Getting a Tenure Track Position

While there are many jobs that psychologists can do well after graduation, tenure track professorships are among the positions that many students aspire to. Getting a tenure track faculty position right out of your doctoral program is not easy, but it can be done. Here, five new assistant professors in counseling psychology share tips on what they believe helped them be successful during the job application process last year. These (now) assistant professors were asked, “What made you competitive for a tenure track job?”

Blake Allan, Assistant Professor at Purdue UniversityBlake

  • Publishing articles, developing a cohesive research program, obtaining small grants, and teaching a variety of courses in graduate school helped make me competitive.
  • Fit with the position and ability to generate grant funding seemed to be important factors as well. Saying what agencies would fund your research is a good way to show programs that you are fundable. I believe that conscientiousness, professionalism, and agreeableness are also very important.
  • I could have had a more focused research program. I published in diverse areas, so I lost some opportunities to develop my ideas in one direction. But I don’t think this made me less competitive, because the extra publications compensated.
  • Collaborating with other researchers outside of my program was a rewarding experience for me, and many of my publications came from those relationships. Some people I met through my advisor, and others I just emailed and told them about an idea for a project. I don’t know if it’s important for getting a job per se, but you should do it if you want to go into academia.
  • If you get good mentorship and keep moving your projects forward, you’ll be fine. Take nervous energy and use it to work on research every day or every second day. Even 30 minutes a day will make you productive. Set aside protected time for research and don’t be convinced out of it!
  • My graduate school motto was JDI. Just do it. Don’t delay. JDI. Have an IRB to submit? JDI. Need to write your thesis? JDI. Have a project you really want to start? JDI. Productivity is about getting things done and always moving things forward. So just do it!
  • Talk to the faculty in your department as much as possible. I reached out to a number of colleagues working in the field for help. Also, I found this website extremely helpful: I also recommend the book “How to Write a Lot” by Paul Silvia. The websites I used to look for jobs were the Division 17 faculty postings page, Higheredjobs, Psychology Job Wiki, and the Chronicle of Higher Education. Please contact me if you are going up for a job and need further advice:

Candice Crowell, Assistant Professor at the University of KentuckyCandice

  • Encouragement and support from my advisor, other faculty, and mentors served as a catalyst. I was considering other job prospects until several faculty, and my advisor in particular, recommended that I apply for a TT position.
  • Involvement in APAGS, Society for Consumer Psychology, and APA helped me develop a presence in our field that demonstrated my commitment to service and leadership as a psychologist.
  • A strong interest in research from the first year of doctoral study helped me understand and explain the research program I wanted to develop.
  • Several presentations at regional, national, and international conferences gave evidence of my research productivity.
  • Polished interview skills helped communicate that I was not just “good on paper.”
  • A background in teaching provided a foundation for explaining pedagogy and teaching philosophies that would apply to my courses.
  • An organized, engaging job talk gave the search committee, students, faculty, and other staff a chance to see me in action.
  • Strong interpersonal skills…because people generally want to work with colleagues they like.
  • The ability to articulate why I am a good fit helped me negotiate and communicate my value.
  • Confidence…knowing I had value to offer in the first place.

Joe Hammer, Assistant Professor at the University of Kentucky_Joseph Hammer(1)

  • Getting a master’s prior to the PhD. An additional two or three years greatly enhances your ability to build your publication list.
  • Working with a major professor who is actively publishing, includes students on most of their publications, and has a demonstrated track record of helping their students publish multiple first-author papers.
  • Time management. Don’t neglect your classes and practica. However, your research productivity is what will get you the job.
  • Find mentors in and outside of your program by connecting with them via conferences, participation in APA Division service (e.g., volunteering to help out divisions at the APA Convention), and online mentoring communities.
  • Skim articles in the best 2 or 3 journals in your sub-area during odd times (e.g., bus commute). This will help familiarize you with the kind of study designs, statistical methods, and ways of articulating one’s research that you may want to emulate in your own work. The “future directions” sections of these articles will also provide you with ideas for manageable, incremental contributions to the literature you could make.
  • Embrace the imposter syndrome. You will probably feel under-qualified and anxious when applying and interviewing. This is OK. Allow yourself to sit with that anxiety so that you can do what needs to be done.

