1On Monday 29 October 2001 12:12 pm, you wrote:
2> I am currently considering applying for postdoc positions, probably in the
3> USA. I am currently trying to work out where to apply to and who I want to
4> work with.
6> I apologise for asking this of you, but can you give me a few words of
7> advice as to how to go about it? YYY's experience of getting a postdoc is
8> rather limited, and he sugested that you might be a good person to talk to.
10OK, now I can answer your email some more. I'm just going to
13Are you applying for a job starting next August? If so, you don't
14have much time! Applications are due very soon! I hope that remark
15was enough to scare you into action.
17You might find the following useful:
21This guy, Ed Aboufadel (http://faculty.gvsu.edu/aboufade/), wrote a
22diary about his first job search in the USA. His search was when the
23job market for math postdocs in the US was quite bad, and it's not
24clear how helpful his adviser was. Also, I don't know if he has any
25useful advice. What he does give is an honest and uncensored account
26of his experiences applying for an academic job. It was controversial
27when he wrote it, especially since he published it during his job
28search. I found it useful reading when I applied for a job.
30I think a job application consists of the components given at
34The latex files are there, and you should feel free to use them as
35templates if you want. It is EXTREMELY important that you have
36several people, both professors and fellow students, read your
37research proposal, cover letter, and so on. Not doing so is a
38recipe for failure.
40Letters of recommendation are more important than anything else.
41Choose who writes them for you with care, and send anyone who writes
42you a letter a nice thank you card afterwards. It's the least you can
43do, given how much work it is for them to write a letter. If
44possible, get at least one letter from somebody not at XXX
45College. It's not necessary to get a letter that addresses your
46"total value" as a mathematicians. For example, I think I requested
47from YYY a letter that specifically addressed my work on modular
50For US jobs, check out
52I applied to about 40 places (too many, probably).
54Though your reputation, which is visible at this stage mainly through
55letters of recommendation, is probably by far the most important
56criterion that prospective employers will consider, it is worth paying
57attention to other details of your application. Use high-quality
58stationary. The cost of good quality paper is nil compared to the
59cost of postage, and there is very little increase in effort to use
60good-quality papers and envelopes. I doubt anybody reading
61applications will allow the quality of your stationary to affect their
62judgment of your application. However, using good paper is a
63worthwhile *courtesy* towards the faculty who have to wade through
64hundreds of applications.
66Your CV, cover, letter, and research proposal should not contain a
67single typo or misspelled word. If those documents look in the least
68sloppy, then you might come off seeming VERY sloppy to those reading
69your application, since they assume that you were as careful as
70possible in preparing those materials.
72You are a product, and your job application is your commercial. You
73want a lot of people who matter to SEE your application. There is no
74logic whatever in viewing your application as a top secret document
75that only a few choice school are permitted to see. Create a nice web
76page, put your application on it, and point any and all prospective
77employers towards it. This is definitely not the time to be shy about
80The result of your job search will have a huge influence on your life,
81so put as much energy as you can afford into. You'll spend maybe a
82month or two preparing your appliations and sending them out, with the
83potential for large long-term rewards if you do a good job. As I
84heard ZZZ once say in reference to a computer grant application, "the
85potential return on a relatively small investment is huge."
87I hope that was helpful.
89 -- William