6 pages

Tips for the job search: Applying for academic and postdoctoral positions

of 6
All materials on our website are shared by users. If you have any questions about copyright issues, please report us to resolve them. We are always happy to assist you.
Tips for the job search: Applying for academic and postdoctoral positions
  O CTOBER 2006 N OTICES OF THE AMS 1021 Tips for the Job Search:Applying for Academicand PostdoctoralPositions Heather A. Lewis and John S. Caughman W hen going on the job market for thefirst time, it is easy to feel like youare drowning in a sea of questions:When should I apply? Should I printmy application on fancy paper? Whatis a standard “benefits” package? This article is based on our own experiences of applying for post-doctoral and academic positions, combined withour more recent experiences of serving on hiringcommittees. Certainly every story is different, butthis article will attempt to answer the most com-mon questions that we faced. Several other re-sources listed at the end can provide more per-spectives. Where Do I Find Out about Jobs? The AMS has a Careers and Employment webpageat . Jobs areadded daily under the Employment Information inthe Mathematical Sciences (EIMS) job listings, andthere are also links to useful articles about hunt-ing for jobs. Mathematics news publications, likethe Notices  , advertise positions in the back (some-times under Classified Ads) and will often list a slewof them around October or November. Professionalorganizations in the USA and abroad typically havea section for careers or employment on their web-sites where job and fellowship information can befound. Some postdoctoral positions are describedin “Mathematics Opportunities” in the Notices  ; amore comprehensive listing of such positions ap-pears in the September issue, in a special sectioncalled “Stipends for Study and Travel”. The Chron- icle of Higher Education lists job openings on theWeb at ; a varietyof jobs are listed there, so read the ads carefully.Job notices may also be posted in a public place inyour mathematics department and on the individ-ual websites of the schools advertising for positions.You may notice the same job listed in severalplaces, but some positions are advertised in onlyone location.A relatively recent addition is MathJobs.Org (at ), a job applica-tion database developed by Duke University andsponsored by the AMS. As described in the intro-duction:The system is free for applicants. Ap-plicant data is confidential, unless theapplicant makes it public to enrolledemployers by selecting the “Free agent”choice on the coversheet. After regis-tration and data entry, applicants canapply for jobs, keep track of applica-tions, print out paper coversheets, andinvite their reference writers to submitletters into the system. Employers canThis article is the first in an occasional seriesintended for graduate students. The series iscoordinated by Associate Editor Lisa Traynor. —Andy Magid  Heather A. Lewis is associate professor of mathematics at Nazareth College, Rochester, NY. Her email address is . John S. Caughman is associate professor of mathematics at Portland State University, Portland, OR. His email address is .  1022 N OTICES OF THE AMS V OLUME 53, N UMBER 9 conduct their recruiting entirely online,without setting up and maintaining theirown servers and databases.In [9], Cameron Sawyer adds, “Send an applica-tion to any school in which you are really interested,even if they don’t have a job listing or don’t seemto be looking for someone with your qualifications(be up front about this in your cover letter). Manypeople have successfully found jobs this way whena campus has an unexpected position open up dueto a death, resignation, surge in enrollment, etc.”At times there has been the sense that a personshould apply to as many jobs as possible, but ourown experience is that it is better to focus on the20–40 positions that seem to be a good match foryou. This is not only for the sake of the schools thatwould be receiving your applications, but for yourown sake: with fewer applications, you can spendthe time to personalize each one. As a safety net,you may want to talk with your advisor about thepossibility of delaying your thesis defense anddoing an additional year of research in the eventthat your job search is unsuccessful.Find some way of organizing your job-relatedmaterials (e.g., PDA, file folder, spreadsheet). Onepurpose of this is to be able to go back quickly tothe details of a particular advertisement or schoolif you are contacted with little warning. Addition-ally, once you have been contacted by severalschools, you want a way to keep all of the differ-ent information straight (e.g., the twelve credits persemester mentioned in the ad may be four classeswith four separate preparations, or three classeswith two preps). What Do I Include in an Application? An application would typically include some sub-set of a cover letter; your curriculum vitae, or CV;your graduate and possibly