The Life of a Wannabe Academic

Detail of the life a new academic. The progress from graduate training to professor. Includes reflections on the job hunting process, research in technology and education, and what it is like to be a new college professor.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Tom Petty once wrote "the waiting is the hardest part." How true to life this is, especially in the academic job search. Let me describe the basic procedure.

In August to about October applicants furiously search the advertised job postings, Internet, print, e-mail listserves, you name it. After collecting about 30 or 40 or even 50 advertisements you begin to review your job postings eliminating the ones that looked good at the time, but now you feel you don't really qualify for. This eliminates about 5...

Then you begin getting your job materials together: update the vita, write your research and teaching statements, and write your individual letters of intent. The letter of interest or intent involves skill, you must describe yourself in a glowing manner in 2 short pages outlining why you want to go to that institution, why you fit it, what you can teach, and other information. This requires research on each school, usually done by the Internet if you cannot find someone familiar with the institution.

After all of this, (and proofing everything for spelling errors!) you make a list of all of the materials that each school wants. Not all schools want the same thing, plus you modify your materials for the type of school (research vs lib art). Find out how many teaching evaluations, syllabi, evidence of teaching effectiveness (whatever this might entail) and reprints of your research and head out to your local Kinkos or Office Max and lay down a small fortune in printing fees.

Then you go home start printing out your vita, teaching and research statements, and others off your printer, praying you don't run out of ink or that the printer doesn't decide to die. Now you have all of your materials, lay them out neatly and begin stuffing envelopes (I haven't described the process for making envelopes look nice or getting information to your letter writers for sake of brevity...oops too late).

Now you have a stack of envelopes each about 1 lb or so, head out to the post office and lay down yet another small fortune in postage. This is all done in about a week's time.

Now it's November or December. Not as many job ads are being posted for tenure track (this is when the fixed-term start to be advertised). And you have nothing to do but wait........and wait.......and wait. For MONTHS! Waiting to hear if you'll even get a request for a phone interview....waiting to see if they want to bring you to the school for an onsite interview....and then after that!......waiting for an offer! And the worst thing about it (I think) is that now you feel helpless about where you might end up, and even if you'll have a job next year.

This is my second time through this process. Last year was an eye opener for me. This year, I have better credentials, more publications, more teaching, and am much closer to a graduation date. But it is still excruciating to wait! But I will wait, as patiently as I can. I expect in the next few weeks to start expecting the first skinny envelopes to arrive (rejection letters), but I am also expecting many more offers for phone and on-site interviews.

But truly "the waiting is the hardest part."


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