As a person interested in becoming an educational leadership faculty member, you have a variety of tasks that you must complete in order to get ready for a job search. These tasks range from writing your curriculum vitae and collecting letters of recommendation to mentally preparing yourself for the arduous process of finding a job.
Things to Do
- Prepare yourself mentally. The job search process is extremely time-consuming and exhaustive. In many ways it is like having another full-time job on top of everything else you are doing. Structure your life to accommodate the time you will need to do your job search right.
- Get your vita ready and keep it current throughout your job search. Your vita should accurately portray the skills and talents that make you well-suited for an academic position. Be wary of making your vita too lengthy, especially if you have never held an academic position before. Institutions only want to know about the experiences that you have had that will help you related to the position that you are seeking. They do not want a thorough description of every job that you have ever held. Review the vitae of your mentor and major professors for guidance regarding form and format. Have a respected colleague or mentor review your vitae and provide feedback.
- Begin writing a preliminary cover letter. You can begin sketching out your letter early on and then later modify it to fit the particular position for which you are applying, Like your vita, your cover letter should accurately represent the talented person that you are. Unlike your vita, however, your cover letter should not also list all of your relevant experiences. Don’t make your cover letter a restatement of your vita. Instead, highlight the experiences and talents that are most relevant for the position for which you are applying. Remember that a good cover letter acts as a “hook” that makes departments want to find out more about you. Cover letters are very difficult to write effectively, so start early and expect to revise them frequently. Ask a professor or trusted colleague to provide you with feedback.
- Remember that your cover letter and your vita are the two primary documents by which institutions will be judging you. Make sure that they are professional in both tone and content. Ask several professors or colleagues to read over your documents and to make suggestions about content, style, organization, etc.
- Gather and make multiple copies of other materials needed for the application process. Common application requirements are official transcripts, teaching evaluations, writing samples, etc. Also, get ready any supplemental materials that you wish to include with your vita and cover letter. Examples could include a list of the people who are writing recommendations for you, a list of your research interests, a list of courses that you possibly could teach, a list of the computer software in which you are fluent, and/or a statement of your teaching philosophy. Many institutions will ask you for a teaching portfolio, so have one ready. Use the same font and layout for your supplemental materials that you use for your resume. For a classic touch, put your resume on high-quality white paper and then use the same paper for your cover letters and supplemental materials.
- If you are considering creating a web site as a means of illustrating your skills for potential employers, be sure that your site is professional in both style and content and that it does not include irrelevant personal information. Faculty search committees are inherently conservative, and inclusion of the “wrong” personal information could doom you in the eyes of a particular institution. Although this may be unfair, it also is cold reality. Wait and let them see how quirky you are after you get hired.
- Think long and hard about the type(s) of institutions in which you wish to work. Talk to your professors and make sure that you understand the different expectations of various institutional types. Determining what type of institutions will be good matches for your skills and interests is a crucial stage of the job search process; you do not want to end up somewhere where you will be unhappy.
- Decide on the type(s) of rural/urban locations that best fit you and your family. Proximity to urban areas, airports, recreational sites, extended family, etc. may influence which institutions are of interest to you. Recognize, however, that there will be fewer openings for which you will be eligible the more limits you place on your search.
- Buy a year-long subscription to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the primary source of education job ads, beginning the summer before you intend to begin your job search. Regardless of the other mechanisms a department or program may employ to advertise its anticipated openings, it is almost certain to include an advertisement in The Chronicle. Depending on the department’s budget, that advertisement may run for several weeks or months or it may run only once. Savvy candidates will peruse back issues of The Chronicle in order not to miss any openings. You also can access job openings on the Chronicle web site, which has a wealth of good information about the academic job search process.
- Look in other places for position announcements. Many openings are announced on e-mail listservs, and your professors can steer you to those listservs that are good sources for position announcements. Many departments post anticipated openings on department or university web sites, and sometimes organizations such as UCEA, NCPEA, and AERA will include position announcements on their web sites or in their newsletters. Another source of position announcements is through the mail; ask your professors and/or placement office where the position announcements that are mailed to them get posted.
- Try and attend conferences, especially those held in the fall such as UCEA. Conferences can be good places to network with future peers and can be excellent sources for information about job openings. Often faculty members come to conferences with formal position announcements for distribution or may simply know what openings are anticipated at their institution for the following year. Candidates should meet as many professors as possible at conferences and should politely ask questions about the particulars of any known or anticipated openings. Good questions to ask include inquiries about the duties of the position, the skills or specialty areas in which the department is especially interested in acquiring, and the makeup of the department in terms of research specialties, ratio of researchers to practitioners, etc. Ask your own professors to network for you at conferences. Professors often can find out from colleagues about anticipated openings and can put in a good word for you. While obviously not determinative, a professor’s verbal recommendation to a colleague can go a long way toward getting your foot in the door for an interview.
- Begin preparing for your job talk. At many institutions you will be asked to give a presentation on your research; this likely will be your dissertation but also could be another research project on which you are working. At institutions which are less research-focused, you may be asked to teach a class or give another type of presentation. Know the norms for the types of institutions to which you are applying and begin preparing your presentation(s).
- Line up references who can speak to your work experience, your academic preparation (specifically, your ability to conduct research and/or teach at the postsecondary level), and your work ethic. Ask them to begin writing your letter of recommendation. For recommendations that go to institutions directly (rather than in your university’s placement file), ask your references how they would prefer to receive the mailing addresses. Recognize that some professors may need several months to complete your letters, so give those individuals ample time to complete them. Provide a copy of your vita and the job announcement to each person writing a letter for you. Remember that even if your letters of recommendation are generic ones written for a placement file, professors often will be willing to write a “special” letter for an opening in which you are highly interested.
- Use all of the resources available to you. These include your placement office, your professors, and print and electronic media.
- Try and get excited about your search; the process of finding a job is long and arduous and you will need all of the energy and courage that you can muster. Remember that, in the end, it’s all about finding the job that’s right for you (rather than the job that’s merely available).
- Assess your strengths and limitations. Have a plan in place to address and remediate areas needing significant improvement.
- Tell everyone that you are looking for a job. Many professors will be more than glad to look out for position announcements that may match your interests, so ask faculty at your institution to keep an eye out for openings for you. Also be sure to tell them the types of positions, and the types of institutions, in which you are interested. If you have placed constraints upon your search, let your professors know of those as well.
- Create a system for staying organized. As you find openings in which you are interested, keep them in a notebook. Be sure to include a place for notes about each opening and the status of your application. Sorting your position announcements by application due date is a good mechanism for ensuring that you don’t miss an application deadline. In addition to a notebook, a computer spreadsheet also can be a helpful way to keep track of openings, due dates, the status of your application, etc.
- Become familiar with the institutional side of the search process. If your institution is conducting a faculty search itself, attend the candidates’ research presentations and ask the search committee members for tips and advice on the process. Offer to serve as the graduate student member on search committees. Few opportunities will better prepare you for your own search process than sitting on the other side of the table. Ask a newly-hired assistant professor at your institution for his or her advice and horror stories!
- If you don’t already have one, you must develop a thick skin. Be prepared for rejection, but understand that the rejection may have nothing to do with your qualifications or worth as a person. The institution is looking for a “good fit.” For example, you may be a wonderful statistician, but if the department needs a qualitative researcher you probably will not be selected.
Things to Avoid
- Don’t include unnecessary information on your vitae (such as spouse’s occupation, trivial honors, church affiliation, etc.).
- Don’t “pad” your vitae. Be honest about your qualifications, experience, and publications.