While there is no rule of when you should apply, applying to jobs within a year of defending, even if it is approximate, is a good guideline. Ask your supervisor or mentor for their advice on when you should apply.
While it is true that hiring committees give preference to candidates that have completed their PhD, getting into the practice early of readying your CV, writing cover letters, and preparing your other documents is beneficial because of the time it takes to write and compile these documents. Entering the job market with documents prepared will help with lessening the stress around applications.
If you’re looking specifically within Canada, you can consult University Affairs’ job board. If looking to work internationally, you can consult the job boards of Chronicle Vitae, Women in Hire Ed, HigherEdJobs,Inside Higher Ed, and AcademicKeys.
You can also sign up to listservs within your field. Listservs often post job opportunities within your field. Ask your supervisor/mentor where jobs are posted, and let colleagues know you are applying because if they see an opportunity that you’d be great for, they might share it with you.
Depending on your research and the job posting you are considering, you can apply to jobs that may not be in the type of department that awarded your PhD but is related to your degree. Typically, job postings will contain such phrases like “Must have a PhD in X, Y, Z, or a related field,” which indicates that the hiring committee are open to a variety of expertise.
As long as you can confidently frame your research within that department’s field and strongly present your skills and abilities relevant to that department, do not hesitate to apply to jobs outside of your PhD’s field. If you have what they are looking for, apply!
When considering where you should be applying, there are some factors to consider:
Consider your preferred geographical locations: even if there is a lot of pressure to apply everywhere, it is still important to be focused in applying to your preferred geographical locations in order to be happy and motivated in your work search.
Consider institutions that aren’t R1 or U15: R1 or U15 institutions may be the most well-known option, but there are great opportunities at other universities and colleges that often get overlooked.
Consider what kinds of work you want to do: Are you looking for a research-focused position or a teaching-position? If research-focused, how much teaching would you like? If teaching-focused, would you still like the opportunity to do research?
Before applying to a university, research the university and the department you are applying to for shared values and compatibility with your professional goals.
Each job application’s document requirements differ from one another, and there may be unique particularities amongst disciplines. Typically, the main documents requested are Cover Letter, CV, Research Statement, Teaching Statement and/or Teaching Dossier, Diversity Statement, and requested references. We encourage you to prepare all of these documents so that they are ready when requested.
At the Centre for Career Development, you can attend workshops on CVs and Cover Letters, or book a one-on-one appointment for CVs, Cover Letters, Diversity Statements, and Academic Interviews. You can register for workshops or book appointments via WaterlooWorks.
At the Writing and Communication Centre, you can book appointments for Diversity Statements and Research Statements. You can book appointments on their website.
At the Centre for Teaching Excellence, you can book an appointment for your Teaching Statement or Teaching Dossier.Also, consider enrolling in their Fundamentals and CUT program to work towards developing these documents.
In the fall, there is the annual Academic Careers Conference available to PhDs and Postdocs. The conference provides workshops on various topics related to preparing for an academic career.
Please also explore the Academic Section of CareerHub for information related to academic application documents.
We strongly recommend that each of your documents are tailored. In order to tailor your documents, research the universities and their respective departments that you are applying to. Identify how you can contribute to the department in terms of research, teaching, and service; how does your research/teaching align with the department goals and the university’s strategic plan; how does your research/teaching fit with the kinds of research/teaching the department’s faculty are doing; is this a research-focused or teaching-focused position, and how can you frame your experiences accordingly?
There are many other aspects to consider when tailoring your documents, so research and close reading of the job application can help you determine how best to frame your experiences and skillsets in a way that demonstrates why you are a fit for the department. Additionally, connecting with faculty members from institutions you are interested in to conduct informational interviews are also a great way to learn more about the department and institution. Reach out to connections you've met at conferences, inquire about referrals from your supervisor/mentor/colleagues, or cold email a possible connection, citing some kind of connection (research or teaching interests, for example)
There are many ways that you can strengthen your teaching experience to add on to your CV before you apply to jobs. Below are some options that you can consider:
Make the chair of your department or the graduate chair aware of your desire to teach. Submit your CV to them and indicate what courses you would 1) be willing to teach and 2) be willing to develop. Some department heads like to know who is available to fill in for a course in the event of illness or an increased demand for a particular course.
