Beginning your Job Search
Beginning a job search can be a daunting task. Your first job is to identify the kind of job you are looking for, and you are more likely to get a job you are happy with if you narrow your search (Bolles, 2005, p.112). For that, you need to understand what your choices are. Then you'll be able to choose which jobs to apply for.
Jump down to
- Choosing what kinds of jobs to search for,
- General information about the job search process,
- Links to classified ads, or
- Tips from Early Career Geoscience Faculty Workshop Alums
On choosing what kind(s) of job you will search for
- Read about people who have chosen academic careers in geoscience. These include careers at a variety of academic institutions.
- Read about people who have chosen alternatives to academic careers in geoscience. These include careers in education, outreach, and public affairs.
- The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education is where terms like "Research-1 University" come from (note -- the Carnegie Foundation no longer uses that category). See answers to frequently asked questions about the Carnegie Classification system.
- The Academic Career Learning Community from the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning, offers 'ideas, resources, and support for future faculty in the STEM fields,' including articles, events, and an academic career blog that describes personal accounts of faculty experiences in academia.
- Second Thoughts is a column from the Chronicle of Higher Education detailing a geoscientist's experiences interviewing at a research institution. He discovered that their expected emphasis on research (80 percent of faculty time) did not match his desired emphasis on teaching.
- Liberal Arts College Faculty: Finding the Sweet Spot is an article from Science Careers describing the teaching and research expectations for early career faculty at liberal arts colleges, including a statement about the enormous variability of expectations.
- Matching Your Characteristics to the Institution: This article, on how to choose the type of academic job that will be a good "fit" for you, is from Rick Reis' "Tomorrow's Professor Mailing List."
- "Deciding Where and When to Apply," a chapter from the Academic Job Search Handbook, includes an extensive list of questions you may wish to consider, about the type of institution, department, geographic location, and other job characteristics that would best suit your preferences.
- "Selecting the Right College," a chapter from Good Start: a Guidebook for New Faculty in Liberal Arts Colleges, discusses several factors you might want to consider in choosing where to work, including geography, institutional mission, student selectivity, and working conditions.
- Know Thy Students, by Rob Jenkins, is a delightful description of the diversity of students found on two-year college campuses, and of the challenges and pleasures of teaching them. On a similar note, in It's the Community-College Life for Me, Ellen Olmstead explains why she prefers her community college faculty position to any of the other teaching jobs she's had, including those at four-year colleges and universities.
- Geoscientists in the Media is a webinar produced by the American Geological Institute, focusing on the career opportunities for geoscientists in the media, from print to film; you can watch and listen to a recording on the website linked above.
- Three Faculty Communities: Academic Labor Across Institutional Types is an article from Rick Reis' Tomorrow's Professor email list that looks at full-time faculty work at three distinct institutions: a research university, a comprehensive university, and a community college.
General information about the job search process in academia
- The Academic Job Search Handbook, by Mary Heiberger and Julia Vick, is an invaluable resource, full of advice, information about the job search process, and examples of application materials. For a taste of what this book offers, read this excerpt from the Tomorrow's Professor Email List: Hiring from the Institution's Point of View, which includes practical advice for several steps of the job search process.
- The Two-Year College Job Search Process. Eric Baer, Professor of Geology at Highline Community College, prepared this overview of what to expect at a community college interview (including an extensive list of interview questions on a variety of topics), for the Preparing for an Academic Career in the Geosciences Workshops.
- Anderson, Matt, 2001, So You Want to be a Professor, (Acrobat (PDF) 163kB Oct11 05) Physics Today, v. 54, issue 4, p. 50. Matt describes the process of his recent job search in physics, which ended with him accepting what he describes as "exactly the position I wanted all along," a tenure-track position at San Diego State University.
- Landing an Academic Job: the Process and the Pitfalls. (Acrobat (PDF) 77kB Oct19 05) Jonathan Dantzig, chair of the Faculty Recruiting Committee of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, thoroughly describes the process of applying, interviewing, and negotiating for an academic position. He includes a sample job advertisement, along with sample c.v., cover letter, interview itinerary, and offer letter.
- Applying for Academic Positions, an article from Rick Reis' "Tomorrow's Professor Mailing List." This article describes what search committees are looking for, how to prepare for an interview, and what you can expect during an interview.
- How to Get a Tenure-Track Position at a Predominantly Undergraduate Institution (http://www.cur.org/Publications/Howtoseries.html#3), a booklet by the Council for Undergraduate Research (CUR), describes "what a job at a PUI is like, how to prepare yourself for such a position during graduate school and in your postdoctoral years, preparing the application itself, details of the interview process, and negotiating the contract."
Nationally advertised academic job listings in the geosciences
- Classified ads from EARTH, on the American Geosciences Institute website
- Classified ads from GSA Today, (more info) on the Geological Society of America website
- Login to AGU online to see the classified ads from Eos. (You have to be a member of AGU to get access; you can become a student member for $20 (in 2013). Alternatively, borrow a paper copy of Eos from a friend.)
