Some thoughts about what to do if you find yourself without a job in the spring
So you decided to hit the job market hard in the fall only to find yourself without a job in the spring. This can be a time of great frustration and disappointment for many graduate students. After all, you went out on the job market because you thought you were ready for a job. Not finding one after going through the difficulties of being on the job market can leave many students wondering what they should do to move forward. Here are some thoughts about how to proceed:
1. The name of the game is patience. Some jobs have application deadlines in September or October, but many others accept applications well into the spring semester. Don’t stop looking, and remember that conferences other than ASC (ACJS or regional conferences, especially) can be fruitful recruiting grounds. Continue to apply for jobs and continue to express interest to schools.
2. Conduct a bit of self-reflection.
a. Are you a good fit? If you have seven publications, you will likely not be a first choice applicant for a teaching-oriented school. Likewise, if you have one publication (or none at all), you will probably not be a top choice of an R1 school.
b. What do recent hires look like? Look at recent hires at the schools where you are applying, including those hired for the positions you applied. Do their CVs look like yours? If not, you might need to re-assess.
c. Did you practice? Interviews are long and daunting. Make sure you are prepared for all aspects of the interview. Ask your mentor to touch base with schools, or do it yourself, and ask for some feedback about your interview.
d. Were you ready for the job market? Many students think that defending a prospectus/dissertation proposal during summer and going on the market in the fall is ok, but most of these students won’t have enough for a job talk. You need to be able to answer questions about your research and agenda.
3. Keep working. Have you completed your dissertation? Do you have articles you can work on or is there a class to teach? Work on boosting your CV so that you are better prepared on the next hiring cycle.
4. Repackage your application. Make sure you differentiate yourself and your research so that schools want to hear about what you are working on.
5. Know your weaknesses. Be ready to talk about them in interviews on the market.
6. Know thyself. Professorship isn’t for everyone. There are plenty of other avenues for PhDs, especially in the private sector (that also typically make more money). This isn’t a cop-out; it’s a viable path that is better suited for some people.
Remember that the job market is persnickety. The truth is, sometimes there may not be a job out there that is well-suited to your skillset. If you don’t get a job the first go-around, that doesn’t mean you have failed, it just means that the market isn’t working in your favor as of right now. Making the decision to go on the job market for the second year in a row may at first feel uncomfortable but rest assured this is a common experience. Above all, make time for self-reflection, talk to your peers and mentors, and try to remain optimistic.