Job Search Timetable

Department of English and American Literature

Brandeis University

Summer 2007


Going on the job market, especially for the first time, can be overwhelming.  To help you make sense of this project, this timetable describes in generic terms the steps involved.  As you review these steps, please bear in mind that thejob search will probably be a phase of your career, not a fleeting moment within it.  That said, even though the work involved can appear daunting when you read through the plan for an entire year, you can prepare for it as you would for any other major undertaking, and you can make the process more manageable by breaking each phase down into smaller steps.  Also, remember that the department faculty can help you through this process, especially the job placement officers and your advisor and committee members.  In addition to assisting you with your application materials, they should also be important resources for you when you are preparing for MLA interviews, campus visits, or discussions of job offers.  Be sure to check in with the placement officers (Lanser and Irr for 2007-08) and your advisor at these crucial turning points.  Finally, remember that going on the job market is something that most people do repeatedly.  It is the norm, not the exception, for a job search to last several years, and many people who have jobs continue their search in later years.  You are learning new skills in this context, skills that ideally complement but definitely do not replace an excellent dissertation.





-this is a good time to focus on your dissertation, but be thinking about how your project relates to others in the field and to major trends in the discipline as a whole



-let the placement officers know you are planning a job search

-have your name added to the department job seekers listserve

-work on polishing at least one essay or chapter to submit for publication

-make lots of progress on your dissertation, so you are as far along as you can be before the job market process begins


Keeping your cool:

-often, having a productive writerly summer puts people in a good place, psychologically, for beginning the job search.  There's no need to obsess about it prematurely!





-consider the kinds of positions that are usually available and develop a strategy for your applications:  there are  small teaching colleges v. large research institutions; public v. private; Northeast v. other regions; etc; and all have their advantages.  Don't limit yourself at the outset.  Take a look at the program descriptions at different kinds of schools and talk to people with experience in different sorts of institutions.

-take a look at some of the many excellent sites for job market advice—e.g., Ms. Mentor's column at (see many other sites at the end of this timetable)



-ask your recommenders to put a letter on file for you; at least one letter should directly address your expertise as a teacher.

-start drafting your cover letter and c.v.; show these documents to your advisor and get some feedback

-begin to prepare supplemental materials:  one-page dissertation abstract, teaching philosophy,  sample syllabi, summaries of teaching evaluations


Keeping your cool:

-keep working on your dissertation and/or publications, so that you remember what is really important and interesting about this kind of work





-familiarize yourself with the MLA's job information list (it appears at, and you will need to use the departmental ID and password to get into it)

-browse the Chronicle of Higher Education on occasion, so you are up on issues and can identify positions that appear in their Classifieds section

-make a point of surveying recent issues of journals in your field, even if they're not directly relevant to your dissertation.



-join the MLA, if you haven't done so already

-have job placement officers review your written materials and letters in your dossier

-revise materials, as necessary

-revise your dissertation prospectus so that you can use it to apply for post-docs

-choose a section of your dissertation to send as a writing sample, if requested to do so.  This should be a roughly 25-page portion of your dissertation that displays the analytic work you are doing with one or more texts.  Do not send introductory material alone.  It is fine to excerpt a chapter and include a head note summarizing your argument.

-acquire an interview outfit or develop one from your existing wardrobe or a friend's.  Usually, this is a suit of some sort—something that makes you look and feel like a professional; it should be at or above the level of formality appropriate for conference presentations. 


Keeping your cool:

-keep in mind that a job search is time-consuming; it requires consistent effort throughout the year, so put aside time for it every week—without letting it overwhelm your #1 priority (the dissertation, of course!).





-do a little bit of research on institutions that are advertising positions:  look at the departmental webpage and see if there is any special connection you can make to the department or the university; familiarize yourself with the different sorts of departments that are out there.  Pay special attention to any statements offered on the websites about teaching methods and goals.

-read a new book in your field, something you think people are likely to be discussing, or browse periodicals such as New York Review of Books.