- Geology and Earth Science listings on HigherEdJobs.com. These are arranged from newest to oldest.
- Classified ads on the American Meteorological Society website. (more info) The AMS Career Center (more info) also allows you to post your resume on line, or to set up email notification for job listings that match your criteria.
- OceanCareers.com (more info) , supported by Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence, provides current information on career opportunities, the knowledge and skills required to enter these careers, employers who hire people to work in these careers, and much more.
- Classified ads on the Advancing the Science of Limnology and Oceanography website. (more info) This job board includes advertisements for faculty, graduate student, post-doc, and non-academic positions.
- Classified ads from Earthworks, (more info) an online listing of academic positions in geoscience, worldwide. You may find it more practical to search their main page (more info) by discipline, if you don't mind sifting through non-academic positions.
- The Chronicle of Higher Education searchable online database of advertised positions
Tips from Early Career Geoscience Faculty Workshop Alums
- This was a difficult one for me! My mind is most 'well-fed' by research, but I also love to teach. Reading job descriptions, I found things in each of them that I liked and didn't like, but none that seemed "perfect." I decided to simply apply for all of those for which I technically qualified, being as honest about my research ambitions and pedagogical beliefs as possible. The three interviews I got were all for positions for which I never would have thought I really 'fit' the description. However, during the interviews it became clear that I would be very happy with any of the three, and that perhaps I would have been much less happy with those I thought were a better fit at the outset. I don't know how well this strategy would work for others, but the experience led me to conclude that there is quite a lot not conveyed in a notice or posting.
- Just try! There's no harm in applying - it's good experience and you might be surprised that something unexpected is a good fit for you.
- In addition to looking in the ads, talk to many colleagues. They may know of a position that is open or that will open soon. Look early and often to see what the trend in your field is.
- Explore any and all options. Before applying, I did not think that I really wanted the job that I currently hold. I didn't know much about the institution and wasn't sure it was the right fit for me. Nonetheless, I applied, worked my way up the candidate rankings, and found out that the institution was the perfect match for me.
- I was burned out on research when I started looking for a career. So I started looking at Primarily Undergraduate Institutions (PUIs). Not only have I been able to focus on teaching, but there is still plenty of opportunity for me to start my own research program (in fact, it's still expected that I conduct scholarly work). However, the research is on a very manageable scale and I'm not fighting for grants just to get tenure. It's a perfect fit for me.
- When deciding whether a job offer is good for you it is imperative you prioritize what it is that is essentially important to you at this point in your life that will positively influence your future and, most importantly, can you commit to what you plan to accomplish by taking the job.
- Something to strongly consider is whether a particular opportunity will allow you to develop as both a teacher and a researcher. Where does existing faculty see their particular department in five to ten years time? Is there considerable variation in this answer to this question amongst those you meet over the course of your interview? A department (and administration) with a definitive plan has likely given these thoughts ample consideration and has a clear understanding of how they see your position meeting their goals. This will also likely factor into how much support you receive along the way.
- After graduate school, my husband (not a geologist) and I decided that we wanted to move back to the upper Midwest because we love it there and we could be near our extended family. Therefore, I began a location-based job search, which was very different from my friends and not well understood by my advisor. My goal had always been to work at an undergraduate state institution where I could teach future science teachers and so I was not bothered by the fact that there were few PhD-granting institutions and I would have to teach much more broadly than my specific research discipline. The thing that I did that worked better than I could have hoped was to ask my grad school professors if they knew people who taught at institutions within my region of interest. Invariably, they did and were able to give me names of professors in the area whom I could contact. I accumulated a list of contacts and nervously sent out emails asking if I could meet them for coffee briefly the next time I was in the area. To my surprise, every person I contacted was willing to meet with me! I spent a week traveling around the two-state area that I was most interested in, meeting with people at universities, museums, and educational organizations. At each place, I introduced myself and said that I was hoping to move to the general area -- did they know of any places that excelled in geoscience education, might be looking for a geophysicist, might be hiring soon, etc.? I didn't show up expecting to get a job at their specific institution, I was just educating myself about the different possibilities in the region. Everyone I met with was exceedingly helpful and I was able to hone in on some institutions that I had never heard of before. One year later, I was able to land a job at one of these institutions on a yearly contract that then turned into a permanent position. While my job is demanding, I find it incredibly rewarding and I really love my colleagues and the place that I live and work. My advice contained within this story is two-fold. First, don't let anyone convince you that a location-based job search is impossible. If you have a strong desire to be in a certain part of the world, then you can make it work. Second, contact people and just ask if they will take a few minutes to help you learn about the area or their type of school or whatever kind of information you feel you need to help you make good choices for yourself. I was astonished by how many people were interested in helping me learn about the opportunities and types of geologists in the region. The fact that I asked these questions is why I am where I am today -- happily employed in the place I most wanted to live.
- It's OK to choose a non-traditional career path; in fact, it may be vital to your mental health to do so. Choose a place where you feel happy, at ease, and welcome. No amount of prestige can compensate for a job you dislike.