Poll: are EEB faculty job seekers receiving good advice about the EEB faculty job market?

My recent post on when the ecology faculty job market first became so competitive sparked a lot of good discussion, here and on social media. One point that came up is that, because the ecology faculty job market has changed over time, what might once have been good advice to ecology faculty job seekers might now be bad advice. Anecdotally, I feel like I often see this complaint from faculty job seekers in ecology (and evolution): that too many profs these days are giving bad advice, because they don’t realize how much more competitive the faculty job market is today than it was back when the prof in question was on the job market.

I sympathize deeply with anyone who’s received bad advice about the EEB faculty job market, as some people have. It’s hard enough being among the many people chasing comparatively few TT faculty positions without also receiving bad advice! I was fortunate to receive uniformly excellent advice myself, and so I’d like to do what I can to help make sure others get good advice too.

In order to improve the advice that EEB faculty job seekers receive, it would help to first know something about what advice they’ve gotten, from what sources, and how good it was. So I got to wondering: how common is it for EEB faculty job seekers to receive bad advice, or at least what they consider to be bad advice? From what sources does bad advice most commonly come? In particular, how common is it for EEB faculty job seekers to receive outdated advice, as opposed to advice that’s bad for some other reason? I wonder about that last one because, as best I can tell, almost everyone who currently holds a tenured or tenure-track faculty position in ecology experienced a very competitive job market as an applicant (i.e. was hired in 1980 or later). Plus, it’s not as if current profs only know about the faculty job market from their own experience as applicants–many have since served on search committees, for instance.

Hence this short poll! This completely anonymous poll is for everyone who holds, has held, seeks, sought, or plans to seek a tenured or tenure-track faculty position in ecology, evolution, or an allied field. Please take 60 seconds or so to fill it out! I’ll summarize the responses in a future post.

11 thoughts on “Poll: are EEB faculty job seekers receiving good advice about the EEB faculty job market?

  1. Other than my advisers, my main source of advice was grad students I knew well who had gone through my program ahead of me. They had just successfully navigated what I wanted to know about.

    • Yeah, in retrospect I probably should’ve found a way to include that as an option in the poll. I was having trouble thinking of a way of doing it that distinguished it from social media and ecoevojobs.net, though.

  2. I have a feeling bad advice is less common than little or no advice. Or worse, super generic advice like “publish more papers”.

    • We’ll see! I can already kind of tell whether bad advice or no advice is likely to end up being more common, but I don’t want to publish any spoilers.

      Unfortunately, the poll is probably not refined enough to distinguish “advice that’s bad or unhelpful because it’s vague/generic” from other sorts of bad advice. In retrospect, maybe I should’ve asked a question about that, as I did about outdated advice.

  3. One might consider that job advice is often coming from people who succeeded, and perhaps spectacularly.

    As a postdoc, I was once told off by a somewhat senior professor about being too CV obsessed. Well, if everyone in my field knew who I was because they were familiar with the law named after me from my graduate work, I probably wouldn’t be. So, his experience and mine on the job market weren’t comparable, even if the market isn’t that different.

  4. If you do this poll again (or maybe a different one in the future), you might consider the influence of the department, other faculty, and/or (for Ph.D students) the committee that the applicant may also solicit advice from. Some of the absolute best and some of the absolute worst advice I got (and often unsolicited) was from people who were not my supervisor, but were in the department or on my committee. According to the 2018 Sverdlik et al. paper on the Ph.D experience, the department plays a fairly big role (bigger than I expected) in the “Ph.D experience,” and I would imagine that could translate to advice about the EEB faculty market as well.

    • Good suggestion. Probably many respondents who are indicating they got advice from “other” sources than those I listed got advice from departmental faculty other than their supervisor, and/or from department-run workshops. Probably also from other grad students and postdocs in the department who were themselves on the faculty job market.

      • In relation to this advice, I would also suggest looking at the period at which the advisors landed their tenure track positions. In my own experiance, where all of my advisors were able to land tenure track positions (in R1 institutes) within a year of finishing their PhD’s their advice is a bit out dates. of all of my PhD and Postdoc advisors only 2 (of 6) have not retired. I think you will find a shift in perspective with younger faculty advisors than the old generation.

      • Maybe! Or, you know, maybe not! Can’t generalize from anecdotes, obviously. My own anecdotal experience is completely different from yours. My PhD supervisor, Peter Morin, is one of the very last ecologists hired into a TT position at a research uni in the US with only one publication and no postdoc (in 1982; see here for the data: https://dynamicecology.wordpress.com/2019/03/06/when-and-why-the-ecology-faculty-job-market-first-got-so-competitive/). And he has always been up to date on how the current job market works and gave me and others nothing but sound, up to date advice. As another example, Hal Caswell (first hired into a faculty position in 1975) commented on the post I just linked to, in a way that indicates he has long been well aware that the ecology faculty job market now is very different than it was in 1975, and has long been very different than it was in 1975.

        Anecdotes about current faculty job seekers receiving outdated advice from people who think it’s still 1975 get widely shared. And yes, absolutely, it’s bad that any senior ecologist would ever give such outdated advice. But I am not at all sure that, *as a group*, senior faculty give worse advice about the ecology faculty job market than any other source does. I say that for two reasons. First because, as shown in that post linked to earlier in my comment, there are now very, very few senior ecologists who were hired in a relatively uncompetitive job market. Every N. American ecology prof hired after the early 80s was hired in a job market that could fairly be described as “very competitive”. Second because, without wanting to give too much away about the poll results, it looks to me like the worst (or least-good) sources of advice about the ecology faculty job market are the most modern ones: social media and ecoevojobs.net comment threads. Both very “modern” sources of advice, on which a disproportionate amount of advice comes from current faculty job seekers and other non-senior people.

        I do think that, when senior faculty do give bad advice, it tends to be outdated advice. And I do think other sources of advice are less likely than senior faculty to provide outdated advice. But job market advice can be bad for other reasons besides being outdated. And it’s not clear to me that the frequency with which senior faculty provide bad advice is any higher than from any other source–indeed I suspect it’s lower.

  5. Pingback: Poll results: are EEB faculty job seekers receiving good advice about the EEB faculty job market? | Dynamic Ecology

  6. Pingback: Ask us anything: good advice for today’s ecology faculty job seekers | Dynamic Ecology

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