How to Get an Academic Job: Two Grad Alumni Offer Advice

On March 6, 2013 by Grad Forum

weatherwax_finn_feature_editedThe final seminar in the Graduate Studies series, “Becoming a Faculty Member,” was held on February 15. Two graduate alumni came back to Dartmouth to give their advice on how to successfully obtain an academic job: Allan Weatherwax, professor of physics and the dean of science at Siena College, and Rose Finn, associate professor and department head of physics and astronomy at Siena College. Both are on the selection board for new hires for the science fields at Siena College and have useful knowledge about how to get an academic job.

Before the Interview:

Before you even arrive for the interview, make sure you “do your homework” and that you “know where you are applying,” advised Professor Finn. You should know which faculty members you will be meeting with and read up on their research. Another extremely important point is to understand the type of institution where you are interviewing—is it a small college or a large university? Even before you step foot on the campus, you should come prepared with a research plan that is tailored to that school, commented Professor Weatherwax. Do not make the mistake of asking for resources that are not in line with the size and type of institution where you are interviewing because this shows that you did not do proper research before applying for the job.

During the Interview:

During the academic interview, you will be asked about your past research and what you would like to do for future research. You also may be given a topic in your field to give a sample lecture on. It is important to prepare extensively for these questions and lecture and to be able to clearly convey your research and ideas. Keep in mind that you may be discussing your research and techniques with people who are not in your field of study, so do not rely heavily on technical terms and phrases. During the formal, question-and-answer interview process, Professors Weatherwax and Finn agreed that you should remain humble. When it comes time to meet one-on-one with faculty, use the knowledge you have learned about each faculty member and do not be afraid to “ask people about themselves,” remarked Professor Finn. Being genuinely interested in your interviewer and their work is an easy way to be remembered.

When an Offer Has Been Made:

Once an offer has been made, it is time to negotiate, explained Professors Weatherwax and Finn. Have previous knowledge of the salary range of the position (either by asking directly or through the school’s human resources department). You can also ask for additional research start-up funds. If the salary or start-up funds cannot be negotiated, Professor Weatherwax explained that negotiating for use of equipment is your next step. Another issue to negotiate during this time is the job of your spouse/partner. While some schools cannot hire multiple family members in the same department due to institution rules, certain arrangements may be made for a spouse to become an adjunct or a three-quarter-time faculty member, depending on the situation.

In conclusion, in order to be a great candidate for an academic faculty position, acquire a postdoc (or two!), be prepared to discuss your research and future research plans in detail, research the department and faculty members at the new institution, and do not be afraid to negotiate once you have an offer.

by Molly Croteau

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