Melanie Lantz, Assistant Professor at Louisiana Tech UniversitMely

  • My leadership experience (in SCP and with APAGS & NMCS) helped quite a bit, and I know helped me to obtain the particular position I accepted.
  • My teaching experience.  I have had a lot of teaching experience, both in my program, and as an adjunct at other institutions.
  • Clinical supervision experience
  • Having a clear research agenda, demonstrable projects on the path to being published, and being able to articulate my research agenda in a short period of time as well as in more elaborate fashion, as well as being able to articulate my short-term and long-term research goals
  • Having clear professional goals and being able to articulate them similarly as above (a short version, a more elaborate version, short-term goals, long-term goals)
  • Mentors. I can’t stress this enough.
    • Reach out to several mentors.
    • Ask if they would be willing to share their materials, especially if you have friends or mentors who recently accepted academic positions
    • Have trusted mentors review your application materials and provide feedback
    • Ask for help and feedback – do not try to do everything alone!
    • Most importantly, use your mentors and support network for support during this challenging process!
  • You may have friends who are going through the process and applying for the same jobs as you are.  I wanted this process to be as stress-free, enjoyable, and noncompetitive as possible (difficult, I know!). I was fortunate to have a small group of friends who stuck together through the process and supported (and learned from!) each other, even though that sometimes meant we were hearing news that was uncomfortable (such as a friend getting an interview you did not get).  Treating it as a competition will likely not assist your process in any way, whereas I feel closer to my friends having gone through this process together, and I think I was much less anxious during interviews as a result.
  • Excellent advice I received from one of my mentors, Tania Israel: Let the search committee decide whether or not you’re qualified for the job, don’t decide for them – just apply!
  • It was helpful to me being reminded (constantly) by my support network, which included mentors, supervisors, and peers, that I am a qualified professional and not “just an intern.”  When my dissertation chair said those exact words to me, I realized that I had not internalized this fact.  I know stuff.  I know a little about a lot of stuff, and I know a lot about my areas of expertise.  This especially helped me to feel more settled and confident when I had to present my job talks.
  • Relatedly, practice your job talk.  The staff at my internship site were incredibly supportive, and encouraged me to invite staff to a practice job talk.  The practice was helpful, and the feedback and edits were helpful, but what was probably the most helpful was having the opportunity to hear, and realize, that I do indeed have something to offer.
  • The pressure and anxiety to obtain a job can be great, but it was helpful for me to remember that “fit” here is more important than ever, as you will probably and ideally stay for quite some time.  Get to know the program and the individuals.

Laura Reid Marks, Assistant Professor at The University of MemphisLaura

  • Support from faculty mentors in and outside of my doctoral program was a huge contributor to my success in the job search process. Throughout my time in graduate school, I was exposed to opportunities (e.g., publishing journal articles, graduate assistant to the training director) that helped prepare me for an academic position.
  • Passion for research, teaching, and service is imperative. Many faculty positions are a combination of research, teaching, and service. I sought out different opportunities to gain experience in research throughout my doctoral program. I also went out of my way to teach undergraduate courses and be a teaching assistant for graduate courses. I also chose to pursue national leadership opportunities with APAGS and Division 52. I believe these experiences helped make me competitive on the job market.
  • Stats knowledge is also very important. I took extra stats courses in my graduate program and also attended voluntary institutes when I could afford to. This really helped increase my efficacy and skills with analyzing data, which is important for researchers.
  • I also think that fit with the position in which you are applying is important. As someone with a passion for multiculturalism and social justice, and research, teaching, and services experiences that reflected that passion, I believe I was most competitive for positions that were looking for this passion in their candidates.
  • Preparation for the job search is also very important. It is important to spend time on your materials so they present the best you possible. It is also important to practice for phone and on-site interviews (i.e., job talk).
  • Believe in yourself. If you really want a faculty position, keep seeking experiences that will make you competitive and apply, apply, apply.