Breaking In: How to Get Hired in Academic Research, and What Graduate Students Can Do Right Now by Dr. Eve Brank, JD, PhD
If you made it to our Student Committee panel at last year's AP-LS conference, you were lucky enough to hear Dr. Eve Brank, JD, PhD speak about ways to get hired in psychology and law. Dr. Brank is currently an associate professor of psychology in the Law-Psychology program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), and has served on faculty search committees as UNL as well as the University of Florida. She is also a good friend to the Student Committee, and the Treasurer for AP-LS. This blog entry is one of three authored by Dr. Brank, so be on the lookout for more great posts from her in the future!
In academia we perch daily on our three-legged stools of research, teaching, and service. Those three words are the categories in my google calendar—color-coded like they were different children’s activities. Some days, the whole day is yellow (my color for service), while others have a lovely rainbow of yellow, purple (research), and orange (teaching). The goal, of course, is to spend as much time and have as much impact as possible on purple—I mean, research. You see, although we sing, “Research, Teaching, and Service,” we face pressure to make the research leg of our stool to be much larger than the other two. And, not just any research. No, what is important are grants and peer-reviewed publications, and that is also what we want our job candidates to have.
What can a graduate student do to get grants and peer-reviewed publications? Like the
audience who attended the live session, I commend you for reading this and taking proactive steps now. If you are early in your graduate school career, then that is even better and I give you more commendation. By starting your research story early, you can make everything count. As an example, if you are taking a social psychology class that has a paper requirement, don’t pick some random topic for your paper. Instead, pick a topic that fits with your research or complements your research. In my lab we take this one step further and meet as a group to discuss all the students’ paper assignments for the semester. If we have a manuscript or grant proposal that needs a literature review and that topic fits one of the classes a student is in, then perfect! Two birds—one literature review draft. Also, be sure your conference presentations are turning into publications. Sometimes it takes a couple of presentations to make up a manuscript, but the goal should always be to have publications and not just presentations. Think of presentations as a means to an end. Presentations give you the opportunity for feedback (and sometimes collaborations) from colleagues outside your university, force you to make progress on a project, and provide you a reason to visit places like San Diego in March. Although I might be jealous of all the cool places a person has visited and presented their research, a long list of only presentations and no publications on a CV will not impress me.
What about teaching? Well, despite the universal sigh of relief at semester’s end when the
student parking lot is empty, we do prioritize teaching at large research universities. And, most of us actually like teaching and we want our new colleagues to like it and be good at it too. So, yes, you need some teaching experience, but don’t let it eclipse your research. The best advice I received about teaching was that my teaching record won’t help me, but it could hurt me. You need the teaching experience and you need to do it well – that’s the expectation. So, get some experience and it’s even better if that experience is in core classes that departments usually need people to teach.
Finally, how much service should you do? The truth is that service won’t get you a job. Faculty search committees do not say, “She doesn’t have any publications or teaching experience, but she planned the department picnic and served on the graduate student senate! Give this woman a job!” The best kind of service to do is the kind that advances your research or builds collaborator networks. There will be plenty of time when you have tenure to do service that fulfills your soul and allows you to give back to your profession-- trust me, I’m the one who got roped into – I mean volunteered to write this blog post aren’t I?
Happy Monday, everyone! This week's newest blog entry is by Dr. Heidi Strohmaier, PhD. Coming from a traditionally forensic PhD program, Dr. Strohmaier matched to her first choice site at the Tampa VA for the 2014-2015 internship year. Here she offers general internship application tips as well as some advice on how to change gears if you are looking to match at a site that differs from your previous focus area.
Applying for internship is stressful. There is no way around that. Taking a methodical approach and practicing some good self-care can make this exciting and overwhelming process substantially more manageable. I matched to the general track of a large VA hospital for my predoctoral internship and am now a postdoctoral fellow in primary care/health psychology at a large metropolitan teaching hospital. Although I specialized in forensic psychology during graduate school and was tempted to pursue a more traditional forensic route for internship, I ultimately decided it was in my best interest to seek a generalized internship program to prepare me for a flexible and well-rounded career. Below are a few tips I believe helped me maintain my sanity and achieve success in the dreaded internship match process. Although much of this feedback is broad, some of it will be particularly relevant to those interested in applying to internship sites outside the forensic realm or to sites that otherwise represent a change in direction from your graduate area of focus:
Good luck and take care of yourself! You have come so far and are almost at the end of your graduate training. There is a bright light at the end of this tunnel. Congratulations on getting this far.