undergraduate tran-scripts; a Statement of Teaching Philosophy; aStatement of Research Interest; and anything elsethe school asks for. You can print these out on nicepaper, but our experience is that regular paper isfine. It is possible to send these out in a regular en-velope, but a large envelope is preferable: it is eas-ier to read applications that haven’t been folded,and at some schools the entire committee will readthe srcinal application materials rather than aphotocopy. For the benefit of those schools that dophotocopy materials, it is safest if everything isprinted on one side only. Also be certain not to usetoo small a font, as you don’t want your applica-tion materials to be associated with a headache.For some applicants, especially those applyingfrom a foreign country, it may be best to send ma-terials electronically, and this is worth checking withthe individual schools. Otherwise, all materialsshould be sent through the postal service unlessthe ad specifically mentions that electronic sub-mission is welcome. Cover Letters : Include one with every single ap-plication. The cover letter should be about onepage long, certainly no more than two pages. Youshould state what position you are applying for inthe first paragraph, since some departments may be running several searches simultaneously. Themain purpose of the cover letter is to convey yourinterest in the school and why you are a good can-didate for the job. Some schools don’t read thecover letters carefully, but many schools, espe-cially smaller ones, treat the cover letter very se-riously as it is one of the only places for both yourpersonality and your particular interest in theschool to come through. Generic language such as“at your college or university” may not go overwell. In addition, if you are applying for a job farfrom where you currently live, it may be worthwhileto mention if you have a particular connection withor interest in the geographical area.If you are interested in a research position, youshould specify early on your area of research. Besure to emphasize the large breakdown (for ex-ample, Geometry and Topology) as well as the par-ticular subfield (for example, Khovanov Homol-ogy). Your graduate advisor or other members of your department can be quite valuable in sug-gesting schools that may be good matches for yourresearch interests. In the letter, make sure thatyou identify why the school to which you are ap-plying is a good fit for your research objectives. Beclear about any ongoing research projects you areinvolved with and any individuals or researchgroups at the school with whom you can readily in-teract. Obviously, this is difficult if you do notknow anyone, so shed that introversion and gomeet some people! Indeed, a very good way to giveyourself an advantage is to take every opportunityto meet people in your field. This includes at-tending conferences, introducing yourself to otherresearchers, giving talks or posters, and making aneffort to interact with colloquium speakers who visityour own campus.The cover letter is also the place to mention if you will be at the Joint Mathematics Meetings (JMM)in early January and, if you are giving a talk there,to indicate the title and the time (if known). We dorecommend attending the JMM as an excellent wayfor you to make both informal and formal contactswith people at the schools in which you are inter-ested. If you are considering any nonpostdoctoralpositions, the Employment Center is a valuable re-source. Through your registration, participatingschools will receive a booklet that has your re-sume in it, and schools to which you didn’t evenapply may choose to contact you for an interview.More information about the Employment Center can  O CTOBER 2006 N OTICES OF THE AMS 1023  be found on the AMS Careers and Employmentwebsite.A word of warning: be certain to proofread aprinted copy of your cover letter before you sendit. It is remarkably easy to mix up letters when youprepare many at once, and a misspelled word mayor may not be overlooked by the search commit-tee. A cover letter that speaks to an incorrectlynamed position or that is addressed to the wrongschool is very easy to discount as a misguided ap-plication. CV : Include one with every single application.They are generally two to four pages long, thoughsome may be a bit longer, and a running header isa nice touch. You should list your contact infor-mation (address, phone, email), undergraduate andgraduate degrees together with the institution andyear each degree was received, awards, fellowships, job experience (including a list of specific coursesyou’ve taught), papers, talks (including those inyour department and to your local math club), andreferences. You should certainly include any com-mittee work that you may have done, and you canalso include undergraduate honors. If you are a U.S.citizen or otherwise authorized to work in theUnited States, you should state that as well. If youare applying for a research position, awards andfellowships