A Location-Specific Search on the Economics Job Market: A Memoir
by J. Anthony Cookson
I have decided to write about my experience on the economics job market for several reasons: (1) a number of people in my extended network have asked to hear how it went (war stories, general details, etc.), (2) as the job market is a remarkable experience, I want to write some things down for something to show the grandkids someday, and (3) it may be useful to future job market candidates to hear how my job market unfolded. All told, a job market memoir seems like the best way to accomplish these goals.
In addition, my job market experience has been different enough from existing advice that it will be useful to share with the world. Plenty of job candidates have a similar profile to me, but I found that existing advice (though good) was not a perfect match to my job search. In addition, you might just find my experience interesting. A more important point is that the economics job market is something that you only get to do once. As a result, there's little room for trial and error. Because it is really important to get it right the first time, I believe that demand for economics job market advice currently exceeds its supply.
I hope someone finds my experience to be a useful guide, but there are plenty of other writings on the job search. Here are some of my favorites:
Before going into too many details, here are some basic summary statistics on my job market profile.
- I am getting my Ph.D. from a top economics program (University of Chicago) in a large cohort -- 28 other students were on the job market from UChicago.
- My field is industrial organization. My research uses a mix of reduced form and structural methods, and has applications to finance. This split between industrial organization and finance is central to my job search.
- Regarding research, I have one publication in the Journal of Law and Economics, my job market paper, and two other papers under review.
- Regarding teaching, I have considerable experience. I lectured Honors Econometrics twice at UChicago. Before coming to Chicago, I taught microeconomics at Montana State University. In addition, I was a teaching assistant for a variety of microeconomics classes at UChicago. I also have a fairly popular YouTube channel on microeconomics and econometrics (1.5 million views to date).
- I went on the job market in my 5th year, which is starting to be unusual among graduates of top programs. Based on observation of my classmates' profiles, the typical timeline to complete a Ph.D. is starting to be 6 years.
Timeline of the Job Market
If there is one thing I could change about my job market experience, I wish I read more about the timeline of the job market in advance of the market. The other job market resources have considerable detail on the timeline, and I read these resources as soon as I learned of them, but the job market actually starts spring of the year before anything official happens. Here is the timeline I would follow if I were to go on the job market again.
- Spring-Summer before the job market. Prepare the job market project to become job market paper. Work on and complete job market paper. Do a lot of presentations.
- August- September of Job Market. Prepare job market website. Work on your CV.
- October-November. Identify and apply for jobs.
- November-December. Schedule interviews, and put finishing touches on job market presentation.
- January ASSA meetings. Interview for jobs.
- Flyout Season. January - February. Visit prospective employer campuses.
- Offer Season. February- March. Receive and negotiate offers.
- The Scramble. March-April. If things didn't work out, there is a post-job market scramble where employers and candidates who did not find a match post their information on a secure centralized website. I did not participate in the Scramble, and hence, I have nothing to add to what others have written on the subject.
This outline is a rough outline of what happens and when, but in the rest of the memoir, I discuss each part of the job market with what I did and what I would do differently if given the chance to go back in time.
Spring /Winter prior to the job market
In the January before the job market starts, start submitting your prospective job market paper to conferences. Sign up for workshops at your university. Aside from having a novel idea, the number one determinant of a good job market paper is hard work, and nothing will make you work harder than having to present at a conference or a workshop. In addition, the comments you receive from these presentations will move your project forward leaps and bounds. The reason I would start in January or earlier is because these conferences take a long time to come together. Often, conferences have deadlines in late January or early February, even when the conference takes place in the summer.
Instead of submitting my paper to conferences, what did I actually do? I was scrambling to get my paper in shape for the thesis proposal (obviously, an important hurdle). This was no problem in and of itself, but my singular focus during this time was creating proposable research, rather than using the proposal as a launching pad for the job market paper in the fall. In my case, this worked out because my proposal paper was a good candidate for a job market paper, but I am sure I could have benefited from a little more foresight.
Summer before the market
Work on the job market paper intensively. Depending on step 1, you may have some conferences and workshops to motivate you toward completing intermediate drafts of the paper. Regardless, make sure you push your research forward.
