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Timeline for the national academic job market:


It's best to start planning for the academic job market at the start of your PhD. It takes several years to prepare. And there are things you can do throughout your PhD to put you in a better position.The list of 20 things, below, is in a rough, chronological order. Some things are mandatory, others are optional. 

  •  0. Learn about the job market before you take your comprehensive exams; spend some time reading job ads.  Consider your comprehensive exam areas and your dissertation topic in terms of how  they will play out on the job market. Plan to become legible as an expert in more than one field or area. Seek out advice.  Consider alternatives to academic careers and seriously consider obtaining the experience and credentials for those alternatives. Reconsider a tenure-stream career track if you are unwilling or unable to move to a place where you don't want to live. The tenure stream academic job market is a national and international job market--geographical mobility is key.  If you would like to choose where you live, consider community college, high school, or alternative career tracks. 

  • 1. Envision where you need to be, early on, then plan how to get there. Before going on the national job market you should have published two peer-reviewed articles in scholarly journals, presented papers at a few conferences, accomplished a bit of professional service, developed your skills and experience as a teacher, and have most of your dissertation written and approved by your entire committee.  If you plan to develop your dissertation into a book, you should only publish one article that comes directly from the dissertation. Other articles could be develop from  term papers, not the dissertation itself.  

  • 2. Consider developing expertise in the digital humanities and creating an offshoot or version of your dissertation as a DH project. Take advantage of workshops and other training sessions on DH at the MLA or locally. Develop technical and creative skills. Learn a coding language. Craft your digital presence. Consider creating a public humanities event or an innovative service learning or community engagement project. 

  • 3. Apply for grants, awards, and fellowships, including those for archival research, while you are in the PhD program. These applications require letters of recommendation, so make it as easy as possible for your advisor or other faculty to write the best possible, most specific letters for you by being super organized and providing them with all the appropriate materials and clearly stated deadlines. 

  • 4.Take advantage of the pedagogy certificates, pedagogy workshops, and other professional development opportunities related to teaching at U of O or elsewhere  and put them on your CV once completed. 

  • 5. Consider adding a certificate to your PhD, such as: the New Media and Culture Certificate; the Museum Studies Certificate; the Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management or Arts Management; Indigenous, Race, and Ethnic Studies; Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; or the Science Communication Research Associates program. Take advantage of certificates that could help you in academic or nonacademic careers. 

  • 6. Consider getting experience teaching at a community college, in case you would like to teach at a community college in the future. Community colleges often prefer to hire people with experience teaching at community colleges. This is a different job market, with different procedures--seek out advice from people who are up to date on community college hiring. 

  • 7.  Arrange for your dissertation director and  one other person to watch you teach during your penultimate year in the program, or prior to that, when you are teaching a course most closely linked to your field. 

  • 8. Write your dissertation abstract, job letter, and c.v. the spring  before the you begin on the fall market and give them to as many faculty as possible to critique by July 1 . Ask for and expect harsh critiques. Revise. Revise again. If you take a course on preparing for the job market, you should take it, at the latest, during the spring term before you develop your materials. 

  • 9. Polish your writing sample, write your research statement, and develop a teaching portfolio and a DEI statement. Have these ready by the end of September. Check all your social media accounts for anything that might disturb a job search committee. 

  • 10. The DOSSIER: In the summer, ask your dissertation committee, the person who supervises your teaching, and perhaps one or two other people to write job letters for you--these letters will be your dossier. Submit an organized set of materials to your letter writers by August 1st. Send one email that includes your job materials (letter, cv. dissertation abstract, research statement, teaching statement, DEI statement); copies of articles; dissertation chapters or the entire dissertation. We will need to consult these materials to write detailed letters. Arrange your Interfolio account or similar dossier service.  Faculty cannot/will not send or email letters for specific jobs, as candidates should be applying for 20-50 positions each year. Faculty are responsible for submitting one letter to Interfolio. In some cases, say if you are applying for different sorts of jobs--research oriented positions vs. community college positions, or some jobs in English and some in Environmental Studies, you may want to ask that your committee submit two different letters to Interfolio. Your dossier should be ready by September 1st or whenever your first dossier will be due. (Some jobs and postdocs do not allow the use of Interfolio, making it more difficult for everyone. Just sent us an email (one email with all of them listed in order) as a heads up that those requests will be coming directly from those institutions.  Be sure to coordinate your projected defense date (for example, Spring of X year, with your dissertation director so that your letters will be consistent. 

