This is a lot.

As someone who just went through her first job cycle (when writing this resource, c. Fall 2021)... oof. I definitely benefitted from having colleagues and friends help me figure things out, sharing tips and tricks, and pointing me towards resources. Throughout my job cycle, I wrote down all of it (and other things I figured out) in the hopes that this information can be helpful for those who come after me.

If you're just now approaching your first job cycle, congrats! That's a big milestone in your career, and you absolutely deserve to be here. Hopefully this massive list of tips, tricks, and resources will help make this process less completely unknown and overwhelming for you.

Thank you to the many wonderful people who looked over this page and/or provided feedback, more items/resources to add, etc. — Dr. Stephanie Ho, Dr. Jackie Champagne, Dr. Jasleen Matharu, Dr. Emily Martin, Dr. Jonathan Cohn, Dr. Alex Riley, Dr. Steven Finkelstein, Dr. Micaela Bagley, Dr. Yuanyuan Zhang, Dr. Arianna Long.

Finally, this document will be a living resource.

So if anyone has additional resources that they would like to recommend, please email me!

  • READ THE JOB SOLICITATIONS FULLY — Take note of any formatting requirements, any page limits or word limits, anything they specifically want you to mention. For fellowships, especially, pay attention to anything they DON'T want (for example, the NSF AAPF now requires that apps focus <50% on NASA-supported data). Do everything the solicitations specify so that your app isn't immediately thrown out.

    As part of this, for astronomy careers: some jobs on the American Astronomical Society (AAS) job registry don't specify page limits for any of the materials they request. When in doubt, always ask! However, you can also use the AAS postdoctoral application guidlines (link) as guidance on what to do as well.

  • Establish clear expectations with your advisor — The job cycle is going to be a very chaotic and time-intensive thing. So it's a good idea to plan ahead for everyone involved. Ask your advisor if they will have time to read your statements, or if they want them in advance (and if so, how far in advance). Tie this into your working style and planning.

    For the most part, you may find that you use the same job statement over and over, albeit modified to fit the science goals and data access for each institution you apply to. So, in light of that, part of your conversation with your advisor could be getting feedback on your first job app and then possibly some discussion on ways you plan to change that statement/proposed science to fit the other jobs & fellowships you'll be applying for.

  • Establish clear expectations with your letter writers — In the same vein as communicating with your advisor, make sure that you and your letter writers are on the same page with your expectations for this job cycle. This can include discussing how in advance they want your statements, how frequently they would like to be reminded of the due dates for their letters, etc.

OKAY, so you're starting the job cycle. That's great! You may be wondering about what the timeline for preparing and applying for jobs should entail. Great question. Let's talk about this. First it's important to know that this timeline can differ slightly depending upon the person, their workstyle, and the expectations from their letter writers.

So with that in mind, here's a rough timeline that hopefully can help give you an idea of what you need to be thinking about.

a rough timeline

  • late July / early August — Start looking at the Job Registry. Identify the jobs & fellowships that you're interested in as well as the ones where you think you'd be a good fit. You're gonna want to keep an eye on the Job Registry throughout the job cycle, as new job ads get posted throughout the season (essentially whenever the people posting the jobs have funding come through).

    Also take this time to identify who will be your three letter writers, and what they can each highlight both about your science and you as a scientist. Reach out to them during this time to ask if they're willing to be a letter writer and talk about expectations with them (see previous section). Also, now is a good time to update your CV (see "useful tips"), especially if you haven't updated yours in a while!

  • August / September — Begin outlining a general statement to use in your job apps. Also begin outlining a general fellowship statement. In addition to this, it's a good idea to begin drafting out what you plan to say. Some of the fellowship deadlines in astronomy come before most of the job deadlines, so it's good to tackle this as soon as possible. This is especially important to be aware of as some of these early fellowships are also some of the longest ones -- with the NSF AAPF, for example, being 10 pages of text (and other ancillary documents) and due mid October.

