In response to my query for "Topics for the New Year", JMugg raised a very timely issue that I have some experience with. He writes,
Once one defends the dissertation, one looses [sic] funding. However, ABDs don't seem to do well on the job market. So...how do you time this just right?
It's hard to say just how well ABDs do on the market, but anecdotally, the suggestion that ABDs have difficulties on the market seems broadly accurate. So, then, how does one "time things just right"?
My first-, second-, and third-hand experience is that it is hard to time things just right, but that a few things can help. First, it seems to me that the best thing one can do is be almost done with the dissertation -- all but defended, essentially -- the first year one goes on the market. This (1) shows search committees that you are basically done (so you're not one of those ABD's for whom it's a real question whether you will defend successfully), while (2) giving you the opportunity to get another year of grad school funding (because you haven't yet defended). Whether you can do this depends, of course, on your grad department (i.e. whether they are willing to keep you on for another year, just short of defending). But, my experience has been, if you can do it, this is the way to go.
The only other thoughts I have to offer is this: in my first-, second-, and third-hand experience, offer for people in precarious positions (i.e. ABD, just defended, etc.) often come very late in the job season. I can't express enough just how true this has been for people I've known -- myself included. I've known many people who were basically at the end of their rope -- no more grad student funding -- who got 1-year VAPS, 2-3 year post-docs, etc., in late spring to (yes) as late as the end of the summer. I, for example, got offered my first (2-year) job completely out of the blue in late March, if I recall. I also got offered an on-campus (and soon after, an offer) for my present job out of the blue in mid-March, a couple of months after I interviewed (it had been so long, I had pretty much figured I was out of the running. Surprise!). Finally (seriously!), I've known people to get 1 or 2-year offers as late as July or August (yep, for the school year starting in August).
In short, my experience is (1) the job market is very hard to time, but (2) there are things one can do to time it as well as possible (see above), and (3) fly-outs and offers can come agonizingly (and shockingly) late in the year. This, unfortunately, is all the thoughts/advice I have to share (though I hope some do find it helpful).
What say you, my fellow Cocooners? (JMugg: hope you found this helpful!)