Marketing Academic Job Market
Following the lead of some amazing scholars I’ve met over the past few years, I’m going to tell you about my marketing academic job market experience. The main reason I am sharing this is because sharing is one of the main reasons my job search was successful. The secondary reason is because I felt like some of the advice that I have gotten didn’t exactly turn out to be that relevant to my own experience. This does not mean that I am not grateful for everyone that has helped me throughout this, but some of the advice made me feel like I would never even get invited. Perhaps I was too late with my preparations for that advice to be relevant, or perhaps I just got lucky with how the job market played out for me. Before I tell you the secret to all my success, I want you to know that I am by no means a so-called job market star or a high-performance grad student from a top school. I also had no current R&Rs or publications at A journals. I just work hard, procrastinate harder, and try to find my way in this amazing field of ours!
Obviously, this doesn’t just apply to PhD students, but I’m going to throw it out there anyways: Make friends! I mean this in the broadest sense. As one of my friends, Shrabastee pointed out in her blog (see link below): “a candidate’s success on the market is a function of their academic network”. There are many types of friends that you can make as an academic, from mentors and advisors to co-authors, other PhD students and job market buddies. These friends will open up many doors for you throughout your career and you will certainly need them when you hit a rough patch in your research. You’ll need them to give you advice, land a job, get tenure, and write papers. Most importantly though, they will make your work enjoyable and fun. This can be through sharing your most recent accomplishment or another terrible reviewer report, they will know what it feels like. In my own case, each friend I made opened up another path in my PhD. First, through my master’s thesis advisor and his connections I found my PhD advisor, Willemijn at the University of Amsterdam. There was no open PhD position, but she started to work with me anyways and eventually we found funding (yes, through some of her friends) and created a position together. From here, I met my second advisor Bill at NC State University. Through Bill, I have met some of my PhD buddies, most of my co-authors, and many other colleagues in the field. I can say with certainty that I would have not found my way around academia without all of these people. Regarding the job market, the same advice applies. Around this time last year (February/March) is when I realized I needed to get ready for the upcoming job market. (I know what you’re thinking, isn’t that a bit late? Yes, it was.) I made a list of all the people I met at conferences, or other events – let’s call ‘m friends. I even added “friends” to this list, that didn’t even know they were my friend just yet. Then, I “cold” emailed all these friends and asked them: 1) for general job market advice, 2) if they had time for a virtual coffee (thanks COVID), 3) if they could keep me in mind for any future job openings. The response to these cold emails was strictly positive and overwhelmingly nice and helpful. Most of the people send me a long email with advice and experiences, and in most cases, they even scheduled a coffee and offered to look over my packet or even help me practice my talks. This was obviously a great source of knowledge on the job market process, but it was also very encouraging. A side benefit to this, is that whenever I submit my packet to their school, I can reach out to them (some also reached out to me to let me know they were looking forward to receiving my application for a posted job). Major side benefit number 2 is that these people now really are friends and it greatly increased my network.
The second piece of advice is to find the job market google sheet and the job market slack channel. These are the two places where (most) people share jobs and status updates for these jobs. This is helpful information and gives you and the other academic job market candidates a little bit more control and power, where it is mostly the universities dictating what is happening. Mainly though, this is where you can find: (you guessed it) more friends. Pick one or two people on this channel, latch on them and make them your friend. All jokes aside, it is very helpful to connect with people that are going through the same stressful time as you do. My suggestion is to connect with a few people and share your experiences. In my case, I shared almost everything job market related with a handful of others. In some instances, we even applied for the same job, and practiced our job talks together. With Shrabastee (the same friend I mentioned earlier), I organized a PhD seminar series for fellow job market candidates to practice their job talks in a “stress-free” environment. I didn’t just get useful advice when I practiced my own talk here, but I also learned a lot from the others. Yes, we are competing for some of the same jobs, but we all just need to find 1 job. Might as well work together so everyone can find a job. In fact, all the people that were part of these practice talks landed a job. I’m just going to go ahead and call this a causal relationship. It seems like the second piece of advice has turned into multiple pieces of advice that I have for future job market candidates: 1) Find job market buddies, 2) practice your talks, 3) SHARE. I can’t stress number 3 enough. Quite a few people have used the resources in the slack channel and the google sheet, without sharing their information. This is not only bad karma, but you are also hurting yourself in the process. The job market is a signalling game, so your invites to good schools, or your name appearing on a list of job market seminars will help you with your other applications. On top of this, you are a marketing student, so don’t be afraid to market yourself. Have a nice website, give talks, share experiences. All this stuff helps you!!
The third piece of advice is not to worry too much. Some of the advice that I have received included that my pipeline was probably not going to be good enough, because I didn’t have an R&R at an A journal and the other was that I didn’t have an amazing third reference. Yes, this would have been helpful advice with a couple of years until the academic job market, but with only a couple of months this certainly came too late. It worried me that I wasn’t going to get invites, because of this. I applied to about 30-35 schools and got invited to 6, some of which were top schools. This number would have probably been a bit higher if I DID have an A R&R or publication, but it wasn’t as bad as I expected. More importantly though, is that because of countless practice talks, feedback, and advice, I made it to a fly-out round with the majority of the schools I interviewed with. In the end I landed a job, and I even had to turn down some amazing opportunities for it. All that without any R&Rs and As, can you believe it?! For this reason, my advice is not to worry too much about what your pipeline looks like when it is time to hit the job market. At this point, you can’t change it, so you might as well not worry about it. This is not to say that a pipeline is not important. You should definitely try to hit those job journals with your research, and you should think about timing when you submit so you have at least a paper under review at a top journal. The other piece of advice I received on the reference letter writer goes back to my long list of reasons to make friends. Finding amazing co-authors can get you those important reference letters. So, when you can, try to find these amazing people and try to start a project with them. Part of the “don’t worry too much” advice I didn’t follow myself, which is to try to avoid looking at the job market sheet every 15 minutes, and try to avoid worrying about all the things that you could have done better before, during, or after your talk. The academic job market process is ambiguous and there are many factors influencing the decisions universities make, so don’t try to predict outcomes and don’t worry about what is next. Instead, try to focus on what is important – your research and your mental health.
The final piece of advice is to not forget about your partner or significant other. Yes, you are going through a very stressful time, and you have invested significant time in doing this PhD and preparing for the job market, but your partner is potentially going through a life-changing event as well. Plus, he/she/they are going through all this, while being on the sideline, without having job market buddies to talk about the miseries. Spend time with your partner and stop thinking about this job market so much. There are more important things in your life than this job and eventually you will get to where you need to be in life. Believe it!