"The market is noisy" will be relayed to you umpteen times as you near the job market; you will hear it from professors, mentors, and loved ones that begin to spend too much time on EJMR*. However, understanding its full meaning is impossible before experiencing the market yourself. You will misinterpret and over-analyze interactions; you will be taxed - intellectually, emotionally, and physically - in ways you could never expect; and you will find delight in some of the peculiarities of the process. The intense uncertainty is not one-sided. Hiring committees also operate in a haze - trying to read your signals, reaching out to your letter writers to glean information on your preferences, and balancing this with the preferences of their colleagues and the administration.
For those less familiar with the job market, the economics profession adheres to a condensed process that features employers across academia, industry, and policy seeking to hire newly-minted economists. As women fresh off the market, we would like to pass on some reflections from our own experiences this year on the job market. We hope that a preview of what to expect and some advice on how to navigate this process will increase the enjoyable aspects of the process and decrease the stressful components.
The below advice, separated into different phases of the process, comes from graduating Cal women in Agriculture & Resource Economics, the Economics Department, and the Haas School of Business.
Preparation & Applications
The job market process formally begins with the decision to go on the market, which can be surprisingly fraught. By early August you should decide, schedule your fall practice job talks, and get your paper ready. Jobs will start getting posted in the early fall on econjobmarket.org and the AEA’s Job Openings for Economists. Most applications are due between mid October and early December. Many candidates submit well over 100 applications.
"Take time to self-reflect and come to an honest assessment of what you want for yourself in 10 years. What is most important to you: tenure at an R1? your research to directly impact policy? to specialize in working with cool datasets? to teach and mentor a generation of economists? well-paid in a cool city? Once you know your preferences, tell your letter writers about them and get them on board. Focus your job search on any job that might help you achieve your personal goal." - Anonymous
"Do good work! The better your CV, the easier the rest becomes." - Fiona Burlig
"Believe the adage, 'Every presentation is a job market presentation.' Present your job market paper (as often and early as possible) in workshops and smaller conferences (especially those in your field) during the summer and fall before the job market. I knew presenting my research would help me improve my paper but I was surprised by how many of my ASSA interviews stemmed from having made a connection with someone at a workshop/conference." - Becca Taylor
"Get advice from multiple people - especially the faculty you find most intimidating. There's someone scarier out in the world." - Fiona Burlig
"Save money for the job market. Reimbursements take a long time and there are several months between your last stipend and your first salary." - Anonymous
"Your job talk is incredibly important – practice it with audiences both in and outside your sub-field." - Anonymous
"Network early and often - the more people who have a positive impression of you, the better." - Fiona Burlig
"Buy your suits and dress shoes early in the fall. Make it a fun group activity with other job market candidates! Pant suits are preferable to skirt suits for interviews on hotel beds and fly-outs in freezing places." - Anonymous
"Don’t isolate yourself. Your cohort is not the competition; candidates at other schools are the competition. Practice your job talks and elevator pitches with one another. Discuss your anxieties. Go on walks. Take coffee breaks together. The job market requires strong mental stamina; remaining connected to your peers helps." - Sandile Hlatshwayo
"Being a good salesman is as important as the quality of your work (depends on your field though, some fields are better about this)." - Anonymous
"Writing and polishing the paper is the hardest and most stressful part, though the other/later parts take up at least as much time." - Gillian Brunet
Interviews & Fly-out Process
From early December onward, hiring committees will call to schedule interviews with you at the annual AEA meetings which are held in early January. Private sector and policy institutions sometimes schedule interviews beforehand so have your talk ready by early December. Use your network, beyond your school’s faculty, to get interviews; ask mentors to email their colleagues at your target schools on your behalf. Cawley (2016) provides a nice list of interview questions to prep for. After a flurry of interviews at the meetings, hiring committees will call to schedule on-campus "fly-out" interviews across the US and abroad. Some schools will try to book fly-outs on the same day as your interview. Discuss strategic scheduling with the placement director and your adviser. For research schools, the private sector, and policy institutions, fly-outs typically last one day. For liberal arts colleges, expect two-day fly-outs.