You can complete the Certificate in University Teaching (CUT) or the Fundamentals of University Teaching programs provided by the Centre for Teaching Excellence. These programs will help you to: become a more effective and reflective teacher and communicator; increase your knowledge of teaching and learning; have a forum in which to discuss teaching issues with others; and develop presentation and writing skills that prepare you for today’s job market.
Adding these certificates to your CV demonstrates that you have teaching experience and have reflected upon your teaching and pedagogy. You can also communicate the accomplishments of the certificate in your cover letter.
You can also search for opportunities to give guest lectures. This is a great way to gain teaching experience, particularly when there is little opportunity to teach a full course.
To gain guest lecture opportunities, ask your supervisor, mentor, or colleagues if you can give a guest lecture in one of the courses they teach.
Always seek to improve your teaching and try new teaching techniques. Experiment with different techniques and strategies, particularly those that stray away from lecture-heavy content. This allows for you to showcase various teaching strategies and methods in your teaching dossier and cover letter, as well as strengthening student-centered, experiential learning.
While various disciplines have different degrees of measuring publications and how often you should be publishing, below are a couple of suggestions to help in terms of getting publications and navigating the academic publishing system.
Your supervisor/mentor should know about the process of publishing and the appropriate publishing outlets for your field. Your supervisor/mentor can give you advice on your research and the best format for publishing (e.g., book chapter, journal, monograph).
Additionally, you could even ask your supervisor/mentor to co-author a publication with you.
Know what journals to publish in, avoiding pay-to-publish and scam journals. Ask your supervisor/mentor for their advice on what journals to publish in. Note the journals that you often collect articles from, and identify if your research would be a fit for those journals. When researching journals, look at their mission statements, areas of your discipline that they focus on, their preferred research methodologies, and submission guidelines. You want to make sure your paper adheres to their preferences and guidelines.
It is true that hiring committees for tenure-track positions generally privilege publications in high-tier journals, with Open Access Journals (OAJ) and other forms of public scholarship such as blogs, podcasts, and media outreach/criticism being valued less. This is a highly debated topic, but OAJs and public scholarship is something you can seriously consider in terms of your academic values and your academic discipline. You can pursue these more public forms of scholarship for a variety of legitimate reasons, including: if it is intrinsic to your research and research methodologies; if it ascribes to your academic values; and, if hiring committees are interested in or privileging public scholarship.
How do you know if hiring committees are interested in or privilege public scholarship? Research the department and/or connect with someone within the department to find that out. For some disciplines, public scholarship is becoming more widely accepted, even encouraged, but it is good practice to research universities and departments beforehand and check in with your supervisor/mentor to receive advice on how and when to pursue public scholarship opportunities.
In order to determine which forms of public scholarship you can pursue, here are a few suggestions to guide the direction or directions you might wish to take: research which OAJs have the best reputation so that you guarantee a wide audience for your publications; identify what kind of blogs and media outlets would benefit your career in terms of self-promotion and networking opportunities; explore creative forms of scholarship like podcasts to draw attention to published articles and/or disseminate your research more publicly.
Why pursue public scholarship if the tenure track system values it less? These public scholarship avenues, among others, demonstrate your commitment to engaging with communities outside of the university and to publicly sharing your research, which some hiring committees value. Moreover, public outreach can increase the size of your audience, the connections within your field, and your scholarly reputation.
However, knowing that some hiring committees might not value these public forms of scholarships presents challenges when preparing for an academic career. In order to meet these challenges prepared, one recommendation we can suggest is that you aim for a careful balance between those top-tiered journal publications and the public forms of scholarship that you wish to do. Engaging in both increases the value of your research, markets yourself to both specialist and non-specialist audiences, and can persuade a hiring committee that may view public scholarship as a lesser form of academic prestige.
Conferences are good arenas to share your ideas and receive feedback on them. If you plan on preparing a publishable manuscript from your presentation, you have completed one round of reviews already by presenting at a conference! If you feel your presentation may warrant publication, conferences are also good places to meet journal editors and suggest your ideas to them.
Participating in conferences also grows your professional network and can connect you with colleagues and mentors that can support you in your academic job search. Creating a support network of fellow academics can provide you with mentorship, advice, and collegiality when pursuing your academic career.