Career Resource for Academic Jobs
Brandeis Faculty and Postdoctoral Fellows would like to share with you some helpful tips for navigating the academic job market. We encourage you to use these tips if they are helpful to you and to continue to reach out to us, recent grads and other contacts to continue to refine your job search process. Remember, the job search process will vary for everyone, so these are really just guidelines to follow - what you choose to focus on will depend on the specific position/institution and your strengths and skills.
Timeline for working on different components of job search
Earlier in grad school:
The better you are known within your research community before you go on the market, the better you will do on the market. There is a lot you can do during grad school so that you will be known by your final year. Primarily you can TRAVEL, starting early and to everything you hear about that will accept you (and you should subscribe to n+1 listservs and blogs that aggregate conference announcements), and make sure you talk to loads of people (graduate students, senior faculty, everyone) when you attend conferences.
The best way to get well known in your research community is to give invited talks at conferences and seminars. To get invited to speak at conferences and seminars, you should both have interesting papers up on Arxiv (at least one by January of your penultimate year is a very good idea) and be developing a reputation within your community as a strong expositor. To develop such a reputation you can and should be applying to give 5 and 20 minute talks at everything you attend. All of these 5 and 20 minute talks should be totally kick-ass. It is really hard to give a good talk; you should be giving at least 2/semester at Brandeis in graduate student seminars to practice. Every one of these talks that you do, including the ones at Brandeis at 9am on a Tuesday that have four audience members, is important practice.
Create a WebsiteYour website is really important because job search committees will rely on this heavily as an introduction to you and your work. Your website should have to your cv, publications, slides and other math-related and teaching-related material (e.g. sample lesson plan); it’s also nice to have a photo posted. Keep it clean and easy to browse. You probably should have a website by the time you attend your first conference. You absolutely must have a website by the time you post your first paper to Arxiv. You should look at other colleagues’ websites who have been successful in the job market and copy what works well on their website.
Build Professional RelationshipsYou should also be thinking about who your letter writers will be, and building these relationships, by the middle of graduate school. You should have at least one letter writer outside Brandeis. Even better, outside Boston. Even better, super famous in your field. A reasonableish exercise in this direction is that at every conference you attend, you should plan to connect with a senior researcher and ask them a question about some of their math that relates to your math. You should also be cultivating a relationship with someone at Brandeis who will write your teaching letter; they should observe your classroom and possibly your outreach activities. You should have several outreach activities.
Later in Grad School (Getting Ready for the Job Market):
Getting Portfolio Together
You should start working on your job-market portfolio (CV, research statement, etc) during the summer preceding your academic jobs. The NSF deadline is mid October and some postdocs in Europe ask for applications by October 1st so you need to be ready for that.
It is a good idea to have a complete draft of your research statement (both NSF and regular), teaching statement, diversity statement, CV, and publication list ready by September 1st.You must have it all ready 4 weeks before your first deadline, so that you can send your materials to your letter writers then. You should estimate that it takes about a month of dedicated time to prepare these documents.
You should certainly aim to have some article(s) on the ArXiv by the time you apply and ask for letters of references.
Strategy for searching for jobs and where to look for them
In general, applying broadly is a safer strategy; one of the most common mistakes for applicants is not applying to a job because they missed the deadline. Apply to every place that you would consider. Having an offer from an institution, even if it is not your first choice, can be reassuring. Maybe it is not worth applying to the schools for which you would not want to go under any circumstance, but it is better to err on one side than the other. Applying broadly could also give you opportunities to practice your interviews, and maybe to negotiate if you end up with several offers.
Be sure to fill the Current Research Interest on mathjobs with something informative without being too specialized or narrow.
Note: There are many universities which do not use mathjobs, especially those outside of the US. Thus to get the whole spectrum of postings you may need to manually check the universities’ websites or use internet search.
In general, you will want to produce your CV, teaching and research letters early so you can get feedback on them. The feedback from someone else (in academia, in particular your advisor) is extremely valuable for those things. You can also ask a previous Brandeis grad student (your academic brother or sister -- especially if they have been successful in their job market) to share with you their job market portfolio to serve as an example.
List of publications
Writing your teaching statement for the first time is often difficult because math graduate students haven’t had to write this type of prose for a long time. If you look around on the internet, you can find a ton of very bad teaching statements. We would highly recommend you DO NOT look at them. Bad teaching statements are filled with vapid phrases anyone could say like, “When I teach I like to use examples” or “I like math and I want my students to like math." I mean, who among us doesn’t agree with that? Good writing should show, not tell. You want to make it personal and not resort to cliches or buzzwords.
On Campus Writing Resources
Differences between applying for research-oriented vs. teaching oriented jobs (and differences for different research positions)
You can apply for both types of jobs, but it makes sense to present different portfolios according to the job type (e.g. number of research letters vs. number of teaching letters). It may be useful to explain to your letters of reference writers which kind of jobs you are aiming for, so they can emphasize the right things.
Is it better to focus your energies on a more narrow research area or to have a few areas that you are focused on? Hiring committees prefer that you are an excellent research area in a specific field (as opposed to having smaller projects in several research areas). While you can certainly highlight a second area, it’s most important to emphasize a main research area in which you have excelled.
Strategy for leveraging contacts and relationships
Contacts for Letters of Reference
When you finish and post an article, you can send it to one or two people whose work is directly related so that you can get feedback and maybe gain a future letter writer. (this advice is not universal).
It is likely that most of your letters will come from Brandeis, but it is good to have a letter from elsewhere if you can.
Reaching out to Contacts
If you get an in-person interview, be sure to be nice and positive. Read the department webpage in advance. During your presentation, try to give a clear talk in which people can learn something: everyone likes to learn and understand new things. Remember that your talk will also be a way for the audience to evaluate your teaching skills so remember all the good practice of teaching in terms of board use, interaction, etc.
Also, do your research and think of good questions in advance (you shouldn’t be able to find the answers on the website). If an interviewer asks if you have any questions, ALWAYS be prepared with a question; this shows that you’re really interested in the position.
If you get preliminary interviews it may be worth sending a follow up email the following day in order to thank the persons you have encountered and reiterate your interest/excitement about the position.
Notes on Applying During COVID-19:
The next year may be unpredictable in terms of hiring and the job search process, but things will likely improve in fall 2021. If you’re going through the job search this year, you may experience more delays in the process and more virtual interviews. Unfortunately, it is difficult to say exactly what this year will be like, but you should still assemble the required materials and follow the recommendations provided by faculty and postdocs.
Some Links to advice about Research and Teaching statements
- Read about preparing your research summary and statement of proposed research from UIC:
- Here's the Dos and Don'ts of writing a research statement from Georgia Tech:
- LSU has some tips in this article for expressing your teaching philosophy:
- An article from the AMS includes exercises to help you discover your teaching philosophy:
- Nice article on the Mathematical Yawp blog for stimulating thoughts on teaching philosophy: https://mathyawp.wordpress.com/2017/01/08/mathematics-for-human-flourishing/