Welcome back!  You made it to the final part of the series, How to Prepare to Apply for a Job in Academia.  If you haven’t gone through the first two parts, you can find them here:

Part 1:  Be Observed

Part 2:  Observe


download observation form

These posts also came with a free gift.  If you missed the gift, you can click the button above to get the Teaching Observation Form.

How to Prepare to Apply for a Job in Academia Series, Part 3: Create a Roadmap for Success | The Academic Society | for math and STEM grad students

Part 3:  Create a Roadmap for Success


I’m the type of person that loves to plan.  I remember, in undergrad, and my roommate can attest to this, what I did every semester.  I would plan my future.  I would choose the classes I wanted to take for the remaining semesters in great detail as well as my plans for after graduation.


My plans changed each semester but it always made me feel better when I gave myself something to work toward.  Like a personal challenge that only I knew about.  It always helps to have some type of roadmap.


That’s what we are going to talk about in the final part of this series on How to Prepare to Apply for a Job in Academia.


I know that I said we can’t just look at an application listing and click apply and be done.  But we do need to know what to expect in advance.


I remember, in the spring semester of my 4th year of grad school, I was planning my future, as I do.  And I decided to look up the types of jobs I wanted to apply for and boy were my eyes opened!


There is so much stuff that goes into an application packet!  At least a month’s worth of work!

Where to Find Academic Job Postings

As you know, I’m a mathematician so I went to the AMA website to look for job postings and found mathjobs.org.  It’s really the best place to search and apply for math jobs in academia.  Not all math jobs are on the site but most are.


Documents of an Academic Job Application Packet

So let me tell you what I learned.  There are at least 5 pieces of an academic job application.  They can include but are not limited to the following:

  • CV
  • Cover Letter
  • Teaching Statement
  • Research Statement
  • Teaching Evaluations
  • 3-4 Letters of Recommendation
  • Diversity statement (rarely)

That’s a lot of stuff to write!  And they all take a lot of time to actually complete.


So what did I do?  I created a spreadsheet with all of the jobs that I could possibly be interested in along with which applications required what documents.  It was so nice to have it all organized and it helped to keep me on track and ahead of deadlines.

The Job Application Roadmap

I know that applying for jobs can me very overwhelming and stressful, so I’ve created a roadmap for you to follow to help you prepare for the process.

Roadmap for applying for academic jobs | Grad school series: How to prepare to apply for jobs in academia, Part 3: Roadmap | The Academic Society | for math and STEM grad students

Also, I want to be able to help you even more by walking you through the whole application process with tutorials, spreadsheets, and writing prompts.  So I’m creating an online course called Apply to Standout.


Would you be interested in taking a course that walks you through the whole application process with no research on how to write all of those documents above?


Sign up to get notifications when my course is ready.

Thanks for joining me in this series!  I hope that you are ready to start preparing yourself for academic job applications.


Your virtual mentor,


Welcome back to the series on How to Prepare to Apply for a Job in Academia!  This series was created to give you a starting point as well as a roadmap for applying for jobs.  Because, trust me, it’s very overwhelming!  Here is what we cover in this 3 part series:

Part 1:  Be Observed

Part 2:  Observe

Part 3:  Roadmap to Success

In Part 1, we talked about how important it is to be observed teaching in the classroom.  If you missed the previous post, click here.

How to Prepare to Apply for a Job in Academia, Part 2: Observe | The Academic Society | for math and STEM grad students

Part 2:  Observe Others’ Teaching Practices

If you are in grad school for anything other than Education, you probably had never taught anything before starting grad school.


So that means your own experiences in front of a classroom is not enough.  It is wildly helpful to see how others in your field teach their classes.  Particularly, the people known for their teaching skills!


Like the people I mentioned in Part 1 of this series who will be observing your teaching.


Since you want to develop a relationship with them, you should definitely ask them if you can sit in on a couple of their classes to observe them.


This is especially helpful if they are teaching the same classes as you, or a class that you will be teaching in the future.


And what should you do while you observe them?


Take notes!  Notice how they interact with the class.  Get a feel for their flow and teaching style.


Use the same form that I mentioned in Part 1 and fill it out for them.


If you missed Part 1, click here.


