CareerAdvice: Applying for academic jobs in anthropology

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In your last year of graduate school, you should start preparing for the job market. There are several things you will need to get together, in roughly the appropriate order:
  1. Publications: If you have any dissertation chapters or seminar papers that are ready for publication, then you should send them out. At the very least, you can list them as In review on your C.V.
  2. C.V.: I've written a separate entry on CVs and what should be in them -- and what shouldn't.
  3. Website: Search committees now regularly google their prospective candidates. You should have at the very least a simple website with your C.V. in HTML and/or PDF format, list of courses you are teaching (with syllabi if possible), list of publications and awards. And a photograph of you in appropriate attire (don't laugh, I've seen candidate web sites with photographs of them in ... less than appropriate attire). For example, this is my academic home page.
  4. Membership in your national associations is now compulsory. You should become a member of your disciplinary organization (for anthropologists, the American Anthropological Association) and your regional speciality (for Japan studies, the Association for Asian Studies).
  5. Conferences: If you haven't been presenting at national conferences, you should start doing so after you've returned from your fieldwork. You need to establish yourself as a public scholar. Many committees will send spies to panels where candidates are presenting. I was actually surreptitiously videotaped at one national meeting, presenting a paper. Be on your best behavior, especially at cash bars. That being said, you should start schmoozing at conferences, even if this isn't something you are good at. You can get invaluable information and contacts at the many receptions. Just watch how much wine or beer you drink.
  6. Subscribe to your national association's job search database. For anthropologists, the American Anthropological Association job database will put you on a mailing list where it will automatically e-mail positions that fit into categories you specify. Other associations have databases that must be searched manually (usually on the web, such as this one for Asian Studies). The Chronicle of Higher Education is a must read. Read it thoroughly each issue, front to back.

Your application package will usually consist of:

  1. Cover letter: This is a 1~2 page statement of intent. Be sure to craft a new letter for each position. Nothing turns off a search committee more than an obviously generic letter. I've even had the pleasure of seeing some letters written with _____ blanks where the applicant typed in the name of the college, as well as ones with the name of the wrong college. These did not make the first cut. You will want to cover:
    • which position you are applying to. Some departments run multiple searches at the same time, you need to be extremely specific: "I am applying for the junior position with an Asian regional specialization at the Department of Anthropology at Manoka State University." Take the language directly from the search posting.
    • Who you are, where you graduated from, what your dissertation topic was, where you are now (post-doc, etc.).
    • For teaching colleges, what types of courses you might offer to them.
    • For research universities, what type of research projects you are engaged in, especially what you plan to do post-dissertation. If you have a book contract, this is a good place to note this.
    • Why you think you are a good fit for this particular place. What you hope to do there. This is both important and difficult and it helps to have inside advice. You want to argue that you'll contribute to the program, but that you won't step on any toes or in the sacred turf of any of the senior faculty. Be careful.
  2. C.V. See my separate post on this topic.
  3. Philosophy of Teaching: Teaching colleges (liberal arts colleges and state colleges) often like to see a statement of your philosophy of teaching. This is something I need to write on separately.
  4. Syllabi Teaching colleges will often want to see some sample syllabi. You should ideally be able to give them several: an introductory course; a theoretical specialty course (Anthro Theory; Feminist Theory); a regional specialty or intro course (Intro to East Asian Studies; Samurai Culture); and maybe one other service course. You may not be able to include all syllabi, but you should include a note that describes the full range of courses you offer and direct them to your website to download others.
  5. Publications: Research universities will want to see some recent publications or writing samples. If you do not have any journal papers or book chapters, then a particularly fine seminar paper might be appropriate. Ask your advisor for advice in choosing one. It should ideally be within your specialty. I.e., if you are applying for Japan Studies positions, you shouldn't provide your seminar paper on emotionality in Brazil.
  6. References: You need to provide three or four references -- scholars who can comment on your work (these are not personal references, keep your softball coach out of this list). Fresh out of graduate school, this would normally be your dissertation committee. However, it often helps to have at least one external scholar not from your college. You should try to ensure that everyone will speak positively about you. Many a job applicant has been backstabbed by a committee member who writes negatively about them. Don't be one of them.

Ideally, your cohort should start up a dissertation writing group in your final year. At least one of the sessions should be on job searches. Ask a junior faculty member to attend as well, or the chair of a recent search in your department or affiliated program. You need as many eyes and ears to look over your application before you send it out. It helps to read over other people's applications.

I wrote this on the flight back to Japan, so it is certainly not a complete list. Feel free to suggest additions, subtractions, or changes.

[Read other articles on Careers in Anthropology on]


what a great list!

of course, this is basically the list i'm using right now (covered 2,4,5; working on 1,3) and i'm not even a first year grad student yet.

(ps: hi. i'm a new reader of your blog, but we had some correspondence a while back that stemmed from SOLGA-L. our professional lives actually are now more congruent than they were then, and i'd very much like to renew the acquaintance when you get back from the field and have more time for e-mail. :-))

I forgot to add that H-Japan also has a job listing service:

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This page contains a single entry by Karen Nakamura published on April 11, 2005 12:41 AM.

CareerAdvice: New section on this blog was the previous entry in this blog.

Link: The Leica, the SLR, and the Eye of the Photographer is the next entry in this blog.

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