Hacking the US job market – The Professor Was In at King’s last week

Karen at King'sDr Karen Kelsky from The Professor Is In delivered a talk on hacking the US academic job market last week and offered several insightful tips:

Stand out from the slush pile of applications

  • Most US academic jobs receive 200-900 applications. This means committee members decide within roughly 20 seconds whether to continue reading an application or to reject it. While that might sound discouraging, combining a strong record with well-crafted application materials and polished interview skills are likely to enhance your chances of success.
  • Know the timetable for US academic recruitment: adverts go live typically in August/September, with deadlines beginning November, first round interviews just into the New Year and campus visits in April/May.
  • Vacancies are usually found through the US learned society for your subject area (eg see here for National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine jobs board).

Build up a strong record

  • Major, refereed journal publications (write your dissertation with the aim of publishing some chapters), receiving national grants, participating in conferences, particularly US conferences, lecturing solely on at least one course, and developing a network of individuals within and outside your institution who can recommend you, will all contribute towards a strong record.

Write well-crafted applications and interview effectively

  • Keep job applications concise, limiting cover letters to 2 pages and teaching statements to 1 page. Ensure applications are fact-based and avoid using emotion-based language (eg I am passionate/fascinated/driven, etc). Show rather than tell, your interest and achievements in your field.
  • Prepare a brief but strong statement summarizing the contributions you can make to your field.
  • Demonstrate in applications and interviews that you are thinking ahead to obtaining tenure. Make a 5-year plan of what you plan to achieve and share it with the committee.
  • Prepare concise bullet point answers for potential interview questions, practice them comprehensively, and mould your experience to the job description in answers.
  • Approach applications and interviews with the mind set of a faculty peer, not a student! Display professionalism in your language and attire, and avoid taking a backpack to interviews (unless you’re an astronomer!).

All the best with your applications!

Blog post by Nudrat Siddiqui, Research Staff Development Officer

Photo by Donald Lush

Academic career in the US? Find out more!

Interested in academic roles in the USA? Need help understanding the US academic job market?

Karen Kelsky is the Founder of The Professor Is In — a blog and business dedicated to helping Ph.D.s master the academic and post-academic job markets.  A former tenured professor and department head, and a cultural anthropologist by training, Dr. Kelsky explains the unspoken rules of the American academic job search, from building a competitive record and writing competitive job applications to interviewing effectively and negotiating offers. And she provides support for those transitioning out of the academy.

Karen will speak to current PhD students and research staff interested in academic roles within Life Sciences in the US on Tuesday 3rd May, 4-6pm, at Guy’s Campus.

By attending this event you will learn:

  • About the US academic job market
  • Strategies for presenting yourself effectively for academic jobs in the US
  • Techniques for succeeding at academic interviews.

Register here

King’s has also secured places at Karen’s talk at LSE on Weds 4th May, which will have a more social science focus.  Register here for those places.

PhD Movie 2: your life on film?

A post from Dr Ross English, University Lead on PhD Development

If you are a PhD student and not aware of the Piled Higher and Deeper comic strip  you should take a moment to have a look.

Jorge Cham – creator of those comic strips – was in the UK last week promoting his latest film PhD Movie 2 and came to London to show the film and talk to graduate students from King’s, UCL, Queen Mary and LSE.

The film was very entertaining, Jorge’s Q&A was funny – and that was the whole point of the event – but it also raised some interesting issues. Most obvious were the differences between the US and UK PhD processes.

Jorge Cham film

Piled Higher and Deeper Publishing (phdmovie.com)

We are familiar with the pressures on UK PhD students from their university and the research councils to complete within four years (or seven for part-time); in the US with no such strict deadline the pressure to complete in a reasonable time-frame more often comes from the student themselves. In the film one of the story-lines centred on a doctoral student writing-up and preparing for her thesis defence (similar to our viva, though not exactly the same). For her, the question was whether the committee would decide that she needed to stay on for another year to conduct more research or not. In another scene a student joked that his PhD supervisor liked him so much that she had told him that she wanted him to be her student for ever.

The challenges for a UK student that come from having a fixed end-point to the PhD are substantial, especially given all the other things that a doctoral researcher is expected to do in that time. However, while the US system has other advantages over the UK one – particularly in the breadth of knowledge that that a student is expected to gain – I am not sure if the open ended nature of the process is one of them. With the length of some US PhDs exceeding eight years, the cost implications alone can become a very serious issue. Having a shorter, and stricter, time limit in the UK brings pressure but does have its benefits.

It was also noted in the film that completion rates for US PhDs was only around the 50 per cent mark; a issue that must be related to the uncertain nature of the finishing line. For all the flaws of the UK system, completion rates are a great deal higher. Institutions tend to be geared up to ensure students are on-track to submit within the four year limit.

If you get the chance, go and see PhD Movie 2; it is a good film and an interesting insight into the life of a doctoral student in the USA.