A Calendar Guide for the Academic Job Market

A detailed glimpse into a year-long quest for an academic position, tailored from my personal journey, aimed at guiding future applicants.

About me πŸ‘‹

I was on the job market in the academic year of 2023-2024, applying for assistant professor jobs in the social sciences that valued research in journalism and strategic communication, digital platform governance, and artificial intelligence ethics. I will be an assistant professor in media law and ethics in the Department of Journalism, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, starting September 1.

I’m writing this blog post with the hope of shedding some light on what to expect from the academic job market, sharing some thoughts and strategies I found helpful. Especially for those without a recent graduate to turn to for advice, I want to share my experiences. This is for anyone feeling a bit lost or unprepared about navigating the academic job journeyβ€”a friendly guide from someone who’s been there. You’re not alone πŸ’™

Summary of my journey

I knew I would be on the job market for 2023-24 by May, so I started promoting myself being on the job market starting at the AEJMC job hub in August. I applied to around 25 schools for an assistant professor position (including open rank searches) in my field (mostly in journalism and strategic communication), and another 10 in computer science and public policy, targeting AI ethics and social science roles despite being less familiar with their culture. After applying to R1s and research-focused R2s known for their strong communities, I received 7 Zoom interview requests (all from journalism and strategic communication, none from other fields), progressed to campus visits with three schools, and received two official offers. Ultimately, I accepted the offer from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Helpful Job Market Resources for you

Through my blog, I’m also sharing:

Am I missing anything? Let me know!
Find me at @HeesooJang2 on Twitter/X or at heesoojang at umass dot edu

I hope you find these resources helpful. My goal is to level the playing field as much as possible, providing practical aids and insights that can make your job search more organized and a little less daunting. I am also indebted to so many people that generously offered their time, experience, and advice while I was navigating the job market; this is my way of paying it forward. I recognize that not everyone has access to the kind of support I was fortunate to receive from mentors and colleagues. By sharing these resources, I am hoping to extend a helping hand to those navigating the job market journey, especially to those who may feel isolated or under-supported. Remember you’re not alone! πŸ’™

The academic job market calendar

Here’s an overview of my experience on the job market throughout the academic year, as I aimed for a position beginning in the 2024-25 academic cycle.

I’m sharing this journey to provide insight into the timeline and process of securing an academic position, hoping to demystify the experience for others targeting similar career milestones. My intention is to offer a roadmap that might ease the path for those following in my footsteps, especially for those who are navigating this challenging process for the first time.

Mayβ€”August 2023: Ask for job materials and start drafting yours

πŸ‘‰ Action items:
1. Ask for job materials and start your first drafts
2. Start thinking about your references (hopefully with your advisor)
3. Promote that you're on the job market this year

Knowing I would be on the job market, I asked mentors and recent successful graduates to share their job materials with me. These materials provided excellent examples that helped me understand how to organize my CV, the meaning of research and teaching statements, how they differ from a cover letter, and what to emphasize in them.

I also discussed the job market extensively with my advisor and held meetings specifically for this purpose. Summer was also a great time to start thinking about who will be my references.

Additionally, I had several coffee chats with other mentors in the field over Zoom and at conferences for advice. Asking for advice not only provided me with the support I needed but also provided me with the opportunity to share with people that I was seeking for an academic job. You want to let as many people as possible that you’re on the job market so you can get all the job ads once they start rolling out.

I was fortunate to have such supportive mentors and an advisor, but if you don’t, I encourage reaching out to people in your field online as early as possible. The hidden curriculum in academia is vast, and finding support early is crucial.

Especially if you’re a woman or nonbinary, identify as queer, are not a US citizen, are first-generation, or a person of color, I encourage you to find a mentor who has navigated the job market from your position. Just because we’re on the same job market, it doesn’t mean we’re navigating the job market in the same way.

September 2023: Get those job ads while finalizing your job materials

πŸ‘‰ Action items:
1. Make a spreadsheet to organize job ads
2. Finalize job materials and get multiple rounds of feedback
3. Request references

This is when a lot of job ads start rolling out. Do everything to catch those job ads! It’s easy to miss them because there’s no single place where they’re all collected. Sign up for major conference listservs in your field. For me, that was ICA, NCA, AEJMC, and AoIR. I also checked the communication job wiki for new job ads. Being part of the Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life (CITAP) at UNC, I received several job ads through our Slack as well (FYI: CITAP calls for graduate affiliates annually, and you don’t need to be at UNC). The networking and promoting I did over the summer paid off, as graduate students and faculty sent me job ads directly to me when their institutions were hiring an assistant professor in my field. Faculty at my current institution also let people know I was on the job market, which was incredibly helpful.

While collecting these job ads, I started building a spreadsheet with the school name, the position, due date, and the job materials they require. This spreadsheet was useful for two purposes. First, my future self thanked me. With so many job ads rolling out, I couldn’t have been able to track all of them without a spreadsheet. Second and more importantly, I shared the spreadsheet with my advisor to strategize where to apply and also keep her up-to-date with the deadlines for job materials and reference letters (if it required one at the application stage.)

September was also the month when I sought multiple rounds of feedback from my advisor and other mentors on my job materials. Having job materials that I was confident enough to present to potential references was crucial; after all, how else was I to request professors to serve as my references?

