Start Here

Here is a comprehensive timeline of the job application process from start to finish. I’d recommend bookmarking or printing it (PDF forthcoming), and using it as a checklist. At each step, you’ll find links to more in-depth guides/tutorials; you’ll also want to check out the annotated bibliography of useful external resources.


  • Notify your recommenders and advisors that you’ll be going on the market, and that you’ll need a letter from them by mid-September
  • Request copies of past job documents from your department, start drafting your
    • CV (see LifeClever article for formatting tutorial)
    • Cover Letter (2pp single-spaced max)
    • Dissertation Abstract (1-2pp s-s)
    • Writing Sample (20-30pp d-s)
    • Teaching portfolio
  • Start looking for jobs. 
  • Create an organizational system to keep track of your applications (step-by-step guide here)
  • Contact your department/job placement coordinator to see what reimbursement/funding options exist for job applicants (many departments offer an Interfolio credit and convention travel reimbursement, and MLA, for example, offers free Interfolio accounts for its members)


  • Schedule an appointment with your job placement coordinator and/or advisors to go over drafts of your application documents, get them in polished shape
  • Set up an academic website (see my guide here)
  • Become a member of MLA (or your relevant professional organization)


  • Set up an Interfolio account and send automated requests to your recommenders; make sure they also have a copy of your application docs
    • If you are ABD and applying to postdocs, it’s a good idea to also request a general “progress to degree” letter from your department chair/head of grad studies confirming that you’ll have the degree in hand by the end of the academic year; many postdocs require this.
  • Start contacting people you’ve developed academic connections with over the years, letting them know you’re on the market and seeing if they have any knowledge of/advice about positions in your particular field; send them your academic website URL so they can quickly peruse your profile without having to read all of your documents
  • Even if you haven’t finished your dissertation, try to produce polished (ideally typeset) drafts of the chapters that are complete; many departments will request them if they like your initial application package.


  • Start applying to jobs, keeping careful track of progress on your GoogleDocs spreadsheet
  • Make sure that all of your recommenders have submitted their letters to Interfolio; contact your job placement coordinator to vet them and make sure there weren’t any upload errors
  • Keep your academic website updated, especially if you’re teaching or have gotten a fellowship


  • Book your convention flight and hotel, even if you aren’t sure you’ll go (make sure to keep track of receipts to apply for later reimbursement)
    • If your department doesn’t offer travel assistance, apply to the MLA Graduate Student financial assistance (~Nov. 1 deadline)
    • This is not the time to save a few bucks. Book one of the convention website’s recommended hotels (or one in close vicinity) – although I would suggest avoiding the hotel where the actual panels are being held. Choose a non-stop flight or one that arrives at a reasonable hour (ideally in mid-afternoon, so you can make your way to the hotel before it gets dark)
    • Arrive on the day before the convention starts (usually it runs Thurs-Sunday) in case you have to schedule interviews for Thursday. Feel free to leave early Sunday morning.
  • Start deciding on an interview outfit, using the weather of the convention location as your guide (see my style guide here).


  • Hopefully, you’ll start to get requests for additional materials/requests for interviews; make sure to keep track of what materials you send on your spreadsheet. (tips on phone/skype interviews here)
  • Schedule a mock interview with your department, and start rehearsing answers to common questions.
  • Get back in contact with your academic network: send them information about the interviews you have (include the original job description and the names of the interviewers).
  • Keep your advisors updated on your monthly progress.
  • As you prepare to leave for winter break, consider distributing this little pamphlet to your non-academic friends and family to help avoid any awkward or irritating conversations about how your search for a “teaching job” is going.


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