    Starting this early with drafting out statements may feel excessive, but depending upon how early your letter writers/advisor would like to see statements (in order to provide feedback) it can be a good idea to get this ball rolling early. Not to say that I did this... I am definitely a procrastinator (do as I say, not as I do).

  • September / October — Continue checking the Job Registry, adding the ones that spark your interest to your list (see next section for resources). At this point, ideally you have some kind of working draft for your job apps and your upcoming fellowship statements. This is a good time to solicit feedback from your letter writers/advisor/colleagues/etc. on these statements.

    Incorporate whatever feedback you get into your statements and work towards a final draft. Apply for jobs. Email your letter writers occasionally to update them on the apps submitted, their upcoming deadlines, etc.

  • October through March / April — Continue checking the Job Registry and applying for the jobs and fellowships that you're interested in!

  • January / February — This is around the time when you'll start to hear back from jobs on whether or not you've been shortlisted. If you have, this is also generally when you start to be contacted for interviews. This process often continues through the rest of the job cycle.

  • February 15th — This day is the decision deadline for a number of job and fellowship offers. Therefore, this date is often thought of as the catalyst for the next round of job & fellowship offers -- as people will decline a job or fellowship, causing the search committees to move down their candidate list. So this isn't the last day for any job decision ever! It's just a benchmark that can be helpful if you're trying to figure out when you'll hear from a place (if you haven't already). It also never hurts to send a polite email following up with a job ad, if you haven't heard from them by this point.

NOTE: This timeline changes for some European fellowships (e.g. Marie Curie, 1851, etc.), which may have an internal process run by the institution first — if you’re planning to apply for any of those fellowships, then you will need to contact your host institution ASAP to ask which fellowships you would be a good fit for, from their perspective. Also for non-US postdoc postings, in general, in my experience they seem to post nearly year-round as their funding comes in. So keep an eye on that, too!

  • — JOB TRACKER SPREADSHEET. Early on into the job cycle, I was looking through the jobs and fellowship that had already posted, marking the ones I was interested in, wondering how I would keep track of everything. Serendipitously, at that moment my friend Dr. Jackie Champagne shared this amazingly detailed spreadsheet that she had made to track all of the fellowships that were in our field. Taking that spreadsheet, I modified it to work for both postdoc jobs and fellowships and used it as my centralized job tracker.

    I've made a template version of my spreadsheet job tracker, which is linked below. In the spreadsheet, there are three tabs so you can see how the document changes as you apply for things and begin hearing back from places. Also, I've added a lot of comments with additional information, which I've compiled in a PDF spreadsheet guide (also linked below). Feel free to make a copy of this tracker spreadsheet and modify it however you want so that it can best fit your job app needs!

    Also, as a note: check out the "for your letter writers" section to see a similar (but more simplified) tracker that you can use for your letter writers. Or, you can always add columns in this spreadsheet for your letter writers, if you want everything in one place.

    example job tracker tracker guide

  • — RESEARCH STATEMENT/PROPOSAL. For my research statements/proposals, I used Overleaf, the online LaTeX editor. Most of my research statements were actually generated in the same Overleaf template (the only ones that weren't in this file were the fellowships that had their own templates). Every time I started a new app, I made a new .tex file, copy-pasting a general statement in there and modifying it to fit the specific job better. Then, I comment out everything else in the main.tex file and input that particular job's new .tex file.

    Check out the template below to see what I mean!

    My Overleaf Job statement template

    Alternatively, there are other ways that you can approach writing your statements. These options can include 1) having one main.tex document where you comment in or out things that you want in your statement (plus having one paragraph that you change for each application), or 2) having one statement version prepared for each format (e.g., 3 pages including figures, 4 pages including figures, etc.). Find what process works best for you.

  • — COVER LETTERS. When writing my cover letter, I looked through a variety of templates until I decided to stick with a more simplified one that I modified (because I can easily hyperfocus on styling and that wasn't what I needed to focus on). Very similar to the document I share in the Research Statement/Proposal section above, I structured my cover letter to where I could comment in and out the letters for various institutions while preserving the general formatting.

