Managing Your Expectations for the Academic Job Market

Excerpt from “The Professor is In,” a regular column by Karen Kelskey (an academic career coach) in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

https://chroniclevitae.com/news/1036-the-professor-is-in-a-first-timer-on-the-job-market

I’m going on the academic job market for the first time starting this coming fall. What should I expect?

That depends a lot on your field and your subfield, as well as on your own qualifications. But there are certain common features that hold true across the tenure-track market, which tends to be highly competitive in many disciplines and subdisciplines, though far worse in some than in others. At any rate, let me try to enumerate some of the many things that you can expect as a first-timer on the faculty market.

You can expect the competition to be fierce.

You can expect to receive little or no acknowledgment of your applications from departments. You may well never be told that you have been removed from consideration.

You can expect to be Googled, once you make the long shortlist.

You can expect to have your teaching record closely examined, even for positions at major research universities.

You can expect to have your publishing record closely examined, even for teaching positions.

You can expect to be asked inappropriate questions.

You can expect many awkward interactions during the interview process.

You can expect to receive bad advice from many corners: your friends, your university’s career-services office, and perhaps even your adviser.

You can expect to need new clothes.

You can expect to be asked questions for which you did not prepare.

You can expect to panic.

You can expect to need to stretch outside your comfort zone intellectually, pedagogically, and socially.

You can expect to spend endless hours on your job-application materials, and to find the hiring process enormously disruptive to both your scholarly and personal life.

You can expect to feel ambivalent about your successes on the market, seeing your friends’ struggles.

You can expect to feel despondent about your own struggles on the market, seeing your friends’ successes.