Going on the academic job market in search of a tenure-track position at a research-focused institution can be scary––it was for me, at least. By the time I got up the nerve, I had a non-linear career path (4 years post-PhD in a teaching-focused position). I had dramatically changed research topics twice (advisor change in grad school, and once again for my postdoc). And, I didn’t really understand the current landscape of academia in my field, HCI, in part because my advisor never had to navigate it (Steve Harrison came directly from industry and was a Professor of Practice).
Fast forward to 2019. I am very happily seated in an office in Donald Bren Hall at UC Irvine’s Department of Informatics in my second year as an Assistant Professor. And, when I look back, I realize much of that fear was truly unnecessary. I have been collecting stories of other scholars with non-linear paths (mostly through Geraldine Fitzpatrick’s Changing Academic Life podcast, which I highly recommend), and reflecting on what I wish I had known just a couple years ago. So, in this post––which I plan to extend in chunks over time––I will share some of the resources and advice from kind mentors who helped me make it through, as well as some things I would do differently if I could have another go. I hope, wherever you may be on your journey and whatever you ultimately decide, you find parts of this post useful as you plan next steps.
I benefitted immensely from the job materials posted publicly by scholars like Jon Froehlich and Erika Poole, and materials shared by mentors like Amy Hurst. Don’t be shy to poke around the websites of your academic heroes, or even ask them directly, for copies of their materials. In the spirit of paying it forward, I am happy to share my:
- Research Statement
Notes: I decided to go for a two-page statement, though for a TT research position, longer statements are common. My assumption is that most faculty don’t have time to read more.
- Teaching Statement
Notes: I put aside advice to (1) make this one page only, (2) make this about my philosophy as opposed to my practice. Having worked three years as a full-time Lecturer, I had a significant amount of teaching experience under my belt, so I opted to showcase this in two pages with evidence. Your mileage may vary.
- Diversity Statement
Notes: As with my teaching statement, I opted to focus on my practice. Diversity and inclusion are a core part of my identity and the research, teaching, and service I seek out. If this isn’t the case for you, my example may be less useful.
- Cover Letter
Notes: The cover letter should be highly tailored for each institution, but it also needs to tell the core story of your research, teaching, and service. In this copy, I’ve removed the bits that were specific to my plans at UCI.
Preview: Rounding Up Job Ads
The next section I will write will revolve around which mailing lists I joined and which websites I scoured, as well as how I managed all of the positions in a spreadsheet. Perhaps the best advice I will give will relate to how you can make the job opportunities come to you:) Stay tuned for this and other sections, including:
- Getting Feedback on Your Materials
- Knowing When You’re Ready & the Narrative of “Fit”
- Preparing for Phone and On-Site Interviews