Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Solicitation no.2

Post the application packet for Oxford postdoc.

Email my supervisor about yesterday's solicitation of my job application from IIES.

Start preparing my mock job talk which is scheduled next Monday. Planning the introduction takes the whole afternoon. Cox (2000) helps a lot.

Bump into my supervisor in the Sticerd kitchen area. He looks happy. :)

Back up my data files used for the job market paper. Last week, someone's desktop PC was stolen from CEP (another research centre at LSE, STICERD's neighbour downstairs). You never know.

Receive scam phone call to my mobile, perhaps because I post my number on my CV on the web for the job market purpose... Googling the caller's phone number takes me to this discussion thread.

Receive email from the LSE Economics Department's job placement director, saying that the recruiting chair at Penn State solicited my application. I already posted the packet to them last Monday. In such case, he says, I don't need to do anything.

Start preparing answers to "Expected Frequently Asked Questions" during my job talk. A job market guide says, "Draft your answers to expected questions."

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Applications continue, and 1st solicitation!

Check the November issue of JOE, finding that some schools I want to apply for now have job openings.

Email Sue and Leila to additionally send reference letters to these schools. In response to Leila's request, I create a new Excel file containing the addresses of these schools (rather than adding these addresses to the previous Excel files sent to Leila). As Sue and Leila deal with references differently, I need to tailor my request to each one's need.

Finish online application for Caltech. Only after the submission, you will know the email address to which recommendation letters can be sent. I already asked Sue and Leila to send them via post.

Start dealing with the application for Oxford University Nuffield College's prestigious Postdoctoral Research Fellowship (PRF). Their application requirement is the most demanding. Not only CV and JMP but also a one-page description of your current research, a one-page description of the research you would plan to undertake as a PRF, and an additional research paper.

Receive a couple of email replies from LSE faculty members in response to the invitation to my mock job talk. Some cannot come but others say they will. Reply immediately to thank them.

I learn that even if schools accept applications via email, their pre-formatted application form is often difficult to fill in electronically because they provide it in the PDF format. With my PC setting, I cannot fill in the PDF form. As these schools prefer email application. I try transforming the PDF file into a Word file to fill in the form electronically, but this file type transformation destroys the layout of the form. I end up printing the PDF form out and fill in by hand-writing and send it by post, which is actually much easier.

Find that application to Essex requires a cover letter including "how you meet the requirements of the post". Need to think about it...

Leila tells me that all the reference letters except for those from Robin are ready for the first batch of schools. Robin already told me he might be late in writing letters. I tell Leila to send the letters today. This is when asking four references helps as one job market guide suggests. But I also think that as long as my application arrives in time, they will wait for references (this is what administrators in Toronto told me when I called them).

Start writing cover letters for the next batch of schools to apply. While writing one for IIES, receive email from Torsten, soliciting my application to IIES. According to the Harvard job market guide, if a school has requested your packet you will want to change the cover letter and state clearly that your materials were solicited. So I do.

Bump into Raja in STICERD. He asks me to send my job market paper. So I email him the address at which to download the paper. I also tell him references on ethnic identify I talked about yesterday.

Back to writing cover letters. Find that Pompeu Fabra has a weird application requirement: list of courses taken. Why not transcripts?

After going home and having dinner, resume writing cover letters. Now I realize that I'm writing cover letters for schools whose deadline is 30 November. I come to think that most reference letters that are now scheduled to post on 14 November can actually be delayed one week. Which is better for me because I plan to do the final revision of the job market paper from 14 November, after my mock job talk. Email Leila if she's happy with this change of my mind...

Write up one-page descriptions of current and future research for Oxford postdoc applications (see above) and then go to bed.

Monday, November 06, 2006

How to market yourself, dinner with faculty, and applications

Online application with CV uploaded for Columbia Business School. But you still need to send CV and job market paper (JMP) by post.

Torsten stops by. Invite him to my mock job talk next Monday. He gives me a positive answer.

Talk to Tim. His advice includes:

1. Do not drop the measurement of democracy part. The literature is moving in that direction though many have not noticed it. If I drop it, my paper is a public health paper, which few economists have interest in. I need to interest anyone interested in political economy.

