Do You Want to Be a Professor?

Julie Miller Vick

ajsh5The Academic Job Search Handbook, 5th edition (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016), is a comprehensive guide to finding a faculty position in any discipline. Beginning with an overview of academic careers and institutional structures, it moves step by step through the application process, from establishing relationships with advisors, positioning oneself in the market, learning about job openings, preparing CVs, cover letters, and other application materials, to negotiating offers. The handbook includes a search timetable, more than 60 sample job hunting materials from successful faculty job applicants, appendices of career resources, and a full sample application package.

This new edition features new or updated sections on issues of current interest, such as job search concerns for pregnant or international candidates, the use of social media in the job search, strategies to address CV gaps, and challenges faced by dual-career couples, including same-sex couples. PhDs, EdDs, MFAs and others who are seeking or will seek an academic position will find in the Handbook advice and anecdotes from those who have been on the academic job search previously.

The book is authored by Penn Career Services graduate student/postdoc advisors Julie Vick and Rosanne Lurie and former Penn Career Services advisor Jenny Furlong.

Here are some quotes from Penn doctoral program graduates who used the 4th edition of the Handbook in their academic job search and provided feedback about it to Career Services in their Career Plans Surveys:

  • “The academic job search is a long and stressful process, so it pays to start early. I picked up a copy of the Academic Job Search Handbook in the summer before I went on the market. It was SO incredibly useful in giving me an overview of the process. I can’t recommend it more highly.” (Assistant Professor of Advertising)
  • “The Academic Job Search Handbook provides the necessary advice. It helped me a lot. Be open-minded and scale down your expectations, esp. in this academic market…”  (Assistant Professor of Political Science)
  • “I love the Academic Job Search Handbook!”  (Assistant Professor of Music)
  • “The Academic Job Search Handbook was a useful resource in preparing for interviews.  Practicing answers to common interview questions ahead of time was very helpful.”  (Postdoctoral Fellow, Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics)

Career Services and the Penn Press make it possible for current Penn doctoral students and current Penn postdocs (who have completed at least one year of their postdoc) to purchase the book for the discounted price of $10 (with PennCard). Others may purchase it through Amazon, other booksellers, or the University of Pennsylvania Press,, at the regular retail price of $19.95. It is also available to be read in the Career Services library.

Learning About Opportunities

Julie Vick, Senior Career Advisor

Be open to how and where you might learn about a great job opportunity or helpful contact

Ove the years students and alumni have told me about the unexpected places, groups and individuals from whom they learned about job openings and/or resourceful people.  I’ve kept a list of them and include some here in hopes that an entry or two will provide ideas for your own job search.

Groups and individuals

  • Summer camp friends and campers’ parents
  • City-wide/regional choral/orchestra group members
  • High school athletic team members
  • Parent’s friends
  • Friend’s parents
  • Friend’s parent’s friends
  • Elementary/middle school/high school friends
  • Book group members
  • Fellow religious congregation members

Places and situations

  • Cocktail party
  • Doctor’s office
  • Barbershop/hair salon
  • Neighborhood coffee shop/deli
  • Gym/community center
  • Pop-up shops and art galleries

Be open to learning in unexpected places and feel free to add your suggestions to this list!

Are you a GRADUATE STUDENT WHO JUST GRADUATED?: Please fill out the career plans survey!

by Julie Vick, Senior Career Counselor

Your response provides us with critical information about job market and salary trends that is extremely useful to current graduate students considering career options and to Career Services staff.  In the aggregate, the data from the surveys provide us with statistics to share with current and future graduate students who are evaluating career possibilities.   Previous years’ survey results on our website.

Go to:  You will be asked to input your PennKey and password.  It will take only five minutes to complete it.

All individual responses are confidentialIf you haven’t finalized your plans, please fill out the survey anyway.  And, remember: our services are available to you for as long as you may need them.  Do not hesitate to call (215) 898-7530 to make an appointment or find out about walk-in hours.

“What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”

by Julie Vick, Senior Career Adviser

My husband says that his mother often recited this tidbit from a Sir Walter Scott poem to him and his siblings when they were growing up to instill honesty.  With the current cause célèbre around anchorman, Brian Williams where some say he lied outright, others believe he simply embellished the truth and still others maintain he is a victim of false memory, that maxim and another  — “Honesty is the best policy,” coined by that famous Philadelphian, Benjamin Franklin – have been running through my mind.

When it comes to the job search I do believe that honesty is always important.  Advice on writing resumes and cover letters encourages using vivid action verbs to describe experience and language that portrays qualifications in the most positive light.  This can be where sometimes job seekers get in trouble by inflating what they’ve done.  In attempts to highlight leadership or teamwork job hunters sometimes exaggerate reality.  “Coordinating” an event isn’t always the same thing as “designing and implementing” it although it can be.  It’s important to reflect on each experience and describe it in an accurate and interesting way that resonates with the job to which you’re applying.

For international students, it’s necessary to understand the conventions in American resume writing.  Receiving a Bachelor’s degree with four majors is not the same thing as being awarded four Bachelor’s degrees.  Auditing a course in the business school does not make an arts and sciences student a business student.

Most employers check references of potential employees and if there is a mismatch between the resume and/or letter and what the most recent boss says, the employer will see a red flag and question the hire.  In addition, there have been many high profile cases of people who lied for years on their resume only to be caught and fired many years later.

As Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself; everybody else is already taken.”  If you need help telling your story in your resume and other job-hunting materials, come see a career advisor in Career Services.  We’ll be happy to help you.

Is it Really Time to Quit?

by Julie Vick, Senior Career Advisor

“I didn’t have enough time to look for a new position so I quit my job to devote myself to job hunting.  It’s taking so long to find a new one.”

“I resigned because I didn’t like what I was doing and started looking for a new job right away. I can’t believe how difficult it is and I still don’t have a job.”

As a career advisor, when someone tells me that they resigned from their job to look for a new job I immediately wish they’d been in touch with me before they made that decision.  The old adage, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” is true, especially in the often-challenging job market we’re currently experiencing.

Reasons to job hunt before quitting:

  • Having a job makes you more confident even if it makes you feel frazzled to do your job and look for a new one at the same time.
  • If you apply for a job while not employed some employers will question why you’re not working and will wonder if you were fired.  On the other hand, if an employer sees that you’re currently working that makes you look “hirable”.

At least get busy networking.  Involve yourself in your professional/regional association.  Have coffee or lunch with people where you work who are in different departments.  Get together with people through our alumni association to share information about different kinds of work.  If you’re unfamiliar with networking, read one of our recent blog posts: “Curiosity & Careers: How Informational Interviewing Can Build Your Network (Revisited)”

If you decide to quit:

  • Don’t quit in anger.  It might give you momentary satisfaction but in the long run you may regret an angry outburst and it certainly won’t help you get a good reference.
  • Ask yourself if you can afford to quit.  Make a plan to have enough savings to draw from for a minimum of six months but, ideally, for a year.

Realize that not only employers but friends and family may question why you left your job.

If you do quit:

  • Develop a believable and, possibly, compelling narrative about why you quit but focus on the future and what you will bring to a new position.  During the job search don’t ever say anything negative about your former employer even if you had a terrible experience.
  • Have something else to be doing in addition to the job search such as a regular volunteer commitment.  You need something to give structure to the day and something that gives you a degree of success.

When you’re employed again have your antennae up for friends thinking of quitting their job without another in sight and give them some advice based on your experience.