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Getting that job as a Marketing Professor: Advice from the battlefield - Part 1

 

Almost two months after I signed the contract for my first job, I am beginning to feel that the job market stage is indeed over, and can congratulate myself for getting it done and doing my best over the toughest time of the PhD program. I hope the following tips and lessons will help people on the job market to be more successful. If you are heading into that stage, I wish you all the best (applause if you already finished it). It is, as everyone says, very difficult, but it can be fun too. For me, it was an experience I will never forget.

As you can imagine, the first job market is overwhelmingly complicated and an exhausting process. Thankfully, the collective knowledge of our illustrious forebears (on previous marketing job markets) has been well documented and shared through various outlets. The most useful resources I found were:

         - http://marketingphdjobs.org

         - http://www.decisionsciencenews.com/2012/06/21/2012-guide-to-the-american-marketing-association-job-market-interviews-for-aspiring-professors/

         - http://docsig.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/AMA-Transitions-Guide.pdf

 

While these tell you what to do at every stage of the job market and what you need to keep in mind, I want to share my own lessons that I learned on the job market. 

 

Market Yourself!

 

All of us aim to become a Professor of Marketing, but we first need to know about personal “marketing”. The first product is YOU – you need to market yourself. Of course, your CV matters the most, especially to get you AMA interviews. Your job market paper will get you fly-out calls. Your school and recommendation letters have an impact here and there throughout the job market process. And your personality does matter in the final call. If you tick all of those boxes there is no need to read further – you’re perfect!

However, most of us probably don’t satisfy all of these criteria. We have some concerns, be they about the job market paper, pipeline, school, nationality, language, coworkers or recommendation letters. That’s normal.  Once you have done your best to make things as perfect as possible, then it’s time for marketing. So begin by answering the following:

  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?

  • Who is your audience?

Strengths and weaknesses: Highlight your strengths and minimize your deficiencies. It may sound obvious but a lot of people seem to miss this point. I’m not talking about the checklist above, such as a solid job market paper (you go through phases of loving your work and hating it at the same time). I’m talking about your best selling point compared to others. The more unique it is, the stronger your position. It’s the “label” that makes people remember you among a hundred other candidates. Although members of faculty are super smart, they can’t remember everyone. They often refer to you by the name of the school, your gender, and this label, e.g., “a girl from INSEAD being abc / doing xyz”.  You can’t change the former part, but the label what makes you stand out.

 

This doesn’t have to be a perfect job market paper or five published pieces. In my case, I claimed independence and resourcefulness as my label, and happened to become a CB friendly modeler (which was not intentional but due to the INSEAD culture). Of course, it’s more than just a claim – you have to back it up. For this, I was fortunate to have worked with multiple collaborators from different schools and different research settings. Using all the supporting materials in your package (cover letter, CV, personal statements, recommendation letters), emphasize your strengths consistently and repeatedly, with various evidences. Having your own label (simple but interesting) catches interviewers’ attention and you will be remembered!

 

Play down your weaknesses as much as possible: Because there are so many candidates, until they know you better (usually until AMA interview), schools seem to eliminate candidates if there is any critical concern. Understandably, this is the difficult part and is often beyond your control. I recommend three ways to deal with weaknesses:

·         Do your best to cover up. For example, you can improve language, presentation, or even a certain part of your research stream while practicing.

·         Ask advisors to address potential concerns schools may have through a recommendation letter or an informal conversation with a school, e.g., your research/ teaching skills and potential

·         Adjust your target

 

Targeting and attracting the audiences: You may think that “adjusting your target” means compromising, whereas “aiming high” will get you a better place, but actually it is not the case. The job market is primarily a matching game. Schools look for certain types of candidates. You should aim to go to a school that will respect and appreciate you. (I put “should” because we often obsess over better ranked schools without considering the fit between you and the school.) The earlier you realize this, set the right targets, and position yourself at the best of the targets, the more efficiently you can get YOUR SCHOOL.

Note that I am not only talking about a its ranking but the nature of the school, such as its location, teaching/research needs, main research focus, pursuit of universities, etc. Amazingly, these factors significantly affect schools’ decisions at each stage after AMA. For example, I was invited to schools that had a good CB faculty but wanted to strengthen their empirical modeling side, and appreciated statistical modeling. They were looking for someone in digital marketing and required decent teaching skills. It was natural that these schools paid more attention to my survival ability and resourcefulness, and less to my weaknesses. If you know yourself, you can set a certain expectation of your target schools and prepare a more effective communicating strategy.

 

Once you have the right target, it is all about practice. Above all, talk and practice a lot with people who resemble your target. If the schools have many faculty members in certain areas, talk to people from those areas. Don’t be stubborn at this stage. Be ready to change your presentation to satisfy them. Although you are a math genius, let CB faculty members understand why you are working on that, how important it is, and what the take-aways are. Although you are a genius in experimental settings, show why it is marketing relevant and why each experiment matters. Insist you can add value to their school and convince them they need you.

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