Sometimes when I talk with graduate students who are in the midst of their academic job search, they talk about things they wish they had done to make themselves stronger candidates. And often these things are simply no longer possible from a time standpoint. If you are not beginning your active search until next fall, or perhaps even later, you may be able to take some lessons learned from your colleagues. Below are some best practices to share:
Keep a Running, Master C.V.
The CV you ultimately use for your job search may not include everything you’ve ever done in your professional life. However, I do think it is important to have a master document that is a comprehensive, detailed record of all that you have done and accomplished. Sounds simple, right? But in reality it is easy for all of us to forget things over time. Keeping track of your experiences in the moment can help ensure that you do have a complete picture of your professional accomplishments. This master document can then be mined as you develop your job search CV, but also as you develop materials for things like award applications, tenure review and other needs for your CV.
Understanding the Employer’s Perspective
One of the best ways to get an idea of what the job search is like from the hiring committee’s perspective is to participate in any hiring that your department is conducting. You can learn a lot by watching others conduct their searches, and by seeing how a search committee reacts. At the very least, attend job talks that candidates give. You may even ask if you can review job search materials from applicants. Understanding the employer perspective is always valuable, and departmental searches give you that opportunity.
Learn the Job Search Basics of Your Field
An academic job search is still a fairly straightforward process. Learning as much as you can about the basic logistics of the job search in your field can help ensure that you get started on the right foot. Find out now when and where jobs are posted. Learn about conferences in your discipline, the roles that they play, and how you can use them most effectively. Learning this type of information becomes even more important if your work — and your job search — is cross-disciplinary in nature.
Understand and Impact Your Weaknesses
Every job seeker will bring a package of strengths and weaknesses to the process. Unfortunately by the time you are actively job seeking it may be too late to significantly address areas of weakness. However, if you have some time before going on the market you may be better positioned to improve them. Of course, improving areas of weakness first implies that you’ve done some honest thinking about areas in which you may be at a comparable disadvantage with your job-seeking peers. For example, maybe you have little or no teaching experience, or your publications record does not seem to measure up with others at a similar point of the process. What are creative solutions to help you address these areas? Given a lack of teaching, perhaps you could get into the classroom even to teach one lesson of a class. If actual teaching experience is less common in your area, you can at least sign up for pedagogical training sessions through CRLT to help you build skills and demonstrate your commitment to teaching. Perhaps your department could even connect you with other institutions in the area that may be looking for teaching help.
Many parts of the job search process are out of your control, especially when you’re in the thick of it. However, proper preparation can help you engage your search as proactively as possible. In these and other ways, some time spent up front now can have large payoffs during your job search.
Photo credit: ToniVC on Flickr