Job application advice

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This is a write-up of the workshop for applying to tenure track jobs which took place on Oct 2nd 2014. 

For the Job Market event, Professors Juan Battle and Phil Kasinitiz led the meeting where two recently hired GC soc alums Laura and Calvin shared some of their experiences. Soc students then asked a variety of questions. Below is a quick summary:

There are a lot of people applying for jobs but it’s not as competitive as you may think. Our program is doing better in recent years as far as job placements. It may be better to go on the job market when the dissertation is nearly done.

The job market is earlier in the year now. Example: for Fall 2016 jobs, there will be a call out from Aug-Oct 2015 but some schools, including CUNY, put out calls in Nov-Jan. Many of your professors don’t know this timeline so it’s up to you to pay attention. Join ASA, get job bulletin.

While most jobs are Tenure Track, there are 1 year, 2 year, post-doc positions that can roll over into Tenure Track. This is especially true for areas away from metropolitan areas, where adjuncts are less available. What they’ll want: a cover letter, a CV, 3 recommendations, a writing sample, statement of research and statement of teaching. A lot of it gets uploaded online.

Hired Alum 1, Laura: She went on the job market in 2012 w/o finishing her dissertation in order to get a post-doc which she didn’t receive; in the process, she did receive a Tenure Track position and completed and defended her dissertation later on. Since she has two kids (both of which she had in grad school), which meant no time for playing around and quantitative skills, she thought she could support herself until she finds work. When she was on the job market, she had some reports published, co-authored a book chapter and had a couple of book reviews.

She mentioned that when preparing a package, you do a good job in the beginning and then tailor the package for each job opening. This way, it will be a lot of work initially but not as much work later on. She advises to make sure there are no errors and to hire a proofreader. She mentioned that all schools are teaching schools so your teaching should be first in the cover letter, then a research agenda and then service. Sometimes, the search committee will only look at a CV in order to weed out those they really don’t want and they will be looking for courses taught that they themselves don’t want to teach. Because we, as CUNY grad students, are very strong in our teaching, it is definitely a plus.

Once you book a job interview, be likeable, don’t mention your research too much and don’t mention that you have kids too much since that isn’t well received in academia, in her opinion. Instead of talking about your research, talk about the research of your search committee during mini-talks (breakfasts, lunch, coffee times). You may also give a teaching presentation to a class of students in front of their department and, if you prepare, you’ll be fine. Once, a colleague of hers made placards for the students so she can call on them by name and everyone loved that, so add more interactive elements into your teaching presentation.

There may also be a research presentation or a job talk. Keep it short: though they’ll say you have 30-40 minutes, you should only use up 15-20 and leave the rest for people’s comments and questions. The research presentation is not a dissertation defense nor is it a conference presentation. It is only a snippet of your best work from the dissertation, which you should call research/work/scholarship. Do not go over your dissertation chapter by chapter – that can get you disqualified. Dress appropriately, wear a suit. If you don’t have any publications, submit something right before your interviews so you can say something is under review.

Hired Alum 2, Calvin: Graduated in 2013, has Tenure Track job at Montclair. When he went on the job market, he put together recommendation deadlines in a single PDF for his professors so they can stay on top of things. When it came to teaching and research statements, make it no longer than 1 page, single-spaced, since no one generally reads beyond 1 page, according to Professor Battle. Make sure to use the correct school name, department and address on each document. When it comes to teaching evaluations, both faculty and student, put the top 3-4 into a single PDF document and only provide it if a school specifically asks you to provide teaching evaluations.

If you have taught many classes, make sure to note that on your teaching statement. If you do not have any publications when going on the job market, make sure you submit an article before so that you may say it’s under review or hopefully forthcoming. You can then ask the publisher to halt the date of the publication so that you can use that article in your 1st year work package. When it comes to job interviews, remember you are always ‘on’ as long as you are on that campus. When giving your job talk, mention your research and a solid future research agenda and that you can get grants and that your work can also help out undergraduate students, if possible.

During the year you are on the job market, make sure to communicate with your dissertation committee and set standards for yourself in order to get things done. That last year is difficult because you may be writing your dissertation and teaching and applying for jobs but you have to make sure to check in with your advisor. Checking in is important because a lot of your callbacks will happen because someone in those schools knows someone on your committee. Consider, too, applying to other departments besides sociology and to interdisciplinary departments.

The floor was then opened up to questions. Students were interested in what should go into cover letters. It was suggested that the top 5 things about you should go into the 1-1 ½ pages, single-spaced. Include the most recent and most important of all the things you did at CUNY. Tailor it later.

Sometimes, the search committee will only look through the cover letter, so it’s important to have a good cover letter. It is especially important to include a specific sum of your accumulated grants and funding and tuition remission, etc. Make sure to also mention publications, teaching and service. Finally, if you are willing to relocate, make sure to make that explicit and say why, so it is believable.

It is important to know what you do not want because you don’t want to take just any job. Don’t chase jobs that you are not qualified to do or departments that do not align with your research at all. Remember deadlines are very important, the due date is the absolute due date, even if it says until filled, which is usually done for HR reasons and not for you. If you are unsure, you can always call the department and see if the position is still available.

When it comes to publications, though there is a hierarchy of publications (dissertation chapters published better than side projects published; specific journals better than others, etc), any publication is better than none. Again, best to put that you have things in preparation, under review, forthcoming. Try to submit for publication as you write your dissertation chapters.

As far as your social media accounts, clean them up. Make sure to Google yourself to see what comes up. Make a website where you have a CV and other content. If you are not yet on the job market, think strategically about your topic (has to fit what is being sought out there) and committee (pick those that will go to bat for you on the job market, not just those that make you feel good.)

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