    To see what I mean, check out the first button below. I also include in this template the general way that I structured my letters (introducing myself, highlighting my experience, summarizing proposed work, etc.). You are welcome to use all or none of this advice in your own cover letters -- if you just want to use the template format but not the content, that's totally fine.

    Also linked below are all of the varous cover letter templates offered by Overleaf. Check them out and find one that works for you! I do recommend that, regardless of the template you use, you set your document up like my example, where you can comment in and out various .tex. It'll save you a lot of time and headaches.

    My Overleaf Cover letter template General Overleaf Cover letter templates

  • — Asking past/current fellows for their apps. When applying for fellowships, it's a great idea to ask current and/or past fellows if they are comfortable sharing their applications that they submitted for the fellowship. Seeing successful examples of a fellowship application can be really helpful when crafting your own. I sent a ton of emails like this at the beginning of the job cycle.

    Sometimes, I was just asking if they'd be comfortable sharing their app; other times, I asked if they'd have time to meet and talk about what it's like to be a fellow and how they accomplished the things they proposed for. The latter was especially something I was interested in for fellowships like the NSF AAPF, where they have you propose for not only your science but also a "broader impacts" program.

    I'm eternally grateful to every person who replied and shared their application materials with me. In the same spirit, I've generalized my emails that I sent and turned them into templates which you are welcome to use if you find them helpful! You can find the email templates linked below:

    email templates

— MAKE A PERSONAL ADS LIBRARY — This was some great advice I got from my friend Dr. Emily Martin. By making a personal ADS library with every paper you have led or been a co-author on, you can link this on your CV, website, etc. Also, you can export your citations to a table of authors and affiliations (helpful when a job asks for a publication list).

my public ads library

How to do this:
First, make a personal ADS library on your ADS account, name the library with your name – for example, mine is Taylor A. Hutchison. Make sure that the library is public -- you can do this by navigating to the "Manage Access" tab on the library. Finally, take the "public address" link they provide for the library (NOT your URL) and use that wherever you want to link your library.

— Link your ORCiD to your ADS, then you can add your papers to your ORCiD through an official channel. Additionally, be sure to update your employment and your education on your ORCiD profile, as well as adding keywords and linking your website and your GitHub. (NOTE: this is very easy to maintain/sync with ADS if you make sure that your author affiliations on papers that you lead/co-author have your ORCiD included!)

— EXPORTING CITATIONS VIA ADS, using custom formatting. Let's pretend that you've made an ADS library for your NSF AAPF application. You want to export all of your citations at once, but the NSF requires that every single author on every single paper is listed (silly, yes I know). With ADS, you can do this in seconds!

    1. Check the boxes next to the citations you want to export (or check the box that marks all of them).
    2. Click to the tab in the library that says "Export", it should drop down a list of options (like BibTex, AASTex, etc).
    3. Click on "Other Formats", which will take you to a new page with a drop down box.
    4. Click on the box and choose the last entry ("custom format"). A blank box should appear below the drop down box.
    5. In this empty box, copy and paste the first line of the code I share below (don't include the "// NSF AAPF" part) into that entry box and press "Apply."
%l (%Y), %J, %V, %p.\n

// NPP (separate bib)
%3.2a (%Y), %T, %J, %V, %p.\n

// NPP (in statement)
%3.1m (%Y), %j, %V, %p $\bullet$
Congrats! You have a complete list of all of your references in the correct format, with every single author on every single paper listed. You can now export this list by copying and pasting into a document, or by clicking "Download to File".

For completeness, I also listed examples for what I used for my NPP application, too. You should also check out ADS's help page for this feature (linked here) and explore all of your options. ALSO BE SURE TO CHECK THE SOLICITATION REQUIREMENTS FOR YOUR JOB APPS WHEN EXPORTING CITATIONS.

— Adding PDFs together via LaTeX. Sometimes jobs will require that you put your research statement, cover letter, and CV all in one PDF. If this happens, you can either add them together using a PDF editor or you can do the following in LaTeX (in this example, we're adding our CV to the document). Thanks to my friend & colleague Dr. Jonathan Cohn for sharing this neat trick!