should be on the first page; these showthat people are willing to give you money.If you’re reading this a year or more in advanceof your job search, you should be thinking of whatyou will be putting on that CV. In [1], AnnalisaCrannell suggestsVolunteer. Go to departmental semi-nars. Go to conferences. Going to a localconference doesn’t have to cost youanything—write a polite letter to yourdeans asking for a grant. They won’tmind shelling out fifty or sixty dollarsfor a good cause. Getting grants, nomatter how small, looks very good toemployers. Giving talks to undergrad-uate or high school students is an ex-cellent way to prepare for the biggertalks that follow, and it lets people knowthat you’re out there (it looks good onyour CV, too).She also recommends keeping a folder (“Brag-ging”) with everything that makes you look good(awards, invitations to speak, unsolicited com-ments from students). This can be helpful in prepar-ing a CV or as references for your letter writers. It’salso a good habit for when you prepare your tenureportfolio. Transcripts : Yes, some schools require gradu-ate and even undergraduate transcripts. Unlessthey specify official transcripts, you can send pho-tocopies; in general, official transcripts arerequired only of finalists. If you are in doubt, writeto the school and ask. If a school doesn’t requesttranscripts, or only requests graduate transcripts,it is up to you whether you want to send more (todemonstrate a liberal arts background, anotherarea of expertise, etc.). Statement of Teaching Philosophy : The goal of this is to give the search committee an accurateimage of your classroom teaching, rather than amore abstract philosophical statement. If you useany buzz words (technology, group work, cooper-ative learning, undergraduate research), then em-phasize your previous experience, and include spe-cific examples: when you’ve used group work, whatyou noticed, what you might try differently; whereyou’ve used computers in class, what specificallyyou liked or would change. You may want to includeyour teaching statement with every application(unless an ad states “Send only”) if you are tryingto emphasize an interest in teaching. Again, aprinted copy should be proofread carefully. Youmay even want to tailor this teaching statement tospecifically mention the individual school, in orderto show knowledge of the teaching expectations of the job for which you are applying. Statement of Research Interests : For all state-ments of research interests, it is useful to first ex-plain the main context of your research in termsthat a nonexpert can understand. Include somekey results in the field and emphasize your owncontributions, keeping in mind that a search com-mittee must read through many applications. If you are interested in a postdoctoral position, youwill want to go into more detail about the specificresearch you have done. You should also give anindication of your future research plans: What willyou do next, and do you have concrete plans forcontinuing your research away from the mentor-ship of your graduate advisor? If you are applyingto a school that does not have a graduate program but does value undergraduate research, list someideas of how undergraduates can be incorporatedinto your research. If there is a faculty member atthe school who works in your area, be sure to men-tion any common points of interest and possibili-ties of collaboration. Have some of your fellowgraduate students and your advisor read your state-ment of research interests. Webpage : If you have a webpage, make surethat it is up-to-date and treat it as part of your ap-plication package. A photo of yourself on yourwebpage is a nice way to start building name-facerecognition, although it is not necessary. A webpagewhere you’ve posted information about yourcourses (e.g., specific assignments) or highlightedimportant things you’ve done can be a real assetto your application, and in that case you should cer-tainly include the address in your cover letter orCV. On the other hand, a webpage with outdated  1024 N OTICES OF THE AMS V OLUME 53, N UMBER 9 When Do I Apply for Jobs? Most deadlines are between December 1 and Jan-uary 15. For nonpostdoctoral positions, it is veryhelpful to send in your application by mid-December even if the deadline is much later, es-pecially if you will be at the Joint MathematicsMeetings in January. For schools that conduct in-terviews at the JMM, you are better off if you havealready applied and the schools have had thechance to look over your application. In mid-De-cember, you may want to email the schools and re-mind them that you will be at the JMM and would be happy to meet with them there. If you are giv-ing a talk, this also lets you send them the title, time,and location if you didn’t know those earlier. Ashort polite email, especially if you mentionspecifics about the individual school, may lead di-rectly to an interview and is unlikely to bother any-one. How Will I Hear from Schools? For research