2. Begin with Africa is not a good idea. It narrows down the scope of the paper too much. I don't want to sell myself as an Africa expert, do I? Begin with the question of whether democracy improves the quality of government, policy-making, and the lives of people. Previous studies exploit country-level data with democracy scores. My contribution is two fold. Using micro data. Measuring democracy in a precise way.

3. Political economy of development is a niche in the market of economists. Development people need someone in this field. Political economy people want to have someone familiar with development. But sell myself as a development economist interested in political economy, not the other way around. Economics departments like to hire development economists while many think of political economy as luxury.

4. Leave the latest version of the paper into Tim's mail box in Sticerd by Monday morning. He will read it and attend my mock job talk and give me feedbacks.

5. When the paper is finalized, ready for circulation, send it to Tim with two lists of schools I apply. One list includes schools with openings in development (and in political economy, if any). The other includes schools with any field. Based on these lists, he will email his friends in schools listed to recommend me.

6. Change the title of my job market paper. "Mother fixed effects" sound too nerdy. It takes time for the reader to think what that means. "Evidence from Micro Data" is better as it provokes interest. People will be like "How do you do that?"

Following his advice, revise my paper, rewriting the abstract and changing the title of the paper accordingly.

Post 25 application packets via LSE Post Room. The department will pay the postage. Realize that my cover letter includes the title of my paper, which is no longer accurate. Let's forget it.

Send application packets via email to University of Arizona and University College of Dublin. Fill the online application form and email CV and the paper to University of New South Wales.

Receive email from Simon Fraser University, saying that they receive my online application.

Receive email from Arizona, asking to complete application by clicking the link provided, which requires login.

Finish online application for University of Toronto, uploading CV and JMP. The final screen says that I can update my CV and JMP by clicking the link emailed shortly. I wanted to know this beforehand...

Dinner with today's seminar speaker (see 3 November), my supervisor, Oriana, Raja, and Daniel. I can't talk anything as the topics of conversation are the salary of economics professors, episodes of data manipulation by scientists, the weirdness of Oxbridge... But talking to Raja is productive. I ask him what the job market for him was like. "Not everyone is nice." "People ask the same question. The challenge is how you motivate yourself in giving the same answers many times." He shows an interest in my second paper. I manage to tell him about a couple of case studies by political scientists for his theoretical work.

After dinner, come back to my desk in Sticerd. Oriana tells me, "The first time at dinner with economists is always like that. You don't know what to talk. In five year's time, you will get used to it. Don't feel bad."

Online application for Caltech requires not only uploading CV and JMP but also a letter of application describing my current research in the PDF copy. Once I'm ready for that, fill in online application form, finding out that I need to describe my research interest in 50 words. After a glass of wine, I can't think hard about this. Let's do this tomorrow.

Email some LSE faculty members to invite them to my mock job talk next Monday. Let's see how it goes. They should have learned something about me as the faculty meeting on job market candidates was held at the end of last month. If my supervisor and/or Tim pushes me well at the meeting, they would be interested in coming to my talk. Fingers crossed.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

How to use MS Word Mail Merge

By browsing the Internet, I learn that the top 5 business schools are Harvard, Stanford, Warton (Penn), Kellogg (Northwestern), and Sloan (MIT). The top 7 include Chicago and Columbia. Duke and NYU are ranked in top 10 or top 15. Europe's top 3 are Insead, LBS, IMD, perhaps ranked in top 20 in the US. Since some development economists are in business schools, I plan to apply to business schools as well.

Buy 90 C4 manilla envelopes (A4 size) at Ryman, 10 minute walk from LSE. Costs 12.48 pounds. Sounds expensive, but don't have time to check other stores. LSE Student Union shop does not sell envelopes in bunches.

Finish writing cover letters. Here's how to efficiently write cover letters by using MS Word mail merge.
1. Create address lists in Excel. The top row should be "First Name", "Company", "Address 1", "Address 2", "City", "State", "Post Code", and "Country". This will facilitates the matching of fields.
2. Save it and close it.
3. Open MS Word and select "Tools -> Letters and Mailings -> Mail Merge..."
4. (Step 1 of 6) Choose "Letters" and click Next.
5. (Step 2 of 6) Click Next unless you already have a template letter.
6. (Step 3 of 6) Click "Browse" and choose the Excel file created in steps 1-2. Then click Next.
7. (Step 4 of 6) Write a template cover letter. Click a location where you want to put the address. Click "More items..." Choose a field you want to put. Click "Insert". Repeat this until all the fields show up. Then click Next.
8. (Step 5 of 6) By clicking ">>" or "<<", choose the address of the school. Click Next.
9. (Step 6 of 6) Click "Edit individual letters..." and edit the template. Save it.
10. Click "Previous" to go back to step 5 of 6. And repeat 8 to 10 until all the letters are completed and saved.

