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So, it’s job season out there for academics (has been since August or September, and will be until about March or April).  I had a somewhat unique job search experience when I was a postdoc, because I started applying right out of grad school.  As in, I graduated in May, and then sent in my first application for an assistant professorship in October.  I don’t think that this is unusual for graduates in the humanities, but it’s more traditional for science graduates to have at least one year of postdoc training under their belts before they start applying.  It’s actually my observation that about five years of postdoc training before getting a job is the new normal.  (By the way, my early start on applications was due to the fact that Shaggy was a couple years ahead of me – I knew I had to get started right away.)

So, I’ve been through five seasons of applying for jobs. This means that I’m extremely experienced at finding job ads, applying for positions, and interviewing, and that I’m an extreme failure in terms of actually getting a job (until recently, that is).  Of course, the bulk of that was straight through the recession, so times were hard for a while.

I applied for an average of 31 jobs/year, for a total of about 154 applications.  It felt like a lot at the time (especially the last year, when I actually applied for 70 jobs), but in retrospect I’m shocked that I didn’t apply for more.  Seriously – I would say that the average advertisement in my field gets at least 100 applications in response, usually closer to 150.  Did I really think I was going to get a job applying for only 30?  Of course, some people will get a job after applying for many fewer jobs, especially if they are super-stars, or if they are just great fits for the position.

So, anyway, I’m not applying to jobs this year, although I still see the ads coming out.  Things are looking better, especially since I’m not seeing as many ‘open rank’ searches (these suck because they open the pool of applicants to not just the hundreds of postdocs who have been stranded by the recession, but also all the successful assistant and associate professors out there).  I feel for you, job applicants – it sucks, but you can do it.  One of the most difficult things is all the conflicting advice you get about how the application should look, what departments really want from new hires, and on and on.  I’ll write another post about that in the future – maybe after having gone through a search from “the other side” this year.

Anyway, I don’t know if this information is out there, but I wonder how many jobs people apply to, on average, before getting a job in academic biology (excluding biomedical research, which is quite a different field).  I would put up a poll or something cool like that, but since I have about three readers I don’t think it would be very effective.  Regardless, please feel free to discuss and just complain about the job application process in the comments section.

*Edit: Just re-read this post and realized that I started three of the paragraphs with “so”.  WTF?  It reads like I’m an insecure 12 year old.*