Finding, Applying and Landing a Job as an Academic

26th November 2013

It's time for me to start a blog. I would like to share a few things regarding my experience as an early career researcher who is about to start a post-doctoral position overseas. This will be a form of online journal, with bits of information for people looking to commence an academic career. I hope that I am able to entertain and inform you with this series of blog entries.

A little background

Just to introduce myself, I am a PhD student that has recently completed my thesis on mathematical optimisation at the University of New South Wales, Australia. In particular, I have been looking at better ways to allocate aircraft to flights in order to minimise the effect of disruptions. My research interests are not too important, but if you are curious please look through my website. To continue my research career, I have been actively looking for work all over the world. There have been a number of jobs that I have applied for, with a particular focus of landing a position in Germany. Fortunately I have been able to achieve this goal, receiving a job offer from a research institute in Berlin, Konrad-Zuse-Zentrum für Informationstechnik Berlin, or ZIB for short. Now, all I need to do is move to Germany.

So it begins...

I have been very fortunate in my job search. There are many factors that point to my particular good fortune, but I will only provide the most important here. First, there just happen to be a number of positions available when I needed them (this is not all that common). Second, I ended up applying for approximately 8 positions before receiving a job offer (again, not very common and generally this is a much larger number).

Making good fortune

While I had no control over the number of jobs available in my field at the time, my search was made simpler by applying to those that were mostly relevant. I do say mostly as you have to stretch the relevance sometimes to make sure you get a position that suits you. The reason for my stretching of relevance was to try and secure a job in Germany. However, in the end the job that I have received is very well aligned with my interests. There are other reasons that people have in selecting appropriate jobs, and they are all just as important.

Another factor that I believe helped in the application process was making contact with my potential employers early. What I mean: when you find a great job advertisement with a position that seems made for you, don't just send in you CV and cover letter with a very plain email. Make contact with the employer first and ask a few important questions about the job. These can be regarding the start date, the people you will work with or the simply whether you have the appropriate qualifications. I feel that this indicates your interest in the position, and you stand out a little more from the rest of the plain emails that are sent through.

The job that I got

The group that I am moving to, ZIB, is a very prominent research group in the optimisation world. One of the many things that ZIB is known for is the development and maintenance of the SCIP optimisation suite. I have used SCIP in my own research, so it will be interesting to work with the actual development of the software. Up until now I have been working primarily on applications of optimisation. It will be a great change to be involved in this alternative field of research.

The start of something big!!!

To kick this journal/blog off I will say that it is very exciting to get a job overseas and I am looking forward to living in another part of the world. At this stage I am preparing very nicely for my departure. There is still a lot of work to do and I am sure that there will be many pitfalls along the way. I will update this blog with all of my adventures while I am living overseas.