Tips for surviving the academic job search season

Are you on the market now? I’m sorry. It can be a very difficult time of year. Here are some things you can do to help you cope with the stress of uncertainty and near-certain rejection. Doing these things helps me, and I suspect the list will be more a reminder of things you already know than a list of things you never thought of before!

On Tuesday evening I spoke at an event on imposter syndrome organized by Grad Minds, a student group at the University of Toronto. One audience member asked about how to keep her spirits up at this time of year, when academic hiring is in full swing. Or, should I say, academic rejection is in full swing! The vast majority of applicants for any job won’t be asked for an interview. Rejection is the norm, and it can be very hard to take for so many reasons.

Here are some ideas to help you cope:

  1. Assume you didn’t get the job. This advice come from Alison Green, the woman behind the wonderful Ask a Manager website. If you do get contacted for an interview, it’ll come as a nice surprise. Easier said than done, but it’s a helpful attitude to cultivate in any job application situation.

For the other 9 tips, head over the University Affairs to read the full post! Let me know if there’s anything that works especially well for you.


Do you know what career path to take?

Happy new year! Here’s looking forward to a great 2015 for me and for all of you. Here’s my first post of the year, over at University Affairs. It begins:

“When did you decide to leave academia?” This question, or some version of it — “How did you know that you didn’t want to be a professor?” for example — is one I’m regularly asked. It comes up in conversation, on Twitter, or when I’m on a careers panel. It’s a fair inquiry, and the questioner tends to ask because she is wrestling with making a decision about her own future. But it’s a question that I can’t answer. There was no one moment when I knew the tenure-track wasn’t for me, and there wasn’t an easy process to come to that decision either.

To read the rest, head over to UA. Let me know what you think! What metaphor do you like to use?

Reflect back to move forward

Here are some questions to help you clarify your priorities, goals, and action steps for 2015. And I even answer them myself! Let me know if you find them helpful. Thanks to one of my current clients for letting me try a few out on her earlier this week. She inspired the post.

Instead of making New Year’s resolutions, I’m going to reflect back on what I did and didn’t do this past year, and explore how I feel about those things. Those reflections will highlight things that are important to me, and suggest future priorities and action steps. Here are some questions to help you do the same:

What are you most proud of from the past year?

What’s your biggest achievement from the past year?

What was your biggest disappointment?

What surprised you most about yourself this year?

Four more questions and my responses and thoughts in the full blog post over at University Affairs.

Are you hoping instead of acting?

This one goes out to all of us who’re shying away from exploring our options in hopes that our current activities will be enough to sustain us, long-term. (Does that make sense?) I recently realized I was hoping instead of acting. What about you?

Read the post over at University Affairs, and let me know what you think!

Transition Q & A: Melissa Dalgleish

This is one you’re definitely going to want to read! Melissa Dalgleish is a regular contributor to Hook & Eye, an ABD in English from York University, and a research officer in the Faculty of Graduate Studies at same. Here’s an excerpt:

What do you do now?

I’m a research officer at York University, one of about a dozen (including Jamie Pratt, who did a Transition Q&A for you a couple of years ago). However, my job is a bit different from that of the dozen other research officers at York, because I support graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in research-related activities, rather than faculty members. I coordinate all of our scholarship and fellowship competitions, develop applications for major grants and awards, oversee graduate research that requires ethics approval or intellectual property agreements, and coordinate graduate research and professional skills events and programs, including the Three Minute Thesis competition and our Graduate Professional Skills (GPS) program.

Read the full Q & A over at University Affairs.

The “dream job”

I’ve been thinking about this trope or myth, the way I used to talk about the academic job market, as if there was a “dream job” out there waiting for me to get it. I don’t think that way anymore about work, and certainly not about academic work. The result is my latest post on University Affairs. Here’s how it begins:

Last week a Twitter contact asked me, “Would you ever go back to academia if your dream job opened up?” We both knew he meant a university faculty position, tenure-track. We knew this because talk of a “dream job” is common among graduate students and PhDs on the academic job market. For me, now, the question was jarring because I don’t think about the academic job market at all these days, unless it’s to empathize and lament in solidarity with friends and colleagues. In fact, I told him, I am doing my dream job right now! I have zero interest in working as a professor, I added.

Do read the rest, here.

This spreadsheet keeps me honest

My latest blog post for University Affairs is about how I track what I spend, and how knowing what’s going out motivates good spending habits. Here’s how it begins:

Ten years ago, when I started my PhD at the University of Toronto, I began tracking every penny (R.I.P.) I spent. I can’t remember what motivated me to do this, other than the knowledge that I’d now have to pay rent and buy my own groceries out of my fellowship and teaching assistant income; previously, I’d lived with my parents. I’m still tracking my spending now. I know exactly what my life costs.

Read the rest of this post on my UA blog, here.

Download my spreadsheet here: Monthly expenditures

Recognizing your own good work is hard!

My latest blog post for University Affairs is a reflection on success, achievement, and our human tendency to focus on the negative. Here’s how the post begins:

“How’s business?” I was asked this by a fellow panelist at an event I recently participated in. “Good!” I responded, and then added my usual caveat: “I’m not yet covering my expenses but I’m getting there.” Reflecting on this now, I want to go back in time and change my answer. Why? TBU. This acronym (thanks Ian) stands for “true but useless.” I let one of my inner critics speak for me.

Read the rest here!

Transition Q & A: Kelly J. Baker

Meet Kelly, a religion PhD and scholar who’s been an adjunct and now is building up a career as a freelance writer. Here’s a bit of her story:

Now, I’m building my career as a freelance writer while also wrangling a wise beyond her years five-year old and a laid back one-year old. I’m trying to shift my writing from part-time to full-time work, which is a slow process with a bit of a learning curve. Yet, I learn more about the business of writing every day. Writing is a business, and I hope more academics start to realize this too. Writing should be paid for, not given away for free.

For the full post, head over to University Affairs.