What Should I Do and When Should I Do It?

Adopted from Hedging Your Bets: The nuts and bolts of going on the academic and nonacademic job markets at the same time, Chronicle of Higher Education (March 11, 2015) by Julie Miller Vick, recently retired as senior associate director of career services at the University of Pennsylvania and now works there part time as a senior career advisor, and Jennifer S. Furlong, director of the office of career planning and professional development at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. They are the authors of The Academic Job Search Handbook (University of Pennsylvania Press).


Depending on your discipline, the exact timing of the below schedule might change a bit, but the steps you should take will be similar. It’s very likely that you will devote the fall to applying for faculty positions; nonetheless, you should carve out a bit of time in those months to do the networking that can help you transition to nonfaculty positions.

The spring before going on the job market

Faculty search: If you’ve never been on the academic job market before, now is the time to talk to faculty members and peers who have been through the process about what to expect. At the same time, push hard on moving your research forward.

Nonfaculty search: If you are planning to do an internship or part-time work over the summer, now is the time to begin pursuing those opportunities.

The summer before going on the job market

Faculty search: Start drafting the written materials for your applications—your CV, cover letters, statements of teaching and research philosophies, and other documents. You will want to have those documents in shape by the end of the summer so you are not overwhelmed by drafting them in the fall, when you face many other work responsibilities.

Nonfaculty search: Start a LinkedIn Profile. And think strategically about your network of contacts inside and outside academe.

August and September

Faculty search: Complete your application materials and start applying for tenure-track and nontenure-track faculty positions. Also note the deadlines for academic postdoctoral jobs and begin applying to the ones that could make you a stronger candidate in the future.

Nonfaculty search: You’ll probably be overwhelmed by the task of sending out faculty job applications and working on your research. Even so, start reaching out to people in fields of interest with whom you might conduct informational interviews.


Faculty search: Continue to apply for faculty positions and submit your applications before or by the deadlines.

Nonfaculty search: Schedule your first informational interview. Start reading nonfaculty job descriptions, if you haven’t already, to get a sense of what types of careers are out there and what skills are required. Develop a résumé (or more than one) that is targeted to the field or fields that interest you.

November to January

Faculty search: If you’re lucky, this period is when you’ll be managing your telephone, video-conference, conference, and other types of preliminary interview.

Nonfaculty search: By January, if you haven’t already, start narrowing down the types of nonacademic positions in which you are interested. Follow up with contacts that you may have made during the summer or fall. Begin to apply if you see any positions that are of interest to you.

January to March

Faculty search: If you are invited for a campus interview (or even more than one), you’ll need to work hard on preparing for your job talk, learning about the institution, and getting the details of your trip in order. If you’re invited to a campus interview during this time, you’ll probably be focusing most of your energies on that opportunity.

Nonfaculty search: If you don’t receive any campus interviews, you’ll want to increase both the number of nonfaculty positions to which you are applying and the amount of time you are spending networking with people outside of academe.

February to April

Faculty search: If you’ve received a tenure-track offer, congratulations. If not, you may keep your eyes open for other types of opportunities, such as postdocs or visiting professorships, particularly if you’re not sure you’re ready to leave the faculty track yet, or if you’re finding that your transition into a new career is likely to take more time than you expected.

Nonfaculty search: As you’re sending out applications (and networking!) for nonfaculty positions, we hope that you are seeing a few signs of interest and perhaps even getting a few interviews. If not, use the information you’ve gathered from networking to assess your search. Is the new career you’ve chosen a viable option for you? Will you have to start a bit lower in terms of salary and responsibilities in order to find what you are looking for? Keep in mind that your first job will not be your last job.

April to June

Faculty search: Whether or not you receive a faculty job offer, make sure that your research and your dissertation are still moving forward. Now is also the time to decide whether you’ll go on the faculty market again.

Nonfaculty search: If you’ve received an offer for a nonfaculty position, consider it carefully: Is it a viable opportunity that will allow you to build new skills? Are you willing to commit to at least two years of working in this position? Does it offer opportunities for advancement? Does it allow you to fulfill personal goals (such as moving to a city you love, or staying close to family)?

Throughout the search

Faculty search: Touch base regularly with your advisor and dissertation committee, and or with a career counselor.

Nonfaculty search: Touch base regularly with a career advisor or a friend who has done a similar search in the recent past. Discussing your search and getting feedback and suggestions can be very helpful.