% right before \end{document}

  • — GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR LETTERS. This is a twitter thread written by my friend Dr. Arianna Long. I know most of this guide is me writing out things on this webpage, but seriously -- go read that thread, then come back. It's a game changer, and I will absolutely be using her advice in the future.

    Arianna's thread

    — LETTER OF REC TRACKER. For each of my letter writers, I created a Google Sheets tracker for each job that I was applying for. This tracker is a heavily modified version of one shared with me by a postdoc friend (& mentor) of mine, Dr. Stephanie Ho. In this tracker, I included details such as the job/fellowship name, link to the job ad, who to address the letters to, when the deadlines were, and a checkbox for the letter writer to mark once they submitted a letter. This helped both of us make sure that we were always on the same page.

    Because I had three letter writers, I made one version of this tracker then made two additional copies, so that each letter writer had their own spreadsheet. Update the name of each file to reflect the last name of each letter writer.

    Also, I've added a lot of comments with additional information, which I've compiled in a PDF spreadsheet guide (also linked below). Feel free to make a copy of this tracker spreadsheet and modify it however you want so that it can best fit you and your letter writers' needs!

    example LoR writer tracker tracker guide

    Alternatively, you can have one letter of rec tracker spreadsheet and just make three different columns, one for each of your letter writers.

  • — EMAILING LETTER WRITERS. Once I had chosen my letter writers and confirmed that they were willing and comfortable writing me letters of recommendation, I sent out official emails to each of them. In these emails, I highlighted the information they would need, including linking their specfic LoR tracking spreadsheets (see point above) and attaching my CV and any job app draft I had.

    You can see a template of one of the emails I sent to a letter writer, with any identifying information redacted.

    LoR email template

  • — Providing info to your letter writers. This is an incredibly helpful resource I encountered from a colleague (& mentor) of mine, Dr. Steven Finkelstein. This is a Google Form that he sends to people who ask him to write a letter of recommendation. In this form, he asks for general information about the job/opportunity they're applying for, a description (from the perspective of the applicant) of the academic relationship that he has with them, specific things that they may want him to focus on in his letter, etc.

    With his permission, I've pasted the questions from his form into a template document. Feel free to make a copy of this document and fill it out for each of your letter writers, to aid them in crafting the perfect letters for you!

    Information for Letter Writers

  • — Storing all submitted apps. This was something that one of my letter writers asked for, which turned out to be super useful. Essentially, create a Google Drive folder or a Dropbox folder (whatever online storage service you use) and every time you apply for a new job, create a subfolder in there and put all of your application materials into it. Keep doing this for every job app, so that your letter writers can reference it if they need to, when crafting their letters.

    This also saves your letter writers from having to dig through emails for your statements, and keeps everything organized. I'd also recommend that when you send out reminder emails about upcoming job deadlines (see next point) you re-link this "submitted apps" folder every time for them.

  • — Emailing reminders of upcoming deadlines. As a courtesy to your letter writers, it's a good idea to send reminder emails for upcoming deadlines. In the end, I would email them every other week with deadlines for the upcoming two weeks. But also, feel free to ask your letter writers beforehand if they want these reminders or not.

    If it helps, I've included some email templates for sending email reminders to your letter writers:

    LoR email reminder templates

  • For international job applications, you may need to include your diploma (including the degree you haven't finished yet). For most US-based instutitions, you can download an electronic copy of your diploma from your institution's student portal. However, emailing your department admin or department graduate advisor for advice/directions would also work. If you plan on applying internationally, try to set this up early!

  • (optional) JOB TALK TOUR: giving talks at institutions — as part of the job cycle (and in the semester & summer prior to it) it's a great idea to reach out to institutions that you plan on applying to and ask if they have a seminar series that you could be signed up for. Also reach out to any colleagues or contacts that you have to ask about this, too, and ask your advisor for names and suggestions as well.

    Giving a talk tour is not only a great way to network with people at places at which you may want to work, it's also great practice -- always keep up your talk-giving skills because it's a huge part of your professional development and how you advertise yourself and your science.