-register for the MLA convention

-begin sending job applications:  cover letter, c.v., dossier, and anything else they request

-keep looking at the JIL to see if new positions are posted

-consider broadening your search to lists published by affiliated organizations (e.g., American Studies Association for Americanists, and so on)

-develop several oral versions of your dissertation summary; practice telling people what your dissertation is about and what conclusions you have reached in 5 minutes or less and 2 minutes or less; bore strangers with this if necessary.  It can be useful to review your prospectus, so you have a big picture view of your dissertation.

-wear your suit somewhere, so that you start to feel comfortable in it

-send your advisor a list of your top 10 favorites among the places you have applied, in case he or she has some contacts there


Keeping your cool:

-don't worry if you don't hear back from places you have applied—especially if you have sent a writing sample in the initial application.





-just to be on the safe side, get some information about non-academic jobs that might be of interest to you (hereafter referred to as "Plan B.")   Have you ever considered a job in academic administration?  Or publishing?  Or high school teaching?  Or private tutoring?  Or as a full-time research assistant?  What about the Peace Corps?  Or teaching abroad?  Consider making an appointment with someone in the career center to learn what kinds of options might be suitable for you.



-send writing samples, if requested.

-if anything major in your profile changes (e.g., you have an article accepted for publication), send an update to institutions where you have outstanding applications.

-keep looking at the JIL, because it is not uncommon for positions to be posted throughout the term

-keep working on your dissertation and/or writing for publication!  This is one of the most important things you can do to help yourself on the job market.

-choose a section of your dissertation to polish as a job talk.  It should NOT duplicate your writing sample. A job talk should be roughly 40 minutes in length, and it should begin with a brief account of the argument of the whole project.

-consider giving a talk in the department  as a practice job talk


Keeping your cool:

-again, don't worry if you don't hear from institutions where you have applied for a long time; it is not uncommon for search committees to meet to make  decisions about who they want to interview very late in the semester.

-try to develop several different scenarios (each of which has something you are enthusiastic about) for the following year.  Don't let your vision of your future depend entirely on one round of the academic job market.





-if you have interviews scheduled, familiarize yourself with some work by members of the faculty in that department, especially those who will be interviewing you.  You do not need to discuss this work with the faculty members, but it's a good idea to know something about it for your own purposes.

-you can ask which faculty members will be interviewing you.

-if you have interviews scheduled, learn more about the institution and the region.  Always look for positives!  Make lists of questions that you have about the institution and department, as you will certainly be asked for them.

-if you do not have interviews, keep broadening your search; don't forget to read the Chronicle classifieds .

-no matter what, keep Plan B alive.



-try to anticipate questions that people might have about your research and teaching record in an interview.

-practice describing your accomplishments—without bragging or being unduly modest

-practice imagining and presenting yourself as professor, not a student.

-participate in mock interview process, whether or not you have an interview scheduled

-for real and mock interviews, prepare syllabi for courses you would propose to teach at this particular university; you need to be able to describe syllabi, and you might want to hand out hard copies as well.  A good syllabus is organized around an interesting concept and includes a specific list of texts.

-prepare syllabi tailored to the schools that are interviewing you.  Often you will need a syllabus for an introductory course, a senior/majors special topic course; a survey in your primary teaching field; a secondary teaching field, if you have one; and a graduate seminar, if there is a graduate program. 

-in early December, make travel arrangements for the MLA and hotel reservations (sometimes it's a good idea to make arrangements you can cancel if you decide not to go at the last minute)

-if you have multiple interviews, try to schedule some time to decompress and reflect on your experiences between interviews, if possible; try to schedule interviews for a time of day when you know you are at your sharpest

-at MLA (usually 12/27-30), definitely attend the Brandeis Department party and get feedback from professors there

-give yourself some time at the conference to spend with friends or in some enjoyable activity, so you aren't left anxiously hanging in the high-pressure atmosphere of the conference


Keeping your cool:

-if you do not have interviews scheduled,  do not panic or despair!  Many jobs are posted in the spring semester—especially one-year replacement positions and some post-docs.

