I am a job market candidate who has really “worked” conferences for the past 4 years. Now when I go to conferences, I find it easy to have coffee with a variety of junior (and some senior) professors in my field from other universities. I get invited to their dinners. I chat with them easily at the cocktail hours. Now that I am on the job market, I am not sure how to use those contacts to their fullest potential.

I mentioned this to my chair (whose work is in a different subfield than mine is), and he said I should not contact my network about potential jobs at any particular university because I would sound too “desperate”. This strikes me as incorrect, or at least incomplete, advice.

Should I let proactively let people in my network know that I am on the market? If so, what is a good strategy for emailing people in my network and letting them know I am on the job market? (Do I send around my job market paper and CV? A link to my website?) Is there anyone I should not email?

1 Answer 1


I should not contact my network about potential jobs at any particular university because I would sound too “desperate”.

Oh, please. Your chair probably remembers the Good Old Days when you could submit three applications with your one publication "in progress" and get two interviews and four offers.

Yes, of course you should contact people in your professional network. The academic job search is no time for shyness or modesty. You need to sell yourself. You need other people to sell you.

  • Ask them if their departments are planning to hire, and if so, what their hiring priorities are. (And no, you cannot get this information from the text of their ad.)

  • Ask some of them to write recommendation letters on your behalf. At least in computer science, you must have at least one reference letter, preferrably more, from someone who is not from your home institution and not a coauthor, but who can still write in detail about the quality, depth, originality, and impact of your work. Congratulations, you've cultivated the perfect environment to find such people.

  • Write them to let them know you've applied, and ask them (directly, shamelessly) to put in a good word with their hiring committee. You will not get an offer from any department, and you may not even get an interview, without a local champion inside that department; the champion doesn't have to know you personally, but it certainly helps. (Of course, a better way to cultivate a champion is to knock your interview out of the park.)

  • Always thank people for any information or help, even if they just say "Sorry, we're not hiring in your field this year." or "Good luck!"

  • 2
    You have correctly guessed the generation of this advisor. Given the generational gap, do I need to be careful about which senior professors I email?
    – Dawn
    Aug 10, 2016 at 13:45

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