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10/27/2022

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non-tt faculty

A question: while using letters from your committee across the years, did you regularly report your progress and ask them to update their letters?

Tenured now

My advisor was at the center of a big sexual harassment case my first year TT, so I didn't use letters from him the two times I went on the market after that. I did not address it, and hoped people wouldn't notice - and got several fly outs and a job offer both times. So there's an N of one.

One option is to say in your cover letter, "I am including letters of recommendation from X, Y, and Z, who are more familiar with my more recent work. I would also be happy to pass along letters from A, B, and C upon request." Good luck!

Specialist

I'm >5 years out from my PhD. I work in tiny sub-specialty. Many of the biggest, most famous names in my sub-specialty were on my dissertation committee, and they have kept up with my work since my PhD. I could ask a couple of other people from outside my PhD program to write letters for me, and they would do so. However, they are not big names (especially in the country where I am trying to find jobs) and they don't know my work as well as my former dissertation folks. Often, I am limited to only three reference letters, as Marcus notes. So, I usually opt for the (updated, current) letters from my dissertation committee members. Any thoughts?

Marcus Arvan

@non-tt faculty: indeed, I did--and for the most part, I was able to get most of my letter-writers to update their letters every year or two.

However, one of my letter-writers reported after a few years that they hadn't been closely following what I done since I received my PhD, saying they weren't prepared to update the letter.

Fortunately, they were all too happy to continue letting me use their old letter, and (or I heard through the grapevine) it was a very good letter and it didn't hurt to include it, even though it was a few years out of date.

Postdoc

Original poster here. For what it's worth, I'm in exactly the opposite situation from @Specialist: my external letter writers are more famous, know my current work better, and work on areas more closely related to my subfield than my advisor and other letter writers from my grad program.

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