realworld PhDs

A resource for job hunting PhDs.

Shameless Self Promotion! (And a little introspection)

I’m doing a series for the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Vitae website on transitioning into alt-ac employment, the first entry of which is up now - check it out!  I’ll also have another, similar but longer piece on my own experiences with job hunting on VersatilePhD shortly, for anyone who has subscribers’ access.

In addition, I’ve just confirmed that I’ll be leading a workshop for the Graduate Students Committee at this year’s American Academy of Religion annual meeting in San Antonio on job hunting off the tenure-track, for anyone attending the conference.  I’ll post the time, location, and meeting number as soon as the program book is published.  I’m also happy to meet with people one-on-one at the conference - email me to schedule something (

It’s been interesting to revisit my own job seeking experiences.  I often joke with people that if you’re actively job hunting, and you feel disappointed or frustrated, that’s how you know you’re doing it right!  For better or worse, to get a new job, you only need to find one position that’s a good fit, but to find that one position, you often have to suffer through a lot of rejection and disappointment.  However, in talking about past job seeking experiences, it’s easy to see it as a nice, clean arc - I looked for a job, I found a position that was a good fit, I got a job.  All of the negative aspects - the long periods of applying without getting any interviews; the disappointment of getting an interview for a job that sounds great, and then getting rejected; the frustration of finding the energy to keep applying - are just pushed aside as backstory, or we sort of zip through them, like a training montage in a movie.

I suppose it makes sense to gloss over these negatives when talking about how to job hunt, as they’re not strictly relevant - they’re side effects of job hunting, not part of the process.  Yet when you’re going through the process, they can have a tremendous impact.  Job hunting is incredibly stressful, and all of the selling yourself and rejection can leave a serious ding in your self-esteem, especially if your job hunt drags on (which it often does through no fault of the candidates - the academic job market is a perfect example; if you don’t get an offer after a round of interviews, you may have to wait an entire year for the next round).  From the outside, however, job hunting always looks like a clean, straight line, and it’s easy to think that everyone else is on some neat trajectory.

So consider this your reminder - no one’s got a cleaner trajectory.  It’s always a mess.  Everyone feels lost in the woods sometimes, especially while job hunting.  Looking back, it will be easy to see how you ended up where you are, but in the meantime, don’t stress out more by assuming everyone else is running off some secret playbook you can’t see.