The Job Market: Where Should You Apply?

Jobs | Career Advice | Academia

September 11, 2017


In my three years on the tenure track, I’ve already served on five faculty search committees and two for staff positions (across four divisions and four departments). That’s life at a small college. If I’ve learned anything from being on this side of the hiring table, it’s that applicants need to think beyond the position when deciding where to apply.

We all know the faculty job market isn’t pretty. And plenty of Ph.D.s don’t feel as if they have any choice in pursuing teaching positions: They go where the job is. But as a new hiring season gets underway in academe, I will take a somewhat contrarian position here and urge Ph.D.s to be as choosy as they can in the interest of their own professional longevity.

Can you build a life there? Before you accept a position, I strongly encourage you to consider whether it aligns with your personal life. Most notably: Is the job located in a place you actually want to live? The answer to that question is complex, and should consider a wide variety of factors — cost of living, proximity to friends and family, access to desirable nonwork-related activities, and affordability of local housing. For single people, the viability of the dating scene is a serious consideration, just as the quality of the school system should be of supreme importance to applicants with children.

Racial and ethnic minority applicants have a few extra considerations when determining if a city is a good fit. Will you be “the only” everywhere you go? Can you get your hair done or find haircare products without driving for an hour? Are there churches or faith-based organizations at which you could become a member? How accessible are cooking ingredients that fit your cultural needs?


Giving Thanks for My Mentors

Giving Thanks for My Mentors (from The Chronicle of Higher Education)
Full turkeys

Image: Thanksgiving – taking home turkeys from raffle, 1912 (Bain Collection, Library of Congress)

Every year since completing my Ph.D., I’ve marked off a weekend or two of November for baking. I pick a seasonally appropriate cookie — something with spices, chocolate, maybe just the right amount of fruit — make them by the dozen, and pack them for shipment to friends and family across the country. (Chocolate-dipped shortbread survived Priority Mail pretty well. The almond Florentines? Not so much.) The list of recipients shifts every year, but I’ve always given priority to four names: the people who’ve agreed to provide letters of reference in support of my applications for faculty jobs.

It’s only a gesture, but I hope it’s an appropriate one — especially this year, when I’m calling on my letter-writers more than ever before. Read more…


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