Are you applying for faculty positions in academia, or new in your role at a university? Speaking yesterday at the American Chemical Society (ACS) career fair, three US academics representing different types of institutions shared their advice on job applications, interviews and how to succeed in your first two years.
Applying for a position
The composition of your application package will vary between institutions. For a faculty position at a research-intensive (R1) university, Jason Ritchie, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Mississippi, recommends formatting the research proposals that you submit as if they are mini grant proposals. “You want to show the committee that you’re going to write grant proposals that are going to get funded,” he says.
When applying for a role at a primarily undergraduate institution (PUI), where there is more emphasis on teaching, it’s still important to show your commitment to securing funding, says Laurel Goj, a tenure-track faculty member at Rollins College in Florida. “It may not be that gigantic NIH [National Institutes of Health] grant but we do expect that you are going to obtain some funding.”
For a community college vacancy, teaching experience is key. When describing your teaching philosophy, Christine Gaudinski, chemistry professor and chair of the science department at Aims Community College in Colorado, recommends making clear how your approach will serve the college’s mission and vision. She also suggests emphasizing your commitment to community service, and your experiences of working with diversity — which covers more than just race, gender or disability — in the classroom.
You may be applying for several positions at once, so keep a copy of the job adverts and your applications for reference. “It’s often a long time between the time you apply and the time you hear back,” says David Harwell, assistant director for career management and development at ACS. “You don’t want to look like you don’t remember [what you’ve applied for].”
If you get invited for interview at an R1 university, be prepared for a long campus visit that may last two days. “You’re going to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner with the committee,” says Ritchie. Interviews at a PUI can also be two days long, with the second day often reserved for a teaching demonstration. “We’ll have you in a classroom with an assigned topic and students,” says Goj. Gaudinski says the process is generally shorter and simpler at a community college; the campus visit may only last a couple of hours, for example.
When discussing your start-up package, make sure you’ve considered the minimum that you would be prepared to accept, but remember that there are often other resources available once you’re in position. “I was able to get everything I needed with less than I thought was necessary,” says Ritchie. “I was able to find that money [from elsewhere].” Also think carefully about the top end of what you ask for, as the university will expect to see a return on its investment in you. “The benchmark is you should be able to earn back enough money [through grants] to cover your start-up before you get to tenure,” Ritchie explains. “The more you ask for, the bigger the expectation is.” Start-up packages are generally smaller at PUIs — expect to use departmental instruments — and basically non-existent at community colleges, says Gaudinski.
Your first two years
Ritchie says it’s important to obtain early research results in your first two years at an R1 university, and try to teach a graduate class in your first semester. “Demonstrate purpose,” he recommends. Also remember that your existing graduate students will pass on their opinions of you to new or prospective students, who will be working for you during the critical time when you apply for tenure. “The graduate students that you recruit in your first two years are going to do the research that makes up your tenure package,” he says.
At a PUI, Goj recommends spending your first year preparing for new classes and labs, recruiting interesting students for summer research and setting up your research lab. In your second year you should start to contribute towards the development of courses.
Share your tips
Do you have any advice to add? Let us know below.