Academic Job Market Notes (Followup)

A scan of my web stats shows that my recent Academic Job Market Notes post has already received more traffic than any other single post in the past 12 months, and almost twice as many pageviews as its closest competitor. Wow. This leads me to wonder if there any other advice that I ought to share.

The truth is, most everything that really matters and which is generally applicable to just about everybody has been covered already by Chris Blattman’s original post on the academic job market. I wholeheartedly endorse all of this, especially the parts about increasing returns for the main chapter/paper and the absurdity of concept of the “limited market” or “going selectively on the job market.” I applied to more than 100 jobs the first time around.

That said, I can think of two additional, disconnected points that probably deserve separate emphasis.

Practicing the Job Talk

Your file gets you an interview, but your job talk is the single most important part of the interview. Lots of things can prevent a fly-out from turning into an offer (your competition, search committee/department politics, funding, etc.), but your talk is one that you can control. I advise students to practice delivering the complete talk at least once a day, every day starting September 15.  Do it on skype with your friends or family, or in front of a mirror, or just sitting at your computer. Note what that means: you should have your talk to be ready by September 15 so that you can practice it. I’d advise even earlier. Shoot for Labor Day.

Once a day for at least a month probably seems extreme for many readers, but I stand by it. Here is personal note to explain why. I practiced my talk in 2007 at least 50 times before the first time that I delivered it “live” in an interview. I practiced it so much because when I was younger I struggled with stuttering, and in high pressure situations my stutter returns. Now that I’ve had years of lectures and conferences and presentations in other languages, it doesn’t bother me so much, but I am positive that having practiced my talk dozens of times made it easier for me to deliver, even if practicing was nothing more than a psychological crutch. I don’t regret for one second the time that I invested in practicing that talk.

Now, most people don’t stutter, but my advice still stands. The broader point is that you want to be so familiar with your presentation that you can move fluently through it, especially when you are presenting anything complicated (which you almost certainly are). Fluid delivery projects confidence and comfort, with your work and with yourself. It puts the audience at ease and helps them to focus on you, which is exactly what you want your talk to do.

The Variety of Academic Jobs

The more “job market advice” that I read, the more I realize how little I know. Most advice targets tenure-track jobs at the most research intensive, PhD-granting departments. That’s the advice that I’m qualified (I guess) to provide. From time to time I see advice from other types of academic jobs: community colleges, liberal arts colleges, departments that offer a master’s degree but no PhD, public policy schools, interdisciplinary departments, plus the global academic marketplace (a PhD granting department in the U.S. looks very different than one in England, to say nothing of Europe or emerging Asia). PhD candidates on the market ought to know that people like me are not the best people to provide advice on applying to those kinds of jobs.

Postscript

Here are the Top 10 Indolaysia posts between 10/30/2011 and 10/29/2012:

1. Indolaysia
2. Academic Job Market Notes
3. If It Rains Tomorrow, I Save
4. Identification is Neither Necessary nor Sufficient for Policy Relevance
5. OMFG Exogenous Variation! Or, Can You Find Good Nails When You Find an Indonesian Politics Hammer
6. Graduate Study in Southeast Asian Politics at Cornell: Advice for Prospective Applicants
7. Chinese Indonesians, Then and Now
8. Methodology in Southeast Asian Studies (Part 2 of 2)
9. About the Author
10. About Indolaysia

Also interesting are the top ten sources of web traffic, by city: Ithaca, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Unknown, Singapore, New York, Washington, London, Oxford, and Cambridge (MA).

Posted in Teaching
4 comments on “Academic Job Market Notes (Followup)
  1. Nate Jensen says:

    Hey Tom. In my recent contacts with search committees as part of my little data collection I found that there isn’t nearly as big of a differences between R1 and other institutions.

    Liberal arts colleges are ramping up their tenure standards. We had a faculty member from Bates come in to talk to our grad students. (Although this is a very good liberal arts college).

    In some sense they want research + teaching + service. Obviously we can’t all do everything, but they had high expectations on research.

  2. Tom says:

    Hey Nate–So I definitely agree with you that research matters to a great degree at the liberal arts colleges, especially ones like Bates. But there have to be other differences. My buddies at places like Middlebury, Bard, and Hobart report that they spend hours and hours a day with undergraduates–door’s always open, always available for a chat–and that publication “matters” but that there is great flexibility in the outlets (like, an editor-reviewed Journal of Democracy update is really not that different from a World Politics).

    The point is, if this is at all right, then the set of skills that your cover letter needs to convey HAS to be different. Doesn’t it?

  3. Good point Tom. But this is about tenure and promotion standards. I wonder how this translates into hiring standards?

    If there are lots of ABDs out there with publication and teaching experience, who will these colleges select to hire?

    Imagine there are three candidates:
    1. No pubs but tons of great teaching experience
    2. 1 good pub and a few courses taught
    3. One top pub or a bunch of publication and a single course taught

    Make up your own counter factual. It is hard for me to decide on who one of these colleges would select. On the one hand teaching and service is very high (I think these are tough jobs and kudos to the faculty who thrive in these environments), but they also want to know that people can manage to publish under these conditions. The promotion standards can’t be as high as a school with a lower teaching and service load, but the question is what is the most informative signal for an ABD entering into one of these jobs?

    This is complete conjecture on my part. I could see looking for someone with lots of teaching experience so they can hit the ground running. But I could also imagine the case of seeing someone publishing in grad school as exactly the type of person they would want to hire. Someone who can’t publish in grad school (with much lower teaching and service burdens) might really struggle to publish once they are an assistant professor.

    So, I believe you point on promotion standards. But I’d love for you to talk to these friends about hiring standards. I have no clue what is most important here.

  4. Tom says:

    Great reply, Nate. This really is about hiring not T+P, so given those three choices it’s hard to imagine what the decision of the hiring committee at (say) a LAC looks like.

    I think that this is exactly my point: I have no clue either what is most important here!

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