With the Joint Meetings approaching this installment will primarily provide tips on “how to conference”.
The Joint Mathematics Meetings
The 2016 Joint Mathematics Meetings will be only the second large conference I have attended (so filter my comments through that lens). Prior to having children I had no research of my own to discuss, now I have some results but far less flexibility in my travel. At this point I will extend a big “thank you” to the AMS for their child care grant! I do so because it leads to an important point about the struggles of traveling as a student. I recognize the privileges I may have when compared to other students in being able to wait for travel reimbursements and through the support of my partner. Writing at Vitae, Rebecca Schuman recently kicked off a debate about the practice of departments conducting preliminary interviews at conferences. As I mentioned in Part II, job-seekers may find better bang for their travel dollar by attending a local meeting like the AMS Sectionals prior to the job-search season. This more personal setting leads to numerous situations in which one can “interview without interviewing”.
That said, plan ahead should you decide to attend the JMM. Talk with fellow graduate students to learn about funding available through your university. My institution offers a one-time grant for conference travel. The guidelines stipulate one must present work and that “preference will be given to travel associated with potential academic employment”.
The week before the meeting is the time to really hone your elevator pitch. Obviously this is crucial if you expect conference interviews. Explore commonly asked interview questions as linked in Part II, or those found in this job advice pamphlet. More specifically, you should work on your research pitch. Focus on one or two problems from your research statement and develop a short background packet on each. Keep these ideas in your pocket when talking with potential collaborators, either figuratively or literally. Again borrowing from Part II, if you don’t have any collaborators try cold calling your academic relatives (Who have you cited? Do they have any recent students working in your area?). I suggest this exercise as a way to move out of the comfort zone of being a graduate student; the end is near!
In retrospect, I missed some opportunities to create a coherent narrative throughout my application packet. A majority of the time I spent applying for jobs went into targeting liberal arts schools who value both teaching and research. For instance I devoted space in my research statement to describing potential student projects. Though I pointed this out in my cover letter, I should have done more to tie this into my teaching. An effective connection would read something like, “The projects described in my research statement require knowledge of Fourier analysis and Sobolev spaces. For that reason, I am interested in teaching a topics course in Fourier analysis and differential equations which would be interesting to a wide audience while preparing motivated students to dive into research level problems.”
As above, most of my posts have been focused on the tenure-track search. If you’re applying for postdoctoral positions, make sure you’re aware of the following deadline coordination policy. The listed departments “agree not to require responses to postdoctoral job offers before Monday, February 1, 2016”.
Finally, here’s a list of general job search advice links which I haven’t mentioned elsewhere: