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On Monday 29 October 2001 12:12 pm, you wrote:
> I am currently considering applying for postdoc positions, probably in the
> USA. I am currently trying to work out where to apply to and who I want to
> work with.

> I apologise for asking this of you, but can you give me a few words of
> advice as to how to go about it? YYY's experience of getting a postdoc is
> rather limited, and he sugested that you might be a good person to talk to.

OK, now I can answer your email some more.  I'm just going to
subjectively "rant".

Are you applying for a job starting next August?  If so, you don't
have much time!  Applications are due very soon!  I hope that remark
was enough to scare you into action.

You might find the following useful:

    http://www.maa.org/features/ed/jobsearch.html

This guy, Ed Aboufadel (http://faculty.gvsu.edu/aboufade/), wrote a
diary about his first job search in the USA.  His search was when the
job market for math postdocs in the US was quite bad, and it's not
clear how helpful his adviser was.  Also, I don't know if he has any
useful advice.  What he does give is an honest and uncensored account
of his experiences applying for an academic job.  It was controversial
when he wrote it, especially since he published it during his job
search.  I found it useful reading when I applied for a job.

I think a job application consists of the components given at

     http://modular.fas.harvard.edu/job/index.html

The latex files are there, and you should feel free to use them as
templates if you want.  It is EXTREMELY important that you have
several people, both professors and fellow students, read your
research proposal, cover letter, and so on.  Not doing so is a 
recipe for failure. 

Letters of recommendation are more important than anything else.
Choose who writes them for you with care, and send anyone who writes
you a letter a nice thank you card afterwards.  It's the least you can
do, given how much work it is for them to write a letter.  If
possible, get at least one letter from somebody not at XXX
College.  It's not necessary to get a letter that addresses your
"total value" as a mathematicians.  For example, I think I requested
from YYY a letter that specifically addressed my work on modular
forms software.  

For US jobs, check out
      http://www.ams.org/employment
I applied to about 40 places (too many, probably).  

Though your reputation, which is visible at this stage mainly through
letters of recommendation, is probably by far the most important
criterion that prospective employers will consider, it is worth paying
attention to other details of your application.  Use high-quality
stationary.  The cost of good quality paper is nil compared to the
cost of postage, and there is very little increase in effort to use
good-quality papers and envelopes.  I doubt anybody reading
applications will allow the quality of your stationary to affect their
judgment of your application.  However, using good paper is a
worthwhile *courtesy* towards the faculty who have to wade through
hundreds of applications.

Your CV, cover, letter, and research proposal should not contain a
single typo or misspelled word.  If those documents look in the least
sloppy, then you might come off seeming VERY sloppy to those reading
your application, since they assume that you were as careful as
possible in preparing those materials.

You are a product, and your job application is your commercial.  You
want a lot of people who matter to SEE your application.  There is no
logic whatever in viewing your application as a top secret document
that only a few choice school are permitted to see.  Create a nice web
page, put your application on it, and point any and all prospective
employers towards it.  This is definitely not the time to be shy about
your CV.

The result of your job search will have a huge influence on your life,
so put as much energy as you can afford into.  You'll spend maybe a
month or two preparing your appliations and sending them out, with the
potential for large long-term rewards if you do a good job.  As I
heard ZZZ once say in reference to a computer grant application, "the
potential return on a relatively small investment is huge."

I hope that was helpful.

 --  William