      • HAVE A 20 MIN AND 1 HR VERSION OF YOUR TALKS PREPARED. This advice comes from experience -- I gave enough job talks that I had talks of both lengths already, thankfully. This came in use one day when, right before I joined a zoom call where I was going to give another talk, I realized that the organizers had never communicated how long they wanted my talk to be... I had prepared for the 1hr version, but when I joined the call they said 20min. So always be prepared!
      • When you visit a place to give a talk, make sure to look up who works there beforehand and identify people you know or that you'd like to meet. Ask to meet with these people after your talk (hopefully during the same day as your visit or afterwards via zoom or something). Use this as a chance to network!
      • When applicable, during your visits at institutions, you can also ask to meet with people there who have held fellowships that you're planning to apply for. Ask them for advice on how to apply as well as asking if they'd be comfortable sharing their fellowship application material. But also be sure to talk to them about their science, too.
    Why optional? I listed this as an optional thing to do because depending upon who you talk to, people find this important or not important for the job cycle. I personally found it very useful (and this even helped prep me for my defense talk at the end of grad school), but it does take up some of your time to prep & give these talks, time which you may want to spend on other things. Communicate with your advisor on whether or not you would like to do this.

  • UPDATE YOUR CV; have different length versions — always try to keep your CV as up-to-date as possible. This is just in general a great thing to do, but it also makes your life much easier when it comes to the job cycle. I wax poetic about this and other professional development things in the "personal branding" section below, so I'll spare you from that here.

    What I WILL say is this: not only should you keep your CV updated, you should have a 1-2 page version at the ready, too (especially if you're choosing to follow the AAS postdoc application guidelines). In my experience, most jobs didn't care how long your CV was, however some definitely did. For example, one of my job apps required that my CV be 2 pages max (plus a separate document for publication list) -- prepping this early is a great idea.

In this section, I'll just be listing tips and advice that I got from various sources on how to prepare for job interviews, both general advice and then academic advice specifically.

general job interview tips

  • Pay attenion to time zones — For every interview that's not in person (e.g., via phone call or video call), double and triple check the time zones of both ends of the call. You don't want to accidentally mess up the times. Be especially careful around daylight savings time in the US (for the places that do observe it), so check the times again closer to the scheduled interview to be 100% sure.
  • In preparing for interviews — Look up common interview questions, prepare for them and practice what you would say. You can think through/practice these alone, or do this with a colleague.
  • Reflect on what you want them to take away — This is advice shared by Dr. Jonathan Cohn from their advisor: Before the interview, focus on what are key things that you want them to come away with about you and you experience? Focus on highlighting those things during the interview.
  • Be honest, but spin it positive — This is advice I received from my colleague & friend (& mentor) Dr. Jasleen Matharu. Be honest about what you don't know, but make sure that's not all you talk about. There are ways to frame the areas you're less familiar with which can show the interviewer that, yes, you may not know this thing/technique, but you have the drive and interest in developing this skill.
  • Sell the idea of you — Interviews are opportunities to share your skillsets, your experience, and things that you don't know but express that you're willing or excited to learn. Even better if the job you're applying to allows you the opportunity to develop these skills with experts. It may feel uncomfortable to talk yourself up so much, but these moments are when that's the best thing to do. Don't go over the top, but also don't downplay your skillsets, strengths, and interests.
  • Highlight leadership — Make a point to bring up/focus on things that highlight you taking the lead/a leadership role. This can be as part of an organization(s), in research, in writing/contributing to proposals, etc.
  • Familiarize yourself with the institution — What does the place you're interviewing at seem to value? Do their values align with your own? Look through their website to get a gauge of this. Look at the people who work there -- are these people you can collaborate with? What kind of science are they doing, and how might you be able to contribute to it?

more academic-specific interview tips:

