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I have three close friends who are ambitious and young junior lecturers at universities in Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore who are interested getting academic jobs in a top-tiered American university.

How might they go about achieving this? What can they do in the meantime to increase their chances, compared to academicians who are already based in the US?

Neither of them are American citizens, although one of them studied in the US and another in the UK. They all work in the humanities and social sciences. I know that entering the academic job market in the US can be expensive, with all the traveling. And my friends live more or less at the other end of the world.

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As discussed here (Is it more difficult to score a Tenure Track position in the US when applying from outside?), getting a US tenure track position from e.g., Thailand might be tricky. JeffE pointed out that it is not necessarily impossible, however, your friends would likely need to be on the top of their fields in that case. Your friend from Singapore seems to be a different case, as the universities in Singapore (at least NTU and NUS) have an excellent reputation around here (something that can, unfortunately, not be said about universities in Thailand or Indonesia).

In any case, my tip is to try to get a postdoc position in the US first. Postdocs are often reasonably easy to get into (at least in CS, can't really say for social sciences), and can act as a step ladder of sorts to faculty positions. Anyway, your friends need to be aware that the academic job market is no piece of cake in the US. Hence, no matter what they do, they need to expect that getting a professorship at a top university may simply not work out, so they should have a fallback plan to account for this case.

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    If "junior lecturer" is a permanent faculty position, I'm not sure that going backward to be a postdoc makes sense. Anyway, many postdocs are only available to candidates within the first N years after their PhD. – Nate Eldredge Mar 10 '14 at 16:21
  • I interpreted Junior Lecturer more as something like a Research Assistant. Clearly, if the friends in question are already more senior, my answer is likely not feasible. – xLeitix Mar 11 '14 at 7:22
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To give some thoughts on my own question:

Foreign lecturers in the US are common but from my anecdotal experience (I am not an academician) a lot of them began their academic careers in America, probably transferring from being a grad student there.

For academicians who used to be based at universities outside of the US and Europe, my impression is that they were mid-career and already well-known and respected in their fields before they made the move. They were usually specifically recruited by the American university.

Having some sort of visiting professorship stint in the US and presenting work at conferences in the US might help with the exposure, I guess, but I am not sure.

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  1. Publishing. If your field has "A" journals then publishing in them will add to your credibility.

  2. Co-authoring. If you can manage to have co-authors in the U.S., you can come over during your sabbatical or visit their school for a few months. Make more connections, gain more visibility, present your work in informal or formal workshops at all the nearby research schools. Once people know who you are, they will think of you when a need arises or your application will carry more weight when there is a systematic search for a candidate.

  3. References. Strong letters from reputed academics that are known to US schools.

  4. Networking and presenting at conferences. Networking at top conferences. If you can manage to have your work be presented at top conferences, that would give you lots of visibility and also opportunities to network.

Staying and Traveling in the US is expensive but the harder part is reducing the information asymmetry (about your future publishing potential) between you and your potential employers and also convincing them that you would join, even if you did get an offer. For example, some school in rural Virgina may want to hire you but they probably won't try because they don't think you will come live in a rural culture which would be very alien to yours.

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