This seems like a pretty obvious concept, after all if you finished your PhD you clearly committed. But finishing the PhD is just the beginning. It’s a long hard road to a full time lectureship. So you better love, love, LOVE, academia. With the economy in the tank and the squeeze on virtually all academic institutions, getting a a job in Academia has never been harder. So if you think you might prefer IT, editing, or business I suggest you jump ship ASAP. Life is a painful experience in academia. Constant rejection from journals and job applications can take their toll on your psychological well-being. Meanwhile, the constant pressure to keep publishing never really goes away. If you love your topic then the struggle is worth it but if you are on the fence you had better hang up your spurs.
Now that you have decided your heart is in the subject and the research and the teaching, you need to know that you will be up against a lot of rejection: A whole hell of a lot of rejection. But if you truely love academia (you’re a sick puppy like me), don’t get discouraged. You really have to embrace the whole Nietzsche thing and really just will your way through the situation. After all, you have passed your Viva and you are literally the world’s expert on your topic, so have a little faith in yourself. Of course you have to be smart about it. Be sure to apply for fellowships, network as much as possible, and of course keep publishing, but if you stick with it, sooner or later, things will happen. If you bang on a door long enough, someone will come along and open it.
To continue your struggle into a permanent position you will have to apply for several positions; most likely in the triple digits. But each application will strengthen your ability to apply for the next position. If you are with a university in some capacity, they should have a development department. If not, look out for the writings of Dr. Steve Joy at Cambridge Development Office. He is fairly active on twitter and full of amazing advice. It never hurts to throw your hat in the ring even if its along shot.
4. Continually improve your CV and cover letter
This is advice I got from Dr. Steve Joy. You must absolutely taylor your CV and cover letter for each individual position. This takes time and can be a hassle. But I think it’s worth it. The first step here is to make it about priorities. IF you are following the advice of Number 3 Above, naturally on some of those applications, you’ll not have enough time to invest on maximizing your CV and cover letter’s potential. This is fine. Focus on the positions you like best and then split your time and effort accordingly. Be sure to list all recent conference papers and publications. I had sent out my CV a couple of times without updating it and so the interviewing committee never got a chance to see my most recent work! ON your cover letter I do recommend doing your home work on the university you’re applying to. Get to know the department’s staff and who you might work with best. Have friends, supervisors, and any one you can go over your CV with you. The more eyes on it the better. Encourage them to be harsh and get their ideas on potential problems areas. Bloodletting now might save a blood bath later (in the interview), Finally, don’t be afraid to sale yourself on paper. This is important because many PhD students still have that ‘supervisor approval seeking mentality’ thing going on and this isn’t particularly awe inspiring in a potential hire.
5. Conferences are a must
The dirty secret about conferences is that the sessions don’t really matter. Its good to go and better to give a paper to get yourself known. But the real work at a conference begins in the bar. This is the best place to network, give out business cards, listen for potential opportunities and have a little fun. This is a good and informal way for you to meet imminent professors and colleagues with similar interests. Moreover, its a great way to make new friends for potential collaborative projects and size up potential competition. In this environment remember to be confident and put yourself out there.
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