What did I do? In this case, my experience was not so bad. I did not have any conferences at which to present, but I scheduled a workshop presentation shortly after my proposal seminar. This helped me put the finishing touches on a working paper that I was planning to submit for publication during the job market. For the rest of the summer, I spent most of my time working on the job market paper -- developing new ideas, trying new specifications, reading new literatures. If there was anything lacking in my research timeline, it was that I had not submitted my job market paper to conferences.
Another thing that was lacking in this time was an awareness by my advisor that I was going on the market. He knew that I was going into my 5th year, but 6-year timelines have become so commonplace that he had assumed that I was taking the median 6-year track out of the PhD. In addition, I was more timid than I should have been in letting him know about my desire to go on the market. As a result of these two factors, we were not on the same page until I told him explicitly in August that I was planning to be on the market. There was more stress in the process because I told him so late, but I am not sure that it led to worse opportunities for me.
Fall of the job market
Pre-Job Market Preparation. August through October. The calm before the storm.
By August or late September, the job market paper should be in pretty good shape. There is a lot of administrative work that you'll need to do prior to submitting your packets. As a result, you won't have much time to work on the paper after this part of the market picks up.
Even though this advice exists elsewhere, I think everyone's natural tendency is to underestimate how long it takes to put together an application packet. I spent a solid week writing and rewriting my CV. Even though it is one page, it is an important page. In deciding what to put on your CV, you are deciding what kind of economist you are. This sounds trivial, but on a philosophical level, it takes quite a lot of reflection. Reflection takes time.
Putting together a job market website is another big component of pre-job market preparation. Your department will have a job market packet that they'll send to prospective employers, and a website where they'll link to your personal job market website. In case you are interested, I constructed my job market webpage using Google Sites, which also hosted the files for my website. My webpage had a splash page with my professional job market picture (courtesy of UChicago, I e-mailed our department administrator for a copy to post to my website), summary information about me (fields, research interests), a welcome message and announcement that I was on the job market, and links to Research and Teaching sections. I also included a link to Fun (which directs to my economics blog), and a link to Videos (which directs to my YouTube channel). A while back, I had bought the domain name [www.tonycookson.com] for my website (Go Daddy sold me the domain name), which was a nice easy-to-remember location on the internet. This is not necessary given department job market pages link to your site (plus, Google is good at finding relevant searches). Nevertheless, I think the custom domain was a nice touch.
Because I had a professional website before the job market began, preparing my website for the job market was less costly for me than for job market candidates who had to construct the website from scratch. In case you do not already have a website, your department may offer some resources to help you. For example, UChicago shared a job market website template, and also had a place to host job market files. Polishing aside, it is important that your website is functional. One tip from our placement co-coordinator Roger Myerson was to make it easy for prospective employers to find your job market materials. At minimum, you need a website that will host your CV, links to download your job market paper and other work, and contains some announcement that you'll be attending the ASSA meetings.
Speaking of the ASSA meetings, the powers-that-be open the ASSA for pre-registration around September. This is important because you'll want to register for the conference and obtain a conference hotel room that is centrally located. I didn't take the posting date seriously, and as a result, I ended up in the conference hotel by the airport, which was 2 miles from the central location of the conference. I had to take a shuttle to the main conference center, and it led to begin-of-day and end-of-day anxiety because I was off the beaten path. Don't do what I did. Register early to get a centrally-located hotel room.
Finding jobs and submitting applications. October through end of November. The storm begins.
The job market officially arrives when the October Job Openings for Economists (or JOE) is posted. You can see Cawley's Guide for statistics on the number of postings in each month's JOE. There are some ads in September, but October has many more positions.
- Where to find jobs. I found most of economics positions in the JOE publications (some in September and December, most in October and November), but one thing that I cannot emphasize enough is that you'll want to consider field-specific postings from other disciplines. In my case, I was going on the economics job market as well as the finance job market. For the finance positions, I was fortunate enough to have a former professor who went from an economics department to a finance department. He told me about the Social Science Research Network's job postings (for finance, the abbreviation is FEN for financial economics network). Cawley's Guide summarizes other places to find jobs. In my experience as someone who was applying to jobs in multiple fields, he didn't emphasize this aspect enough.
- Where to apply for jobs. Advice on this is mixed.
- The Apply Everywhere Approach.