  • Why are you interested in this particular position? — This may seem obvious, but you will likely be asked this question at every interview. So be prepared to answer it!
  • Prepare a list of questions — This is some advice that I got from a senior postdoc colleague of mine, Dr. Yuanyuan Zhang, which is to prepare a list of questions that contain both "harmless filler" ones and "serious" or more science-career-focused questions. This is useful not only to show that you prepared for the interview (and that you're serious about the position), but it can also fill in any awkward moments you may have.
    Some questions could be like the following:

      • (if not listed in job ad) What is the expected salary?
      • What kind of computing resources does your institution have?
      • What kind of telescope access does your institution have?
      • Can postdocs PI observing proposals?
      • What's the institution/company culture?
      • What would I be working on as part of your group?
      • How do your group meetings work?
      • How can I contribute to your broader scientific goals?
      • Do postdocs have the opportunity to mention grad and/or undergrad student projects?
      • Are there funds to cover the cost of moving?
      • Do you enjoy living in [city/town/area]?
      • What do you and your colleagues do for fun in [city/town/area]?
      • [other questions?]
    (thank you to Dr. Yuanyuan Zhang, Dr. Jonathan Cohn, Dr. Stephanie Ho, and Dr. Alex Riley for providing questions!)

  • Look up your interviewer(s) — If you know who will be interviewing you, it can be helpful to look up their research profiles -- but don’t overdo it. If it's relevant to the conversation, you can mention collaborations they're a part of, work that they've published, science they've done, etc. When done right, it can show that you did the work to prepare for the interview and that you're serious about not only the position, but also working with these people as colleagues.
  • Understand the format of the interview — An important piece of advice from my colleague & friend Dr. Alex Riley is to make sure you understand the format of the interview going in. This can include things like who will be interviewing you, should you prepare slides (if so, how long are you speaking for) or just have a quick spiel prepared about your future research, etc. These are all very reasonable things to ask beforehand.
  • Avoid generic responses — This is some advice from Dr. Jonathan Cohn. As much as possible, try to avoid giving generic responses during your interviews -- e.g. don't just say "I want to do exgal research", be specific in your answers as much as possible.

from hiring perspective

  • What the interviewer looks for — Below are some things that the hiring party may be looking for. This list comes from my brother Jason Schulke, who has been on industry hiring committees, but the same ideas can apply to academic jobs.

      • Curiousity is something to look for.
      • Are you thoughtful about the position?
      • Are you excited by the purpose of the organization?
      • Does it tie to your career goals?
      • Candidates that ask good questions stand out.
      • Are you process-oriented? (depends upon job needs, of course)
      • Do you have humility? Confidence is important too, of course -- but this question comes from the fact that you're not working in isolation.
      • Would you work well in a collaborative environment?
      • "Bias for action": Are you able to make informed decisions and follow through on them with confidence?

This will eventually have its own dedicated page on my website, but for now... I want to share my personal philosophy about personal branding and professional development. Namely, that personal branding is often under-appreciated and is actually incredibly valuable and a powerful tool. This can manifest in different ways -- for example, if you create a username for yourself that is very unique, fairly easy to spell, and representative of you in some way, chances are that username will be available on every platform you have. At that point, you can make everything (email, twitter, instagram, Linkedin, GitHub) have the same username, and networking will become that much easier.

Another part of this is cultivating your resources: such as your CV, your website (if you don't have one, continue reading), your GitHub (if you don't have one, continue reading), your Linkedin, and anything else that you may use. The more frequently you spend time updating and aesthetically organizing these resources, the more complete your professional profile becomes. Doing this quickly develops into an impressive profile of resources that show that you are intentional about your professional development.

The best part about this is that if you keep up with all of this, doing a little bit of work on it here and there, it naturally grows more and more with little effort from you at any given time. Compare this technique to the amount of time and stress required if you tried to create a CV from scratch right before your first job app -- chaos. Putting in the time now and intentionally thinking about this will pay off, I promise.

GITHUB — as the modern astronomer frequently moonlights as a computer scientist, online websites like GitHub (that can house software development and implement version control using Git) are fantastic resources to use and develop. In job & fellowship applications, cultivating your GitHub and linking it to your apps/CV/etc. is a great idea. I'll specify a few ways I have personalized my GitHub, in case it helps you think through how to work on yours. Click on the button below to see this.

