One of the most valuable pieces of advice our job market placement coordinator gave me and my classmates is the ideal job market timeline, constructed through backward induction. Here’s my version of it, geared at applied economists.
November 1: Submit first set of applications. For most people, the earliest job application deadlines are November 1, although most are November 15 or even December 1. If you’re also applying for jobs in non-economics fields (e.g., marketing), you may have to shift the whole schedule earlier.
October 1: Give final draft of job market paper (JMP) to letter writers. You want to give them plenty of time to give your paper a thorough read and write you a good letter!
August 1: Give penultimate draft of JMP to committee & letter writers for feedback. This way, you will have time to revise and incorporate any feedback you get before October 1 even if your committee takes a while to get back to you. You don’t want your letter writers to be surprised by something that is or is not in your paper when they sit down to write your letter.
May 1: Share what you think are your final JMP results with your dissertation committee. Ideally, these take the form of the tables & figures that will form the basis of your paper. If your committee is happy with the basic results (which they should be if you’ve stuck to the deadlines below), you now have a good chunk of time to write up the paper.
April 1: Share your penultimate JMP results with your dissertation committee. Try to incorporate as many of their suggestions from below as reasonable. If committee members suggested different things, your “results” document could get long. Try to keep it organized, both for the sake of your committee and your own. Put the most important results in tables/figures up front. Make an “appendix” for the rest. Write a brief summary of what the results are telling you, with references to tables (you’ll also be able to use some of this writing in your results section later!).
March 1: Share your JMP results with your dissertation committee. If this is the first time your committee is seeing results, provide a fairly detailed explanation of what you did and how you did it (data, regression specification, etc). As a bonus, you’ll be able to use these explanations as part of your empirical framework/data section down the line.
February 1: run this timeline by your dissertation committee. This is partly to make sure that your committee knows you’re planning on going to the market and that you have a committee you’re happy with. It’s also a good accountability/commitment device. And while I think most faculty members would be very happy with the plan outlined above, they may suggest modifications that make sense in your specific case.
Now for some Q&A…
Are you in trouble if you don’t meet these deadlines? Not necessarily. This is the ideal timeline I suggest to students so that there’s a buffer if you do go over. I also think trying your best to stick to these deadlines will reduce the stress of the job market. It’s stressful enough without doing all your writing last minute. You can probably change the “1” to a “15” in the dates above and still be perfectly fine, but aiming for the “1”s helps ensure that you don’t go over the “15”s.
These self-imposed deadlines are also helpful if something unexpected comes up. A robustness check fails and you need time to figure out why. You think of an important extension and need to pull in an additional dataset. A tighter timeline can leave you scrambling and deciding between skimping on the writing or on an important robustness check. That’s not a fun position to be in.
Ultimately, this is a timeline that almost no students end up meeting perfectly. But it provides a useful benchmark to keep you on track.
What if I don’t have results by March 1? It should also be fine to show your committee preliminary results by April 1 and final results by May 1. But there are never guarantees when working with data, which is why I suggest an earlier check-in as well.
Do you really need more than a month to write and revise your paper once you have your results? Almost surely. Writing is hard. Editing is tedious. I personally cannot write for more than 2-3 hours per day even if I have all the time in the world, and that’s on a good day. While writing you may realize things you need to check for, revise your tables and figures, and so on. You may need to take a writing break for a few days and come back to look at your paper with fresh eyes. So leave lots of time for writing.
Does this mean you shouldn’t revise your JMP after October 1? Not at all. Most job market papers are revised many times between the draft you give your letter writers and journal submission. But your letter writers will not write a letter based on what your JMP could become, they will base their letter on what the JMP looks like at the time they are writing the letter. So it’s in your best interest to make it as polished as possible by this point.
Won’t I be bothering my committee members by contacting them so many times? Committee members being bothered by this timeline would be a big red flag in my book. It is part of our job description to advise students and help them get the best possible job. And this timeline benefits committee members as well. Seeing final results in August and the first paper draft in October gives the committee members no time to help the student improve and can be frustrating for everyone involved. By contrast, if the results are in great shape by April 1 and the paper draft is great on August 1, then sending small updates on May 1 and October 1 doesn’t really add to the committees workload (especially if you clearly outline where changes have been made).