Welcome to Job Season!

It appears that the start of the job season is finally here in my (sub-)discipline. I spent some time this week creating an excel spreadsheet to track my job applications this year, which I didn’t do last year. My general plan of attack is to be meticulously organised and get everything done well before the due date. So far that’s going well for job applications and not so well for the paper I’m giving in two weeks…

I thought I’d share some of my job hunting ways, not so much as ‘tips and tricks’, but more ‘let’s-hash-this-out-together-so-tell-me-what-works-for-you-too’. In that spirit, please leave a comment below with your tips! I am going to talk about two main issues with job hunting: organisation and avoiding duplication.


I think being organised about applying for jobs is probably the most important thing for me. Looking in the diary and seeing a solid week of ‘JOB APPLICATION DUE’ is very daunting. But it doesn’t have to be!

As I mentioned above I use a spreadsheet to track applications. In fact, for the low, low price of £0.00 you can DOWNLOAD my Spreadsheet! Each entry links to the folder on my computer that contains everything related to that application, including copies of the Job Description and Person Specification (which you always should do, because these will disappear as soon as the applications close!).

All these folders are in another folder called ‘2016 Job Search’. Folders are named with the format MO-DA Place Position (e.g. 04-01 Royal Holloway Teaching Fellow). Having the month first means the application closest to being due is always at the top. Once an application is submitted the whole folder goes into another folder called ‘x Submitted’ (x so it always stays at the bottom of the list).

Keeping everything together and ordered means that it’s always easy to find, and when I go to fill in the online form everything I need to either upload or paste in is already there and waiting. It also means that I have copies of everything – and if possible, I save a PDF copy of the entire application package here as well (often forms will give you the option of looking at this after you have submitted). I usually work on two or three applications at a time, and using the Tracker I can easily see what applications need which materials.

Avoiding Duplication

Writing job applications is time-consuming. The differences in the job description and person specification mean that tailoring is key. This can be very time-consuming, but there are lots of ways to avoid duplication in work without using a ‘template’ cover letter.

I keep a Master CV, which I keep updated (I try to follow Dr Karen’s advice to add a line to your CV each month). This has absolutely everything on it, so I can just tinker with it to suit each job. For instance, for a research-only job I would cut down/out the verbiage about teaching, for a teaching-only job I would move the teaching sections higher up.

I don’t keep a master cover letter, but I do keep ‘example paragraphs’ that I tailor to each job. So, I have two or three pre-written paragraphs about my PhD thesis and book, and some different length paragraphs about teaching, and various kinds of examples of teaching philosophy, and a couple of different paragraphs about my next big research project. Having these pre-written ‘example paragraphs’ makes putting a new cover letter together much easier, then all that really needs to be done is tailoring and editing, to make sure the letter fits the job. The point of these isn’t to just paste them into a new cover letter, but it means I can skip the first couple of editing rounds from starting fresh. And, every so often I go through and update all the paragraphs (I did it in January this year, in anticipation of the job season).

So, they are my two big things to keep on top of what could otherwise seem like an avalanche of work. Applying for jobs can be really time-consuming, and it can be very frustrating when you start down the ‘I could be doing new research!’ path. Try to have fun with job application writing – and let me know what your tips for keeping the avalanche at bay!


About Ellie Mackin

Ellie is a Teaching Fellow in Ancient History at the University of Leicester. Her current research focuses on ‘embeddedness’ in early Greek religion. Ellie completed her BA(Hons) and MA at Monash University, in Australia, before moving to the UK for her PhD at King's College London (2015). She tweets @elliemackin.

2 Responses to Welcome to Job Season!

  1. Anna Gruszczynska says:

    Hi Elle,

    I really like your spreadsheet method! I used Google Drive to keep all my documents in one place and so relied more on making sure that all my folders were properly named and I liked knowing that I could access my documents anywhere as long as there was an Internet connection. The other tip I’d share is to keep copies of job description and person specification for each of the jobs you apply for as this will prove invaluable if you get to interview stage and need to prepare for potential questions. And yes to downloading the applications you have filled in, even if the system doesn’t allow you to export things as a PDF, you can still bypass it by using the “print” function and selecting “save as PDF”.

    The other tip I would add (which I didn’t always follow myself…) is to build a routine around job searching and have boundaries around how much time you are going to devote to job applications so that you don’t drive yourself mad thinking you have to spend every waking moment applying.

    • Ellie Mackin says:

      Hi Anna,
      I didn’t mention but I use OneDrive for the same reason – no matter what, the files are always there, and I can even access them from my phone if all else fails.
      Great tip with the time restriction! I think almost everyone on the job market has been trapped in the ‘if I only spend a few more minutes… *hours later*’. We also fall into the old adage ‘looking for a job is a full time job’ – when we could (and should?) be doing lots of other things as well. Also, I think that applications require a certain type of writing that I think some academics can be uncomfortable with, so they/we don’t have the same ‘yes, it’s near enough’ trigger as with research.

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