Decided: The Academic Interview Process

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We know where we’re going.

We’ve known for a while now, we’ve had an inkling before we had an offer, but it’s official, and Kent, Ohio will be our new home.  I’ve already been boxing things up in anticipation, and the office has been cluttered with moving supplies.  But, you gotta make a mess to clean a mess.  We’ve been working hard to hide the boxes and put things away to make room for visitors coming to stay for graduation this week.  So as I put the packing on pause, let me tell you about our decision process.

The Academic Interview Process

Like in all job searching, searching for a job in academia is a process, and it works on a specific schedule.  Due to the school schedule, most first-round interviewing starts as early as January or February, typically with a phone or Skype interview.    This may happen more than once per school, with different people within the department.  If you get lucky you will be invited to the school for an on-campus interview, where you will most likely be asked to teach a class or give a lecture.

The on-campus interview is a day scheduled with multiple interviews within the department, talking to multiple people individually or in conference.  Bring water and throat lozenges because you’ll never remember a time you’ve talked so much before in your life.  By April or May, you’ll hope to hear back from a school with an offer for employment, which will start in August.

It’s nearly a 6 month process to find a job in academia, all while finishing up your doctorate, sending out applications, doing interviews, and fielding questions from relatives asking if you have a job yet.  Once you get the offers, you need to consider each one.  The point of a postdoc position for a mathematician is to allow yourself to build up a reputation in your field by doing research.  These positions typically will last for 2-3 years and will mainly be research positions, but might require the employee to teach a few classes each semester.  Postdoctoral research is very important because it will set the foundation for future funding and tenured positions within academic fields.

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Considering Factors

We had to take these factors into consideration when making our decision.  But most of all, we had to do what was best for our family.  Did we want to accept a job that might have paid more, but was farther away, involved more work and less time for research?  It might sound good on paper, but in the long run, it could have been detrimental to career and relationships.  If you are an unmarried PhD student, go for it. Live your best life.  But there are some of us in the world of academia that would prefer to live our best life with our spouses (and dog), so that’s what we are doing.

The worst decision to make is to not make one.  Whatever you decide, make sure you make your choice wisely.  Always talk to your partner about the choices you make regarding your family.  It’s not my job we are moving for, but I am fully invested in this life and I get a say in every decision we make (especially veto power); that’s what a partnership is about.

The LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.  I will advise you and watch over you.” Psalm 32:8

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