Securing a professional future at the Economist’s Largest Job-Matching Program

Recognized as the largest conference for keeping up to date with the latest in economics research and development, the American Economics Association’s Annual Meeting is a prestigious affair, gathering famous economists for a long weekend in late January. The three frenetic days are closely followed by economists around the globe as the crème de la crème of economics papers are showcased, with over 520 scholarly sessions held in 2017 and more than 13 thousand participants registered.

Running parallel to the conference, the American Economics Association job placement service is an intensive race, as Job Candidates compete for positions with top economics employers across the field. Chasing the opportunity of a lifetime can be really stressful for Job Candidates, so equipping our students with the best resources and advice is a valued part of CERGE-EI’s PhD program.

We spoke to Marek Kapička, Ph.D., Associate Professor with Tenure and Placement Officer at CERGE-EI, to gain some key insights into how to impress employers and maximize the chances of landing a dream position at the AEA job-matching marathon.

Here is what Marek advices from his own experience about preparation for the AEA job market:

How important is the AEA job placement program in regards to the future careers of PhD Candidates?

For anyone trying to find a good academic (or, to a lesser extent, a non-academic) position, the AEA placement program is absolutely essential. It is where the matching process between candidates and prospective employers begins.  There are other placement programs, one organized by the European Economic Association, but those are clearly secondary, with fewer employers participating.

When should a PhD Candidate begin preparing for the AEA job placement program and what is the first thing they should start with?

Usually, the whole process starts in September, when the PhD candidate should have his/her job market paper ready. He should also ask talk to his/her advisors, discuss where he/she should apply, and ask them to write him/her a letter of recommendation. Talking about where to apply is important, not only because it sets expectations right, but also because it allows the letter writers to write appropriate letters (a good letter of recommendation to a top research university is going to be different from a good letter of recommendation to a teaching college). Applications are usually sent in November. All the while, the candidate should be polishing his or her job market paper and practicing its presentation!

What is the biggest mistake that PhD candidates most often commit in respect to the whole event?

The biggest mistake is perhaps not spending enough time preparing for the interviews properly. The interviews are fast paced, and you only have a few minutes to impress the interviewers. You need to explain your research clearly, succinctly and in an interesting way. You have to be general enough so that even people outside of your field will understand. You need to stand out from the other candidates. This isn’t easy but can be improved by practice!

What is your top tip or advice for PhD candidates going to the event?

Not to commit the biggest mistake above. Prepare carefully in advance.

There are hundreds of potential employers at the event, but interview places are limited. What is the best way for candidates to decide who to schedule interviews with in order to increase their chances?

There are hundreds of potential employers, but also hundreds of applicants. If you have so many interviews that you have problems scheduling them, congratulations! You are doing fantastic so far. For most candidates, sadly, this will not be an issue.

A number of CERGE-EI students concluded the job-matching program with great success, with three PhD Candidates securing a job placement via the 2016 AEA conference. We are looking forward to this year´s job placements.

You can also read what The Economist says about the conference here.


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