Terry over at Small Pond Science recently argued that many PhDs weren’t exploiting the job market to its fullest, applying only for jobs that show up in Science, Nature, etc., and viewing other position as “below” their (self-perceived) standing. The comments section gave some other concrete examples of searches cancelled because of too few qualified candidates, or searches with only 5-6 candidates that would even be considered.
That’s not been my experience. As I wrote in the comments, I don’t think I’ve ever applied for a job advertised in Science or Nature because the job either shows up in one of my other searches, or it was obviously not a good fit.
I have a routine, and it’s been this way for the last 3ish years. I tend to do the job search rounds on Saturday mornings with my mug(s) of hot tea (or a whole pot – I know, living on the edge), and CBC Radio 2 in the background while everyone else is still asleep. After reading Terry’s post, I wondered about others’ search strategies. Like many other practical skills in academia, how to search for a job is rarely taught explicitly, and is something that we all sort of figure out on our own. No doubt, many of us have reinvented the wheel, and developed the same strategies (which we thought were ours, and ours alone).
So here’s mine. My search is tailored to what kind of job I want, and where I want to work. For example, I’m not seeking a position in the US, so I don’t check in on the Chronicle of Higher Education’s job listing (though when I did up until a few years ago, there were regularly 40-80 jobs listed each week in “biology”).
Probably my main source of academic job adverts are from two e-mail lists: University Affairs (daily), and jobs.ac.uk (weekly). More often than not, there’s nothing of interest, but for mainstream jobs at most Canadian (and British) universities, these are probably the most comprehensive.
My main Saturday Morning Job Search consists of just over 60 websites (as of last Saturday) that span the range from academic, government, non-profit, Canadian, and international. I’ve put the full list below. If there’s enough interest, and folks find it useful (and other readers have other sites that they check), I’d consider making it a separate page on the blog, so let me know in the comments, via Twitter, or e-mail.
There’s a few Canadian universities (those that I have an active interest in working at, for various personal and professional reasons; not to say that others aren’t on the radar, bit I catch them in other searches), federal and provincial government listings, a few international opportunities (mostly in Europe), and a smattering of non-profits, or those that cover non-traditional academic jobs (e.g., museums, zoos, academic publishing). There’s also the job board on the Ornithology Exchange (and the BirdJobs-L listserv), but since that tends to be, by and large, for US jobs, I don’t check them that often.
I started following the job market almost as soon as I started my PhD (in part because some postdoc jobs are advertised in these places), and I’ve been actively applying for jobs for almost 3 years now. I’m fairly confident that I’m not missing much for which I’d be both qualified and interested. Hopefully one of these days, something will work out.
Current Saturday Morning Job Search sites:
- Society for Conservation Biology (filtered for jobs in Canada)
Canadian Universities & Colleges
- Mount Allison University
- Acadia University
- Dalhousie University
- St. Francis Xavier University
- University of King’s College
- University of New Brunswick
- Memorial University of Newfoundland
- Concordia University
- McGill University
- Bishop’s University
- Western University
- University of Saskatchewan
- Campion College
- University of Regina
- University of Calgary
- Quest University
- University of Victoria
- University of Lethbridge
- Huron College
- Association of Community Colleges of Canada
- British Antarctic Survey
- WWF International
- BirdLife International
- Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
- Joint Nature Conservation Committee
- International Union for the Conservation of Nature
- Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
- United National Environmental Programme
- Norwegian Institute for Nature Research
- Natural History Museum (UK)
- EU Academic Jobs
- Norwegian Polar Institute
Non-University Canadian organizations
- Canadian Museum of Nature
- Royal Ontario Museum
- Royal BC Museum
- WWF Canada
- LGL Ltd.
