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a-Since completing my job search, I feel there are things that could be helpful for others who will be doing this for the first time. So I am sharing some experiences (from application prep -> interview) in hopes that someone will find them useful. #thread
b-Disclaimer: I applied to R1 and mostly chemistry or biochem depts. And even with sharing experiences with others at @futurepi_slack, I’ve found many who would disagree on many things or had different experiences. So these are MY opinions.
c-Also this assumes that you’ve developed your research ideas and they are strong and exciting to more than just you. Definitely put a lot of work into doing that.
1-Take all help you can get. I found many people on twitter willing to share advice and statements. And people just willing to look over statements. Also join @futurepi_slack. I cannot overstate how beneficial this was to the process
2-Find out the appropriate guidelines for research statements in your field and tailor yours. This is especially true if you can fit in/are applying to many fields. I did not do this in time, and spent the night before 1st app was due turning my 3pg proposal into a 6pg.
3-Get many eyes on it, this just makes it much better. Very important, get people to look at it from the type of dept you’re applying to. Prepare materials enough in advance to get this feedback and revise. This is much easier said than done
4-Practice, practice, practice. Especially try to get people from the type of dept you are interviewing at. They know what kinds of questions to anticipate and can help you figure out what to put on your slides.
5-CONT: PhD advisers and former committee members can be a good source to find people at more than just your current place. Practice over skype if in different locations, get creative. My PhD adviser offered to do a very useful (virtual) practice; I wouldn’t have thought to ask.
6-Find out the preferred style for the proposal/chalk talk. I’d been preparing a ‘whiteboard’ talk until luckily a friend in the dept told me (in time for the interview) that he’d never seen a board talk his entire time there. Some schools will state explicitly, many will not.
7- 1on1 meetings: did not find that faculty expected me to know their research, they were always happy to tell me about it. Sure, looking things up beforehand helps you ask informed questions, but I think it would have been a waste of my time to read people’s papers in advance.
8-CONT: this is especially true for faculty far enough outside my field that it would have been a lot of time/effort. My advice: browse webpages, only read more if you are really interested, spend the extra time preparing for your talk.
9-But you have to be ready to carry on a conversation. Some profs make this easier than others. Be prepared. Have a long list of questions and just ask everyone the same questions if necessary.
10-Proposal talk thoughts: I really have no idea (and look forward to learning the truth), but this is what I suspect is true: you have to make someone care about your ideas. If no one buys in, hard to imagine that there will be anyone to advocate for you at the dept meeting.
11-CONT: But you WON’T get everyone excited, some ppl will just not care. I say look at the faculty list, identify 3-4 ppl who might think your work is cool, and tailor your presentation to connect/get them super excited about you joining. And then hope they are at the talk.
12-Don’t (try to not) get flustered if you get grilled during your chalk talk. Think of it as good, the audience is interested enough to follow what you’re saying. I had rooms where no one interrupted/had questions and others where I was interrogated.
13-CONT: It can be rough, but in my case, the engagement level seemed to positively correlate with how things had gone. If no there is no/weak engagement, it seems like you would not be a good fit at that place.
14-Every interaction is part of the interview. NEVER forget this. Do not let your guard down. But you are interviewing them also to make sure it would be a good fit
15-Your talks will get better the more you give them, that’s just what it is. My first and last interviews were like night and day in terms of improvement. It may not be this drastic for others, but it was for me.
16-Along with above, I had the opportunity from a couple places to get feedback on my interview performance. I found it very useful for later interviews. I suspect this is rare, but take this opportunity if you can get it.
17-You might have to front a lot of costs for travel. It’s not ideal, but it helps if you can be aware and prepare somehow. I heard horror stories of people waiting months for reimbursement, fortunately not my experience.
18-You might not hear back from every place post-interview. I suggest finding a way to be okay with this. (Futurepi slack provides a great outlet for anonymous venting!) One place, I didn’t hear back from after visit, or even after the twitter announcement of their selected hire
20-Should you do a practice run? My thoughts: your talk DOES get better and your interview would be stronger the 2nd time. BUT: time preparing materials and traveling can make you useless in lab. Would you have the productivity to show for the extra year?
21-CONT: there are workarounds. I was lucky to have a tech that kept my work going, so I think I would have been fine to go again a second time. BUT, it was a LOT of work preparing to go on the market, and traveling so much in such a short timeframe was not easy on family.
22-CONT: would not have been fun to do it all over. And during this time, I learned how much I don’t enjoy airports/flying/waiting at gates, so I look forward to seeing how academic life plays out.
23-END: Summary, an intentional practice run would be a no for me, but I see how it could work and be very beneficial for others. I am happy to share my application materials and other experiences if anyone reaches out. Good luck!
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