Preparing for the Job Market, Even Though it’s Summer

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Time to prepare for the job market already? Are you a graduate student who is ABD and intending to go on the market this year? Are you a post-doc? Then, the sooner the better…

Time to Prepare for the Job Market Already?

If you just got back from the beach or a swing in the hammock, I doubt that you’re in the mood to think about the job market. And I’m sorry to do this to you; but… you’ll thank me in November. It’s time to start thinking, planning and taking action.

From the moment you decide to go to graduate school you are “preparing” for the job market. No matter where you are on the timeline, there are things that you could be doing right now to move the process forward. In particular, it makes sense to take advantage of your summer free time to take small steps in that regard.

But I Hate Rejection!

Applying for jobs creates anxiety in most people. After all, you are setting yourself up to get rejected, which is a difficult experience for anyone. Don’t let that anxiety lead to procrastination and avoidance, however (see my article on “The Three P’s”.) You should optimize your efforts so as to be as competitive a candidate as you can. You’ve accomplished so much – let others know about it!

In my opinion, the best antidote to this kind of anxiety is action, taken in small, bearable, doses. As you make progress, you will feel better about yourself and be less anxious.

Inform Yourself

Do your homework on the job market. Here are some suggestions:

  • Read all the books you can on the job market. I HIGHLY recommend that you acquire the “Academic Job Search Handbook” that is featured on the right. Chapter Three has an invaluable timeline.
  • Enlist the help of others. You should be having ongoing conversations with your advisor and/or committee members about the process. Talk to peers who have been on the market. If there is a placement officer, talk to him or her.
  • Attend all seminars offered on preparing for the job market.You Should Already Have:
  • An updated CV
  • A generic cover letter, to be customized as you send in applications

If those items are not complete, I suggest you get started – – they are not too time-consuming to prepare. Both recommended books have instructions on CV and cover-letter writing, and samples for various disciplines.

Here are some helpful links for preparing a CV and/or cover letter:

I Haven’t Done Enough Preparation!

It’s never too late to start. Here are some ideas to get you going right away:

  • Spend a little time every day working on the steps you need to take. The proverbial 15 minutes a day will add up quickly. You can stand anything (well, almost) for 15 minutes, right?
  • Make an effort to get to know the people who will be writing your recommendations. And give them an opportunity to get to know you better.
  • Consider tweaking a term paper or a chapter of your dissertation and submitting it to a journal. It just might get accepted! In the meantime, it will look good on your CV that you have a submission.
  • Also consider sending an abstract to a conference. Even if you don’t get to present the paper until after your interviews, it will show up on your CV.
  • Make sure one of your dissertation chapters or term papers is polished enough to submit as a writing sample.
  • If teaching will be emphasized at the places where you apply, start thinking about a teaching portfolio

I’m Not Going On the Market This Year

If you’re over a year away from going on the market, now is the time to learn as much as you can about the process. There are two reasons for this. The first is that knowledge is power – you will be able to take the important steps in compiling your dossier earlier. The second reason is that it will help you make important decisions. These decisions, which include your choice of dissertation topic, advisor and committee members, will have an influence on how well you do on the job market. In the meantime, learn everything you can about your chosen field — job availability, the range of opportunities that are available, pay structure, and anything else that you will need to know eventually.

Now, Go Back to the Hammock!

After you do your 15 minutes of preparing for the job market.

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