Professionalization Timelines

  • See the Academic Job Search Timeline for a breakdown of the academic job application process, which starts shortly before the (presumably) last year of your Ph.D.
  • Graduate students should begin thinking about professionalization from their first year. The Long Range Timeline reflects your graduate coursework and plan of study, but there is more to think about.

Making the Most of Your Opportunities

This advice is chiefly written with an eye to tenure-track academic job searches, but may be useful to all searches.

Local Learning

  • Make time to attend talks at UNC and in the area consistently from your first year. You can learn a lot about argument and talk construction from watching, as well as how to handle a Q&A effectively. It is too late to learn this the year you are on the academic job market!
  • Build your network of local professors, alt-academics, and grad students. Remember, fellow grad students will be your peers in the future. Local networks are particularly crucial for academic and alt-ac searches for those who are geographically constrained. Build early and often! Attend events and look for short-term teaching opportunities or other collaborations.
  • Be active on campus. Activity in issues and programs that you care about will keep you energized and build a service record for an academic search, as well as groundwork for an alt-ac search.


  • Not a natural public speaker? "Warm up" at a graduate student conference or a smaller, more student-friendly conference such as SAMLA.
  • Try to attend the key conferences in your field. Look ahead of time; major conferences often organize a year in advance. Graduate travel grants may also be given far ahead of time. Given limited funding, be strategic and aggressive about attending local conferences or conferences in cities where you have friends to stay with.
  • Create panels/roundtables. Solicit papers or respondents among respected scholars in your field; then suggest that the whole panel go out to lunch or dinner together.
  • Network. Attend panels; ask questions and introduce yourself to the scholars afterwards. Attend business meetings and happy hours. Never turn down a social invitation, if at all possible.
  • Individual meetings. Meet up with past conference acquaintances. You can cold-email scholars you admire (or ask advisors/committee members to facilitate) and ask for a coffee meeting.
  • Be at your best. Prepare a strong paper/alternative presentation and dress professionally.


  • Discuss opportunities with your advisor. You may be invited to do book reviews or contribute to collected volumes. Is this the best place to put your time?
  • Paid opportunities such as encyclopedia articles should be undertaken as needed for the financial opportunity, but are not the best for academic tenure-track searches.
  • Find appropriate journals for your field and for the type of article. You may wish to polish a great seminar paper or publish a dissertation chapter, but either way, creating an article takes time and work. Plan accordingly.
  • For tenure-track searches, increasing competition means that prestigious journals are certainly the most impressive, but a good-quality article in a good journal is always useful.
  • A published piece of non-academic writing (including anything from op-eds to technical writing) may be very useful for non-academic job searches.