In Brief

"Don't panic," Arvid Kappas, PhD, of Hull University told a group of graduate students at an Oct. 2 academic workshop. "That's very important to keep in mind when applying for jobs."

Kappas was one of several faculty members from all over the world who offered advice to graduate students on pursuing a career in academia--from how to prepare for the job interview to conducting a job talk--during a session at the Conference of the Society for Psychophysiological Research in Washington, D.C. The workshop was sponsored by APA's Science Directorate.

The job search should be thought of as a process, Kappas said, where students establish their criteria for the job, such as their preference for a public or private institution, and prepare materials, such as the cover letter, curriculum vitae and reference letters. Among their tips:

  • Glean everything you can about the university. Charles H. Hillman, PhD, assistant professor at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, encouraged students to prepare for job interviews by learning as much as possible about the department and university. Students should read faculty bios to match names and faces and be aware of the faculty's research interests for an opportunity to relate with them, he said. Also, students should be prepared to discuss their research interests and what courses they could teach.

  • Look at what the school will offer you. Diane Gooding, PhD, associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, noted that students seeking faculty positions should also weigh the school's collaborative opportunities, tenure requirements, availability of research samples and the availability of soft money versus hard money. Peter Lang, PhD, a professor at University of Florida, also advised job seekers to determine what the institution can offer to help them develop as researchers. He also stressed the importance of doing postdoctorates, which can help in developing a clear, focused research plan.

  • Practice your job talk. Early preparation for the academic job talk--when job candidates present a lecture to faculty and students--is particularly key, said Ottmar Lipp, PhD, from the University of Queensland. "The job talk is one of the few opportunities [the institution] has to see how you react in class and an opportunity for you to display your teaching skills," Lipp said.

He encouraged students to attend job talks on their campus to learn from others' mistakes and to imitate what they liked. Lipp also told students to remember that "less can be more," particularly with PowerPoint presentations where some students may go overboard with graphics or difficult-to-read color schemes. Furthermore, he told students to remember that when the audience asks questions during the job talk, "they are not out to get you--they may just be interested."

  • Explore your options. Bruce Cuthbert, PhD, of the National Institute of Mental Health and workshop chair, spoke on career opportunities in psychophysiology, such as with the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense, federal agencies, private research foundations, businesses and medical schools. "There are interesting jobs all over the place," Cuthbert said. "The development of your career should be extended over a lifetime, and not just as long as it takes for you to find your first job."

  • Show your interest. Enthusiasm is crucial, Lipp said. "The single most important characteristic of a teacher is enthusiasm and your ability to display that to the students," Lipp said.


Further Reading

The Science Directorate sponsors three to four workshops at various sites throughout the year. If you would like information on attending or hosting a workshop, contact Deborah McCall, APA Science programs manager, at (202) 218-3590; e-mail.