As I mentioned before about a month ago, I’m beginning my search for a faculty position. This is my first attempt at looking for positions beyond postdocs so I wanted to give a sense of what I’ve learned and what advice I’ve been given up till now.
Where do you learn about faculty positions to apply for in the first place? There are three main sources I’ve been using at the moment.
- The first is through direct contacts. I met search committee members through the ACS Academic Employment Initiative in August and I’ve tried to keep in touch with them via Linkedin or direct email. This, along with recommendations from colleagues, advisors, and personal friends, is probably the best place to start. As with any job, getting your foot in the door is the first hurdle.
- The second source I’m using is HigherEdJobs.com and other academic job listing websites. Here you’ll get a list of recent postings by HR departments at various colleges and universities. This is nice because you know that these departments are actively recruiting a new faculty member and you get an idea of the timeline for hiring.
- Finally, I’ve been perusing websites of specific departments from Universities at which I would like to be employed. This, I feel, can be the most difficult and possibly soul-crushing way of doing things. It’s equivalent to a cold-call almost; you don’t even know if a department has an opening. That being said, I’ve come to understand that the name of the game is “take every opportunity you can find” and these three sources provide opportunities.
What goes into an application for a faculty position in academia? First up is the curriculum vitae or C.V. for short. For those readers who are not in academia, a C.V. is similar to a resume but with heavier focus on academic accomplishments and education/teaching history rather than previous jobs. These are the most crucial components to an academic position, hence why a C.V. is vastly preferred to a resume (something I might tackle in a later article).
All positions will require a cover letter. This is where I’ve come to understand most people make their mistakes. DO NOT use the same exact cover letter for each position. It may seem tedious at first, but this is the first thing, other than the C.V. that a search committee will read. The cover letter is a chance to make my elevator pitch for a position, I try to specifically bring up reasons for why I am interested in that position. Also, I make sure to specifically mention WHAT I am applying for: e.g. “I am applying for a position in X Department at Y University”. I’ve heard a possibly apocryphal story where an otherwise spectacular candidate for NASA was rejected initially because their cover letter was addressed to the wrong agency.
The main body of the application is the Teaching Statement and Research Statement. Here I’m laying out the evidence to show that I can be a successful faculty member in your department. The Teaching Statement is a brief description of my Teaching Philosophy (how I approach a class), my experiences in teaching, and finally a brief description of classes which I believe I can teach for a specific department. Again, DO NOT submit the exact same Teaching Statement for each position, especially in regards to the last point. It makes no sense to be talking about my willingness to teach molecular biology if I’m applying to a mathematics department. The Research Statement is my description of a few ideas I have for projects and programs in my new lab. New faculty are always expected to secure “outside funding”, meaning that after a few years my lab work should be bringing in funding to sustain the lab members. In many ways it’s like getting a start-up fund to start a new company, for good or for bad. Knowing that search committees will likely go through hundreds of applications I’ve tailored mine to be 3-4 pages with figures and citations. I hope that I’ve made it an exciting read and after a while I might even share it here as a templet.
The final components of an application for a faculty position in academia are the references and, at some places, a diversity statement. The references are straight forward, make sure to ask former/current advisors if they could provide a strong recommendation and testament to your ability to work independently in a lab. The diversity statement I find most interesting. Some academics might write off a diversity statement as an unimportant, secondary component of an application. I, however, think it’s a crucial part of explaining that ever-present, “Broader Impact” that we want to get at as scientists. Diversity means inclusion in the scientific process. In general I personally often forget that when I’m conducting research, when I’m making devices; this knowledge or these products are going to be used out in the world. I’m not just doing this for other scientists like myself, I need to understand the communities that are impacted by my research. I’ve learned this in Public Health, you need to have feedback and communication with people from all over the world. Insights from as diverse of a group as possible are absolutely crucial. This is the point that I stress in my diversity statement: I don’t want to make a small, isolated lab kingdom. Our lab absolutely needs input and collaboration in the communities which its work is meant to serve which is underdeveloped or economically depressed areas.
These are the components of my application. If anyone has insights to add or advice I would greatly appreciate it! I hope that in going through this process for the first time I can get a better idea of what I’m doing and that I’ll have better advice to give in the future. I will keep everyone updated on the results! Thanks again for reading!