oriented postdoctoral positions, youwill likely receive an offer without any need for aninterview. There is an effort to coordinate the time-lines for such offers:[A number of mathematics] depart-ments in the U.S. have formally adoptedan agreement to coordinate their earli-est deadline for responding to post-doctoral job offers. This agreementspecifically excludes tenure-track of-fers, and it applies only to candidateswho are less than or equal to two yearspast the receipt of the Ph.D. The agree-ment attempts to address the problemthat sometimes faces candidates forpostdoctoral positions when they areasked to respond to a job offer by acertain date and this date is before thedate of announcement of the NationalScience Foundation (NSF) MathematicalSciences Postdoctoral Fellowships.( ).Information on deadlines and departments par-ticipating in this agreement can also be found onthis AMS website.For other positions, many schools will email orcall you at work or home to arrange a phone in-terview, possibly as early as December. Otherschools will interview during the Joint Mathemat-ics Meetings, either in addition to or instead of phone interviews. Prepare for these interviews inadvance: look at the websites of both the schooloverall and of the specific department. Be sure to bring extra copies of your application materials tothe Joint Mathematics Meetings. As a side note, donot assume that schools with religious names areinformation, broken links, or misspellings couldwork against you, as could a webpage that speaksexclusively of research when you have applied to jobs where you state that you are primarily inter-ested in teaching (or vice versa). It is not unusualfor prospective employers to do a general Internetsearch on candidates, and they may find your web-page or other electronic postings even if you your-self do not provide the information. What about Letters of Recommendation? You need at least three letters of recommenda-tion. Four is better, and five is fine if they focus ondifferent aspects of your qualifications. For manyfile readers, the letters are the most importantpart of the application! Give your letter writers asample of your entire application packet. This waythey can say things in their letter that supportyour case and are consistent with your own state-ments. Be absolutely sure they are clear about yourcareer goals. Some schools request up to two let-ters that talk about teaching; the teaching lettersshould if possible be written by someone who hasobserved you. If you are interested in a postdoc-toral position, it may be helpful to give those let-ter writers commenting on your research a littlemini-lecture about your results. Even if you givethem a research statement, it is always easier to ex-plain in person your key results. Keep in mind thatyour letter writers might have contacts at some of these schools, too. You should never pass up achance to work the “friend of a friend” angle if atall possible; while letter writers usually write onlyone letter for you that is sent everywhere, in thissituation you may be able to request a personal-ized letter of recommendation for that school.Ask potential letter writers now, and remindthem in a month. Let them know the deadline forthe letters, and give them, and you, some leewaywith this. Only a few jobs have application dead-lines before November 15, so you might want to re-quest that everything be in by mid-October. If anoffice at your school sends out letters, you cancheck periodically to make sure that the letters have been submitted and sent out. You may have to ad-dress envelopes yourself; generally you will notinclude your name on the envelope, but might puta post-it note with your name on the top if an of-fice is sending the letters. It should be clear whatthe deadline is, and you should allow plenty of time for them to be mailed (perhaps two weeks).Some schools don’t care if the letters of recom-mendations are in on time. Others do, and your filecould miss consideration at important search com-mittee meetings if it is not complete. Your letterwriters might not realize how early some deadlinesare, so you may want to remind them as the dead-lines approach if letters haven’t been written.  O CTOBER 2006 N OTICES OF THE AMS 1025 religiously affiliated (or, if they are, try to find outwhat that means for those schools). There is morespecific information about interviewing, includingquestions to ask and expect to be asked, in [2], [3],[4], [6], and [8].If there are special circumstances surroundingyour job search (e.g., the two-body problem), youshould also be thinking about whether this is some-thing that you want to bring up and, if so, whenand how. There are no easy answers to this. It maynot be best to bring it up in the initial application,and some people feel that nothing should be men-tioned until you are offered a job (and only then if it is relevant for negotiations). Heather faced thetwo-body problem during her search and found inher case it was best to bring