Surviving Graduate School


classes, teaching, and research, oh my!

From Cosmic Variance's "Unsolicited Advice" series: How to Be a Good Graduate Student


coming soon…

After the Thesis

There will come a day when all the indicators are in place that you are one year out from defending. It just happens one week, "I need to do this, and this, and that, and this too… hmm… this will take me about *mental math mental math* 10 months. Wow, that means it will take me 12 months… I'm one year from being done. Cool." At some point after this realization you start to think about what happens after your thesis is done. If that internal dialog — and your advisor(s) — points you toward a post-doc or fellowships, then you should start preparing for the job hunt process.

Where to start
There are three big places to start looking for jobs:

1. AAS Job Register
The AAS Job Register is where postings for post-docs, fellowships, management, support staff, et cetera are listed. It's updated the first of every month and is the place to get your feet wet.

2. Your advisor's network of colleagues
If you and your advisor have collaborators, start asking around if any of them, or any of their colleagues, are hiring soon. This is a great way to get a personal "leg up" on other applicants. For example: "I'll be defending in March and I'm looking for a post-doc position which will keep me working on __, do you know of anyone hiring?" Colleague: "Why yes, we'll be hiring this fall. You should submit an application of course!"

3. Group specific websites
Most medium to big research groups will have a website. Go to these sites and browse around for a job postings section. This is especially useful if you're looking for a post overseas where they may not use the AAS to search for people.

Typical Application Requirements

Three letters of recommendation

Curriculum vitae

List of publications

Statement of research interests/accomplishments/future plans

and for fellowships…

Research proposal

Public outreach proposal (only for a few of the larger fellowships)

Heartbeat of the Hiring Process
Most positions go through a couple stages: long-listing, short-listing, interviewing, hiring. You can keep tabs on what each position you've applied for is doing by watching the Astro Rumor Mill. But don't ever forget, it's a rumor mill. Just because something gets posted there does not make it true. And remember, the rumor mill isn't an advertising billboard or a place to brag, so don't be a low-life attention hog an plaster your name all over the place for every job you've been long or short listed for. It's a device for keeping tabs on who's going where, what area departments are hiring in, and what point the hiring process has reached (e.g. if interviewing has started and you've not been contacted… that means not to hold your breath).

It's pretty easy, talk about your research, answer their questions, and ask some of your own. An interview is a means for finding out if you can discuss your work in-depth, have a grasp of what your plans and objectives are, if they like you, and if you like them. An interview should feel comfortable and easy. Ask them about what kind of projects you'll be working on, if you get independent time for your own ideas, or if you have to teach. Stuff like this. An interview is a two-way street: you're interviewing them the same way their interviewing you. There is nothing wrong with being assertive and proactive, in fact, it should make you a more attractive candidate. No one likes hiring a wet blanket.

Weighing Options
Dos and Don'ts

•Don't start a new job without having finished your thesis.

•Don't accept a job too early.

•Don't back out of an offer (unless something criminal or uncontrollable happens).

•Do be inquisitive and thresh out expectations.