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Assistant Professor

I think that the OP's interest in being forward looking on the job market is actually a really good way to cope with the results of the market - if you feel like you prepared well, had time to create materials that best reflect who you are as a scholar and teacher, and are proud of those materials, in my experience this goes a long way to feeling good about your performance on the market regardless of outcome.

The OP has materials already, so take some time and go over them, think about about how your job market process has given you new information about what committees responded best to in order to potentially polish your documents, and now going into this year's market you will have a pool of solid documents already and have time to tailor them to specific jobs.

For new applicants: spend this summer getting your documents ready! Do not wait until a job posting comes out. You know what things they postings will ask for, so prepare them, get lots of feedback on them, and then you will be ready to tailor them when you see a specific job add come out based on your base documents.

Also: practice, practice, practice. Ask your department to do mock interviews. Talk to people who interviewed. Think about what questions you might be asked, but importantly, think about what information you want a committee to know about you and find a way to make sure to get this information across in your responses to their questions.

I hope the OP and others finds good supports in going through the process (friends, mentors, peers, therapists). One view that may or may not a comfort: it is unlikely that any one thing will make or break your candidacy. Who knows the strange alchemy of a committee or what exactly it is seeking or needing? Who knows what will land with one person and not another? That is why putting your best foot forward according to YOUR standards is probably the best strategy to minimize (but not abolish) regret.

For what it is worth: I once said something really honest and unprepared in a job interview that I was fairly certain sunk my moving to an on-campus interview. I also once said something equally honest and off the cuff in an interview and got offered the job. In both instances I ruminated on what I did/said afterward and they had radically different outcomes that make me think my rumination in either case was unproductive, in hindsight.

Good luck out there - it is a hard, vulnerable process, and can be so much a matter of luck and circumstance. Recognizing this might minimize regret but adds other frustrations and challenges.

Another Assistant Professor

We tend to focus on variables within our control precisely because they are within our control. Worrying about the other stuff won't change it. But focusing on those variable often leads us to misrepresent their import. For example, libraries of parenting books exist, but childhood behavior is predicted by biology to a greater degree. I think job market materials are similar. Factors now beyond your control contribute more to your employability than those within it: your AOS, your pedigree, your diversity, etc... To be sure, bad materials will sink you. But if you're sweating about them this much now, they are are almost certainly quite good. Don't be obsess over the comparatively small things you mention. For better or worse, your destiny is mostly written.


I don't know if this will help, but: if you want to be forward looking, don't be backwards looking. For places you thought you had a good chance, don't re-read application materials; don't check your status online; don't look at forums to see if they've scheduled interviews; don't reimagine your interview (if you have one); etc.

Avoiding these behaviors was helpful for me in navigating the stresses of the job market.


I say this having served on several search committees: try to remember that so much of it is luck, that you can't control or even know about. Basically if you've gotten to the interview stage in our searches, we probably thought you were pretty great - and frankly a lot of what we were looking for was red flags, that suggested you weren't as great as we thought. Did you talk down to the female members of the search committee, or address yourself mostly to the men? Did you seem really down on the idea of living in our town? Did we hear a surprising amount about past personality conflicts in professional settings? Did you seem bitter about academia, or philosophy?

Red flags could sometimes rule a person out, but what made us move forward on a person was usually something they couldn't have done anything to change in an interview: in addition to being able to teach the courses we'd advertised, they could also teach this other cool course/course that needed to be taught and that we didn't have a specialist for; they had a research program that several of the current members of the department would be really excited to talk about given their own quirky interests; they had a history of getting grant funding; they had experience teaching a student body very much like ours; etc.

So basically, I think that all you can do is present yourself as a good person and good colleague who is genuinely excited about the work you do - and try as much as you can not to take it personally or blame yourself in cases where they don't move forward with you. Very often it wasn't personal and there was nothing you could have done except be a different person with a different research/teaching/whatever skill set.

Good luck - it's damn hard being out there, so try to be good to yourself.

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