In the emails I sent to potential references, I attached my most recent CV along with drafts of my job materials, explained why I believed the potential reference would be a good fit for the positions I was applying for, and briefly described the types of jobs I was targeting. It was a real confidence booster for me when my references agreed to speak on my behalf in the job market, as it affirmed their belief in my qualifications and potential to succeed. I used this as my energy to push through the seemingly never-ending search for a new academic home.

October 2023: Applying for jobs and starting zoom interviews

πŸ‘‰ Action items:
1. Apply for jobs every single day
2. Research does not get done, and it’s okay
3. Start getting zoom interviews

Applying for academic jobs felt like a full-time job in itself (without the pay for your labor). In October, I was applying to jobs every. single. day. No research got done, but I had a supportive advisor and mentors who assured me this was normal and okay. Don’t be too hard on yourself while applying for jobs because there’s already a lot of writing, sending emails, and bureaucratic tasks involved.

I started getting Zoom interviews in mid-October. I remember asking mentors what to expect from Zoom interviews. For me, they were really helpful for understanding what the institution was looking for in this hire. Most search committees asked what they’re interested in first, and I took note of that. The follow-up questions gave me insight into what the faculty prioritized in this hire. I also looked for cues like whether the interview was one-way or two-way, whether they cared about work-life balance (because I do), and if we agreed on what constitutes meaningful research.

November 2023: Fly-outs and job talks

πŸ‘‰ Action items:
1. Draft your job talk slides to show your scholarly identity
2. Prep talks are a must
3. Fly-outs! Lookout for red and green flags

I received an invitation for my first on-campus visit in early November, followed by two more spaced out throughout the month. Typically, you receive only a week or, at most, a couple of weeks' notice between the invitation for a campus visit and the actual job talk.

My job talks were 40 minutes followed by a 15 minute Q&A. There must be various approaches to organizing a job talk. For me, I prioritized showcasing my scholarly identity and my theoretical and methodological paradigms over detailing the individual studies I published. I aimed to create a flow that would naturally lead audiences to envision the values I would bring to the potential institution.

I spent hours on YouTube to see how others approached their job talks. The one talk that changed my whole perspective on job talks was Dr. Wenhao Sun’s talk (now at the University of Michigan) he gave to his lab mates a few years ago, available on YouTube .

My advisor organized a prep talk for me, inviting several faculty members and graduate students. I was extremely grateful for my advisor’s initiative in scheduling these prep talks. They were invaluable for practice. As a first-timer, the length of job talks felt overwhelming. It was unusual to have almost an hour to discuss my research. I was so used to presenting only four minutes on average at conferences, and at most seven minutes for receiving the best paper award.

I am deeply grateful to everyone who attended my prep talks to provide feedback and boost my confidence. After two prep talks and incorporating the feedback received, I saw significant improvement. Also, with my immense respect for UNC’s faculty and graduate colleagues, I felt assured that if they believed I was ready, others would too.

The fly-outs were excellent opportunities to immerse myself in the campus and academic communities of potential institutions. The schedule included one-on-one or group meetings with faculty members, meetings with students, and a job talk β€” with teaching demonstrations at two of the schools, but not the third. I particularly valued the separate time with students, as they tend to be very candid about their community experiences. This insight was invaluable in understanding my potential role and contributions should I join the institution.

Although I personally did not experience this, I believe that insufficient time for restroom breaks and proper meals during a visit signals a significant red flag about how the institution might treat its faculty. If you’ve heard that this is normal, I’m telling you: it’s not.

December 2023: Final offers and negotiating

πŸ‘‰ Action items: Once you get final offers…
1. Get advice from mentors on negotiating
2. Google is your friend to learn how others negotiated

In December, my journey to find my new academic home reached its peak with final offers rolling in. My mentors played a key role, guiding me on how to articulate my needs and assertively negotiate. They were instrumental in teaching me what to prioritize in my negotiations. To ensure I was making informed decisions, I researched salaries for similar roles in public institutions. This step was about balancing my aspirations with the available opportunities, a challenging but essential part of the process. I focused on negotiating not only the salary, but the support, resources, and environment I need to succeed and feel fulfilled in my new institution.

One thing to note is that the institutions I interviewed with moved quickly, leading me to decline interviews from other institutions once I began receiving final offers. It’s normal in our field for on-campus visits to take place between January and March, towards the academic year’s end.

I want to be honest that December was an emotional rollercoaster. The thrill of receiving offers was also tempered by the stress of negotiations and the pressure to make the right decision. Throughout this period, my emotions ranged from excitement and hope to anxiety and doubt. The support from mentors during this period meant a lot for me. They were not just strategic but also emotional, providing reassurance during moments of uncertainty. They reminded me that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of these decisions and encouraged me to trust in my abilities and the journey that led me to these opportunities. I was also fortunate to be communicating with a search chair to show me grace and support in this way. This process taught me the importance of resilience, self-advocacy, and the strength found in community.

For those who are women, nonbinary, queer, not a US citizen, first-generation, or a person of color, I cannot emphasize enough of the importance of finding a mentor who understands your specific challenges in negotiation. Be transparent about your specific needs so that your mentors can offer personalized advice and support, helping you navigate the negotiation process with confidence and advocacy on your side.