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I would recommend not applying to too many jobs or postdocs. Time is better spent polishing applications for jobs that seem as though they are looking for someone like you rather than filling out applications for "long shot" positions. If this is done, my guess is most people will apply to 40-60 positions.

Trevor Hedberg

Amanda -- I've heard a great deal of conflicting advice about this. The most common position among those who have given me job market advice is that you should apply to all positions that you can make a plausible case for. The rationale is that the selection process is so random and the margin between qualified candidates so small that you don't really know how you'll fare. You may make the first cut in "long shot" positions and be passed over for all the positions that (to you) seem like an ideal match.

That said, I'm sure there's a limit here. I know plenty of people who have gone so far as to apply for positions that are clearly not in their AOS and for which they have no publications or dissertation research to support their claim that it is their AOS. At a minimum, I think this practice should be avoided.

Beyond that, I'm uncertain what other limits (if any) to recommend. Determining how much to limit the scope of your search is a tough call. If I develop a clear position on this topic, I might write up a full post on it at some point in the future.

Recent hire

I agree with Trevor here, from own experience; apply to wherever you can. The job market is weird. I ended up getting a job that was not in my AOS at all, and I only applied to it pretty much accidentally. Now I see I am a quite good fit for the department for multiple reasons, reasons that I was absolutely not familiar with during the application process. I grant that this is not a very frequent scenario, but it might make a difference between getting a job and not getting one.

My only year on the market was the first year, and as Justin said, it is not a fun year at all. My advice is to try to stay on schedule, no matter what. If you teach, keep teaching prep and grading to a minimum, and spend all the rest finishing the diss and job marketing. What got me through was that I had one or two days a week when I did only job market things, and the other days I didn't even look at it. Although it didn't eliminate the stress, it made it more manageable.

Trevor Hedberg

I'll add to Recent hire's comment that I think checking the job market wiki is an unnecessary way to spend one's time, and doing so usually just creates more stress. (Plus, as has been pointed out here on other posts, the information there is usually pretty inaccurate.) I never checked it once during my first time on the market, and I suspect that lessened the stress and anxiety considerably.

Recent hire

Yeah, good if you can do that --- not checking the wiki at all requires enormous self-control.


Everyone has to make their own bet with how much time and how many applications, etc. I will say that I think spending extra time trying to tailor applications to a position is often helpful. Recent hire I tend to think you are an exception, but again, it is all a pretty random probability game we all try to make our best judgement about what risks to take.

Marcus Arvan

Recent hire: I don't think not checking the wiki requires enormous self-control. I didn't check it once my final two years on the market, and it didn't require any self-control. All it required was me realizing that I was far, far better off not checking it. It is nothing more than a recipe for daily worry and disappointment. I, at any rate, found not checking it liberating, and the positive effects staying away had on my wellbeing made staying away a piece of cake.

Recent hire

Marcus, I think this varies from person to person. I'm not saying checking the wiki was ever pleasant, but for me it was hard to resist finding out whether I was still in the run for something. Maybe it had to do with some first-year-on-the-market enthusiasm combined with some extra pressure to get a job due to visa situation.
Anyway, I do agree that checking it often is a complete waste of time and mental energy.

Marcus Arvan

Recent hire: fair enough! I checked it for a number of years before my spouse made me promise not to anymore. So, I certainly understand the allure of checking it--and, by all means, not everyone is the same (or in the same kind of situation). I mostly just wanted to register my own experience that distancing oneself from it can make it much easier to continue to stay away. At least in my case, the transition from daily disappointment and worry (when I was checking it) to simply getting on with my life (when I wasn't) was like night and day. It felt really liberating, which is why I try to convey the experience to others. Perhaps if one just makes it a point to stay away from it, one may have a similar experience!

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