Few things strike fear into the hearts of many graduate students quite like the prospect of entering into the academic job market. People tend to cope with the looming future in their own unique ways: denial, anger, depression—really any of the five stages of grief apply here. However, one of our own success stories, Tim Amidon, has conquered the job market quite handily, recently landing his dream position at Colorado State University. Tim generously agreed to pass some of his wisdom and advice on to us.
Create a marketable identity: Tim urges graduate students to strive to be both well rounded AND specialized. We all know that our work must be stellar and conferencing is a must, but to enhance future marketability Tim stresses the importance of getting involved here on campus through service and organizations. Also, consider how you can shape your professional identity on a national scale through workshops, publishing, and other professional opportunities. These experiences will boost your marketability and they will also offer the chance to forge vital connections. According to Tim, “Do everything you do well, but do something exceptionally.”
Start preparing documents early: Tim credits much of his success on the job market to having very strong materials. In hindsight, however, he wishes he had begun preparing sooner and urges others to start on application documents early, preferably a full year before you plan to graduate. To be prepared for every opportunity, Tim suggests crafting documents for every type of position; for example, he prepared unique teaching statements tailored to research institutions, teaching institutions, community colleges, etc. These pre-made documents will help to expedite the job application process.
Play the numbers: Tim utilized a wide variety of job lists and wikis throughout his job hunt and, thus, was able to locate and apply to roughly 200 positions. He urges the importance of diversifying your job hunt and using every resource you have. Some scholars estimate a 10% return rate on applications, so upping your numbers can help improve your odds.
Be genuine: Though the countless applications, preliminary interviews, and campus visits can be a test of endurance, Tim argues that the process is less grueling when you stay true to yourself. His mantra, “Be true to yourself. Know your gaps,” suggests a very straightforward and honest approach to the job market, one that has clearly worked in Tim’s case.
Find balance: Amidst the craze of finishing a dissertation and landing his dream job, Tim points to running as his source of calm. Though it can be hard to justify time for oneself or even time with loved ones during these hectic times, Tim is emphatic: “Make yourself do it. It’s generative. Make yourself have time.”
Tim’s no-nonsense approach to tackling (and succeeding in) the job market suggests that the frightening unknown of the future is perhaps a bit less formidable than it may at first appear. The job market may be a test of endurance, but we are graduate students—tests and endurance are what we do best.