Careers in Science Series: Finding Academic Research Positions

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

One big question that I think people have when applying for jobs is, “How many applications should I submit?” I know people who have submitted anywhere from five to 100 applications! I submitted about 20 applications.

In hindsight, I actually wish that I had applied to fewer places, because several places that I applied to are in departments related to, but outside of, my scientific expertise. I think it’s easy to go overboard and apply for everything you see, but before you decide whether or not to apply for a position, there are a few important questions that you should ask yourself:

  1. Is this a geographic location where I would consider living? If there is no way you would ever move to a certain location, save yourself the time and do not apply.
  2. Do I fit the qualifications for this position? If the job posting specifically wants someone with experience using mass-spec, and you are an immunologist who has never done mass spec, then do not apply. In my experience some job postings are very specific and others are very general, so make sure you carefully read each posting.
  3. If you have a two-body problem, will there be opportunities for your significant other in the area? My spouse works in the biotech field, so I tried to limit my search to areas where I knew there would be some biotech options.

When I got started looking for places to apply, I made a spreadsheet that includes the job posting, deadline, and instructions on where to submit the application. I also made a separate spreadsheet for my reference writers with instructions on how to submit the reference letters. It is your responsibility to make sure that your reference letters get submitted, so make sure to follow up with your reference writers and remind them a week or two before the deadline.

Most academic job listings will get posted between August and December. I would recommend frequently checking the following websites for job postings:

Other good places to look for openings are university websites and society websites/journals, which will often include listings in specific fields. Word of mouth is another way to find out about job opportunities, so make sure you let other faculty members in your department know you are on the job market.

Category: Careers