- Some say that the cost of applying to another application is just the time that it takes to submit your materials to that department, and that's (supposedly) negligible. A nontrivial subset of these same people say that you shouldn't eliminate any department or position from your prospective employer list regardless of location, expressed field preference, or job type. Referring to these types, Noah Smith said that the mantra is “No location preferences, no location preferences, no location preferences.” When you're applying to jobs, this approach to the job market says that it makes sense to let employers determine whether the match quality is good. In my opinion, the approach of applying indiscriminately to programs is far from optimal, but it captures one principle that should be present in any candidate's job search -- Cast a wide net.
- Although casting a wide net is a good idea, it has its costs. The marginal application will divert attention to your highest priority application. If you are applying to 150 programs instead of 75, each application will be twice as generic, and at the margin, that could hurt your chances at your best prospects. In addition, suppose you land interviews with these marginal positions. This will use up valuable ASSA interview energy, and depending on your interview schedule, you could be less sharp for the interviews you really care about.
- My Approach. On the other hand, my approach to the job market was to ask the questions:
- Is there a state of the world (prob > 0) under which I would take the position that is advertised in the job posting? By the end of the job market, it could be that I'll learn more about the job posting as time goes along that would make me not want that job, or that I'll have better opportunities available to me that I did not realize. Regardless, asking this question at the outset of the job market puts some discipline on the number of applications.
- Teaching/Research. In my case, there was no state of the world under which I would take a position that involved more teaching than 3/2 semester courses, and if it is a place that requires that much teaching, it had better be interesting teaching. Moreover, I was seeking a job where research and teaching are both part of the job with more emphasis on research (but possibly with some substitution toward interesting teaching).
- Location. My job search had expressed location preferences. Most definitely, we were targeting North America, but even more specific than that. Both my wife and I grew up in Montana, and we want to end up near our family who are quite concentrated in Montana, and across the West. To take an approach that is familiar to most PhD economists, you could think of my apply/don't decision as having a cutoff in job quality (mostly dependent upon teaching/research quality and reputation in department) that becomes more strict as the job gets farther from Montana. As a result, I applied to some places outside of the West, but these applications had to meet a higher cutoff before I would be willing to tell my wife I sent an application there.
- Is the probability that I will get an offer for the advertised posting zero? If yes, don't apply. This is why I didn't apply to Harvard, MIT, Northwestern, and Stanford... among other places. One substantive point to be made here. If you share your list of prospective jobs with your advisor, he may be able to write a better letter for the places where you'll likely place if you do not include places that are beyond your reach on the list. Your committee members will write one letter for all of your applications, and as long as you do not have unrealistic places on list, they can write “you should consider [candidate] for this position” without qualifying that statement with some range about program rank. Advisors vary on their taste to do this, but mine preferred to write an unabashed letter, and I think this was a very good thing for my chances.
- As you can tell from the way I have described it, I think my approach is right. It is healthy to narrow down the list of programs to which you will apply, and it helps with putting together an attractive application packet. If you genuinely believe that you would take the position, your application will be more sincere (and less generic). At the margin, this will generate more interest.
- Because I conducted a limited search, I “only” applied to 53 positions, but I languished over my list. For a long time, my list consisted of 30-40 positions, and I was (rightly) concerned that I was not casting a wide enough net. In the meantime, I found the finance postings forum (which added 13 positions), I struck some places from my list, and I added some others. Here are some summary statistics on my job market list:
- The vast majority (49 of the 53) of my applications were for tenure-track, academic positions. Of these, I applied to 21 traditional economics departments, 13 finance positions, 7 economics groups within business schools, and 4 liberal arts colleges. Of the four non-academic jobs, I applied to 3 private sector jobs and one government sector job.
- A general observation on my applications: For the positions that I considered to be a stretch -- either for a field match, or for whether I was interested in the position itself -- my application-to-interview conversion ratio was much lower. In other words, even though it was a good idea for me to cast a wide net, my marginal applications were still pretty low value (even with a limited search).
- ASSA Signaling. In addition to my strategy of applying only to places where I would accept an offer, I took full advantage of the ASSA Signaling mechanism, which allows each candidate to signal particular interest in up to two positions. I signaled places that were high on geography, but where I did not have an obvious pre-existing connection with the department. I scheduled interviews at the ASSA with both of my signals (University of Utah - Business Economics, and Simon Fraser - Economics), and one of these (Simon Fraser) led to a flyout. I do not know whether my signaling these locations was a factor in getting me the interview, but I was incredibly happy that they decided to interview me. After going through the entire job market, ASSA signaling seems like a much smaller part of the overall market than it did before having interviews. In my opinion, it is a much bigger deal to have advisors who are making phone calls to their connections on your behalf. Nevertheless, both the formal signaling and advisor signaling are levers that you should pull when trying to get on the interview schedule.
