I don’t have any job materials to submit. How else can I help?

Submit secondary resources

If your department has created resources for graduate students applying to academic jobs, consider submitting them to the repository. This might include, for example, guidelines for giving a job talk, participating in an interview, preparing job materials, or searching for jobs.

Please make sure the resources focus on transparency, equity, and inclusion. Make sure that they are well-described (and specify source institution and academic discipline, as appropriate). Make sure authorship is correctly attributed.

Secondary resources should be uploaded to the “Additional Job Search Resources” folder on the Docs page. Here are more guidelines for submitting materials.

Share the resource

We share the network aggressively on twitter, but are still working on connecting with people beyond our social networks. We are particularly interested in making sure that graduate students and ec scholars on the job market have access to these resources.

If you belong to a scholarly society, facebook group, or department, consider sharing this project. You could write about it in your departmental newsletter! Post about it on your grad student blog. Post it to your area studies facebook group. Email it to your friends.

Recruit participants

We are always looking for more volunteers to submit materials. Even if you can’t submit materials yourself, think of ways to encourage those in your network to submit.

If you are a senior scholar, advising junior scholars on the potential risks of participating in a project like this would be particularly useful. We know that causes a lot of anxiety!

Expand the resource

Have ideas about other ways we can support transparency and equity in higher ed? We’re interested. Email halperta@gmail.com.

So you want to invite an alt-ac to speak on your campus

This piece was cross-posted on medium.com

As the job market for higher ed breathes its final gasps, grad programs around the country are looking for ways to connect their students with people who have successfully transitioned out of academia.

This is the right thing to do. Most of your students are not going to get tenure track jobs this year, and while some of them may have the capacity to wait out the failed economy with a series of contingent or temporary positions, others are going to be looking for a way out.

Your instinct to invite alt-ac workers to speak on your campus is good, and I’m happy to report that we can help.

The Academic Job Market Support Network was formed long before COVID-19 put the final nail in the coffin of tenure-track employment. It is designed to help humanities phds navigate the academic job market and, increasingly, the transition to alt-ac.

The Academic Job Market Support Network is an initiative built on transparency, community, and generosity. Our purpose is to improve equity in career outcomes by providing resources for students regardless of their cultural or economic background or the status of their institutions.

Among the resources we offer is the Alt-Ac Support Network spreadsheet, a public list of volunteers interested and available to speak with students about their careers. The database provides the names, contact info, and background of post-phd workers, and states whether they are available for one-on-one consultations as well as departmental visits.

You can share this list with your students, who can use it as a networking resource. You an also invite people from the list to speak with your students about their background and their profession.

Please do this!

But if you are newly awakened to the alt-ac world, if this is the first time your department is making a concerted effort to help students pursue alt-ac careers, then there are some things you should know before you start emailing alumni and contacting strangers.

First, note that this is the companion post to a much angrier piece I wrote about what it’s like to be invited to speak as an alt-ac worker. I encourage you to check out that article, which has resources and tips for working in alt-ac.

In this gentler piece, I simply want to remind you that many of us who left academia for other careers did so because we had no other choice. We may be happier now than we would have been on the tenure track; we may have better salaries and a better quality of life; but many of us carry with us the weight of that disappointment.

I also want to remind you that alt-ac speakers are most effective when we are part of a more comprehensive professionalization program. We simply cannot carry the fear and uncertainty and broken dreams of your students.

What we can do is serve as models for the kinds of careers that are possible outside of the tenure track and provide practical advice about how to prepare to leave academia while pursuing a PhD.

This is most effective when a department has already done the work of preparing their students for professional development. Some things you might do to prepare include:

  1. Collect information on both academic and alt-ac career outcomes for graduates in your department over the past one, five, and ten years.
  2. Collect information on the career aspirations of your current graduate students and their feelings about how well prepared they are to pursue those careers. Note that students often feel like they will be punished by their department for speaking honestly about this, so consider an anonymous assessment.
  3. Assess how your department has responded to the changes to the academic job market since 2008. Consider activities such as: curriculum redesign, expansion of dissertation requirements, expansion of job-market preparation, changes in faculty advising responsibilities, changes in cohort size, changes in student and faculty recruitment strategies, introduction of funded internship programs, and formalized (and funded) partnerships with alt-ac organizations and professionals.
  4. Assess how your department establishes and maintains relationships with alt-ac professionals. Do you have funds set aside to invite them to provide mentorship, support, or guest lectures? Do you provide funded internship programs? Do you hire alt-ac professionals to adjunct in your department?
  5. Assess how your department is supporting your graduate students. Do student stipends meet your city’s cost of living? What are the financial conditions of your international students? Do your students have a union?
  6. Assess how your department is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Are you providing emergency funds for students who have lost summer income? Have you extended student funding packages & time to degree? Have you established postdocs for students graduating now? Are you communicating regularly and clearly with your graduate students about your pandemic response?

As an alt-ac speaker, I have been invited to campuses where I was the only alt-ac training students received, and to campuses where I was part of a series of speakers invited during a student’s final year.

I have never been invited to speak on a campus where alt-ac preparation begins prior to the final year of a student’s phd.

By the time students reach their final year of their phd, it’s much too late for them to start preparing for an alt-ac career. This doesn’t mean they can’t have one. But it means their transition is likely to be more difficult and more painful.

