It is with tremendous excitement that I can formally announce that my academic job search is over. Starting in August, I will be a tenure-track assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics at San Jose State University! My wife, Kate, and I are both very excited about the move.
Needless to say, it has been a very busy and stressful year. For those planning to embark on the same treacherous path, I will give you my timeline, which is common for the North American academic job market:
- I began compiling my documents and contacting reference writers in July.
- I submitted my first job application in late September.
- I had my first phone interview in mid-October.
- I had my first campus interview in mid-November.
- I attended the Joint Mathematics Meetings in January.
- I received the job offer from SJSU in late February.
In short, securing employment has been my full time job for over half a year. Each application package consisted of at least a cover letter, CV, research statement, and teaching statement, and a minimum of three letters of recommendation. Common additional documents included diversity statements, research summaries, preprints of recent papers, transcripts, and institution-specific compatibility statements.
And this is just the start of the process! Most schools will whittle their 200-700 applicants to a shortlist of 10-50 who will be invited for a phone/Skype/JMM interview. Of those fortunate people, 3-4 will be selected for a one-to-two-day long campus interview, during which they will be asked to meet various faculty members, the chair, and the dean of the college, and invited to give an hour-long research and/or teaching presentation.
I knew these facts (and staggeringly low odds) going in, so I will not dwell on them here. I will, however, share a few of the things which surprised me during my application and interview experiences:
- The scattershot approach can work! All told, I applied to around 125 jobs, received approximately 30 phone/Skype/JMM interviews invitations, and received 10 campus interviews invitations (I declined several). I did occasionally expend extra energy lobbying for specific positions, but I found very little correlation between this effort and success going on to the next stage. My impression is that, if you have a strong application and a school want somebody with your particular skill set, they will find you.
- You will be type-cast. Institutions can tell what your priorities are and judge whether they fits their own. Liberal arts colleges, in particular, are wary of R1 and R2 applicants using their schools as a back-up plan if a research school does not work out. I interviewed with around a dozen schools at the Joint Mathematics Meetings but only received 2 campus interview invitations. Unsurprisingly, these offers came from the only two research-focused institutions which interviewed me there. They know who I am better than I do.
- It is a lot of fun. The application and interview process has afforded me the opportunity to have discussions with many interesting people, learn about mathematical biology related research areas I was only vaguely aware of, and gain insight into how my research is viewed by those on the outside. I have visited new cities, new states, new campuses, and dined very well. As stressful and exhausting as the process has been, it has been made significantly easier by the hospitality of these hiring committees.
Looking back now, I feel much more prepared for the rigors of academic life having gone through this gauntlet. And, of course, things could not have worked out better. I am joining a terrific department in a terrific city, and look forward to keeping everyone updated from the West Coast.