Teach the Earth > Career Prep > Job Search > Beginning your Search

Beginning your Job Search

Photo by "laurot," on the web at http://www.flickr.com/photos/laurot/27407555/

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.

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Resources

On choosing what kind(s) of job you will search for

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.
  • Applying to Community Colleges, from Mark Connelly, Inside Higher Ed, provides tips for applying to two-year colleges.
  • How to Get a Tenure-Track Position at a Predominantly Undergraduate Institution (http://www.cur.org/publications/how_to_series/), 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

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.


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