it up during an initialinterview, either by phone or at the JMM. (“My hus- band will be finishing his Ph.D. in mathematics inthe next two years; are there other jobs within areasonable commuting distance?”) If there wereother prospects in the area, which was usually thecase, schools were happy to share information;likewise, if there were not, all parties were glad forthe honesty before more time and money was in-vested. Another experience of a two-body search,along with myriad details about an academic searchin general, is available in [10].Federal Equal Opportunity Laws prohibit em-ployment discrimination on the basis of race, color,religion, sex, national srcin, age, and disability(see for details); the CivilService Reform Act adds marital status and polit-ical affiliation ( ).Despite this, you may through willfulness or, morelikely, through collegiality or ignorance be askedquestions about these topics. If you are comfort-able with the question then you can certainly an-swer; otherwise, with these or other inquiries thatdon’t relate to the job at hand you can deflect thequestion. For example, if asked “What country areyou from?” you might respond, “It’s OK, I’m au-thorized to work in the U.S.” The question “Is yourwife an academic too?” could be redirected with “Isthat a common scenario here?” Other personalquestions might be simply responded to with “Idon’t anticipate any problems with the job re-quirements, if that’s the concern.” What about the Campus Interview? Starting in February schools will bring you out fora campus visit, which will typically last one or twofull days (with 1-2 overnights). In anticipation of the time away, Kim Roth [7] suggests, “If you aregoing to be teaching in the spring semester try tofind a person willing to substitute for you for allof your absences now, instead of over break whenit can be hard to find people.”When you get a request for an on-campus in-terview, the school may make all the arrangementsor you may need to buy a plane ticket yourself and be reimbursed. In the latter case, ask if there areany special conditions for reimbursement. Once oncampus you will be expected to teach a class, to givea talk, or perhaps both. If you teach a class, findout the level of your audience, whether you’re ex-pected to stick close to the book (if there is one),and whether or not you are expected to assignhomework. If you are giving a talk, the question of audience level is particularly important. Are you ex-pected to speak about your own research? If so, areyou speaking to others in the field or to sophomoremath majors? If you are able to choose your owntopic, is your primary audience the mathematicsfaculty, the upper-class majors, or the freshmen stillin calculus? Even if you don’t give a talk on yourown research, it might be possible to give one inthe same general area, and you will be well-servedif you are prepared to talk a bit about your re-search at a level that the sophomores can under-stand. Practice your teaching and your talk at leastonce with an audience, carefully proofread anythingthat will be printed or shown, and have back-upsfor any technology that might go awry. Even if youare giving a research talk, be aware that you will be judged on your communication skills. Beingclear and organized is as important as the mathe-matical content. While you should leave time forquestions at the end, have some additional com-ments prepared in case people are hesitant tospeak up.You will meet with some administrators andhuman resource personnel during a campus in-terview to discuss salary and benefits. Some basicinformation about salaries can be found in the No- tices  in February and August in the First and Sec-ond Reports of the Annual Survey; this informationis also available online at . You will probably gethealth insurance (it may not include vision anddental) and retirement benefits. The way retire-ment plans typically work is that you put asidesome of your salary pre-tax (2–5% seems standard),and the school will then put in some percentage(7% seems low, 8–9% seems average, 10% and aboveseems good), although the schools might wait oneor two years before contributing. A small numberof schools offer post-retirement benefits, allowingyou to partake in group health insurance after youretire. This is a wonderful thing, but not very com-mon anymore.You will also meet with many faculty members,who can answer any questions you still have or clar-ify information for you. Find out about the teach-ing load (how many credits per year, how manycourses that translates into, and how many dif-ferent preparations you would have each semes-ter). Ask about tenure and promotion; these oftengo hand-in-hand, but at some schools promotion
We Need Your Support
Thank you for visiting our website and your interest in our free products and services. We are nonprofit website to share and download documents. To the running of this website, we need your help to support us.

Thanks to everyone for your continued support.

No, Thanks