- NRC Research Press
- Bird Studies Canada
- Wildlife Conservation Society–Canada
- Council of Science Editors
- Environmental Careers Organization–Canada
- Oxford University Press–Canada
- University of Toronto Press
- University of Alberta Press
Canadian Federal & Provincial Government
- Public Service Commission of Canada
- Parks Canada
- Government of Nova Scotia
- Government of Prince Edward Island
- Government of New Brunswick
- Government of Ontario
- Government of Manitoba
- Government of Saskatchewan
- Government of British Columbia
- Government of the Yukon
- Government of the Northwest Territories
- Government of Nunavut
Laura McFarlane Tranquilla said:
Alex – if being determined, articulate, and highly qualified count for anything (and, apparently, it helps), something *will* work out for you! I have to believe this too! I’m coming to the end of the PhD as well, and looking forward with trepidation. One of the things that bothers me most is the knowledge that your friends and peers, who are so critical to your success and well-being as a graduate student, become your supremely-qualified competitors for those few jobs!
Your rigorous approach is impressive and I thank you for sharing it! Sometimes I wish some of us ecologists could get hired as a collaborative team, drawing upon multiple skills to make us more attractive to potential employers. Or maybe we should just start our own university…
Alex Bond said:
Thanks for your words of optimism. But we (as grad students, postdocs, and their supervisors) need to face up to the fact that the majority of us won’t land a lovely tenure-track job and continue our research. Some of us will struggle along for 4, 5, 10 years (or more, as you know) doing postdocs and contract work, but as I pointed out, even those options are limited, and grad students are cheaper than postdocs. The sooner academia realises that its function isn’t to solely train replacements for faculty jobs, the better.
Laura Timms (@lltimms) said:
Hi Alex. Thanks for this, very useful. I also enjoy your blog in general.
I’m in year 3 of my postdoc. I’ve been checking my own list of regular job sites almost every weekday for the past 4+ years. I usually do it over coffee as I’m starting my day. Its a part of my routine, but I sometimes dread how I know it will make me feel when I see no jobs to apply for, yet again. Maybe I should convert to your once per week philosophy. I’m starting to feel like actively looking for this long is taking a psychological toll, but it has to be done.
Here are sites on my list that I didn’t see on yours (not including a handful of Universities):
Canadian Association of University Teachers:
David Suzuki Foundation: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/about/employment/
Toronto Region Conservation Authority: http://www.trca.on.ca/careers/
Of course, I also pick things up on twitter and email. I find if there is a job that is remotely relevant, someone I know will usually pass it on (usually more than one person).
Alex Bond said:
Thanks Laura – and more good resources. I found the CAUT site overlapped heavily with the University Affairs e-mail, so I stopped checking it.
Once a week is about all I can handle (apart from adding new sites as I come across them). I keep all the links in a folder in Chrome, and just “Open all bookmarks”. A full run-through takes anywhere from 10 minutes if there’s nothing of interest, to an hour if there are a few that I want to read up on some more.
Plus, doing it from home with a warm mug of tea is a nice way to ease the pain 😉
Hello Alex, thanks for putting this together. I’m in the last year of my PhD (Soil Science), and it’s about time I started paying more attention to jobs and so forth. Your list is very good, and I think you’re right about everybody re-inventing the wheel.
I have a MSc from SFU in Evolutionary Biology – I spent a fair bit of time talking with the ornithologists there, they seem to have fun projects. Anyway, I get emails from a listserve, EvolDir, that includes various jobs and post-doc positions from around the world in the area of Evolutionary Biology (there’s a fair bit of overlap with Ecology, as I’m sure you know). There are probably similar email listservs for other disciplines, which occassionally might throw something interesting at you.
Good luck! And thanks again for this blog – it feels less like procrastination to read about issues I’ll discuss with my advisor at some point.
Alex Bond said:
Glad you’re enjoying the back catalogue! One of the main purposes I have with these more “early-career researcher job/career” posts is to get the info out there because I didn’t get it from my academic mentors. I got it from other grad students and colleagues (I was never in a lab with postdocs). The first step is talking about this sort of thing with advisors / mentors because in an ideal world, how they advise you will depend on what you think/want your career trajectory to be.
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