Job Market Advice (Academia)
Dr. Robert Cribb from the Australian National University spoke at the Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) Postgraduate Workshop on June 30, 2008 and shared the following pearls of wisdom about the job market for new Ph.D. graduates:
- There are likely to be jobs present in the near future, but appointments may not necessarily be in Asian Studies.
- The job market is competitive and many ads mention “excellence,” but this is hard to know.
- Do you really want an academic job? Are you excited by research, teaching, asking, learning, etc.?
- Post-doctoral research versus standard teaching and research job: Where possible go for the teaching and research job. Sometimes people may be suspicious of just doing research and not having teaching experience.
- Jr. job at a “high” institution versus high job at a “lower” institution: Consider whether you can move up later or if you will be “trapped” at a certain level.
- Pay attention to ads and applications: Does the university have a particular profile in mind or is it a fishing expedition for general purposes?
- Avoid applying if you don’t have the qualifications, being sloppy (e.g., padding publications list inappropriately), and not following the application instructions.
- Add what’s interesting about you, showing committee you’re a mature scholar, highlight quality strengths, and with regards to referees: should be appropriate (e.g., supervisor), enthusiastic, and sometimes the eminence of the professors matters. Some committees take references very seriously, while others don’t.
- Network at conferences with scholars.
- Interviews: If you get an interview, you generally have a chance. Do not be arrogant, self-absorbed, shy, or apologetic. If you get an interview, go to it. Pay your own way or ask to go Dutch (split the bills) to get there. Just doing phone interviews has its cons. Be careful if you are from a “higher” place and you apply to a “lower” one; don’t condescend and do give them the impression that you really want to be there. Also note that the committee may not be well-prepared, so repeat gentle clues concerning who you are and what you do. If the committee asks “Do you have any questions?” be sure not to ask too much or too little. One example question is “When can I expect to hear a result?” The committee may interview multiple people in one day so if no result on the same day this might not be good news. There are exceptions and changes of course. Call if you do not receive word after two weeks. Once selected, you have a brief moment of power. Try to get extra time to finish the Ph.D. (e.g., flexible start date), specific staff grant (e.g., research money), and a lighter teaching load for the first few semesters. New hires are not usually appointed at a higher level than the advertised job, but you can negotiate for a higher salary. Be honest about other irons in the fire, i.e., if you are interested in other jobs, have other offers, and have concerns about your partner’s work and life situation.
- Extra advice: Include all teaching-related material in your application. Try to finish your Ph.D. if possible before you start a job. Know that universities are often interested in people who are 3-6 months within finishing the Ph.D. Citizenship is not usually a requirement, but there might be issues with visas or permanent residencies. Australia may be more open to hiring international persons than the U.S. or Europe. The publications process can take a long time, so start early (recommended to place your pieces in mid-range journals).