As a postdoc, I am more than a little selfish by following discussions and advice on the best way of applying for tenure track positions. As soon as the New Year hit, it seemed Twitter was filled with discussions of the “best way” to apply for these coveted jobs. Two main suggestions emerged, cultivate a small number of very specific and well researched applications per year or cast a wide net, dredging anything you can get.
Curious about which technique most people had relied upon, I set up an exceptionally unscientific twitter poll asking the number of applications academics had submitted before landing that big white TT whale.
Even with 195 votes, I expect there is some serious section bias, but more importantly people could have landed their jobs half a century ago when the job climate was a very different place. I narrowed the catchment group with a follow up:
The top result endorsed in both of these polls was submitting a more curated number of applications, specifically 1-10. However, the message that I take from these data is twofold:
- If you don’t get a position after your first ten applications you are in for a long job hunt
- There seems to be a trend towards more applications; however, this may vary drastically by field.
Finally, for those PhDs who went into Industry, Justin Kiggins set up a sister poll asking for the number of applications submitted before successfully getting a non-academic job. Outside of academia, the job search is a bit different, getting feedback on the success of applications may be a bit timelier. The big difference seems to be the ability to continually apply for positions across the year. Despite this, the 1-10 applications option was the most singularly endorsed option.
This is a very self-serving inquiry, but I am curious if our perception of the job market equals reality. About 60% of those who responded had submitted more than 10 applications before successfully finding a position in either academia or industry. Is there something different about those who only have to submit a few applications? One previous study suggests that only your graduate pedigree counts. Does this means those of us without an Ivy League diploma just scurry away from the ivory tower, or we just have to do more knocking to get in?
I would love to do some follow-up data collection, investigating the number of applications by year and field. Do you have any other interpretations or thoughts on these numbers? Also, before I go designing a survey, would you participate?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
Links to the orginal polls: