I am currently on the academic job market, have already sent and going to send a number of applications (mostly to US universities). My current institution, where I am a postdoc, is among the top in Europe and has a very strong startup culture and support. As a result, I have recently co-founded a tech startup in my field, together with my professor/supervisor and colleagues. For several personal and legal reasons, I mostly work on the research and technology side of the startup, not on the operation side (e.g., I help with but don't directly go to seek funding, meet investors). To me, the startup is more like a side project, an experiment. My dream career is still in academia.

In my faculty job applications, I mention my business experience (co-founder) in two places: in my CV and my cover letter (one sentence). I think it could be a positive point as it shows I have some industrial/business/practical experience outside academia, especially when the job ads say "industrial experience is a plus / preferred."

However, on reflection, I am now afraid that this could actually be a negative point from the academic view, that could hinder my applications. For example:

  • One may think there is a conflict of interest (although in my current institution, many profs involve directly or indirectly in startups).
  • They may question my commitment to academia, like: how can he focus on academic research and teaching if he will be involved in a startup, which often take an enormous amount of time? Especially when his company is in Europe while he works at our university in the US.
  • Similarly, they may think I am not serious in applying to faculty positions.

Do you think I made a mistake including my business experience in my applications? Since I still have quite a few applications to submit, should I remove the experience completely?

  • 2
    You have already listed the concerns, have you revised your application package to address them? Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 14:26
  • If the faculty search committee likely have these concerns seeing my business experience in my CV or letter, I would rather remove it completely from my application, instead of writing to explain "although I have such experience outside academia, it won't have any conflict of interest nor affect my interest and commitment to academia because bla bla bla." I feel that such an explanation will only add unnecessary confusion. My question is whether such concerns from a search committee are real or likely to happen?
    – Tim
    Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 15:40
  • I don't think it would be honest to remove it completely. There's an expectation in academia that CVs are complete. You don't have to discuss it in the cover letter if you don't think it is necessary, but I think you do have to put it in the CV. Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 15:41
  • Thanks @NateEldredge. It seems reasonable to put it in the CV but not mention it in the letter. However, if this experience is actually a positive in my profile from the academic point of view, I would certainly like to highlight it. That's my original thought, but now I have doubt whether it's a good idea.
    – Tim
    Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 15:47
  • 2
    Ultimately, they care about i) if you can bring in extramural funding, ii) if you can collaborate internally and externally to advance the department's research profile, and iii) if you can teach reasonably well. If you can present your start-up in a way that would enhance any of these, I don't think that's a bad thing. Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 15:55

1 Answer 1


The first time I taught I was hired solely on the basis of my work experience. This was in a field that trains students for careers in a specific industry, but I doubt I was the first person to who this has ever happened. Academics are not necessarily going to have a bias against you for having industry experience. If you can teach and are an asset to the department that's what they'll judge you on. Not abstract ideas of being the "wrong" kind of person.

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