  • 10.5: If you have trouble figuring out Interfolio, ask a graduate student who was on the market the year before. Faculty do not tend to know how the system works from the graduate student's perspective.

  • 11. Study the  MLA JIL, The Chronicle job lists, web sites and other information from professional groups in your field (e.g, ASLE, SLSA, MSA, DSA, etc.), and apply for positions in September and thereafter, carefully crafting each letter for each position, and following the directions. (Curse the committees who ask for special, strange things! But plan on needing time do do those "special" things.) Be aware that new jobs and postdocs may be posted from August through the next summer! Keep applying. 

  • 12. Send out dossiers and writing samples as requested in October, November, December and beyond.

  • 13. In October do mock interviews with faculty, preferably faculty who are not on your committee. Ask for criticism and suggestions. If mock interviews are not scheduled, ask the Placement Officer to schedule them.  Before the mock interviews, be sure to have your advisor, other members of your committee, the Placement Officer, the DGS, and/or others, provide a one hour session on what questions are likely to be asked, what you should prepare, and other advice. 

  • 14. Hope for interviews, which usually happen November through March, and which will often be on Zoom. Craft  your wardrobe,  background, lighting, perspective, and sound for a Zoom interview. Ask who will be interviewing you. Prepare for interviews by diving into the work of the faculty and information about the college, department, and the programs. Reread the job ad, brainstorming about what specific questions they might ask. Look at the letter you sent and circle things you think the committee may ask you about and prepare responses. 

  • 15. Prepare talks and questions for winter or spring on-campus visits.  Present a practice on-campus talk for other grad students, if you can. Ask your advisor to set up a practice job talk with faculty and grad students in attendance.  If you are fortunate enough to get to the final stages of the interview process for any position, inform your references, and prepare us for potential telephone interviews.  The search committee may call your committee members--the more information we have in advance (packaged in *one organized email* the better.) For example, send us a copy of the job ad, and the job letter you had sent, and remind us of specific aspects of your research and teaching that we should highlight during our interview with your search committee. 

  • 16. Keep applying for the post-MLA jobs through the spring and even the summer. Then begin again the next fall: it usually takes a few years to obtain a tenure-stream position. 

  • 17. Apply for postdoctoral fellowships,  NEH summer seminars, archival research grants, and other forms of support that will enhance your scholarly credentials and improve your work. 

  • 18. If you are offered a job, try to get (some of) your previously published work to count toward tenure during negotiations. This is important. You should also try to negotiate for a higher salary, moving expenses, start up funds, etc. It is usually best not to ask about or even mention salaries or spousal hiring until after you have been offered a position.  And get all promises in writing!--always! Administrators come and go; verbal agreements and memories vanish into the air.  

  • 19. If you are fortunate enough to land a tenure-track position, start a filing system before you begin the job, keeping paper and electronic documents related to research, teaching, and service, for use in your tenure case and third-year review. Save everything until you get tenure.  

  • 20. If you are lucky enough to work with graduate students, be the best possible mentor, because all of this is so difficult!   

For more information, check out Professor Tara Fickle's excellent web site, "You: On the Job Market":

Good luck!


The state of the Academic Job Market

All graduate students should be aware that it is extraordinarily difficult to obtain a tenure-track job, especially in the Humanities. Be sure to research the academic job market years in advance of your search, making use of the MLA, the MLA joblist, the Chronicle of Higher Education, the AAUP, and U of O faculty as sources of information about preparation for your job search, job market procedures and timelines, and the reality of the academic market. All PhD students should make realistic plans at the start of their graduate work. No matter how driven you are to secure a tenure-stream academic position it would be prudent to formulate a back-up plan. Community college jobs are plentiful, for example, and some of them pay more than other academic positions. And the great thing about community college jobs is that you may be able to live in the geographic region you'd like to live in--which is extremely rare for the national job market. Getting experience teaching at community colleges, while you are a graduate student, could help you land a community college job later.The brutal academic job market has generated the "alt-ac" track. Researching the "alt-ac" track would be a good idea. My own view is that while many people, in nearly any profession would benefit from an MA in English, there are very few people who should be pursuing a PhD at this point, given the highly competitive academic job market in the humanities and the daunting, formidable intellectual focus and time commitments a PhD requires.

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