There’s a sensitivity to talk about jobs, looking for other jobs and hiring that few really do it in the .edu blogging world unless they’re mentioning leaving their own jobs. It makes sense, no one wants their boss or someone else showing up online reading a blog post with their staff member giving advice about looking for a job elsewhere; lest they think you’re doing it too and jeopardizing your own situation.
But I’ve long thought we needed more intelligence gathering on the process, some tips and helping new graduates and others navigate some of the quirks and intricacies of higher ed hiring. We’ve already tackled LinkedIn, but I’d like to dig a bit deeper and offer some advice compiled from the hive mind of higher ed folks in my own circle, culled my from my own experiences of close to a decade in the field.
This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list or a definitive one. Someone else could have a divergent list of insights to share that differ from these, especially since hiring varies by size of institution, the department you’re looking to work in and even down to the way the colleges or universities themselves seek positions. For instance, most hire centralized through HR, but there are institutions where departments do their own hiring directly which adds a wrinkle to things.
With that, here are a few insights worth filing away:
1. It’s probably going to take a while.
One of the rude awakenings of higher ed hiring is how long the process can take. Even in instances with small committees, you can find yourself waiting weeks to get answers. If you reach the stage of being a finalist, you might find yourself waiting even longer while I’s get dotted, T’s get crossed or unfortunately, someone else gets the offer you were hoping for. If they’re nice, they’ll call you (or email you) and let you know. Sometimes, you’ll get a letter weeks later. Occasionally, you never hear back. It’s part of the game, don’t let it deter you find seeking out other roles.
Calling to ask them where the process is (or emailing) is okay if it’s been a few weeks, especially if you’re truly interested but have been given a different offer. That said, don’t expect it to help the process. Some places are hamstrung by their HR process and there’s often nothing your contact can do to speed things up or even tell you where things are. It’s all very complicated and so, you’ll just need to learn to be patient and know that when you finally do get hired that it’s worth it.
2. Don’t restrict yourself just to Higher Ed.
This is mainly meant for new graduates. I see posts pop up on Twitter from soon-to-be minted graduates often who want advice from people already in the .edu game about how to get in. I usually tell them not to limit themselves. There are lots of schools around the country, but there are usually lots of applicants. Being a new graduate isn’t a bar to getting one of those roles. But you need to be strategic about where you apply and how you apply. Most of all, there’s just no harm in applying beyond higher ed. If college or university life is what you enjoy and want to make it your life, that’s excellent. But there’s nothing wrong with gaining perspective and experience outside of higher ed and then applying when you have another bullet or two on your resume from jobs you’ve had elsewhere. It’ll make you more competitive and marketable in some instances anyway.
3. Research the places you want to work.
I’m not just talking about how many students they have, what degrees they award and so forth. I’m talking more details. What’s the organizational structure? Who will you be working under? Who does your boss report to? Is the town you’re headed to livable and will your salary be enough to make it work there? These are things that seem like no-brainers, but aren’t often things we think about as new hires because you’re so interested in getting the job and letting the details work out later. Doing your homework beforehand will make you more informed during the interview process, but also, gives you the peace of mind to know whether it’s a job you want to take.
4. Don’t diminish your accomplishments
I think one of the things we get from being in a collaborative, team-oriented environment is this idea that work is accomplished by so many different people and we hesitate to take credit for our accomplishments. In a world that’s increasingly measured by “what have you done for me lately?” you no longer can defer your wins. You need to be logging your successful projects, noting them in level of severity and have a laundry list of things you’ve made better from the time you showed up in your job until the time you start looking for something else. The interview process is not the time to be shy.
You don’t have to be a braggart, but you need to communicate why you’re such a team player and ultimately, while you’ll be missed from your current role when they hire you to take the job you’re gunning for. If you have a hard time with this, enlist a close friend or colleague that you trust to help you filter your achievements to get maximum impact. Not everything you’ve done is impressive, but you can find the big things to make sure you stand out among the fray.
There are lots of things to consider when you’re on the market. Don’t be afraid to learn and grow from the process. Rather than being disappointed when you miss out on a job you want, remember that every experience makes you a better candidate. Just tinker and adapt your approach each time, reflecting on what you did right and what you could do better. There are more issues to follow up on and I imagine we’ll cover them in a future post. For the folks already in higher ed, what sort of information would you share? There’s lots I didn’t cover in this post.