Applying for a faculty job is a full-time job – the financial burden

Last week I talked about the ‘workload’ of applying for a tenure-track faculty job (let’s call them TT jobs). This week, I want to talk about a different load – the financial one. This burden was a surprise to me, although in retrospect, it shouldn’t have been. Perhaps the surprise was how much I spent, even if most of it was eventually reimbursed, and how long it took return to a baseline bank balance. For example, my first expense came in early November and my last reimbursement arrived in the middle of April. Again, this post is based on anecdata from my own experience and discussions with friends. Your mileage will vary.

I can’t speak to some of the ‘optional’ costs of applying for jobs, as I didn’t use any. Hiring a professional editor or application coach is quite pricey according to their websites (>$150 per hour). Because many applications are hosted on Interfolio, some people pay for the professional version ($48/year right now). I didn’t do either of those things, so applying for jobs cost me nothing but time and tears (unlike applying to grad school, which cost a ton!). I also didn’t take into account the cost of the comfort food needed to get through each application or the increased spending on alcohol (similar to our current pandemic, you will find your alcohol consumption goes up). For me, the costs started to mount when I got invited to my first interview.

Interviewing for TT jobs is costly in the way that going to several conferences in a single summer or semester is expensive, especially if you haven’t been to a conference (or interviewed for a job) in a while. You’ll eventually be reimbursed for the direct costs, but it will likely take time and you won’t get reimbursed for the personal expenses. Ideally, institutions will book your travel and accommodations for you and cover almost all meals upfront. You will cover the cost of food while traveling and be reimbursed within days or weeks. When it worked like this for me, it was wonderful. In these cases, I was only missing $100 from my bank account for a few weeks.

Alternatively, you’ll book your own travel as well as pay for some of your meals and be reimbursed after the interview. Sometimes the reimbursements show up within days. Other times it may take >3 months and multiple follow-up emails. At any given time between November and April, I was waiting for $100 to $1000 in reimbursement. If you have multiple of this type of interview in a short span, you may be waiting for thousands in reimbursement. You will get reimbursed, but just know you may need to be financially prepared for this kind of situation. I know money is tight for a lot of us, so I’m hoping this advanced knowledge will help cushion that burden.

You won’t get reimbursed for other personal costs. You may need to buy interview clothes, a professional-looking carry-on travel suitcase, and get a haircut. And yes, get a good haircut and a nice carry-on.

You should buy snack food beforehand, may need to dry-clean clothes after each interview, and you may also have other situational, personal costs like childcare or pet-sitting. I spent >$500 on these things (mostly pet-sitting).

I’m positive there are additional financial costs I’m not including here, but hopefully, this post will get you an idea of what to prepare for. The next post will cover what I found to be the most challenging and least talked about load, the emotional load. Stay tuned.

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