As noted in my previous post, I will be starting as an assistant professor at Frostburg State University this fall. However, the process of getting hired was not an easy or fun one. I will just share a little bit of my experience and links to information I found useful in case it helps anyone else.
Mostly I found academic jobs and relevant info at the google doc wiki: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1ub9cA2jOR3QX_qn_K9g0zgoBVC2A7RxiqaZcdDmVn4U/edit?pli=1#gid=169647778
I also subscribed to notifications through the Chronicle of Higher Ed, Science, Nature, and the EcoLog listserv. Government jobs were through USAJobs mostly using the 0408 code for ecology (there are other useful codes depending on discipline such as wildlife or fisheries).
I applied for 39 jobs this past fall/winter (and maybe ~10 others in the past 2 years, not counting postdocs or other temporary positions). These ranges from primarily undergraduate institutions (PUI) focused on teaching to a few big R1 universities and a bunch of federal (and 1 state) agencies jobs focused on research. I also wrote at least 1 grant that would include postdoc support for the next couple years (rejected). My diversity of institutions and job types reflected my career goals, personal objectives of location and family life, and diverse teaching and research interests more than just desperation for a job. There were ~5 more jobs I would have applied for had I not got the offer when I did.
Of these job applications, I made the long list (explicitly, implicitly because others rejected well before me, or at least letters of recommendation were requested that were not part of the initial application) for 12 jobs that I know of (31%), and the short list (explicitly or phone interview) for 6 positions (15%). Of these I got 1 campus interview and 1 job offer (2.5%). I also withdrew from 2 short lists before the decisions were made, one because of lack of fit for me and my family and the other because I accepted the Frostburg State offer. I also had been offered another postdoc part way through this process which took away a lot of the pressure, although not much of the stress at that point. There were probably 4-5 of these 39 positions that I shouldn’t have bothered applying to but they were early in the application season (pre-burnout) so I decided not to self-select out since I was confident I could do and enjoy the job. Below are just some additional bits of information and links that I found useful during the process.
Once I had an offer, it was time to negotiate. I solicited advice from lots of friends and advisors. Then I read a bunch of resources both in print and online. Here’s a quick list of some of my priorities and a list of relevant resources.
Salary – all future salary, raises, retirement is based off your initial starting salary, so even just a couple thousand dollars can result in huge increases over your lifetime
Moving expenses – this can be important, especially if you own a house and lots of stuff and are coming from a postdoc and don’t have a ton of extra money laying around. However this is a 1-time benefit and it would be better to focus on salary if there is a tradeoff. The good thing is that there is often at least some moving costs and it’s not hard to justify.
Initial Summer Salary – good to ask for, but again short lived. The worst they can say is no (with reasonable justification they’re not going to rescind an offer for asking this).
Space – hopefully you saw your potential future space(s) during the campus interview. Now it’s good to get it in writing.
Space Renovation – make sure that if you need a fume hood you have a fume hood and the like. They’re not going to install a hot tub, but this is a good (only) time for making sure your research and teaching space is adequate.
Personnel – grad student (TA or RA), undergrad, or technician support for some time. This will be highly variable. Try to have an idea what is reasonable to ask for.
Travel – Money to attend conferences in the first couple years while you apply for grants
Teaching release/Time reallocation/reassignment – This seems more common at more research oriented universities where you need to get a lab up and running and apply for lots of grants. At PUI you are often hired to teach, so there is less room for not teaching a full load. It likely reflects the priorities and expectations of the department and university and you should have a good feel for this long before negotiations start.
Now, almost all of these were off the table at Frostburg State (indicated during the interview process or made clear early in the negotiations), but at least I knew what was possible, what my priorities were, and the minimum I was willing to accept. There were other considerations, of course, including what resources for teaching and research would be available after the start-up funds run out (frequently 3 years, 5 years, or unlimited time – you should be clear during negotiations). For example, as a field biologist are there vehicles available for use for teaching and research and what are the policies around them (amount of use in terms of time and distance and frequency as well as cost of travel or gas). The start-up is intended to get a lab started but then is expected to run with more independent funding, so other resources at that point can be very important, especially when in between major grants or to stretch the funding from grants (which is never enough).
Hopefully, this all helps someone else down the road. Feel free to share your thoughts and advice or experience in the comments. I’d love to hear about the process for other people.
How to word a negotiation letter: