By Virginia Steinmetz, Ph.D., Duke University Career Center


Two Years Before Graduation

  • Select your dissertation committee and discuss available departmental financial support for the dissertation wind-up period with your advisor and Director of Graduate Studies.
  • Evaluate your teaching experience and locate further opportunities to teach at [the university] or potential adjunct positions in nearby institutions. Start designing courses.
  • Plan a conference presentation. Survey job listings in your field and target schools where you would like to teach. Use the Internet to research those schools.

Fifteen Months Before Graduation

  • Plan to complete your dissertation in the fall – one year before teaching/research positions begin the following academic year. While you may need to defend your dissertation after you have secured a position, you should avoid starting your academic career with an unfinished dissertation or prepare to negotiate with a hiring department a reduced course load to complete your thesis.
  • Discuss available or potential job openings with your dissertation advisor and committee members. Also alert peers, faculty contacts at other institutions, and your graduate career counselor that you are looking for an academic position and when you will be available.
  • Plan another conference presentation (s) and/or submit an article(s) for publication.
  • Set up a credential file at the Career Center if your department does not handle this procedure for mailing letters of recommendation to multiple institutions.
  • Choose your recommenders wisely and discuss your career plans with them.
  • Prepare your CV. Ask your Director of Graduate Studies for a discipline-specific model or review the sample CV’s on this website. Make an appointment with your graduate career counselor if you have format and content questions.

Twelve Months Before Graduation

  • Update your CV. Give copies of your CV and a section (s) of your dissertation to members of your dissertation committee and other faculty members who are guiding your research and will write employment recommendations on your behalf.
  • Study online job listings published by your professional association and postings in the journals of your discipline. In addition, be sure to consult the Career Network section of the Chronicle of Higher Education at
  • Submit application materials for conference interviews and/or sign up as directed.
  • Prepare for conference interviews by participating in mock interview opportunities offered by your department [or the university’s Career Center]

Six to Eight Months Before Graduation

  • Follow up promising conference screening interviews by contacting the faculty who interviewed you to express your interest in the position (s). Network with new academic colleagues for further research information and news about job opportunities.
  • If you are invited for an on-campus interview or are using the Career Center service for mailing multiple copies of confidential faculty recommendations for new job applications, update your recommendation file. Submit accurate employer address information to [the Career Center or office providing  Credential Services]
  • Prepare your presentations and questions for on-campus interviews carefully. Inquire about video mock interview opportunities in your department or with the graduate career specialist at Career Center.
  • Research the schools and faculties that will interview you. Don’t hesitate to call hiring departments if you have questions about their position and their interview procedure, participants or schedule.

After Your First Round of Interviews

  • If you are not offered a teaching/research appointment or if you do not complete your thesis on schedule, plan to go back on the job market during the next hiring season.
  • Discuss with your advisor, faculty committee or the graduate career counselor at the Career Center how to prepare for your second round of interviews. Use the interim period wisely to increase your visibility in the profession.
  • Try to determine why you were not hired by the schools where you thought you had a chance. Evaluate your job search strategies and skills realistically.


Other Readings of Interest by Dr. Steinmetz


Virginia Steinmetz, Ph.D. is Assistant Director for Graduate Students at TheCareer Center at Duke University. This article originally appeared in slightly different form on the Center’s web site, and is posted here with permission. Please do not repost without obtaining permission from the originating source.  The web site for Duke’s Career Center, which contains distinct sections with career planning information and advice for the University’s undergraduate, graduate and alumni populations, can be accessed at

Duke University in Durham, N.C. is a member of the Graduate/Professional School Channel.  To learn more about opportunities for graduate study at Duke, search for fellowships, or request application materials from Duke, please see the Duke University Profile.