Finding a job

See also financial support while a student.

When you’re immersed in the subleties of research it’s unpleasant to realize that your future job prospects will depend little on the clever taxonomic scheme you’ve just devised for organizing your field notes, and instead on the brute realities of supply and demand. It’s almost a tautology to say that the people who find jobs first are those whose profiles match what employers are seeking. You may have done outstanding work and still not get interviews, if you don’t fit the specific needs.

What can you do? It won’t work to reinvent yourself to follow the perceived fashion. But you can highlight those aspects of your work that people are interested in. You can also seek out a wider range of opportunites by participating in conferences, exploring the web, reading the The Chronicle of Higher Education, and taking advantage of the informal networks of professors and other students. You can also broaden the scope of locations and types of institutions you’ll consider. And of course, be patient; many of the best opportunities arise at the last minute, when the employer may be even more desperate than you are.

Remember that the job application process is fundamentally at odds with the dissertation process. It’s not only that both require 100% commitment to do well. Job applications require an outward focus, entering other organizations’ cultures, and a divergent kind of thinking, as in “although I focused on monarch butterflies, I can contribute to teaching about Sumerian seals.” Dissertations demand an inward focus to respond to a department and small committee. The thinking is more convergent, for example to defend the details of a single study.

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