Click here to get the Teaching Observation Form.

What do you do if you notice that your teaching is severely lacking compared to the teaching practices of the person you observed?


Ask them for more help.  I know that I love to talk about teaching.  They will be happy to help.


Ask them how they plan their classes.  Ask them how they choose what problems to work in class.  Ask them how they get students to participate in their lectures.


I have a method that I use that starts on the first day of classes to warm the students up and let them know that I want them to participate in the lectures throughout the whole semester.  I created a full email course that you can take to learn more.


Click here to take the FREE email course.

student engagement ecourse for math graduate students The Academic Society

I hope that you are enjoying this series so far.  There is only one part left.  But first, let’s recap.


What do we need to do before we start applying for jobs in academia?  Observe and be observed!  Click here to read part 3 of the series.


Here’s that form again, in case you missed it before.

When you get into your 3rd year of grad school, you probably have completed all of your course work, chosen an advisor, and started teaching classes.


This is also the time where you start to decide if you love learning so much that you want to do it forever!  Or you decide that when you finish, you want to take the money and run (get an industry job).


If you are in the former group like I was, you’ve realized that either teaching or research is your passion!  Or maybe you are passionate about both teaching and research.  In any case, you’ve found your passion and there is nothing else you’d rather do as your career.  Well, that means you probably want to go into academia and be a professor at a college or university.


So that means, in the fall (or spring) semester of your final year of grad school you, will start to apply for jobs in academia.


But…one does not simply click on a job posting, fill out an application, and hope for the best.  Oh no, my friend.  It takes careful planning and preparation to even complete an application, let alone stand out enough to get an interview!


That’s why I started this blog!  I hated that there wasn’t a roadmap for successfully going through the application process to land your dream job in academia.


I was pretty successful during my job search with the process that I made for myself so I wanted to share it with you!  You have enough on your plate with teaching, research, presentations, seminars, and writing your dissertation.  Let me do the heavy lifting for you.


This series, How to Prepare to Apply for a Job in Academia will walk you through the steps you need to take before filling out a job application.  There are 3 parts in this series:

Part 1:  Be Observed

Part 2:  Observe

Part 3:  Roadmap to Success

How to Prepare to Apply for a Job in Academia, Part 1: Be Observed | The Academic Society | for math and STEM grad students

Part 1:  Be Observed Teaching

Depending on the type of school you want to work at (liberal arts, R1, community college), teaching may or may not be a huge component of your appointment.  But you will have to teach.


And the schools you will apply for will need evidence of your teaching skills, practices, and experience.  Every application will ask for a teaching statement or philosophy, teaching evaluations, and a recommendation letters that will give proof that you know what you are doing in a classroom.


And how will someone know how well you are doing in the classroom?


They will only know if they have seen you teach.


So the first step to prepare to apply for an academic job is to be observed teaching.  And not just once.


You should be observed when you first start teaching and after you become a “pro”.  And it would be super helpful if the same person observed you at the beginning and end of your grad school teaching experience.


So yes, it’s great to ask your advisor to observe you teaching.  But note:  they will be the one faculty member that knows the most about your research.  So their reference letter will focus more on that.


You need to find at least two faculty members to write letters for you that are ALL about your experience in the classroom.


So how do you find who to ask to observe you?


I’m glad you asked!  Find the best teachers in your department.  And don’t think that they must have a Ph.D. to be great letter writers for you.  Instructors are great faculty members to ask to observe your teaching!  If their only job is to teach, they probably know the most about teaching.


So choose two people to observe your classes.  Remember, they will need to do it more than once.  Preferably once at the beginning of your teaching experience and once at the end of your program.


There will probably be years between those observation times.  How will they remember your teaching skills and experience?  They have classes and students of their own to think about.


Make it easy on them!


Create a worksheet or form that is easy for them to fill out while they observe you!  And then you both keep copies that they can refer back to when you ask them to write their reference letter for you.


So how do you create a good form?  Well, your department may already have some created.  But if not, I’ve created one for you!


You’re welcome!


Just click the link to download the Teaching Observation Form.

How to Prepare to Apply for a Job in Academia, Part 1: Be Observed | The Academic Society | for math and STEM grad students

As you can probably guess that, to get a good teaching reference letter, you need to plan.  Years in advance!  And being observed multiple times will give your letter writer plenty of personalized and detailed material that is bound to help you stand out among the mass of other applicants.