- Applying for Jobs. This is a relatively straightforward part of the process, but it requires mind-numbing attention to detail. Most people apply to 80 or more places. I only applied to 53, but still, I found the process to putting together packets to be daunting. Most jobs have deadlines around the middle of November, but some positions will have early deadlines (presumably to screen against non-serious applications from people who apply indiscriminately). For each position, you'll either have to submit an application electronically (most likely) or in paper (less likely) prior to Thanksgiving. Here's what a packet includes:
- Letters from advisors. These may arrive later than the rest of your application packet, and most of the time this is fine, but you'll need to make sure that you're on top of your advisors (and their secretaries) to ensure that they get their letter in by the time that departments start screening your application. Places can (and will) dismiss your application for not having a complete set of letters. Incidentally, I had 4 letters sent to each place even when 3 were required. As a result, I was insured against the cost of having my application deemed incomplete if one of my letter writers was a day or so late.
- Job Market Paper, and other completed research papers. I made the point of sending at least one of my other working papers to each position as long as the application allowed me to do so.
- CV and Cover Letter. These should be customized to each application. The customization is minimal for most research-oriented places, but I suspect that it is more important for liberal arts colleges, which will be interested in your aptitude for working in that environment.
- Other Miscellaneous Material. Because places receive a large number of applications, they will often screen for seriousness by requiring something idiosyncratic. UC-San Diego, for example, requires that you write a diversity statement. Other places will require teaching and research statements in addition to the standard set of materials (this is not super idiosyncratic, but it requires additional tailoring to do it right). Others will ask for you to comment specifically on some aspect of the job in the cover letter. Given that there are many qualified applicants for each position, you do not want to eliminate yourself from contention by not carefully reading. This part takes the most time.
- Waiting. From the time you submit your huge batch of applications until 2 or 3 weeks later when the calls to schedule your interviews start coming in, try not to go insane. The waiting can be agonizing, but it is unavoidable.
Scheduling ASSA interviews. Late November through Early December. If you've done the previous steps right, there will be some schedule congestion.
- Cawley gives advice to schedule high priority interviews in prime time: mid-morning on Friday or Saturday is great for these. Low priority interviews should be shoved into Thursday or Sunday, or late in the afternoon on Friday or Saturday. The idea is that there is learning by doing in interviews, but there is also exhaustion. At some point during the weekend, your brain may just turn off. You don't want to risk being worn out for your most important interview.
- Cawley's Guide is good advice on this point, but in practice, it is hard to follow because scheduling your interviews is a dynamic process. This seems obvious, but when you schedule your first interview, you have no other competing interview time slots, and quite a bit of uncertainty about how busy your schedule will be. In addition, the available time slots may be limited depending on the priority that the hiring department places on your application.
- All told, I scheduled 17 interviews across my 4 days at the ASSA meetings. I had 1 on Thursday afternoon (only one place had Thursdays available), 7 on Friday, 6 on Saturday, and 3 on Sunday. Four of these interviews were with “pure” finance departments, two were with liberal arts colleges, one was in the private sector, several were with general economics departments, and the rest were economics-style positions in business schools (which was the focus of my application search). I should also note that I was really happy with my success rate of applications to interviews: 17 interviews out of 53 applications.
Interviewing at the ASSA meetings
There are several things I wish I had known before interviewing at the ASSA meetings. Nothing tragic, but my experience would have been more pleasant if I had known these things in advance.
- The conference clears out by Sunday morning. It should be obvious by looking at the program, but I had heard that sometimes prospective employers schedule interviews late on Sunday. This is true, but interviews that are late on Sunday are rare (I know several people who had them) and they are typically low priority for both parties. Hence, it makes sense to fly home late on Sunday or early Monday. I flew home late on Monday, and as a result, I wasted Monday morning waiting for my flight when I could have been home early enough to start collecting my thoughts on the conference (of which I had many).
- The conference hotels fill up at an astonishing pace. As I mentioned above, I took my time booking my hotel for the conference. For this reason, I was stuck in the conference hotel that was 2 miles from any of the others. Over the course of the conference, this cost me around $40-$50 in cab fares. Even though there was a conference shuttle to take me to the downtown hotels, it didn't run all the time (and its schedule was not regular). Some of my classmates knew to book their hotel as soon as possible. As a result, they were centrally located.