It is almost October, and while our friends are enjoying the return of comfortable sweaters and pumpkin spiced everything, many of us in clinical programs are becoming increasingly aware of internship deadlines. Our newest blog features internship advice from a very special guest contributor. Dr. Sharon Kelley, JD, PhD matched to her first choice of the Univ of Mass Medical School/Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital for the 2013-2014 internship year. She then went on to complete a post-doctoral position at the University of Virginia's Institute for Psychiatry, Public Policy, and Law; and is currently a Research Associate in Law and Forensic Psychology at IPPL.
Happy Internship Season!
I was in your shoes three year ago, and am now attempting to pull together some useful advice for those of you in the middle of the process. Disclaimer: My experience might not map on perfectly to your experience. I think that’s ok. There are a lot of ways to be successful in applying for/matching at fantastic internship sites. That’s a long way of saying that if you don’t like my advice, you simply need not take it, and you will likely find success nonetheless.
Point 1: Get excited!
I began this post with Happy Internship Season deliberately. I mean these words genuinely (well, 85% genuinely—this is a stressful time and we all need to acknowledge that): You are preparing to take a substantial step in your careers, and you will handle the hard work, travel logistics, and frustration of waiting that comes over the next several months if you can muster up some excitement! You are almost a doctor, for crying out loud.
Point 2: Get realistic
Alright, now that you’re an excited and passionate internship applicant, it’s time to get real. This means different things for different people. It may mean that you have some geographic limitations, it might mean that feeling excited and passionate led you to identify 35 internship sites—and that’s just too many. It also means that you’re going to set aside some money for the next few months of your life. Here are some getting real tips:
Point 3: Get to Work
You’re good at this part! Put down those lab projects, manuscripts, and dissertations (temporarily) and write your essays and cover letters! Here are some tips for this part of the process:
Point 4: Don’t forget to have fun
Remember, this is an opportunity for you to find a great internship match for your training needs. And, not matching is not the end of the world. It’s simply an opportunity to take a step back, reflect on the process, and take another year to make your application even stronger –you’ll still be doing good work in the field that you chose. So, have fun with the process: you’ll be meeting other internship applicants, clinicians, and scholars outside of your graduate institution. Talking with these folks can be revitalizing. Get out of your head and enjoy yourself.
Negotiating Start-Up After Being Hired in an Academic Position (by Kirk Heilbrun, Ph.D. – Drexel University)
With many of us focused on finishing dissertations or applying to internship, it can be hard to even consider *gasp* a real life job. Yet, before we know it that time will come where we must consider not only the position that we want, but also what to do when we find it. For our first official blog, please read some expert advice on negotiating in an academic position from Dr. Kirk Heilbrun, PhD. This entry is excerpted from our AP-LS 2015 panel "How to Get Hired in Psychology and Law". Be on the lookout for advice from some of the other panelists in our future posts! - The Student Committee
Negotiating with a college or university after receiving an offer to join the faculty is sometimes overlooked for a variety of reasons, but it should be taken seriously. Faculty members will probably never again have the negotiating leverage that is part of this stage. There will be differences in the job demands depending on whether the academic setting includes doctoral training or masters training, whether it is primarily focused on undergraduate teaching, on size, on whether it is public vs. private, and whether the contract will be 9-months or 12-months. Other presenters in this symposium described such differences, but they clearly will affect how well the information presented here will apply. Learning more about the particular academic setting making the offer is valuable; this can be done by talking with other junior faculty who have been recently hired and by reviewing the website and strategic plan of the college.
