The Grand Experiment: Job Search Organization

Even before I went to West Point last month, I knew that strategy could be a Very Important Thing. In my personal opinion, strategy is especially relevant to graduate students because of the many things we have to stay on top of: teaching, reading, writing, research, dissertating, applying to fellowships, and so on. I’ve spent the last two years handling Operation: Dissertation, but it’s also time to implement a new strategy – one that focuses on conducting a job search on the academic job market. (Or, as I like to call it, JobQuest 2010-11.)

While JobQuest 2010-11 and Operation: Dissertation loom over pretty much everything these days, I don’t tend to write about the job search much. I’ve spent some time this month evaluating how appropriate it is to blog about JobQuest 2010-11, and my feeling is that it’s an area that deserves caution. So, for example, I have no intention to give any specifics on here – you won’t see me talk about where I’m applying or how the search is proceeding, except in very general terms (such as this post).

At the same time, I’ve found it very helpful to bounce ideas off of other graduate students and faculty. With that in mind, I thought I would share my organizational strategies for JobQuest 2010-11.

Of course, there are several phases to Jobquest 2010-11. First, the research-and-identify phase, in which I seek out relevant positions. Next is the application phase, in which I prepare and compile all application materials and submit them. The third phase is interviewing and interviewing preparations (or perhaps “lack thereof,” but we’ll see). Beyond that, things get very shady, so I keep it with the basic three for the moment.

For research-and-identify, I’ve compiled a short list of several sites where I can find job listings for my field. (If you know of others, please feel free to comment)

In addition to identifying job openings, however, I’ll also have to keep track of who wants what types of materials, where to send them, deadlines, and other specifics. This means I need a way to keep track of everything.

My approach is Google Docs, because I can create a form I can reuse to populate a spreadsheet with all the information I need as I go through this upcoming cycle.

I like the form approach because it’s a little more fun and streamlined than simply entering all my data into a spreadsheet. At the moment, the form includes these fields:

  • Hiring institution
  • Open position title
  • URL for ad
  • Checkboxes for application materials: cover letter, recommendations, writing sample, teaching philosophy statement, and so on (I’ll only check off what I need)
  • Other required items (text box to write in additional things they may want)
  • Deadline
  • Date Sent
  • How was it sent? (Insert any confirmation numbers or any pertinent mailing information, if applicable)
  • Notes (to put in additional information for myself later)

I think this will do it –basic, but also easy to use and easy for me to keep track of everything.

How have you approached academic job market preparation? I’d love to hear other people’s ideas, or if you think I’m missing anything, please feel free to speak up.

(Because when it comes down to it, this is pretty much the grand experiment.)


9 thoughts on “The Grand Experiment: Job Search Organization

  1. I’ve done a very similar spreadsheet approach for tracking jobs I’m applying to, though I use OmniOutliner. I keep track of very similar data, but I also try to keep a text copy of the listing for those days when I need to kick myself offline to work. (It’s also better for long-term recordkeeping.) One thing I did last year that really helped: I grouped job opportunities into “Ideal,” “Must apply,” “Probably apply,” “Consult advisor before applying,” and “Turkeys” (the latter reserved for jobs I might apply for but wouldn’t enjoy, e.g. the 4-4 load of US history surveys at Sunburned Football U for $26,000 on a yearly appointment.) Within each category, I set OmniOutliner to automatically sort the job listings by date, so that I could always see which deadlines were closest.

    I found that organizing my electronic files for good workflow also helped. My job search folder has a few different main categories: “To Apply,” “Applied/Reply Pending,” “Replied” (with subfolders for “Got Phone Interview,” “Got Campus Interview,” etc. “To Apply” has subfolders for each major deadline (Oct 15, Nov 1, etc), and the application folders go inside those, with good titles (“Western Flagship U, T-T Asst Prof Hist (20c stripey-socks studies), due Oct 10 2010”). Once I’ve finished an application, I move it over to the “Applied/Reply Pending” folder, and on from there.

    • Oh, AWESOME! This is really great – I love hearing other methods, and your electronic file organization idea is something I’m adopting immediately. Thanks!

  2. I like both your ideas here. I haven’t used the form feature of google docs, and for various Large Organizational Tasks I have used spreadsheets and OmniOutliner. Since starting to use Omnifocus for task management, I do tend to keep deadline tasks there. So have an Omnifocus “project” called “Academic Job Search” and it has recurring reminders to check the boards that don’t send auto-updates (I love HigherEdJobs’ job agent that sends me new jobs in–and sometimes to the side of–my field quite often). And I have deadline tasks for due dates for materials. I can link to the filenames of the files I have to send.

    For electronic filing, I generally opt for a one-folder-per-school approach. If the deadlines are all recorded in Omnifocus, then the folders just become the more literal representation of the olde file folders: This is the copy of the packet I sent BigU, this is the packet I sent LittleU, etc. It does mean I end up generating multiple copies of some things, but it also means I have ready access to *exactly* what each school has from me, in case they call.

    • Thank you! I haven’t heard of the Omni products, but I guess that’s because I’m PC-based. It sounds really cool and useful, though!

      • Yes, they are mac-only products. Strangely, my own Operation:Dissertation got me into using more and more small-shop mac products. I ran into a bug (maybe it was just me, but I couldn’t fix it) whereby Word crashed my machine every time I used a diacritical mark when I had EndNote running. This was untenable to me. Now I use Mellel for word processing and Bookends for citation and when *they* have bugs I can usually e-mail the developers and they fix them.

  3. I think you sound super organized. I approached everything a little differently last year when I went on the job market- it worked for me (I got the tt job). I checked the same websites you did for jobs, also AAR website (I do religious history), and there are some international job listings (one for Canada- University Affairs, and one for UK which now I can’t remember the website) and a great post-doc listing ( I checked all my sites once a week and printed out any new job descriptions, then at the top of each sheet I wrote the deadline for the position. In general I only applied to one position a day, and made sure to send the materials at least three weeks before the deadline (when possible, because otherwise shipping costs can really add up). I used interfolio to send all my materials (including recommendation letters and transcripts). This saved me a great deal of time, and I didn’t have to worry about the organization of materials, or printing them out. You upload your documents to interfolio (your recommenders can upload directly), and so I could reuse some documents (for instance CV), and upload new ones (for instance cover letter) for each school. Interfolio kept track of what I sent where, and even delivered to online job application forms. I also noted the pertinent information on the job description printouts, which I then filed in a folder in my desk. I made a special folder in word for cover letters labeled by school, and organized by type of position (emphasis on teaching, emphasis on research….). This helped not get too bogged down in the details of the job search which can take over your life. I applied to 70 schools last year, and I didn’t want to spend forever on each application. I had a dissertation to finish. Good luck with your job search!

    • Thank you so much for your comment, and for the link to the post-doc listing. Congrats on the tt job, to!

      I’m pondering interfolio. Our campus also has a reference service, but I’ve heard mixed things, and if they’re going to charge me money anyway – well, I’ve just got to figure out which will work best. I also like the idea of applying to about one school per day and sending things far in advance. Thank you!

  4. Pingback: Academic Job Market Retrospective, Part 2 | Dude, where's my Tardis?

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