-bear in mind that most job searches for new PhDs take several years.  It's probably wise to begin with the assumption that you will have a year or two or three of post-degree "apprenticeship."





-If you have an on-campus interview, continue to learn as much as you can about the institution and area where it is located before going

-continue seeking out one-year appointments either in Boston or in a region where you plan to relocate, so that you have fall-back plans

-read more current scholarship in your field



-it is not entirely necessary to send thank-you notes to people who have interviewed you, but it does not hurt.

-finalize a job talk, whether you have an on-campus interview scheduled or not.

-if  major in your profile changes, definitely be in touch with search committees with whom you interviewed.

-if you receive an offer, make sure to discuss it with your advisor and/or the job placement officers

-if you do not receive an offer, be gracious; it is usually  not appropriate to request information directly about why you were not the top candidate

-keep working on your dissertation and/or publishing


Keeping your cool:

-bear in mind that many search committees do not meet to make decisions about who to bring back to campus until the semester has begun; often a Dean's authorization is required before they can move to the next phase, so do not panic if you don't hear back from them for a while.

-if you receive rejection letters (and everyone does!), think of something productive to do with them (toss them, frame them, make a craft project, etc.)





- keep reading the JIL; one-year positions of many sorts are usually posted in late spring, so look into these

-you can also contact institutions in the area and ask if they need additional instructors

-keep developing options in your Plan B category.



-be patient!

-if you have a job, get ready to move!

-if you have some outstanding applications, update your c.v. as necessary and be sure to let them know if your contact information is changing over the summer

-if you no longer have outstanding applications and are still in need of a position, definitely be in touch with your advisor, the DGS, and the Writing Program

-review your application materials with your advisor and/or job placement officers and make a plan for improving your profile for next year

-work on letters for local jobs (BU, BC, Simmons, Berklee, etc.)

-if you did not get a position or did not find the one you wanted, get ready to begin again in the late summer and review this year's search with at least one faculty member

-if you have not done so already, finish that dissertation!


Keeping your cool:

-this can be a difficult time; make sure to have something in our agenda that reminds you what you like about academic work—e.g., plan a fun class session, save an interesting piece of literature to read, work on an engrossing research problem. 

-no matter what the outcome of this year's job search, congratulate yourself on having survived it!  This is a stressful activity, but you will have produced important documents you can use again, educated yourself about the structure of higher education, and developed new skills in self-presentation.  This is an important stage in your career!



More Job Market Advice:

The MLA has a printed guide to the job search, available for $5.  It's been updated recently.  The link is


Texas A & M has a very useful set of checklists specifically for English grad students on all aspects of the job search and also a set of (mostly electronic) suggested readings:


Three documents by Mary Sies, U of Maryland (tailored for American Studies jobs but useful for English students as well.)  They all linked at the bottom of her website,


On interviewing at MLA by Michael Gamer and Anne Crook


UC-Berkeley's career center has la lot of good info for students in multiple fields; the site breaks down the job search into multiple components from how to write a cover letter to negotiating an offer.\


Another good supersite for professional jobs at the U of Minnesota:


A PDF handout on the academic job search (multidisciplinary) from the U of Chicago:


"Landing an Academic Job:  The Process and the Pitfalls," a paper by Jonathan Dantzig, a UIUC engineer that is especially good about the campus visit, despite the divergence in field:


The Chronicle has a site under "Chronicle Careers" that includes first-person essays on job searching and on the transition from student to professor.  They're not always cheerful but they are a useful reality check.  See also forums, etc.


Berkeley has two lists of Humanities postdocs--not sure why, but they are differently organized and both are useful.


To check out departments, this is a site of English Department home pages in US and beyond:


A U of Wash supersite that encourages people to think about a range of jobs ("Re-envisioning the Ph.D.)  Not English-specific.  Lots of good links.


Another one, "Sellout":  about careers for PhDs beyond academia:


Job listing site, in addition to MLA and the Chronicle.  You don't need to register to see the job lists.