- There is much more weight placed on your job market spiel than any of the other questions mentioned in Cawley's Guide. In general, interview committees seemed much more interested in my job market paper than anything else. Aside from the job market paper, people would frequently/directly ask about other papers listed on my vita, but this was not standard. About half of the time, I needed to work into the conversation a discussion of my other papers. Moreover, for business schools and econ departments, there was little or no mention of teaching. The only places that asked me about teaching were places without Ph.D. programs (liberal arts colleges and places with master's programs). Finally, I didn't receive any big picture questions in any of my 17 interviews (Where is the field going? What did you think of the recent Nobel Prize in Economics? Tell me about someone else's paper).
- When scouting hotel locations, take note of whether you need a key to access the elevator. It is a good idea to scout the interview locations of all of your interviews once you've arrived, so that you can plan your days at the ASSA. I followed this general advice, but I could have paid a little more attention. At a couple of hotels, I discovered 15 minutes before my interview that I needed a key to access the elevator to get to the room where my interview would be held. In both cases, I figured out how to get to the room without a key, but the process increased my stress level for those interviews.
- Other job candidates don't ask many questions, or are instructed not to ask questions. Following Cawley's guide, I prepared a careful list of questions for each position where I was interviewing. This helped guide my research of the individual departments, and it seemed to be the recommended course of action. Nevertheless, by the time I had already committed to asking questions of my interviewers, I noticed that my preparedness took most off guard. In fact, I heard from a student of another university that they were instructed to say, “I don't have any questions. Your department is so renowned that I know everything I need to know.” The thought (I suppose) is that this answer can't go wrong -- either it is true and the department knows it or it is false and the department is “puffed up” by being called renowned, especially by a student of a prestigious department.No offense to this department, but I think this is a terrible way to look at it if you're casting a wide net. A hollow compliment to a department that requires no signaling cost is merely cheap talk. If the department knows that it is not true, they'll infer that the candidate is being disingenuous, which is not an inference you should allow an employer to make about you (as long as you're interested in the position). Of course, asking inane questions is a bad idea too, but that is precisely why you do your research. I was told by one of my interviewers that it was “refreshing, actually” that I actually had questions about their department.
January through February. This may vary by institution. Some places have a second round of flyouts that may go later into the Spring, but the majority conclude by mid-February.
Two days after the ASSA meetings, I started to receive calls inviting me to flyout to departments. By the end of the week after the ASSA, I had scheduled 5 campus visits. I had also heard that I was in the “second round” at a couple of places, and that two other places were weighing the likelihood of my accepting an offer from them (they were interested, but worried I was going to have better options; both eventually gave me a flyout invitation). I received another flyout invitation from one other university after I already had an offer. All told, I had 8 flyout invitations, and because of the timing of the last invitation, I went on 7 flyouts. To give you an idea of how busy my travel schedule was, here is the schedule I had:
- University of Minnesota - Finance. Minneapolis, MN. January 16th.
- Reed College - Economics. Portland, OR. January 21st-22nd.
- Analysis Group. Denver, CO. January 23rd.
- University of Colorado - Finance. Boulder, CO. January 25th.
- Clemson University - Economics. Clemson, SC. January 30th.
- University of Calgary - Finance. Calgary, AB Canada. February 4th.
- Simon Fraser University - Economics. Burnaby (Vancouver), BC Canada. February 13th.
- Montana State University - Economics - invited me to visit after I had received an optimum offer (stay tuned).
My flyout opportunities were evenly split between economics and finance departments, but all were especially interesting opportunities for me. Matching my preferences for being near family in Montana, these departments are mostly located in the West (broadly defined) with the exception of Clemson (but Clemson is an interesting place with a great departmental culture and seminar environment). The only flyout that seemed out of place was Analysis Group, a private company that does economic and litigation consulting.
Anatomy of a Flyout
Each flyout has a similar format: there are meetings (usually half an hour per person), meals (at least lunch and dinner), and the job market seminar.
