Monday, April 22, 2013

Tips on How to Get an Academic Job at a Business or Engineering School

Last Friday, we had our panel on how to get an academic job. The focus was on positions in operations research / management science / operations management / industrial engineering / quantitative methods.

The panelists consisted of two faculty from the Isenberg School of  Management -- Professor Senay Solak and me (Anna Nagurney) and two from the College of Engineering at UMass Amherst -- Professors Ana Muriel and Hari Balasubramanian from UMass Amherst.. Amir H. Masoumi, my most advanced present doctoral student, who is receiving his PhD with a concentration in Management Science next month from UMass Amherst, also participated as a panelist.

The panel was on, The Process of Apply for and Securing and Academic Job, and it was organized by the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter, with the photos taken by one of its members.
I began the panel by emphasizing the importance of your cv (resume in academia), which you need to start building as soon as you matriculate as a PhD student (and even before). In academia, the three dimensions of research, teaching, and service are paramount and one needs to be working on all of these aspects. I noted that Amir is my 17th PhD student and that 15 of them, upon receiving their PhDs, entered academia with 2 going into industry. One of those was first a postdoc. 9 of my former PhD students have achieved promotion and tenure and 3 are Full Professors, so I have a lot of experience in terms of the academic job market.

I first emphasized research -- even as a doctoral student one should be, with the advisor's help, submitting papers for publication to referred journals. One should be presenting one's research at conferences to get feedback, experience and also to build one's professional networks.To secure a job in a Business School, it is also imperative to have teaching experience and, at the Isenberg School of Management, our doctoral students are required to teach a course over 3 semesters, with full responsibility.

The cv (as well as a carefully crafted cover letter) is what search committees will see during the review process and prior to any scheduling of interviews so be very professional.

Also, once you secure an on-campus interview (and this may happen only after a conference interview, several phone interviews and maybe even a Skype interview), you must be energetic, enthusiastic and very positive. The selection committee is choosing a colleague and will be evaluating you on your research (and continuing potential), your teaching abilities, and how you will fit and contribute to the department.

Professor Muriel (the flow of the panel was great even though we did not script it before) then spoke on the interview day more fully and emphasized what should be included in an Engineering job talk (mention possible funding agencies and future sources of funding since this is important in Engineering Schools and not so much in Business Schools). She also spoke about whether one should apply to every job opening out there or be more strategic. She noted the importance of asking good questions and knowing about the school that you are interviewing at. Communication skills are so important! Also prepare a minute and 3 minute elevator-type pitch about your research to share with those during your interview who may have limited time.

Professor Senay Solak reemephasized how being a professor is the best job in the world, which I had told the audience, since one is always growing, gets to do research in areas of one's passions, and it is so rewarding to teach and see students grow intellectually, professionally, and personally. He also emphasized the necessity of being professional. He talked about the research and teaching statements, which search committees are requesting more frequently. In the research statement you should also include your plans for future research.

Professor Hari Balasubramanian noted that he first had a postdoc in healthcare, after receiving his PhD, at the Mayo Clinic and how, through serendipity, he began to work in healthcare, which is now a very vibrant area of operations research and the management sciences as well as healthcare engineering and operations management.  As he noted, it is important to be doing research in an area (on a topic) that there will be recruiting for. Professor Muriel had also mentioned that she was one of the first to be conducting research, as a student, in supply chains, Both healthcare and supply chains are now well-established in our profession and the demand is still very good for knowledge and research in these domains.

Remember, post-interview, to thank all those who interviewed you with a followup message! Manners are courtesy matter -- a lot!

Then it was time for Amir to present. He prepared the nice presentation featured below, which you can access in its entirety on this link. His presentation had some very interesting statistics as to this past year's job market. He spoke from his perspective and his personal experiences since he had done a very thorough academic job search, which was successful. One has to decide whether to respond to every job ad or to be more specific as to the type of university/college, the geographic location, and whether to apply to a business school and/or engineering school, etc. Clearly, those with engineering degrees tend to be preferred in engineering schools and those with business (or closely related) degrees by business schools. However, at the Isenberg School we have recently hired (including Professor Solak) faculty with backgrounds and degrees in Engineering. Even my dissertation advisors at Brown University had an appointment in Engineering and I have courtesy appointments now also in Engineering at UMass.
It is essential to be prepared and to start planning and getting organized since the job market has been getting earlier and earlier in the academic year with ads for openings appearing in August and September even. Amir's presentation also includes locations where you can find openings, good conferences (INFORMS, POMS, DSI, etc.), where there are interviews typically held prior to on-campus invitations, as well as doctoral consortia and colloquia which provide additional venues for networks and gathering information.

Of course, to get to the academic job application stage you have to pass various exams (core and comprehensive, depending on your program requirements), complete your doctoral coursework, and successfully defend your dissertation proposal -- in other words, fulfill most of the requirements for your PhD!

I'd like to congratulate the UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter for organizing and holding another valuable event! I hope that all those who were on the academic job market this year had successful search results!