Current Job: Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, Rhodes College
Education: Ph.D. Geography, UConn
Hometown: Qingdao, China
Interests: Sports, Cooking
- Build a circle of mentorship
Find mentors from different areas whom you trust and can share your experiences and concerns. It is important to surround yourself with mentors in your field, because they know how the game in your field is played. Additionally, it is equally important to stay connected with mentors outside of your field. That way, you can gain different perspectives. From this you can gain some very creative and non-traditional job search tactics and strategies of which people in your field may never had thought. Friends in other fields, people you have met at career workshops and conferences, people who have just gone through the job search or who are currently on the job market can also provide useful input. The Center for Career Development is a good resource to access. Job search workshops helped me a lot, especially when I just started the process. Although people in the workshops come from different fields, their experiences prepared me for similar issues and challenges that I later encountered in my own search. Through the workshops, I also met one of my mentors, Kay Gruder, who guided me through the tough job seeking process by providing invaluable suggestions along the way. The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at UConn also helped me prepare teaching demos (http://itl.uconn.edu/). Also, have different people read your application letters as each individual reads them through a different lens.
- Spread your net widely and wisely
The job market is very limited in my field, especially in academia. So it is important to spread a wide net. Job descriptions that seem to fit you perfectly might not even offer you an interview, but jobs that seem to have little connection with your expertise might end up being yours to pursue. As long as the job touches some of your skills, go for it! It can surprise you. You never truly know what is of most interest to the hiring committee. However, be strategic with your time and prioritize your job applications. Developing a job portfolio can be very time-consuming, especially for the graduate students who are trying to finish a dissertation while on the job market. So spread the net widely and distribute your time wisely.
- Generic applications will lead you nowhere
Writing an application letter is like writing a love letter. When posting your portfolio, do not use a generic application package. Write to that specific job, showing your “love”, and the strength of your fit with the position. It is always a plus to let the job provider know that you want the job because that is where you truly want to land. A generic application is worse than not applying at all, it wastes your time, your references’ time, and the employer’s time.
- Stay positive
Last but not least, always stay positive. A job search is like dating. Finding your dream match largely depends on whether the job fits you AND if you fit the job. It also involves a little luck. That being said, don’t internalize rejections. A rejection often indicates you were not the right fit, but the right one is around the corner. Always believe that failures are only stepping stones to success. Don’t let the failures define you. Learn from them, but don’t dwell on them.