- One day or two? Sometimes everything occurs on the same day. Sometimes there's a meal the night before the main day. It really depends on the place. Among my set of flyouts, only a couple (Analysis Group and Simon Fraser) scheduled all departmental contact on one day. Minnesota, Colorado, Calgary and Clemson all had a dinner the night before. Reed College also had some meetings spread over two days, including a dinner the night before.
- When is the seminar? There is quite a bit of heterogeneity about when the job market seminar occurs. Two places scheduled the seminar at the end of the day (Clemson and Simon Fraser). The rest were either just before or just after lunch. From the standpoint of a job market candidate, having the seminar earlier in the day seems easier. In this way, the seminar is most people's introduction to the paper, and the meetings can be used to talk about other projects or to talk about lingering questions/ criticisms of the job market paper.
- What goes on in the meetings? The one-on-one meetings with the faculty members in the department are a professional introduction to the entire department. Faculty sign up for time slots to meet with the candidate, and you don't meet with everyone. So, even if some prodding was done to fill the candidate's schedule, you're meeting with the set of people who are most interested in talking with you. You could think of these meetings as interviews with people who have a stake in whether you join the department. You'll talk about a range of topics including (a) collaboration with other faculty in the department, (b) other projects aside from the job market paper, (c) what life is like in the area, (d) selling points of the department. Also, in one or more of these meetings, you will meet with a dean who will tell you about new buildings and/or research support in the college and department.
Going into the job market, I did not fully appreciate that most places will use the flyout as an opportunity to sell you on their department. Of course, you want to impress them enough to convince them to give you an offer, but typically everyone in the department wants to leave a positive impression on you. Even in the case that they are not going to make an offer, the job market is the first step in creating your professional network. People in these departments recognize that you're another member in the profession who they'll see at conferences or who will referee their papers. This is the first step in a repeated game, and everyone has an incentive to make a positive impression. The downside of this is that everything feels like it goes more smoothly than it actually goes. The upside: everyone is nice, and you get to meet a bunch of people who are interested in the same kind of research that you are.
Strange things happen
Cawley's Guide says that “bizarre things can happen during interviews.” I did not experience this very much, but my flyouts had a number of idiosyncratic things happen, especially related to my job talks. The advice is the same -- you need to be prepared for anything to happen because anything can/will happen.
- Darkness in Minnesota. About an hour into my seminar at Minnesota, the power went out in the seminar room. I was on the slide with my main result, and the room just blacked out with no warning. The strangest thing about it was that it was just the room where I was giving the seminar and nowhere else in the building. After some tinkering, we decided that it would be more efficient to just switch rooms. The process of switching rooms involved about 15 minutes of wasted time. Out of fairness, I was given an extra 15 minutes at the end of the seminar time to complete my seminar. The consequence is that I spent more time on my main result -- which was up when darkness fell -- than I would have otherwise.
- Tornadoes in Clemson. On my visit day at Clemson, there was a serious thunderstorm rolling through the area, which for most of the day, did not have much impact except that it was a little wet walking to lunch. My seminar was at the end of the day (starting at 4 pm), and my last meeting ended at 3:30, giving me just enough time to get set up in the seminar room and to collect my thoughts before it began. At 3:59 pm, a facilities guy poked his head into the seminar room and said, “There's a tornado warning! Everyone down to the basement!” Needless to say, everyone got up and move to shelter, and the beginning of my talk was delayed.
- The Super Bowl in Canada. My flyout to Calgary occurred over Super Bowl weekend, and I was so busy that I had not realized that I would miss the big game... that is, until I was invited to a faculty member's Super Bowl party the night before my visit day to Calgary's department. From the standpoint of an American who grew up on football culture, it was an interesting experience watching the Super Bowl with prospective employers who did not grow up with that culture in another country. The evening was a great time. We ordered food, and engaged in casual get-to-know-you conversation for most of the night. I also got to see firsthand what the home of a professor in the department looked like. It was a nice selling point of the department.
- Job Market Injuries. Traveling for the job market can take a physical toll. In my case, it threw me out of my usual exercise routine (usually, racquetball every day), but more importantly, it involved sleeping in hotel beds and sitting in airport and airplane chairs for long periods of time. All told, when I tried to get back into my regular exercise routine, I had several pulled muscles from being out of practice.