    • Be intentional about your username. When you're making your GitHub for the first time or when you're thinking about how to revamp your account, think carefully about what you want your username to be. Ideally, you should pick a name that is unique to you (also, in my opinion, preferably without a list of numbers at the end, ex: taylor2798) and easy enough to remember or spell.

      For example, if your name is available by all means take that, but try not to let your username be too many characters either. When I made my account, my name (in every variation) was taken already. So I used the word "aibhleog" because it was already my grad school email and it's a Gaelic word that no one else would use.

      One of the major advantages to picking a good username for GitHub is that you can host your website from GitHub, which ends up being [your-username] -- so as you can see, being intentional with your username is a great idea.
    • Add a GitHub bio to your GitHub Profile. This is a relatively new feature (c. 2020, I think) that allows you to create a README that appears on your profile, kind of like a bio. It's super easy to set up and there are lots of great examples on how to customize it to be exactly like you want. Also -- along the same lines as before -- this is a GREAT way to build up that professional overall profile that I mentioned before.

      Below are some links that can help you get more familiar with how to make and customize your own.

    • Commit often. Not only is this a good idea in general, because this is where the power of version-controlled coding comes in, but it also boosts your activity bar on your GitHub profile. Which is a good idea because it shows consistency in work and developement.
    • Pinning certain repositories to your profile. Another great way to cultivate your GitHub profile is to pin specific repositories to it, in order to highlight them. You can select up to six repositories to pin, which can include your own repos and/or ones that you've forked.
    • Having more than one repository. This may seem obvious, but having more than one reposity on your GitHub helps to show that you've 1) taken the time to use GitHub, and 2) cultivated a few different projects. These repositories could be anything. If you're comfortable having the code you write for research version-controlled via a public GitHub repo, that's an excellent example of a repository to have on your profile -- with the added bonus that it's one that you'll be very active in!

      As for other repositories, I recommend having 1-3 others as well, to flesh out your GitHub profile. For myself, I love to dabble in different small projects that allow me to explore something I'm curious about and/or learn a new coding package or technique that I otherwise wouldn't use in my own research. You can check out some of the little GitHub projects I have linked below, as well as some ideas for various kinds of coding projects you could dabble in if you're interested.

      I also host this website off of my GitHub, so that another very active repo. Additionally, you can fork other people's repositories and there have your own copies linked to your GitHub as well.

      HOWEVER, none of this is required. You could also do something as simple as making a repository to store code you've used for certain plots, a repository for a script you've written to automate something or a productivity tool, etc.

PERSONAL WEBSITE — as any fellow grad student in my graduate program could tell you, an agenda that I push hard is that every academic should have a personal website. Even if it's just an online platform for your publication list and CV/resume, having an online presence is a good idea. I've had a lot of opportunities come from people looking at my website and then reaching out -- it also helps that I link my website to all of my social medias.

I understand that for some, having an online presence like that isn't ideal or wanted -- however I would gently push back on that to point out that, as professional scientists, it's a good idea to be google-able for jobs and other opportunities. If someone can google your name and field (e.g., "Taylor Hutchison astronomy") and have your website be one of the first things that pops up, that's a good thing and shows that you're intentional about cultivating your professional profile.

At some point I plan to write a post on my website all about making websites, styling advice, and the different ways to go about doing this... but for now, below I'll link a few websites that are great for either finding an HTML template to modify yourself or for editing existing templates online via a graphical editor. Click on the button below to see these links.

Below are some random tips/tricks that I used during the job cycle that didn't fit in the other sections of this guide.

miscellaneous tips

Send your fellowship research proposals to non-experts — This is some advice from Dr. Stephanie Ho, which is to send your research statements for fellowship applications to astronomers who are not in your subfield (i.e., "non-experts"). Getting feedback and/or comments from non-experts is incredibly helpful for fellowship applications as it's unlikely that all of the reviewers will be in your subfield.

