One of my biggest gifts (or annoying habits depending on your perspective) is giving unsolicited advice. I can’t even make two posts without doing this, … so why resist the temptation when its likely that this will be an utter failure?
So here goes. Top 3 things people (other junior faculty/senior faculty) told me where important in choosing a first academic position. They didn’t volunteer this information, I took a sort of informal survey of every seminar speaker that came through this place in the 6 months prior to my first interview. These are not necessarily in any order, although I rate things that can’t be bought (with money) higher than things that can.
1. Your potential department chairperson. Will he/she fight for you? How do his department members feel about his/her leadership of the department?
2. Your potential colleagues in the department. Do the faculty get along and work together? What is the distribution of senior to junior faculty? Do you see colleagues that you will work with you and help you up (donate their valuable time to read your grants and papers)?
3. The salary structure at the institution/ department. By this I mean what percent of the salary for the position is guaranteed to you from the institution itself. This varies from 0% hard money … i.e. you have to bring in 100% of your salary from the grants you bring in, to 100% hard money… the institution pays ALL of your salary and whatever funds you get from grants are used to run your laboratory.
Are these the only important things to look for in your first job? No, but in my experience looking for a job these are definitely the three top things you should be thinking about and ASKING about as far as the department/institution are concerned.
If any of you have other thoughts… sharing them now would be terrific!