I also need to make address labels which I stick to envelopes.

How to use MS Word's mail merge to create address labels:
1. Create address lists in Excel. The top row should be "Last Name", "Company", "Address 1", "Address 2", "Address 3", "City", "State", and "Country". This will facilitates the matching of fields.
2. Save it and close it.
3. Open MS Word and select "Tools -> Letters and Mailings -> Mail Merge..."
4. (Step 1 of 6) Choose "Labels" and click Next.
5. (Step 2 of 6) Click "Label options..." and choose "8253 - Label" for product number (this works best for me). Click OK and click Next.
6. (Step 3 of 6) Click "Browse" and choose the Excel file created in steps 1-2. Then click Next.
7. (Step 4 of 6) Click "More items..." Choose a field you want to put. Click "Insert". Repeat this until all the fields show up on the address label. Then click "Update all labels". Then click Next.
8. (Step 5 of 6) Make sure that addresses appear in the way you prefer. If not, click "Previous" to go back to Step 4 of 6. If you're happy, click Next.
9. (Step 6 of 6) Click "Print" to print out address labels.

Realize I also need to make address labels for MY address as the sender.

Some schools require teaching evaluations. I create a short note on my teaching evaluation to clarify it.

Revise the CV. Revise the Introduction and Conclusions of the JMP. Go home by the last train.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Cover letter, online application

Prepare cover letters. Read Cawley's advice, only to find that I should run a draft by my primary adviser and the faculty placement director. Too late... (This description seems to disappear in the 2006 version.)

Again this drives me crazy. Not every school follows the same procedure. Some do not require a cover letter as they set up an online application form. Some require online application but still require a cover letter. Some do not require a printed copy of the cover letter as they demand email application. Some require "research and teaching statements". And so on and so forth.

If the online application does not require the uploading of my CV or my paper, I complete it today. If it needs the submission of my CV etc., I will do it tomorrow or next Monday.

There are five major patterns in application requirements:
1. Just send a cover letter, a cv, a job market paper by post.
2. 1 plus a transcript and/or teaching evaluations.
3. Apply online, and send a cv, a job market paper etc. (and the receipt of the online application) by post.
4. Apply online and upload a cv, and send a job market paper etc. by post.
5. Send a cover letter, a cv, a job market paper, etc. by email.

The job market guide for Harvard students says that cover letters for liberal arts colleges should reflect your interest in the school and teaching.

The cover letter samples provided by Georgetown and US San Diego as well as the job market guide for Harvard suggest that including a sentence like "I will be available for interviews at the ASSA meeting in Chicago next January." But this may well be avoided if you apply to universities outside the United States unless they make explicit they are going to interview at the ASSA meeting.

Friday, November 03, 2006

As busy as usual.

Get transcripts from Mark. Some universities require transcripts as part of the application documents.

Oriana offers me to join the dinner with next Monday's seminar speaker. This will be a practice "dinner with faculty during a campus visit". (See Cawley 2006, pp.40-41.)

Send a thank-you email to Iwan. Email one of the faculty members to follow up my answer to one of her questions during the seminar yesterday. I didn't manage to give a convincing answer to her yesterday. If this happens during the job talk, Cawley 2006, p.40, recommends sending email after returning home to provide the best answer you can craft.

Work on Stata to try estimations suggested yesterday. What matters is how many pathways I can exclude. First, birth spacing. The effect of democracy does not pick up the effect of longer birth spacing.

Get vitamin tablets at Holland & Barrett. Maintaining my physical conditions is very crucial.

Bump into my supervisor at the STICERD kitchen area, and he gives me some comments on my job market paper. When I talk to him about Robin's comment (be more aggressive), he doesn't agree. Which means I should see some balance. He also tells me to keep him posted on the latest development in my job market process.

Robin asks me when the first deadline is. He says his reference letter may not be on time.

Email Tim on how to revise/structure my job market paper and job talk as we will meet next Monday.

