Advice on Advice

Given the nature of this blog (and my class), I want to start with some “advice on advice.” It mostly boils down to “take everything with a big ol’ grain of salt” but here are a few more details:

  1. Professional advice is not life advice.

The advice I will share here is professional advice, designed to help you maximize your chances of getting an academic job. It’s up to you what to do with that information. We all make choices that do not help us professionally. My kids? Big mistake. Huge. And that’s just one mistake! I constantly make choices that are not at all conducive to my professional success. I am not here to tell you how to live your life, and I am definitely not here to judge your choices. 

  1. You should seek advice from a lot of different people.

The job market is like the proverbial elephant—everyone sees just a part of it from their own perspective. Your committee understands your field and is well connected within it, but they also may have an Ivy PhD and went on the market 30 years ago when jobs were more plentiful and expectations very different. Your grad school friends have recent job market experience, but haven’t sat on 20 search committees, so their sense of what matters for success might not be accurate. People with experience at R1s might not fully understand the expectations at a liberal arts college or regional public.

I will be sharing some resources (articles, blog posts) about the academic job market in the coming weeks. I do not agree with every bit of every piece of advice I share. There is value in multiple perspectives. You should also keep in mind that some of the authors make their living give job market advice, which means they have a vested interest in your job market insecurity and anxiety.

  1. Survival bias is real.

Most of the advice you will get about the job market comes from people who were, by definition, successful on the job market. We know that people are not good at understanding their own success, and generalizing from successful people does not necessarily tell us what causes success. Having someone tell you, “successful PhDs do X” doesn’t tell you if a lot of unsuccessful candidates did X as well.

  1. There is no one right way (but there are a lot of wrong ways).

For example, there is no one right way to format your CV. There are, however, many wrong ways, and they usually involve the liberal use of italics. More on that to come.

  1. The little things matter a little.

There are a million factors that go into landing an academic job, and less than half of them are under your control. (Advice: focus on what you control). Your work as a scholar and teacher is obviously the most important factor. My goal here is to help you present yourself in a way that ensures that search committees can see all that you have to offer. It’s not a lot, but it can help.

Despite all these caveats, I hope you will find the resources and advice I share throughout the semester can raise your confidence and lower your anxiety about the academic job market. Please check back weekly!