Enjoying the job market

In September 2012 I had the chance to talk to a group of graduate students and postdocs about the academic job market. Having heard a number of such talks myself, and read a few related articles, I intentionally tried to give a talk about the things that I didn't learn from those resources, or didn't fully appreciate at first. If you want to take a look, you can download the slides.

Main main points

There are a number of main points in the talk, but among them there are three Main main points:

  • You can find ways to enjoy the job market.
  • Read as many other research and teaching statements as you can.
  • Let your application be an expression of who you are.

These sound a little flaky by themselves, but they summarize some ideas that are, I think, clarifying and practical. For those ideas, take a look at the slides!

[Enjoying the job market thumbnails]

The Main main points and Outline of the talk.


The fact that I've written slides shouldn't be mistaken for evidence that I'm a reliable authority on the job market! As of this writing, I've only been on the job market three times (2009, 2011, 2012) and have never been on the hiring end of it. But I have thought carefully about my applications, and learned a few things from my mistakes. The slides are derived from the advice I give my friends when they ask, and should probably be taken as well-intentioned if not well-informed!

Here are some particular biases to keep in mind:

  • The talk was mostly for new graduates nervous about their first time on the market.
  • All of my experience is with the U.S. market. I think there are some salient points that make sense in other markets, but there are a number of details that don't.


The ideas here have been germinating for a few years, and have benefitted from a number of conversations with friends, colleagues, and interviewers. I'd like to thank them all, and thank the University of Georgia math department for inviting me to talk about this.

I'd like to mention John Drake in particular as the first person who told me there were things to like about being on the job market.

Other resources

Here is a master list of questions for a campus interview compiled by Chris Drupieski. That is, these are questions you might ask during your campus visit, compiled from every such list Chris could find. Some of these make sense to ask earlier in the interview cycle too.

Lists of questions frequently asked by interviewers are available via web search.

Good luck on the job market, and enjoy it for what it is!

tags: talks

Site Info

icon CCicon BYicon NC The content of nilesjohnson.net is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.