This is why I encourage you to use the alt-ac spreadsheet to invite people to campus. But I encourage you to do it as part of a more comprehensive effort to help students prepare for their post-grad careers.

Some reasons why you should share your job materials online

My instinct, when I first thought about putting my job application materials online, was that it was a terrible idea.

It’s awkward to publicly share documents that are weird, gloating representations of achievement — the kind of self-aggrandizing language that I would never use outside of a job application.

It’s also uncomfortable to share documents that are flawed, imperfect, and dated. My job materials make promises that I never fulfilled, and represent ideas that have since changed significantly. They were never intended to live on past the submission date, and I have to admit that I remain afraid that when you read them, you too will realize that I’m an imposter in the academic field.

I can only hope, as you read my documents (which are available on this website), that you will read them with generosity.

So why did I put my job materials online?

I put them online because I identified a third source of discomfort behind my instinct to keep my materials private. I had a deep, sincere anxiety that if I were to put these documents online, it would break the rules. The job application process is shrouded in secrecy, and while I wasn’t entirely sure why that was the case, I had a feeling it might tank my career to speak up.

The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that I couldn’t identify a single legitimate justification for that secrecy. What I began to realize is that the secrecy is part of a greater system designed to limit access to academia and to maintain the status quo.

Without a public repository of sample materials, the way people learn about the job market is by reading the small number of public resources available, by getting training through their departments, and by getting information from their personal networks of advisors, mentors, and friends. I believe that this is the legacy of an era when jobs were primarily acquired through nepotism: when a faculty member at a prestigious institution could make a call and get his student a job.

I cannot speak for your feelings, but I know now that part of what was motivating me to hide my job materials was the desire to hold on to the advantages that system has provided me. I went to a prestigious university, worked with brilliant and supportive mentors. I am a beneficiary of an inequitable structure, and I feared, at a deep and unconscious level, that to share my materials would tip the balance of privilege against me. In a highly competitive market, I feared the possibility of a more equal playing field.

What I have come to believe is that as much as I might enjoy the privileges of that system, it does not serve us as a community to sustain inequity in the job market. Transparency around the secret processes behind the job market is the only way to make sure that all the brilliant scholars who do not have access to information — because of their upbringings, because of their institutions, because of the people they work with — have a more equal chance to be recognized for the merit of their work.

I also hope that increased job market transparency will help make people on the market now feel a little less alone. For many of us, graduate school makes us feel like we are desperately behind, unqualified, and somehow unaware of key information that we should already know. While there are things that are hard for good reason (it will never, ever be easy to write a dissertation), the anxiety of job-market-imposter-syndrome does not serve a good pedagogical purpose. It serves the purpose, once again, of maintaining the status quo by introducing additional barriers to success for those whose background or training put them at a disadvantage.

Finally, I’ll say this: it’s been incredibly easy to share my job market materials. I chose to share materials from a few years ago — from job searches that are long since over, and about projects that have changed substantially. These antiquated materials have very little to do with my work as I understand it now. What’s more, I’ve found, as I always do, that being public about the imperfections of my work and about my professional struggles has led to nothing but growth and support from the academic community.

I hope you’ll join me in making your materials available online. If you’re a humanist who has been on the academic job market in the last five years, consider adding your documents to the humanities commons group. Take a look at our guidelines for tips on scope, documents, and uploading processes.

And please share widely. One day, humanities programs will receive the funding they deserve, and the process of applying to jobs will become less onerous and more hopeful. In the meantime, as we wait and advocate for that day, I really believe we can make this process a little bit better for everyone.

Thank you.


Welcome to the Academic Job Market Support Network. We host information and resources relating to job searches. Right now our main purpose is to share sample job materials, which are available on the ‘files’ page.


This group is open to anyone, but we are primarily concerned with supporting humanities PhDs (abd and post-grad) who are pursuing academic careers. We are open to any discipline but have historically focused on digital humanities and language and literature materials, and we host materials for the full range of potential academic jobs, from TT to postdoc, VAP, lectureships, and adjunct positions. We are institution agnostic (ivies, R1s, regional publics, SLACS, community colleges are all welcome) and have some alt-ac materials, mostly for jobs directly relating to doctoral training (i.e. academic librarianship).

Want to contribute?

As a member, you can add your materials by uploading them to the ‘docs’ page. This a great way to support current and future applicants, thank you! We do ask you follow the following principles:

  1. Be selective: we know, you’ve written hundreds of documents. But please follow these guidelines:
    1. Submit no more than one document from each genre/job type to the site.
    2. Only submit documents that were ‘successful’ – that is, applications where you proceeded to the interview stage.
  2. Submit as PDFs: not everyone has Word.
  3. Protect your privacy: Make sure you remove your mailing address and other personal details.
  4. Include area-specific info: In the title or description, describe:
    1. The type of doc (“cover letter”)
    2. The type of job (“VAP”)
    3. The field/department (“English”)
    4. The year (“2016”)
    5. edit: It’s just now occurring to me we should think about nation, like U.S., Canada, UK, Europe… since the markets are so different!
  5. Categorize your files: Use the above information (document type, job type, department, and year) to select categories. This will make it easy for users to sort or search for the kind of documents they’re looking for.