Job Hunt Wrap Up

Some may have noticed a complete lack of blogging in the recent past, and this is the result of the replacement of my blogging activity with my decision to pursue a tenure track position. To make up for this absence, I spent this weekend trying to put some helpful thoughts together on my perspective of the 2014 job hunt (also see here).


I started actively job-hunting in August, 2013. At the time of my application, I had two postdocs, 2 first author papers from my PhD, a few papers with collaborators, and a competitive funding record. I knew that on paper, my publication record was shabby. I did have several strong “stories” in the works, if I could make any sort of first cut. I decided early on to make a real effort this year, and if it didn’t work out, I was going to look into other options. My husband also had been applying for tenure-track positions at the same time, and it was positive pressure for me.

I had a couple strong advantages. Having an engineering PhD, I could apply to several programs, including the natural sciences to diverse engineering programs. I also had strong support from my mentors, including their large networks.

Some Statistics

I applied for over 30 jobs, received 5 on-site interviews, 1 awkward phone interview, 8 rejection communications, and 2 offers.

I had four people read my statements for comments, and all offered literally juxtaposed advice.

I had 3 versions of different statements, based on the type of program I was applying to.

For each application, I would change about 20% of my application to suit the call (mostly introductions and conclusions). Though for 3 of my favorite job postings, I spent a lot more. I got rejected from one of these programs early on, got rejected literally last week from another (almost one year later), and never heard from the other one.

Among my interviews, I only really loved 3 places (2 of them made offers). The other ones, I think I would’ve very likely turned down if offered (see “fit” below).

The Take Homes

You have to know you want it.

I was hungry for this - and applying made me realize this more. There is no way I would have had the stamina for this process had this not been true.

You must believe you can do it.

Despite my weaknesses, I knew deep-down that I was competitive and would be good at this. This statement in no way means that I am not insecure, with a diagnosed imposter syndrome, but at times, I knew I was ready and was competitive. You have to be in this “I’m awesome” mood when you are writing your materials. If you don’t believe in yourself and provide reasons for others to believe in you, you won’t get hired. Period.

Prioritize the job hunt.

It takes a ton of time. Start thinking about it early, look for opportunities often, and take it seriously. Set aside specific time for all aspects of it, writing materials, asking for references, looking for opportunities, etc.

Target jobs you could imagine yourself accepting.

Despite my large number of applications, I could’ve applied for three times as many jobs. The jobs I did apply for I could imagine living in the cities, working with the faculty, my family being happy, etc. Don’t apply to every job.

Stay organized.

Manage your deadlines. Make sure you are addressing the right department. Communicate with your reference writers. I used Google Docs to highlight where I had applied and deadlines with links connected to the original postings. Note that postings will disappear from time to time, so keep an original. (This is important especially when you get called for an interview and need to know what these looked like!)

Stay positive (and resilient).

You will be told over and over again that these positions are all about “fit”. Your ability to get an interview or job talk should not be used to evaluate your qualifications or the importance of your science. The interviews I expected from some schools never appeared, and I was competitive for top-tier programs I never imagined would give me a second look. My favorite interview and also the offer I accepted was a position I didn’t think I was very competitive for to begin with based on the written job posting.

Once you’ve applied, let it be out the door.

The research and the publications you are working on now do not pause during your job hunt. I had to forcibly emotionally disengage from the job search regularly to get my work done. My routine was to only apply for jobs on the weekend, but everyone has a different process for this.

Ask for advice.

You’ve got questions, someone has the answer. Ask. I asked colleagues, mentors, friends, and family often. I also used the following websites quite often:

Wiki Ecology Postings

Questions I was Asked

My pal Kristen DeAngelis shared a couple nice resources as well: Jobs in Ecology and Evolution advice and Interviewing Advice.

If you’re looking for my application (generic), you can find them here and here.

Manage your own expectations.

This is my new mantra that came out of this whole experience. I think you just have to be honest with yourself. I wanted this job, I knew I could do it. I just had to commit to that belief. Even when things looked rough, I knew I was still doing science that was relevant and impactful, and I knew I wanted to be a mentor. I focused on convincing other people that this was true for some time. In the end, it really never changed the way I felt about myself. If I didn’t get a job offer that excited me, I would’ve been sad and frustrated. I wouldn’t have given up on myself though.

It’s a tough job market for PhD’s. No doubt about it. The competition is fierce. There is a lot of talent out there (I’m grateful for this). Its a challenge - and so is so much more in life.


Today, those challenges have been replaced by so much happiness, excitement, and more “hunger”. Every day, I’m thinking about my lab and what I can do in the coming years. It is so much fun! And I can’t wait to have the team to make the impacts I’m dreaming of. Everyone’s experience will surely be different. For me, it’s a dream come true and the beginning of a new chapter. I wanted it, worked hard for it, deserve it, and love it.

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