: 2,655

« Reply #7 on: August 10, 2007, 1:35:19 pm »

To add another:  Never, ever attempt to read into either the job description or your performance in an interview.  People often do not get the job when they absolutely nailed the interview; sometimes people who feel like they totally flunked the interview get the job.  Trying to make sense of the job market is an impossible task.
New member
Posts: 27

« Reply #8 on: August 10, 2007, 11:35:46 pm »

I'd like to add the following:

Even if you have to pay for it yourself, spend the extra $49 for economy plus on the flight to an interview locale; if you can afford it, all the better to do the same on the return trip.

Posts: 164

« Reply #9 on: August 11, 2007, 11:51:45 pm »

Good list! I would add that it might be helpful to apply to a job outside academia as part of your search. I interviewed for a interesting government job shortly before going to the AHA for interviews. I didn't get the government job, but the interview did give me confidence and made me realize that there are more jobs I could be happy with besides those in academia. This made me less desperate, and I ended up landing a t-t at a good school in an ideal location.

Distinguished Senior Member
Posts: 10,782

Check, please.

« Reply #10 on: August 14, 2007, 7:01:12 am »

Great list, Trabb.

May I add, especially with regard to Dr. Stones' reminder to write:

Know your market. If you're setting your sights for a research institution, another publication will impress the search committee more than another 10 applications. Budget your time enough to get out another manuscript, even if it means sending out fewer applications.

Fortune favors the bold.

Quote from: mountainguy
Excellent analysis by Normative.
Quote from: tenured_feminist
All hail Normie!
Quote from: systeme_d
Normative, that was superb.
Junior member
Posts: 57

« Reply #11 on: August 14, 2007, 7:58:26 am »

Excellent list and timely, too. Way to go, Trabb.

This is obvious, but bears repeating: research the department with which you interview. Try to know their needs as best you can so that when you talk to them, you can modulate the discussion in a way that shows you anticipate helping.

This is less obvious: use the power of Microsoft word (or whatever) to help with cover letters. I used "autocorrect" to complete entire paragraphs. For example, if I was applying to a position that leaned toward intro teaching, I created a paragraph for my cover letters that explained why I was an experienced teacher, and then I created an autocorrect abbreviation called "teaching1" that Word would automatically "correct" by replacing that phrase with the whole paragraph.

And of course, use autocorrect for addresses, salutations, closings, etc.

What this allows is a tailored cover letter for each job ad that is created quickly with language I had spent time crafting. I was not sending everyone the same letter--each letter had its unique parts written to connect to the specific ad--but I was saving a lot of time on most of the text.

New member
Posts: 3

« Reply #12 on: August 15, 2007, 10:51:31 am »

Hi folks,
I'm back, as a new poster, checking in after a break.
It's soo good to see all of you here, helping each other out.
It's now one week, until skool starts, and still no job prospects.
My most recent application will, it looks like, go to the husband of the grad school faculty member.
And this after a week of building a package of professional and student work examples, evals, letters, CD burning, etc.
Okay, I had a nightmare that I was back at the hazing by the freak and his pet student girlfriend.
So I had to write and get some of that supportive mojo from yall.
What do I do?
No money, even got screwed on my last unemployment check. No job, and soon, the lease on this place expires. Can it be that this is all I worked for? Oh, yeah, Sallie Mae screwed up my student loan unemployment deferment. I owe them more than I could every pay.
time for a serious rethink, rehaul, just core dumping, thanks for listening.
Junior member
Posts: 82

« Reply #13 on: August 20, 2007, 8:13:19 am »

Also, I would add:
1. Don't overdramatize!  It's a lot of work,  but so is everything else in your life: completing dissertation, new courses to teach, etc. If you feel like it is way too much work, well, get on interfolio, skip the job in Guam (or wherever feels too far away). 

2.  Someone may have said something similar, but avoid speaking with non-academics about where you applied.  People who have done college searches with their kids will act like they know all about higher ed! They can tell you what the "best" schools are and where you should be aiming.  Grr, try to avoid this aggravation.

3. Don't come up with conspiracy theory.  Yes, the odds are against you, but there is not a vast conspiracy against you. You just have bad luck or a saturated field.
Onion's Minion and a Vaptastic
Distinguished Senior Member
Posts: 5,118

« Reply #14 on: August 27, 2007, 10:39:09 am »

Zelda, sorry to hear your situation is so lousy.  I hope things pick up soon!

For the rest of us seekers... is it just me, or do people make far too much of a big deal out of this process?  I agree with Reluctant - don't overdramatize.  When I first went into this process I read as much as possible about it (of course - that's what I do!), and all the information out there offered the same conclusion: the job search is absolute, impossible, incomprehensible hell.  I spent my first season on the market moping, making myself sick with worry, feeling sorry for myself, and panicking.  Guess what?  I didn't get a job. 

Sure, the statistics are sobering, and no one should go on the academic market without being aware of the stark reality of the number of qualified candidates who will not get the jobs they want.  But I worry that we make ourselves feel horrible and that saps our confidence - and our ability to perform when we need to.  I also feel that the drama can become a self-fulfilling prophecy: last year, I found the job search difficult in part because I kept telling myself that it was difficult, and because I kept reading material that told me how difficult it is.  In preparation for the upcoming hiring season I decided to have a reread of some of the threads here, and I got so depressed! 

This year, I still can't read SCs' minds or magically conjure up jobs in my field.  But I can try to keep a positive attitude.  It certainly won't hurt my chances, and it will make me feel a lot better.  I don't know how long I can keep it up but I'm going to do my best.

Who's with me?

If you want a cookie, bake a cookie.
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