Employment opportunities

Since we’ve already set the precedent that it’s OK to use the blog for job announcements, let me do a little promotion. My current home, Northeastern, has just posted postdoctoral and tenure-track job announcements. If people have questions about either position or life at NU, they are encouraged to email me (though there is a decent chance I’ll just refer you on to the appropriate authorities).

I particularly want to push the postdoctoral position, because, well, first of all I want to have a more talented postdocs around the department (more in number, no insult intended to our current postdocs); I’m also on the search committee for the position, so I have some responsibility to my colleagues to find good people to hire.

Furthermore, as we’ve discussed, titles for postdoctoral jobs are generally confusing; what exactly does “Research Instructor” mean? This is going to sound stupid, but it’s right there in the name; you’re supposed to do research and instruct people. We’re looking for people who will do both of those things well. Candidates are expected to be part of the research life of the department, and we are definitely hoping to find people whose interests overlap with faculty members here. We also take the teaching component of the job very seriously, but the teaching load is intended so that you have time to teach your classes well and work on other things; it is below Noah’s magic line at 3 semester courses a year.

Which is all a long way of saying I look forward to seeing your applications.

13 thoughts on “Employment opportunities

  1. There’s no deadline for the professorial position. Admittedly, it seem that in order to be really sure that your application will receive full consideration, you would need a time machine, but I suspect you will be safe if you submit now. Remember that job ads have to go through layers of bureaucracy to fulfill legal requirements, and I suspect some delay in that process created this issue.

  2. I’m never quite sure how to deal with jobs with really early application deadlines. Obviously I’m not going to ask my recommenders to finish their letters in early October just because one or two schools decide to go earlier than November 1. I generally feel like I should submit the rest of my application by the deadline to look good, but it seems a little silly if it doesn’t have the letters yet, and my impression has been that these deadlines are not necessarily closely related to the actual timeline that schools use.

  3. Well, let me tell you how to deal with them: ask someone. Usually there’s a contact person on MathJobs, but you can also trying going via the back channel. The reasons for having early deadlines are usually relatively arcane and someone in the department can explain what’s going on.

  4. What kind of fields are you looking for? Should a number theorist/algebraic geometer even bother applying? I know first-hand from a few schools (e.g. UGA) that right now number theorists are not a priority, and I want to know whether there’s a point in my trying to get everything including the rec letters done by 11/1.

  5. Alon-

    The short answer is that there is no focus on particular fields. The key phrase there is “Field of research should be consonant with the current research interests of the department.” It’s hard for me to say a lot more than that because “the current research interests of the department” is rather hard to pin down; I have a hazy sense of this, but I can’t say one way or the other on any given candidate without consulting with my colleagues.

  6. A question about looking silly in these situations. Is it acceptable to apply for both a postdoctoral and TT position in the same department, when both are advertised?

    I think it is not so easy to pin down your own strength as an applicant, and there are several departments where I would be happy to take a postdoctoral position, and where I have been advised that a TT position would be a bit of a stretch but worth going for. I’d prefer not to shoot myself in the foot, of course. This may also be more of a problem in the more applied end of mathematics, where postdocs are a little less common.

  7. Well, one can’t say for sure what the effect of any action one takes is, but certainly one sees a lot of people applying for both positions (maybe it is relevant to mention that at least for these positions, people reviewing the files can easily see you’ve applied for both). I don’t think any reasonable person holds it against them (or pays much attention to it). I even know of an instance where one person was offered both a postdoc and tenure-track position at the same institution in the same year.

    It’s really a very rare situation that it actually makes sense for someone to apply for both jobs; either people are thinking wishfully about their chances for the permanent position, or are taking an overly pessimistic view of their chances of getting a decent tenure-track job somewhere. (Indeed, in the instance mentioned above, the candidate got a tenure-track offer from a second school and turned down the postdoc offer before the TT one was forthcoming). On the other hand, I can see not wanting to take the risk of figuring out which side they are erring on.

  8. Thanks for the helpful (and quick!) response. I think this is exactly my position – I’m sure one of the applications is foolish, but am having a hard time figuring out which one it is… and being selfish and nervous, it is easier to make the search committee(s) decide.

  9. I think it’s very hard to accurately self-assess one’s jobs prospects during a recession, as the question is not so much whether you’re qualified as whether there’s too large a backlog of qualified people ahead of you. How can you gather accurate information on how many strong 5th year postdocs are out there who didn’t get a job 2 or 3 years ago at the height of the recession?

    Which is to say, in the current environment I’m quite skeptical that it’s a rare situation that it makes objective sense for a person to be applying to postdocs and TT jobs at the same schools this year. It seems to me that should be the norm for people ending normal (2-3 year) postdocs.

  10. Of course, “should” is a dangerous word. Clearly the dominant strategy in terms of staying employed is to just apply to things even if you think you are over- or underqualified for them. And I certainly would never tell someone thinking about applying for a job “There’s no way you’re ever getting that, don’t bother.” Even if I’m 95% sure that that’s the case, what about the other 5% of the time?

    On the other hand, I would be really shocked if we hire someone to a postdoc position who would have been seriously considered by the TT committee.

    I think this also think this depends on your preference ordering for jobs. Many people would prefer a postdoc in Boston to a TT job somewhere in the Midwest, and for many people it’s vice versa.

  11. Is that because you wouldn’t consider for the postdoc position someone who would have been seriously considered by the TT committee, or because no such person would (be forced to) accept your postdoc position?

    (I suspect it’s some combination of both, but I would be interested to hear roughly what combination.)

  12. My thinking was more along the latter lines; to borrow Noah’s point, if the issue is that the backlog ahead of you is too big, then the issue is exactly that search committees for tenure track jobs are going to be looking at the people in the backlog, not you, and there was no point in you applying for tenure track jobs. Of course, you can’t know that beforehand, but either those more experienced people are in the job pool or they aren’t.

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