The chalk talk chronicles: Learning from last year's applications

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Jul 15, 2017, 4:06:45 PM7/15/17
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With the job search starting fairly soon, I was wondering if folks that applied last year and are applying again this year were interested in sharing their experiences and how those experiences help you plan for the job search this year? Do you have a completely new strategy picking schools? Did you make major changes to your job proposals? What did you learn that you will use for this round? Do you have a backup plan for this year?

I applied for 45 positions last year, all of which were at Ph.D granting institutions. I was lucky enough to get 2 interviews out of the deal, but in the end, no offers. Oddly enough, the schools that invited me for interviews were already in my top 5 when I started the process. It's a small sample size, but this makes me think that departments that fit my interests are more likely to reciprocate the interest. And if there is truth to this logic, then maybe a better strategy is to apply to fewer places that rank highest on my list? In this way, I would spend more quality time applying to 20, or so, departments instead of abiding by the shotgun approach that led to 45 applications last year. 

Another similarity between the two departments that I interviewed with was that I knew one or two people on the faculty of each of those departments. In this case, I need to know more people. So, this year, I applied for the AEI poster session at the Fall ACS meeting to meet departments with job searches this year. 

Finally, there's the meritocracy argument, which in my opinion, is the easiest to believe: my publications and proposals were just not interesting enough to receive more on-site interviews. So, I was fortunate to crank out another paper (any maybe a second) this year. And I used the criticisms of my proposals from the last round to revise my current proposals and even added a new project.

As for a backup plan, I don't have one yet. But I think I will expand my job search to "alternative careers" if this year's search doesn't pan out.

Good luck to everyone this year!


Sep 16, 2017, 5:01:57 PM9/16/17
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Same here, I wonder though whether the proposal content really matters (do they even read it), or the chalk talk itself. 

Some departments seem to have already formed an opinion on the candidates they want to get.

For those who didn't make it last year, did you change/fine tune your proposal content a lot?


Sep 19, 2017, 8:45:13 PM9/19/17
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The prop is probably not read in the first round of cuts, but at later stages, I think the prop is probably important to committees to see how your research fits into the department. It probably also gives them a sense of how well you can write, if you can convey your ideas clearly, and if your research program is well thought out enough to succeed. I'm sure it gets read. But yes, the committee definitely turns up the fire during the chalk talk by comparison.

I didn't change a lot in the props that I wrote last year, I just added an additional project. I did this in response to criticism that I received during my interviews that I wasn't using bioinformatics approaches. So I trained in bioinformatics this year and wrote a prop that integrated well into my research prop from last year.
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Jan 9, 2018, 7:18:53 PM1/9/18
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The final update: 14 applications, 2 Skype interview requests, 1 on-site, 1 job offer (accepted). 

I'm still not sure how much changing my proposal mattered. Maybe I'll find out next year when I participate in my first faculty search form the other side.

Good luck to everyone still on the job hunt. Keep your head up!

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