The candidate will probably be negotiating ultimately with the Dean, but may be talking directly with the department chair or a program director. But the hiring authority is typically vested at the Dean’s level, so consider that the department head may be negotiating but probably does not make the ultimate decision. The recommendation of this person, however, is very important. In preparing for these discussions, it is valuable to talk with one’s mentor and senior colleagues about what is minimal, reasonable, and aspirational under the circumstances.
There are five main points to negotiate: annual salary, teaching, space, research support, and summer salary.
1. APA collects annual salary figures, so the candidate can learn not only about national averages but can specify the type of university, public vs. private, and the geographic region in making more tailored estimates of a reasonable range. Usually the initial offer is perhaps $5,000 lower than the college might be prepared to pay. Some, however, initially offer at the top of their available range. You won’t know which it is until you ask. (A flat response of “we can’t go any higher” is informative, particularly if the offer was reasonable and the probing is for aspirational possibilities.)
2. Teaching load refers to the number and type of courses the individual will be expected to teach. Usually this is fairly standard across the department, college, and university. For instance, a large public university with a recognized doctoral program might have a faculty member teach two courses per term, or three courses per academic year. Teaching loads at smaller colleges, particularly those primarily for undergraduates, might be much higher—up to three courses per term. This gives you valuable information about the research productivity expected of faculty; it is very difficult to publish 3-4 articles and chapters per year and pursue extramural funding if you also have a 3-course per term teaching load. Nonetheless, this can be a good fit for those who are passionate about teaching and less so about research. You also will want to know about the policy for “buying out” of teaching with grant/contract funding. Buyout policies range widely from “cost of hiring an adjunct for this course” (inexpensive) to “20% (or higher) of 9-month salary for this course” (expensive). This is important because a small grant or contract could still fund your buyout from several courses under the former policy, while it would take a major grant to fund much buy-out with a more expensive policy. During the first three years of assistant professorship, it is reasonable to expect a reduced teaching load. For example, a college with a two course per term teaching load might offer 0-1, 1-1, and 2-1 for the first three years before the 2-2-2 load is fully implemented. Space covers the amount and nature of room(s) you will need to conduct research.
3. Do not try to negotiate office space. They will give you an office, and for many reasons it’s best for you to just take what they give. (Imagine the reaction of more senior colleagues, for example, if the new assistant professor received a larger office than they have.) But space affects where your graduate students can work when they are around, and what you need to run research participants. Some space should be provided to you as part of your hiring (e.g., one dedicated room), while additional space might be available if you receive a grant requiring such space.
4. Research support refers to the amount of money the college makes available to you in order to establish your research program. It’s expected that this will facilitate pilot work, which will in turn lead to more successful grant applications. If a college offers this as part of the start-up package, then there is the potential to increase it. On the other hand, if you have “construction” needs for space, modifying existing space into something you need in your lab, that tends to be very expensive and might limit the availability of this kind of research funding. When this is available, it might be in the amount of somewhere between $5,000 and $50,000. This would include things like participant payments, software purchases, travel, and other research expenses.
5. Summer salary is the amount that can be earned by 9-month faculty during the three months in which they are technically not under contract. (Productive faculty members work all summer; wise faculty members distribute their 9-month salaries over 12 months. But this does present a chance for significant extra income, either from grants or from teaching.) You should investigate whether summer salary through teaching is routinely available. In any event, however, it may be feasible to receive 1-2 months of summer salary during the summer after your first academic year as part of your start-up package. Negotiate through preparation and willingness to use the leverage you have achieved by receiving this offer. You will be working with these folks, so don’t be unreasonable. It’s certainly fair, if you have more than one offer, to let people know this. (Don’t ever say something that isn’t true, such as there is another offer when there isn’t. People have long memories for this kind of thing.) But the more frequent error is to “underask” at this stage.
A final bit of perspective: deans are accustomed to hiring faculty in other areas for whom the start-up packages can approach $1,000,000. Granted we often don’t have expensive lab equipment or major construction needs—but this does make a start-up package worth $150,000 for psychology seem minor by comparison.
About the Editor:
The American Psychology-Law Society (Division 41 of the American Psychology Association) Student Committee is composed of elected student leaders representing the interests of our student members.