A Year on the Job Market, Part 2
By Anonymous, November 10, 2010 in Pedagogy and Teaching, Professional Development

How best to find success on the job market?  In my last post, I talked about what you can still do to improve your chances for this year.  As promised, I now turn to a consideration of what you can do to prepare for next year.  Sadly, a second year on the market is something that a majority of job candidates will have to experience, so it’s a good idea to start thinking about it now.  What, then, can one do now so as to fare better in the future?

1. Finish that dissertation.  If you have a PhD from the get-go next year, then you’ll already be in a better position.  Finishing the dissertation is probably the single most important thing you can do to improve your chances.

2. Publish something.  We can debate the merits of the publish-or-perish regime until we’re blue in the face, but, as it stands, academics put a lot of confidence in publishing records.  If you publish, then you’re a success.  Just keep in mind that it’s important to think about where you publish too: an article in a top journal or even a top subfield journal means a lot more than a book chapter.  On the other hand, you don’t want to wait six months or a year for a top journal to reject your article.  Thus, you need to find a balance between aiming high and aiming reasonably.  Target the right journal and send something off to it.  If you do it now, you just might have something forthcoming by next year.  And, while you wait, if you do have opportunities to publish in less prestigious venues, you probably should.  Mediocre publications are still better than no publications.

3. Teach a class or two.  Teaching experience is helpful for a number of reasons.  First, if you’re applying to teaching colleges, they’re obviously going to want to know that you can teach.  Having done it before is a good way to show them that you can.  (I should add that it’s an especially good idea to get good teaching evaluations.  Don’t just teach, teach well!)  Second, teaching helps you to develop the confidence of a professional.  I think it shows when people have taught before: they know the materials better (or at least they act like it), and they’re more comfortable speaking in front of strangers.  Third, it will help you with the application and interview process: having taught will help you to write a strong statement of teaching philosophy, and it might also help during an interview, since you will have tangible experiences to rely on as you answer questions.  Moreover, if you have to give a teaching demonstration as part of the interview process, you’ll know what you’re doing.  In sum, a little teaching experience improves your CV, but it also improves you as a candidate.

4. Demonstrate that you’re active in the profession: write book reviews, go to conferences, meet people.  Get out there and do a few things.  Nobody’s going to hire you because you go to conferences, but you might meet someone at a conference who wants to hire you because they like your research.  Moreover, hiring committees do want to see that you have a desire and the ability to be active in the profession.  Putting a few conference presentations (and maybe a few book reviews or something of that sort) on your CV makes that point.

Many of these tasks are easier said than done, especially when you already have a lot of work to do, but you need to make your CV stand out.  What’s going to separate your piece of paper from the other 149?  That’s what you need to think about.  Getting your CV into the top three or six is probably 75% of the battle.  Unfortunately, just having the Ph.D. isn’t going to be enough anymore—not for most of us anyway.

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Lee Trepanier on Nov 11, 2010 at 5:08 am

Excellent post. I would only add that you make sure you have an active research agenda - your planned projects for the next 3-5 years. Even at teaching institutions, they ask this question (as to why, I'm not sure). The reality is that the pressure to publish, or be active in scholarship, has reached traditionally teaching schools.

Phil Hamilton on Nov 16, 2010 at 4:12 pm

I agree with Lee. Excellent advice. I would add on a related note that a candidate should take active steps to turn his or her dissertation into a monograph. A candidate who has a book contract (or who has a clear and practical time-line to rework the dissertation into a book) is in a much stronger candidate than one who does not.

Lee Trepanier on Dec 1, 2010 at 2:04 am

One other thing, if you are applying at a teaching institution. It is important to show how your research is releated to your teaching. Research by itself is fine at research institutions, but at teaching schools, you have to demonstrate that everything contributes to what you do in the classroom.