"You can and should actively enjoy interviews and fly-outs: you have the opportunity to discuss your work with smart people and it is actually wonderful. When people on the market in years ahead of me said this, I thought they were crazy/that I’m not extroverted enough for it to be true for me, but they were right. Channel your nervousness into excitement and enjoy the ride." - Gillian Brunet
"Take time to research each of the professors you will be meeting with during fly-outs. It’s amazing how a quick google search can translate into an interesting meeting with a professor because you’re able to talk about potential collaborations and overlap in interests." - Sandile Hlatshwayo
"Use your network. My advisor was not pushing me very hard but I got top interviews because people in my network wrote emails to R1 schools." - Anonymous
"People are looking for 'good colleagues,' which is a very holistic concept. It goes without saying that your paper is very important. However, also central is your ability to present your ideas, think on your feet, and engage in conversations about topics unrelated to your area of expertise." - Sandile Hlatshwayo
"You don’t have to go the ASSAs alone. Ask a family member, partner, close friend, or classmate on the market next year to come with you to the ASSA conference to help you get through it smoothly. This might not be for everyone, but I immensely appreciated having someone who knew me well to be my helper (e.g. brought me food, coffee, and things I forgot) and my cheerleader (e.g. cued Rocky theme song)." - Becca Taylor
"Catch up on sleep whenever you get the opportunity, buy a neck pillow for plane flights, and find shoes that are still comfortable after wearing them for 12 hours (possible even with serious foot problems - I managed it)." - Gillian Brunet
"Try to enjoy the ride and all the people you're going to meet in the next few months. It's like how you never learn more econ more quickly than you do in the first year. The job market is like that, but for networking. It will be intense, but also kind of life propelling." - Anonymous
"Buy a small travel iron, lint roller, and Febreze for when you have back to back fly-outs and no time to get your suits dry-cleaned." - Anonymous
"Expect stochasticity." - Fiona Burlig
Congratulations on your offer(s)!** Often hiring committees will call to discuss the preliminary offer with you, which is a starting point for negotiations. Everything is on the table for negotiations - salary, research budget, moving expenses, signing bonuses, teaching load, service duties, etc. Having a rough sense of your "ideal offer" in mind is helpful when entering into these conversations. Salary is probably the least flexible component of offers, but the broad "bounds" can be found in the annual Survey of the Labor Market for New Ph.D. Hires in Economics. Keep your adviser and placement director in the loop for these talks. A formal written offer will be sent following negotiations. Happy signing!
"Negotiate on the terms of your offer letter even if you don't have competing offers." - Anonymous
"Don't worry about how your decision might reflect on your advisors or on the department. And don't be dissuaded by what other people, especially fellow grad students or strangers on the internet, might think about the job you end up with. Do what is right for you, since ultimately you're the one who has to live your post-PhD life." - Anonymous
"Negotiate!" - Sandile Hlatshwayo
"Saying 'no' to places at the end can actually be really painful. No one told me this, so it was a shock. The fact that you may like multiple places that make you offers doesn’t mean you should second-guess your decision." - Gillian Brunet
"[Y]ou’ll end up somewhere that makes you happy, most likely somewhere you haven't spent more than a few minutes considering at this point in time, because that's what seems to happen to most." - Anonymous
"The final decision may come down to competing offers that take you in very different directions (e.g., a tenure-track job vs. a consulting firm). First, be clear and honest with yourself about what attracts you to each position. There are some metrics that shouldn’t feature (e.g., number of sick days or 'perceived' prestige). Second, if you’re still finding it difficult, before committing anywhere write down your gut choice on a post-it and stick it on your bathroom mirror before you go to bed. When you wake up, take a look at the post-it and then take a look at yourself in the mirror. Are you happy with your choice? If yes, great! If not, you know what to do." - Anonymous
For those of you at Cal, continue to use WEB and the connections you build through it as a resource as you navigate the job market. My experience was infinitely more enjoyable because of my fellow WEB job market candidates! If you ever want to chat, please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. As a final reminder, keep perspective during the process and try not to stress too much - you are wildly employable and the market will clear!
* EJMR stands for Economics Job Market Rumors. The website hosts a job market wiki which gives noisy information on what schools are posting jobs, when they call to schedule interviews, who is flying out, who gets offers, and who accepts offers. It is also host to less-useful conversations about particular papers, professors, schools, hot economics-related topics (e.g., machine learning), and complete randomness. Postings are anonymous, which sometimes leads to negativity and 'isms' (e.g., sexism and racism). Take what is useful from it; ignore the rest.
**If you don't match with an employer through the first round of the market, there is a 'scramble' for unmatched candidates and employers in March.
Author: Sandile Hlatshwayo