How do I handle a job opportunity out of nowhere?
April 4, 2013 7:05 AM   Subscribe

I have a newly-discovered opportunity to go after a senior academic appointment. Applications close in a few days. How should I handle this?

I've been getting bored in my existing position. I work at a good university as an associate professor and have a strong track record. Slight boredom notwithstanding I've been happy here, but my partner wants to move for compelling reasons that have nothing to do with me or my job. We've been mulling over this for a couple of months without coming to an obvious answer. Out of the blue, I have learned about a job opportunity that is perfect for me and involves moving to a better city for my partner. From my perspective the new job would be a small step upwards from my existing job, and would rank in my top 10 institutions to move to. For my partner, the new city would entail a big expansion of job opportunities, and one of the few cities that would do so without moving across oceans.

It sounds great, but the catch is that I'm at a conference right now and job applications close in a few days time. The time frame is a consequence of the fact that I didn't hear about this early enough, not because of anything worrisome about the position itself. As a consequence, I have a very narrow window in which to track down the right people to talk to. Some of the people I want to talk to are at the conference, but they're at the more junior end. The senior people I want to contact aren't at this one but I'm pretty sure I can track a couple of them down in time to be useful.

I'm reasonably sure I know how to handle this situation: that is, I've got a plan. However, this is a novel situation for me and in my not-quite-so-old age I've learned the importance of taking advice. So... MeFi has enough of an academic user base that I would welcome any hints, especially from anyone who has negotiated a move as a senior academic. How should I approach this? What non-obvious traps should I be aware of? (For what it's worth, this is not a US-specific thing: I'm not in the US, neither is the job I'm planning to go for).
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (6 answers total)
It sounds like you know what you're doing. The only thing I'd note is that your colleagues at your current institution will almost certainly get wind of your application. Universities are really bad at keeping this sort of thing secret.
posted by grouse at 7:24 AM on April 4, 2013

If I had heard of a job opportunity, and I had a limited time to apply, I'd apply first, then track down my contacts for networking.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:36 AM on April 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm not actually seeing a downside here; just a bit of a problem, which you seem to already know how to solve as best you can with the resources you have available.

Do your best with the resources you have, apply. If you really need to, say that references are available upon request or something of the kind. Potential rejection is no reason not to go after something in the first place.

Best of luck!
posted by Urban Winter at 7:50 AM on April 4, 2013

While not a senior academic myself, I've worked on this sort of hiring committee.

I'd send an email expressing your interest to a senior member of the department doing the senior hire (I'm assuming you know one of them personally, as its hard to imagine otherwise for a senior position). You can ask in this email whether they require an application with letters or, as you'd like to not signal you're on the market, whether you can hold off on collecting letters for now. Some schools are comfortable keeping senior applications a secret and presenting their visits, externally, as an informal talk.

Good luck!
posted by eisenkr at 7:58 AM on April 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Apply now. In a recent departmental search we had a great applicant without a set of letters, so we just requested that they be sent prior to the interview. I can't imagine tossing a good applicant for that.
posted by bizzyb at 5:24 PM on April 4, 2013

I think the folks you ask for letters of reference will be sympathetic. Provide them enough information in your request so that their letters of recommendation basically write themselves. Eg., "I'm interested in this position for [x reasons]. I think it would be a good fit for me because of [y reasons]. If you could speak to [z positive things that reference knows about you], I would appreciate it. (You can even throw a "would greatly appreciate it" in there if it feels uncomfortable asking someone to essentially brag for you about a specific topic.)
posted by eviemath at 9:46 PM on April 4, 2013

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