Academic JobHut

I attended a seminar on Academic jobsearch at Georgia Tech with an esteemed panelists and I thought I should share this with others who fancy their chances in academia!
Panelists:
Lance Fortnow
Nick Feamster
Taesoo Kim
Ahamad Mustaque
Moderator: Hyesoon Kim

I have briefly written the points which were made during the discussion and question/answer session below.

While writing your research statement, think about spectrum of your research. You might want to have good stories on the research side. When you ask for recommendation letters, it is good that you give an outline to the writer so that s/he can amplify your statements, rather than talk about stuff which might be totally different than what you expected. It is usually not a good choice to get recommendation letter from famous people as they write a lot of letters of recommendation — unless they have something special to say. Doing a postdoc is a good option as it improves maturity about research and useful to get mentoring from your co-workers; You can
think about it as PhD without courses and you should talk to you about it.

You might already know the rankings of the schools to apply, how do you chose which ones to apply? You should self assess what material you are – MIT, Stanford, Georgia Tech etc! You should find good reasons to be interviewing at a university otherwise you should not interview there.

Assume that Teaching statement matters, actually assuming “everything matters” is a good attitude. Teaching is not just lecturing but also TA hours and extra time for concepts. Mentoring an undergraduate while you are in graduate school or teaching a course is a very good experience to share while you apply for academic jobs as they demonstrate experience in handling students independently.

Many recruiters ask the same question to professors, “Do you have someone who is really great ?”, hence it is important to talk and have engaging conversation with other professors while you are in Graduate school so that in the future they might have interesting things to write for your letter for recommendation.

To be become a faculty in top colleges you have to do good visible research, which might take longer time beyond your PhD and cultivate strong references. You will have to take risks in research to publish in top (not just good) conferences! You should do good networking in conferences and let people know who you are. It is a good option to ask your advisor and other people close to you in your area help you in introducing you to new opportunities.

Job talk will be the judgement deal so make sure you practice it a lot and have high energy level and demonstrate that you really want to join the university.

In your one-on-one discussion with the faculty, you should be able to verbalize your research and interests in 15 mins so that you can hear the other side and have good connections with them about their own research and possibly make them interested in collaborations and hence you should be excited about your own research. You might have to hang out with those people for the next 20-30 years which makes it important for you to be at your best so that they can value your presence. You should extend the feeling that you are a positive person to the staff and students. You should dress formally as it displays your sincerity and respect for the higher position you are trying to get. While visiting the school, you should be convincing to others that you are special/different, able to connect across different research area and try to make connections with them. Ideas which cut across research areas are most important! Your research problems
should be at an intersection of talent, passion, problems on impact (all three of things). Remember, you will be your own CTO, CFO — spawn new ideas, engage in discussion and let them know you!

When you are on the job market, you need to have a good attitude to talk with everyone at the university you visit. You should try to find out the niche of the department and shape your discussion according to it so that there are more chances of collaboration. You might need to
fake the job-market is good so that things turn in your favor and you don’t look like you are performing badly in the academic job-hunt.

While doing job interviews, last schools might be exhausting and you should always make a well spanned out schedule for them; As a corollary, never schedule two interviews in 1 week – give yourself time to recover. Do your homework well by reading the webpages of all the faculty you
have meetings with – flush moments are when the candidates come back with stupid questions. Treat every place as your *only* interview and don’t be overconfident that you will definitely get through to be a faculty at any school.

If you are rejected by a school after a job talk, it is imperative to improve your resume/redo your CV to the next level before re-applying.

There are rare cases where systems guys who created start up and later goto academia, but this is highly unlikely and shouldn’t be thought of as a possible carrier path while you are in graduate school.