Receive email from Mark on mock job interview by LSE faculty members to be scheduled on 30 November.

Check a web discussion board where young Japanese economists hang around. One of the discussion threads is about the job market. Find a post by an assistant professor at top 20 school in US: "CV and JMP on your personal website must be the latest version because many recruiters download them from your website rather than reading the one sent via post."

Review my seminar talk yesterday. I learn that some of the questions are pointless. I should have guided questioners that their questions are not relevant. People say something without thinking deep enough. So they may be wrong. I thought any question should have had some point. I guess I was too East Asian. The source of the problem is the same for deferring questions later. I was too nice to questioners by answering their questions immediately. But it is a narrow-minded kindness: I was nice to the questioner but unfriendly to other people in the audience. I even wasn't nice to the questioner as I was lazy to point out their logic was wrong.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

(Informal) Campus Visit

Go to a UK university to present my job market paper at their Labour Workshop. Iwan, the host, told me to come by midday, although the workshop would start at 1 pm. I wondered why. It turns out that there is a faculty lunch from midday every Thursday at the department of economics, and Iwan wanted me to join this. I was introduced to several faculty members. It's difficult for me to catch names when being introduced. I shouldn't be lazy about this. A job market guide says, "Try to remember who you met."

Then it's 1 pm. In front of about 20 people (I'm not sure how many of them are faculty members and how many are PhD students), I present my paper. During the introduction, the floor is quiet. But once I get into the body of the talk, questions erupt. Two parts of my presentation turn out to solicit lots of questions: the measurement of democracy and the analysis of pathways. Iwan suggests (after the seminar) deleting the measurement of democracy part. That's what Oriana also suggested. I should talk to Tim on this. For pathways, I learn that I should make it clear at the beginning of the talk that which pathway is unlikely, which is likely, and which cannot be tested. It seems I gave an impression that the only pathway is sanitation. No, that's not what I wanted to say.

When Iwan tells me that I have one minute left, I don't understand that correctly as my mobile tells me I have five minutes---my mobile clock is wrong. So I fail to jump to the conclusion, ending up having no time for the conclusion slide.

After the seminar, one faculty member comes to me, giving some comments. If the number of people wanting to talk after the seminar is an indicator for success, this is not very good.

After leaving the seminar room, Iwan takes me to the office of one of his colleagues. He gives me some comments on my work. I should have asked about his research as some job market guides suggest. I remember this when he is taking me back to Iwan's office. Too late.

Iwan gives me quite a few comments, not only the research itself but also some tips for the presentation style. I ask him, "How do you evaluate my talk today?" He says I should have deferred questions if I will cover them later. Answering all questions on the spot distorts the structure of the talk, leaving the audience into confusion.

We talk until about 3:15 pm. As Iwan needs to teach from 4 pm, we say goodbye.

I don't know if today's talk is an informal job talk as Oriana suggested. Some faculty members including Iwan asked me where I'm looking for a job. I answered anywhere in the world. I added I'm going to apply to their department (which is true anyway). But Iwan told me that his department won't go to the AEA meeting this January (like LSE) because interviewed candidates often refuse to come over to England. This suggests that what they want to know about me is whether I have intention to remain in England.

It was a valuable experience. It's kind of a practice campus-visit. (Maybe it wasn't a practice, though.) I learn loads of things about what's going to happen early next year.

I directly go home, instead of going to LSE. I should relax a bit this evening. From tomorrow, I need to revise the paper, prepare the presentation for the mock job talk a week on Monday, and start sending application packets.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Preparation for Tomorrow's talk

Winter suddenly arrives in London today.

Start preparing tomorrow's presentation for what could be an informal job talk. But my brain doesn't really work clearly...

Check if there are some faculty members at the university I'm visiting tomorrow whose work is related to my job market paper (following the advice in some job market guides). Find there are many! Two labor economists work on child health. Two development economists work on Africa. Two public economists work on how voting affects policy choice. Download these papers (all recent working papers) just in case. Maybe I can browse them on the way to the university tomorrow.

Ask Erlend to read the concluding paragraphs that I wrote last night to see if he likes it. He gives me useful feedbacks.

My brain finally starts working properly after 3 pm. I feel stupid. If I work properly from the beginning of the day, I don't need to go home late with an empty stomach and go to bed after midnight, ending up sleeping less than 8 hours.