Not only is it important to be observed.  It’s tremendously helpful to observe others’ teaching styles and practices as well.


That’s what I cover in Part 2 of the How to Prepare to Apply for a Job in Academia series.  You can find that post here!

Don’t forget to download the Teaching Observation Form!  You can get it below!

enroll in the cv email course | The Academic Society | for math graduate studentsOne of the most difficult parts about applying for a job, internship, or research program is actually sitting down to write a CV.  You probably haven’t been writing down all of your accomplishments as you have gone through graduate school.  So it’s completely understandable that writing a CV can feel overwhelming.

If you are like I was as a graduate student, you probably only have the resume you used to get into graduate school.   And now that you are in, all of your undergraduate accomplishments are irrelevant.  Great.

But don’t worry, it’s best to start from scratch anyway.
how to write a CV as a graduate student | The Academic Society

Let’s start with the format and content that you need to create a standout CV for whatever job you are applying for.

Formatting Do’s and Don’ts of an Academic CV


Do use 1 inch margins on all for edges of your CV.

Do use 12 point font for the content of your CV.

Do using single-spacing.

Do write your name at the top of your CV in either 14 or 16 point font.


Don’t use multiple font styles.

Don’t use italics for anything other than journal and book titles.

Don’t center any lines of your CV, other than the heading.

Don’t use any accomplishments from your undergraduate years.  (This one is not a formatting tip, but it needed to be mentioned.)


The Heading of an Academic CV

In the heading of your CV, you should include your first and last name in either 14 or 16 point font.  Also, include the words “Curriculum Vitae” right below your name.  It’s also best to include either your school or home address, email address, and phone number.

The Categories of an Academic CV

Below, I have listed a few of the most common categories found on a CV.  Don’t worry if you don’t have any accomplishments in certain categories yet.  You definitely do not need this many.  I think I only had 6 or 7 of these on my CV when I was applying for jobs.

  • Education
  • Employment
  • Publications
  • Awards/Honors
  • Grants/Fellowships
  • Invited Talks
  • Conference Activity
  • Teaching Experience
  • Service
  • Extra-curricular activities
  • Community Involvement
  • Professional Memberships


What Search Committees Notice

I thought that it would also be helpful to mention things that I had on my CV that search committees noticed and asked me about during interviews.

If you actually taught classes, make sure that it is clear.  As a graduate student, I attended a program called the BFF (Building Future Faculty) Program at North Carolina State University.  One of the most helpful experiences during that program was that I was able to get feedback on my CV from a professor in my field.  So, we went over each part of my CV and he gave me feedback.  One of the things that stood out was my “Teaching Experience” Category.

I had listed that I was a GTA and gave details about the courses that I taught and he asked why I was trying to make it seem like I actually taught those classes that I listed.  Of course I was confused.  But I didn’t want to be rude about saying that I did teach those classes.

Apparently he thought that I was grader or ran recitation sections for those classes that I taught.  He suggested that I use language other than “Graduate Teaching Assistant” and state that I was the Instructor of Record for the course because, apparently, it isn’t that common for graduate students to teach as many classes as I had.

Meeting with this professor was so valuable to me and it really gave me a good idea of what an academic CV should look like as a graduate student.  That’s why I offer a service where I provide graduate students with feedback on their CVs.  If you’re interested, feel free to click the link below or the Services category in the menu of this page.

get feedback on your cv | The Academic Society | for math graduate students

Another thing that stood out was interesting extracurricular/service projects.  I was a member of the Graduate Student Association and each year we would put on an event called “Night at the Museum”.  During this event, each department would set up a booth to teach children about their areas of study using fun themes like Pirate Night and Safari Night.

I actually got questions about this event (very small part of my CV) from multiple search committees.

The smallest things can help you stand out to a search committee.  If you are ready to start writing your CV, take my FREE 5-day email course where you will receive a small lesson each day and by the end of the week, you will have a complete CV.

enroll in the cv email course | The Academic Society | for math graduate students

Have any questions for me?  Feel free to join the email list for my top 10 teaching tips for math grad students and send me an email back!

