Academic Job Search Workshop Series -- an Overview

Bingjie Ouyang is a PhD candidate in the  Department of Earth Sciences at Dartmouth College and will be graduating in Spring (May, 2019). Her career development is focused on academia and she intends to pursue tenure track positions. 

Starting mid 2018, my priority was to prepare myself for the academic job search before graduation. My timeline was 1) to survey the job market during summer and fall, 2) submit application packages in late fall, making sure to meet the application deadlines, 3) prepare for interviews in early winter and 4) finalize job priorities in early Spring. However, I was not comfortable about taking on everything myself without hearing opinions from the outside. Luckily, in the Fall term of 2018, as helpful as usual, DCAL offered the "Academic Job Search Workshop" series. I immediately signed up for most workshops, which turned out to be valuable in my application.

The workshop series was comprehensive and covered almost all problems one may encounter during the academic job search. There were four themes: 1) an overview of the job market, 2) preparing written materials (including CV, cover letter, and research, teaching and diversity statements), 3) getting ready for the on-site interview, and 4) communicating with the hiring committee. These themes ran over the course of thirteen workshops starting from early September to mid-November. 

Themes 1 and 2 were generally comprised of two parts - lecture and practice. First, we were presented with the key concepts and useful tips in material writing. In the practice part, we were teamed up to brainstorm ideas and share among the group. I especially enjoyed the workshop on writing research statements. This workshop was led by an alum who had recently received an offer as a tenure-track faculty. The alum shared her structure for writing research statements and paired us up to critique each other's written materials. This form of workshop provides a valuable way of self-assessment by comparing our thoughts with the voices from successful examples and the opinions from our peers. 

Theme 3 was practice based. My take home message is that the more one practices, the better chance one has of getting through the on-site interview. Theme 4 is like a discussion panel, where the hiring committee from Dartmouth Government and Chemistry Departments were interrogated with questions from the group. This form of discussion is another one of the many highlights in this workshop series. The anecdotes, precautions, interviewing experience, general rule of thumb, and negotiating practice, etc. helped unveil the hiring process. I felt more comfortable about on-site interviews and follow-up communications after hearing the shared stories from the hiring committees. 

Attendees included both PhD candidates and postdocs from different departments, many of whom came to every workshop in the series. The diversity among attendees from different backgrounds was helpful in facilitating the workshop, providing a variety of perspectives. In addition, it is mentally encouraging to gather with a group of people who share the same goals and see them getting closer to their ideal jobs each time at the next workshop. I really appreciated the opinions, critiques, stories, and experiences from all the participants - DCAL, Dartmouth hiring committee, and job-searching scholars. They together made this workshop series interesting and fruitful.