It has been a while since the last installment of our "Job-Market Boot Camp", but given that it is Spring Term and hires are starting to be made, I thought it might be good for a new installment: one focusing on what to do at this point. Obviously, if you have interviews or on-campus visits, you should be practicing your interview skills and/or prepare as best you can for your visit. But, what about if you don't have interviews or campus visits? What should you do then? As someone who was on the academic job-market for seven years, I encountered this situation a bunch of times. So, allow me to offer a few suggestions, and then open things up for discussion.
Suggestion 1: Don't give up yet on this year's job cycle
One of the more interesting things I was told my first year on the market (when I was ABD) is that things can happen really late in the game. That year, I think I had three first-round interviews--but none of them turned into on-campus visits. But a bunch of people told me not to panic, saying they knew people who got hired for postdocs and VAP positions pretty late in the game, everywhere from March to as late as July (and in one or two cases, even August!). And indeed, this is what I found my first two years on the market. My first year, I received a VAP offer completely out of the blue sometime in March, and then, my second year (after not hearing back from my interview for over two months) I was once again offered a VAP in late March. So, if you do not have any TT interviews or flyouts, it's not necessarily time to give up on this year's job cycle. Things can still happen. Indeed, on that note, it is worth bearing in mind that not all academic job-markets follow the North American cycle (i.e. apply for jobs in fall, interview in winter, hire in Spring). UK, European, and other job-markets are more "year round", with jobs coming out constantly. So, keep an eye out for new job postings, and keep applying. Something could still happen!
Suggestion 2: Reflect, and discuss, whether to try again next year
At the same time, although good things can still happen, I've found that it can be good to not simply wait, but instead be proactive about what to do should things not turn out the way one hopes (i.e. you do not receive any offers, or you do receive a non-TT offer, but it is not an offer you want to take--say, due to low pay, relocation, etc.). The first thing to do, obviously, is decide whether to give the academic job-market another go next year. Here, I've found a few things are important:
- Honest evaluation of "indicators" (i.e. whether you are "getting closer" to a TT job): What do I mean by this? Well, it can be hard to evaluate one's competitiveness on the market after just one year. If one gets no interviews, that may be a bad sign for the future--or it could just be that one got unlucky. However, if one is on the market a few years, trends may emerge. On the one hand, you may find yourself with few interviews year after year, or even see your number of interviews decrease. Alternatively, you may find that your number and quality of interviews increase substantially from year to year. Although the number and quality of one's interviews are merely that--reflections of how attractive committees find you as a candidate to interview--they are that: indicators of competitiveness for interviews.
- Honest evaluation of one's priorities: Are you miserable? Can you "stand it" one more year on the market. I don't pretend to know when you should "give up" (or rather, pursue a nonacademic career)--but, for reasons I will turn to below (in Suggestion 3), now (Spring Term) is the time to decide: for you either need to start now looking for nonacademic work, or get on with the task of improving your dossier for next year's market.
- Honest discussion with, and fairness to, one's loved ones: This one was particularly important to me. Once you are married, in a committed relationship, or have children, you now have obligations to others. Not only that: at least in my experience, the academic job market can be really trying on them. Those who love you tend to share your successes, as well as your misery? Would sticking it out on the job-market harm those you love? Is that worth it to you? Is it fair to them? Obviously, I have my own views about fairness--very roughly, that it requires negotiating compromises with others--but, even if you don't share my views (though of course you should!:), I would suggest that out of decency, kindness, and love, you should at least consider these issues very seriously.
If you decide to pursue nonacademic work, the obvious thing you need to do is find good resources for making that kind of career transition. If, on the other hand, you decide you want to hazard another year on the academic job-market, I would advise...
Suggestion 3: Start improving your candidacy now
If you are going to go through the academic job-market gauntlet yet again, I think you owe it to yourself to do everything you reasonably can to give yourself a better shot next year. How? By getting started on improving your candidacy now--yes, while you're still waiting on this year's job market. One obvious thing you should do is keep trying to publish the best work you can in the best venues you can. But, given how many people there appear to be with good publication records who report not getting many interviews, you should not stop there. There are many other things you can do. You can seek out more (and better) letters of recommendation, cultivate a positive online presence, work hard to improve your cover letter, research statement, and teaching dossier, etc.--and yes, "network". The important thing, again, is to start these things now, as you only have so much time before next year's market.
I hope this post has been helpful. Have I forgotten anything? For those of you have been on the market a few years (or succeeded in finding a job), do you have any advice that readers might find helpful here? Thanks, in advance, to everyone who chimes in!