On my flyout to Colorado (January 25th), the search committee chair told me that their final flyout would be February 5th, and that they would make offer decisions quickly thereafter. Knowing the timeline was somewhat agonizing because I knew precisely when Colorado would be thinking about making offers. The more time that passed after February 5th, the more I became concerned that I would not get an offer. For me, this pressure was especially heightened because I rated Colorado highest on my list of prospective employers, and I thought that Colorado was reasonably likely to give me an offer based on my experience on the flyout (Every aspect of the flyout seemed to go really well).
The fact that an offer could be forthcoming during this time was actually instrumental in conveying to the two places who were on the fence about inviting me for flyouts (Simon Fraser and Calgary) the timeline they had to invite me before offers would start happening. In full disclosure, I sent notes to my contacts at these places to keep them up to date about the status of my search, and the fact that I had no offers on the table to that point. In addition, I was uncertain about how to value a position in an economics department relative to one in a finance department.
A week passed after February 5th, and fortunately, I had a flyout to Simon Fraser to keep me occupied and other possible job opportunities that had not been foreclosed, but my Colorado-related concern was growing in the back of my mind. The trip to Vancouver and back was exciting enough and exhausting enough that I did not have much time to think about my dwindling chances of getting an offer from my most preferred option. Plus, Simon Fraser is an outstanding department -- a large department (33+ with a target of 40 economists) with a small university feel -- and Vancouver is a cool city. I had plenty to be excited about.
Nevertheless, on Friday February 15th after ten days of thinking that Colorado might call, I received a call from Colorado with an offer to join their department. Due to the pressure of the moment, those 10 days felt like an agonizingly long period of time, but in retrospect, ten days is not so long. In addition, the offer was so good (both on pay, research support, and teaching load) that it convinced me that being in a finance department rather than an economics department was optimal. Hence, the only place on my list that could compete with that offer would be Minnesota. Knowing this, I sent Minnesota's search chair a note to let him know about my offer, and to inquire about the status of their search. As they were moving forward with offers to other candidates, I knew my best option would be Colorado. I accepted the offer, and we're moving to Colorado this fall.
In summary, the job market is an incredible process. There is a lot of stress, a huge amount of excitement, and if it goes well, you will travel a lot. That was definitely my experience. I also met a bunch of really interesting people, my research received great feedback, and I visited many new places that would be amazing places to live. If it wasn't for the stress of trying to land my first academic job, the whole process would be downright fun.
As I have said throughout this memoir, there are a number of things I would do differently if I could do the job market over again, but just as many aspects of the job market that I am happy I did the way I did. I feel lucky because the economics job market does not allow for much trial and error. In my case, I tried the job market, and despite the randomness and my early mistakes, I landed my dream job -- a good-paying job in a finance department located in the West. As I emphasized early on in my search, my wife and I wanted to move closer to our family in the West, and we have a preference for the mountains. On those dimensions, there are few places better than Boulder, Colorado. I could not have asked for a better outcome.
A number of people played an important role in my job market experience. Here are several people to whom I am greatly indebted:
- Ali Hortaçsu, my main advisor gave me abundant advice on my research and the application process, as well as brainstorming how to pitch my non-standard industrial organization profile to the job market. In addition, I am grateful for all of the calls and e-mails Ali made on my behalf.
- Chad Syverson. Beyond reading and critiquing my research in advance of the job market, Chad made numerous calls to prospective employers to help me land interviews. He was also very eager to hear how things were going as the process moved along.
- Dennis Carlton. Dennis was remarkable in reading all of my job market materials, and in providing constructive and helpful suggestions leading up to the job market.
- Gregor Matvos. In my pre job market interaction with Gregor, he was very helpful in thinking about the finance component of my job portfolio, and this ended up being very important to my ultimate placement.
- Jamie Brown. I learned a lot about finance positions (including where to look for finance postings, SSRN's FEN job forum) from extensive e-mailing back and forth with Jamie Brown, a former professor of mine from Montana State who moved to Iowa State's finance department. His insight into the mind of a finance department helped me to see that applying to finance positions was for me, as well as understand how best to target those applications.
- Rob Fleck. Another former professor of mine from Montana State, Rob made a couple of calls on my behalf, as well as put in a good word for me at Clemson (his current institution). In addition, he had numerous helpful suggestions on my research in the August prior to the job market, which turned out to be very useful.
Plenty of people who are not listed here played important roles in my job market experience. I am grateful for every ounce of help. If I can offer one final piece of job market advice, be grateful for the support you receive on the job market. Support from your advisors is critical, and you should not underestimate its impact.