Reflecting on the Academic Job Hunt

I wore a suit, like a real grown-up!

I wore a suit, like a real grown-up!

My last post (seven months ago!) proclaimed that I was thinking about going back to academia and contemplating going on the job market. Seven months later and mission accomplished — I have accepted an offer and I will start in August as an Assistant Professor in Computer Science at the University of Minnesota! I am back to blogging (aiming for every other week). This week, I will be reflecting on the job process for all those who are thinking about going on the market soon. So, here are four insights:

  1. The job hunt takes a lot of time. This may be obvious, but it’s not to be underestimated. I tracked my time: 40 hours spent writing my general materials and preparing the job talk, 2 hours spent preparing each application (21 places, so more than 40 hours total), additional 30 hours on preparing and doing phone interviews and general follow-ups to application, and each on-site took an average of 40 hours when accounting for preparation, travel, actual meetings, and general logistics (so, my 8 on-sites took me a total of 320 hours!). Most of the prep happened in October and November, most of the followups in December, and the on-sites were in February and March. In those 5 months, the job hunt was basically an additional half-time job, on top of my actual full-time job (thank the powers that be for AT&T’s generous vacation package!).
  2. I’d rather be myself and not get the job than get it while pretending to be someone else. You may know me: I’m loud, I’m in-your-face, I have a weird sense of humor, and no fashion sense at all. If those things are not a good fit for a place, then I’d rather find that out by not getting an offer than come tenure time. So, I made the explicit decision to act as I would and hoped for the best.
  3. It’s better to identify than compare. One of my friends who did this whole thing two years ago (the wonderful Sarita) advised me early in the process to not look at where other people were getting interviews. I also figured out that when I began comparing myself to others, I only made myself envious, insecure, and miserable. Lots of my friends were also on the market and I made the explicit decision to be happy for them and look for ways to share happiness and provide support, instead of stalking their Google scholar pages. By making this decision, other people who are on the market became a wonderful source of insight and support instead of a source of stress.
  4. Have fun! Yes, it’s ultra stressful. And all the travel gets exhausting. But, it’s also incredibly fun to be traveling to new places, getting wined and dined, sharing my research, and hearing about all the awesome research at the places I visit! There’s something magical about getting the opportunity to imagine my life at each school! Holding on to that feeling made the whole process a lot less stressful and a lot more beautiful.

One of the things that my Ph.D. lab does really well is sharing resources like everybody’s application packages, job talks, etc. I think others may be able to benefit from this sort of an archive, so for what it’s worth, here are all of my materials: research statement, teaching statement, cover letter template, job talk slides, and video of job talk. Though do take these with some caution, I don’t actually know how good they are: I didn’t get all the interviews/offers and the ones I did get may have had more to do with my letters of recommendation than anything I wrote (I am forever indebted to Gregory, Amy, and Tara!!!). But, I did get 6 offers from the 8 places I interviewed (and more importantly, I got the offer that was perfect for me!), so at the very least, these were not terrible deal breakers. I hope that some of this can be helpful to others who are about to undergo this process!

HuffPost Re-Post

I apologize for the long silence, everybody. I’ve been ultra-busy doing awesome stuff at CHI 2013 and there will be tons of blog posts to follow from some of the stuff that’s been started there. In the meantime, here’s a link to something that has taken a little bit of time to push through AT&T’s PR, but my post about getting into tech research is finally live on HuffPost!

I’m also committing to blog every week until the end of the summer, so hopefully no more long periods of absence on my end. (Edit: And then I got a surprise last-minute PC invite, so I guess my blog-a-thon is on hold for a bit)