As a graduate student wanting a career in academia, you need good teaching evaluations for your job application packets.  However, you are often thrust into a classroom to teach without any teaching experience or training.  And when you ask people how to be good at teaching, the answer is usually, “experience”.

This is true.  But as a graduate student who has never taught before, you don’t have that!

This post is about how to be thoughtful about your teaching strategies so that your students learn, like you, and give you great evaluations.

6 tips for getting god teaching evaluations as a graduate student when you have no experience The Academic Society


Relate to your students

This is where your experience level is a HUGE asset!  You know, more recently than any professor, how it feels to be a student and how you felt when you took the same course yourself.

Share your experiences with your students.  Explain where you struggled and give them tips on how to succeed in the class.

My students always perk up when I say, “Oh, I remember learning this.  A lot of my classmates (or just me) found it difficult but I’ve come up with a good way to explain it.”  Students love when you are relatable like this.  And it also shows that you care.  And those are the things students mention in teaching evaluations.

Make your students feel comfortable

I always greet my students with a smile.  I also smile throughout the lecture…but that’s just who I am.  And my students always mention it in my teaching evaluations.  They always say that they could tell that I loved the subject (because math is awesome!) and that I was happy to be there.

You can also ask them how they are doing.  Especially before and after class.  Then ask them how they are enjoying the class so far.  If you’ve asked your students what their majors are, you can also incorporate relevant examples throughout your lectures.

I highly recommend a mid-semester survey.  This will tell you how your students really feel.  I like to also ask what they would like to change about class…and actually make some changes.  They love this and will share these things in your teaching evaluations! 

I’ve made a list for you of my mid-semester survey questions for the class that gave me all positive evaluations.  Give them a try and see how they work for you.

download survey questions


Understand Time

Time goes so much slower than you think when you are writing on the board.  One minute to you feels like 30 seconds to your students.  You have to give them time to absorb what you have written.  Even if it feels like you are just standing in silence for an awkwardly long amount of time.

Note:  Nothing you do is too awkward.  The more awkward the better is my opinion (I’m a mathematician…awkward is our default), as long as you don’t take yourself too seriously.  It makes you more approachable to your students.

Another thing.  It’s important to realize that students have a jam packed academic schedule as well as social engagements.  I’m not saying to give them less work.  But try to seem a little sympathetic.

Group work

In class group work is my favorite.  It gives your students a chance to ask each other questions.  It also forces engagement.  When I get to a problem in the notes that takes just a little more thought to come up with a game plan for solving it, I like to break my students up into groups of 2 or 3, give them a starting point, and let them talk it out and work it out together.

Coming up with strategies on their own helps them remember the process so much more than just watching me do it!  If you would like to learn how to get started with group work, try my free 4-day email course, Student Engagement for GTAs.  In this course I show you how to set your class up for group work starting on day one of the semester.

student engagement ecourse for math graduate students The Academic Society

Over-prepare for class

Make sure you have prepared more than enough information, notes, and examples for each class.  Use resources other than the class textbook for alternate examples and explanations.

It’s important to actually work the HW problems that will be assigned.  That way you will know exactly what topics and ways of thinking should be discussed in class.

Check for understanding every 3-5 minutes

It’s so easy to get caught up in beautiful mathematics and then you look up 10 minutes later and your whole class either looks lost or has zoned out!

Not good.  I like to check for understanding at every step.  Here’s what I like to ask:

  • “Does that make sense?”
  • “What should we do next?”
  • “What’s the overall goal of the question?”
  • “If you were working on this problem by yourself, where might you have gotten stuck?”
  • “Any ideas on how we should approach this problem?”
  • “Why?”

If you ask these questions, your students will say that you really cared that they understood the material in your teaching evaluations.

Remember, teaching evaluations aren’t everything and you do want to be genuine when you teach.  So just be yourself and try to remember how it felt to be a student.  How would you want your professor to address the class?

I hope that you enjoyed this post!  If you have any other tips or questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below.  Also, share this post with other graduate students.  There is an image to pin below to save this post for later!

Make sure that you get a copy of my mid-semester survey questions.

6 tips for getting god teaching evaluations as a graduate student when you have no experience The Academic Society