CS Radio Episode 19 – “The Academic Job Search Handbook”

episode 19

This week, Mylène and Michael are honored to welcome Julie Vick into the studio.  Julie is the co-author of The Academic Job Search Handbook, which has just been released in a new 5th edition.  Julie talks about her many years of working with graduate students in Career Services, the challenges facing them today and why The Academic Job Search Handbook is such an important tool.  We also discuss the many services offered to Penn PhD students on the academic and expanded job search.   All that, plus the usual run down of this week’s events.


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, http://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/book/915.html, at the regular retail price of $19.95. It is also available to be read in the Career Services library.

Video: Preparing for Your First Year as a Faculty Member

Video compiled by J. Michael DeAngelis, Information Resources Manager and Ann Mollin (COL, ’16).

Highlights from our Faculty Conversations program, “Preparing for Your First Year as a Faculty Member,” for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows going into academia.

More videos exclusively for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows can be found on our dedicated channel!

Don’t Follow this Advice

Dr. Joseph Barber

I was reading this blog post the other day, and found the content to be quite interesting and useful. Well…, all except for the sentence in the final paragraph that stated:

“However, do not seek the advice of career services at your university (the topic of a column in this space in the future)”

While I appreciate the idea of cliffhangers to keep readers interested in future articles, this one seems unnecessarily negative and unhelpful – especially since I work at Career Services and think you should come and see us. It is a little like saying:

“…and whatever you do, do not drink hot drinks on a cold day – and I’ll tell you why in two weeks”

You are left imagining all of the horrible situations that might arise if you do. Are hot drinks going to melt my insides, make my teeth shatter, or will they just happen to fog up my glasses momentarily when I take a sip? A little context would be helpful.

I don’t know why the author suggests that you shouldn’t visit Career Services (don’t follow this advice!). There may be some very good reasons if the Career Services office at a particular university does not have a team focusing specifically on graduate students and postdocs, like we do here at Penn. Advice for a cover letter for an undergraduate-level consulting position and advice for an faculty job cover letter will be very different, and advice given for the former may not always be relevant to the latter. The wrong advice is perhaps worse than no advice at all in this case.

Staff members at Penn’s Career Services do work directly with graduate students on their academic job search materials. We often partner with other university student services, like the Center for Teaching and Learning, in our workshops and programming. We utilize Penn faculty and other Penn alumni in faculty roles at other institutions to provide their perspective in our speaker discussion panels. Our staff also includes one of the authors of the Academic Job Search Handbook!

So, definitely come to Career Services. However, take the advice that we give you under your own advisement. That is, we are not telling you what you must do with your application materials, your answers to interview questions, or your offer negotiations. We are providing advice based on our own professional and personal experiences that have been gained from a variety of different sources, including working with many, many students/postdocs who have been in the same position you are in today.

You will get some conflicting advice. Given that there is no one way to format a CV, for example, you’ll get some people telling you to order the sections in one way, another suggesting just the opposite, and someone else telling you to forget about ordering the sections and to focus on the size of your margins instead. Different advice from difference people with different personal experiences will always be a little conflicting, and it is OK to be initially confused.

As a researcher, your business is processing large amounts of information and being able to identify relevant patterns and themes to the argument you are making. Make sure that you use the same approach when you are seeking advice about your future careers. If a Career Services advisor makes one suggestion, but your thesis advisor makes a different one, you will need to weigh up your options. Each discipline has its own peculiar conventions when it comes to submitting applications. You may want to follow those as much as possible. A Career Services advisor might not come from your specific discipline, but will have reviewed many, many differently formatted CVs from across disciplines, and will have identified best practices to share.

I have seen CVs used successfully to get academic interviews that I would have covered in red ink if I were doing a critique. Obviously, I am not the final word in what is deemed good or bad. It helps to realize that this final word rests with the ultimate user group in the job application process, the individuals who read your applications and determine from their personal and professional perspectives whether they like it or not.

If you are going to take anyone’s advice, take theirs. Unfortunately, they don’t regularly give advice on these sorts of things, and so you will have to gather advice from multiple other sources and decide which is the most relevant for your unique applications – and remember, each application should be tailored so that it is unique.

You are the ultimate arbiter of the advice, suggestions, and feedback you receive. I would recommend seeking out as much information from as many people as possible to be in the position to make an informed decision about what you feel is useful information. That means you should come and visit us at Career Services…., and reach out to Penn alumni (and here too)…, and speak with your thesis advisor or PI…, and read helpful blogs like this.

Just don’t follow all of the advice you are given – you’ll be glad that you did…, or didn’t…, wait, now I’m confused.

Career-related blogs to look at before the next asteroid arrives

Dr. Joseph Barber

There is so much information on career-related topics discussed on various websites that it can be overwhelming trying to find the answers to your unique questions. Not all information is appropriate, correct, objective, or useful, and so how do you tell the good from the bad? Well…, one way is to develop a professional relationship with the person giving that information. After all, the more you know about that person, the better sense you will have about whether their advice will be relevant to you. And if you are looking for a way to get an in-depth perspective on someone without the hassle of actually getting to know them in person, then blogs are a good way to go. Some bloggers are only too happy to reveal absolutely everything about themselves, and this makes it very easy to put their career advice into context and then follow and ignore as appropriate. Even without the drama, though, most blogs offer a personal perspective that you might find refreshing in the mostly anonymous information-stream of the internet. Here is a small selection of blogs you might want to take a peek at as you are pondering your career next steps – you know…, before the next asteroid/meteor crosses our paths again.

1) The Undercover Recruiter: http://theundercoverrecruiter.com/
“The Undercover Recruiter is the #1 recruitment and career blog in the UK & Europe. We aim to please recruiters, HR folks, jobseekers and anyone in the career industry”

2) Lindsey Pollak – next generation career expert: http://www.lindseypollak.com/blog
“Lindsey Pollak is a corporate consultant, bestselling author, keynote speaker and recognized expert on next generation career and workplace issues. She is a Global Spokesperson for LinkedIn and the author of Getting from College to Career

3) Fumbling Towards Tenure: http://scientopia.org/blogs/drbecca/
Career advice, resources, and an honest look into the long, convoluted, and sometimes frustrating process of applying for tenure-track faculty positions and working within academia

4) Career Rocketeer: http://careerrocketeer.com/
“Career Rocketeer is one of the industry’s leading career search and personal branding blogs, welcoming ambitious career entrepreneurs of all ages and professions who are driven to “launch” their careers to greater heights”

5) Ms. Career Girl: http://www.mscareergirl.com/
“I hope Ms. Career Girl provides you with real stories you can relate to, the modern career advice you are seeking and a bit of entertainment along the way.  The content on this blog will help you figure out how to achieve YOUR career goals, whatever those may be”

6) Pearls of Wisdom: http://theprofessorisin.com/pearlsofwisdom/
“I post once or twice a week on Pearls of Wisdom on topics related to the academic job market, academic life and politics, general professionalization skills related to writing, publishing, conferencing, networking, and scholarly comportment, and the tenure process”