AcademicJobsOnline — Sites like AcademicJobsOnline reuse the letters from your letter writers (as long as your letter writes mark their letters as "generic") so you can save your letter writers from doing so many letters if many apps are through that site. HOWEVER, in this case make sure they write those letters generic -- so, no specific institution names, etc. Otherwise you cannot use those letters for every AJO job app.

organizational tips

  • Labeling outgoing emails — I was super excited when I discovered this feature in Gmail. If you and/or your institution uses Gmail, you can label outgoing emails. For example, all of the job-related emails I had were assigned a "Jobs" label. Because of this feature, I could also apply this "Jobs" label to my outgoing emails (like to my letter writers, to job postings when asking questions, etc).

  • Useful Google Calendar trick — In google calendar, when creating a new event by clicking on the date, you can do a fun trick. When you're typing out the title of the event, if you add the time as well, it autopopulates the time section. For example, "mentally prepare for launch 10AM" becomes "mentally prepare for launch" set at 10am once you press ENTER.

    (yes that example was JWST related and yes I made that before they delayed it 3 more days lol)

  • Creating email filters — This is just a general email housekeeping tip, but creating email filters for specific email addresses or keywords can be helpful during the chaotic job cycle. For example, you can set up a filter for the keyword "jwst" that can auto-label emails the "Jobs" label (see below for another Gmail example). Now, obviously maybe don't do this for that keyword, as lots of random emails could have that word in it, but you get the idea.

    Just something to consider!

motivational tips

Having a TO-DONE list — This is something I did that really helped with my mental health and motivation throughout the job cycle. Essentially, in addition to the various TO-DO lists I had scattered around on random post-it notes (I'm a chaotic kind of "organized"), I made something I called a TO-DONE list. In my TO-DONE list, I wrote and crossed out things that I was doing for my various job apps -- even if they were small things, I added them! It all builds up, and helped remind me of how much I was really doing which helped with my overall motivation for the job cycle.

Here's my TO-DONE list. I use Trello for a variety of things, but I especially love it because I have this "card" and I just keep adding to the check list and then immediately check the items off -- it's super satisfying and very encouraging.

Additional Resources!

Here are some resources that I found really helpful throughout the job cycle, so I wanted to share them here as well. Some of these resources are also featured on my Resources page on this website. Also, I welcome any other resources people want to share!

  • Astrobites: A guide to applying to astro postdocs: this is an awesome resource of information for applying to astronomy/astrophysics postdocs & fellowships, specifically. It's written up in two parts -- Part 1, Part 2.
  • How to get the most out of your letters: this is a fantastic & incredibly helpful twitter thread by Dr. Arianna Long that I linked above in "for your letter writers". I've linked it again down here to increase the chance of you seeing it!
  • Resources for applying to postdocs in astrophysics: this is a fantastic compilation of resources by Floor Broekgaarden, shared as a Twitter thread.
  • Crafting your statement: this is a post by Dr. Annika Peter, focused upon framing your job app statement as the "most important piece of writing you will do to get your next job".
  • Unsolicited Advice XIII: How to Craft a Well-Argued Proposal: an excellent piece by Dr. Julianne Dalcanton.
  • NASA Hubble Fellowship Program (NHFP) Anti-Racism Initiative: this is a resource that was created by NHFP fellows in response to the #StrikeforBlackLives and #ShutdownSTEM movements. They house dozens of NHFP applications, workshops, and feedback (among other awesome resources). This link takes you to their "Resources for Applicants" page, which houses tons of current/past fellows' application materials.
  • "How to find, apply for, and choose a postdoc": This is a guide written by neuroscientist Dr. Ubadah Sabbagh. His entire website is a beautiful and a fantastic resource, but this page in particular was very helpful for me -- as well as what prompted me to start to record what I was learning & figuring out while going through the job cycle.
  • Application Advice: These are a compilation of resources shared by my friend Logan Pearce, on her website. These resources cover application advice for the NSF GRFP, grad school, NSF REUs (undergrad research opportunities), and more — useful advice that is easily transferrable to postdoc applications.