We asked a part-time lecturer currently seeking employment to list the top 10 tips that help her every day in searching for an academic job.
- Keep up to date with who's hiring
- Work on your application technique
- Do something to boost your CV every day
- Think outside the box: what other careers would suit you?
- Protect your self-confidence: make a list!
- Be realistic
- Listen to advice
- Listen to your heart
- Remember the high points
It is really important in a competitive industry like Higher Education to make sure that you see every job advert relevant to your field. A job that you are suited for may only come up once or twice a year, so when it does you cannot miss it. This will probably mean checking several national newspapers and perhaps some local ones, as well as www.jobs.ac.uk of course. If there is a university that you especially want to work for, check their recruitment website too. Also ask family and friends to keep a look out on your behalf.
If jobs do come up only occasionally in your field, then make sure you tell as many academics as possible (including very senior ones) that you are looking for a job. You never know when that professor who you spoke to at a conference might turn up on an interview panel. With a brief jog of the memory, he or she will remember you, and hopefully think fondly of your encounter. Also, as mentioned in point one, the more people helping you spot opportunities the better. Some part-time and temporary posts are only advertised by word of mouth, so you will only hear about them through personal connections.
You know that you must specifically tailor your CV and application letter for every job you apply for. However, this does not mean that you cannot constantly check over and improve such documents. Every time you give a paper or get something published or learn a new skill, remember it should be incorporated into your CV or covering letter. Ask for the opinions of others too, they may have advice on how to increase the impact of your materials so that your next job application is successful.
One of the most dispiriting things about jobseeking is the feeling that nothing will ever change, you will always be chasing that perfect job. If you can do something to boost your CV every day, then this eliminates that feeling of powerlessness. CV enhancing techniques include: proposing a paper for a conference or an article for a journal, planning your next research project, developing an innovative teaching technique, designing a new module.
In those moments of despair, it can seem as though nobody wants to employ you. This is not true, many employers would jump at the chance of hiring someone with your skills. If you are really fed up with pursuing your chosen career path, why not consider something else? There are boundless opportunities out there, so make a short list of jobs you think you could do and would enjoy. Decide whether you want to take any of these options further now, and if not, then keep them in reserve in case you hit a career crisis later on.
Constant rejection can really damage some people's self-confidence and this is a vicious circle, because those with low self-confidence then often perform less well in interviews. Work hard towards keeping your confidence high, perhaps by writing a list of your achievements, either in your career or in your life as a whole. Remember the sense of pride you felt at, for example, being awarded your PhD or your first large research grant. Try to recapture that next time you are feeling low.
While not trying to put you off pursuing your ideal job, it is important to be realistic. If you have been looking for work in a certain field for several years, applying for many jobs but never even getting an interview, perhaps it is time to re-think. Check that your skills and qualifications are suitable for the jobs you are chasing. As with point 3, make sure your application materials are attention-grabbing for all the right reasons. (see also 'You've got 10 seconds to impress me - 10 things NOT to do on your CV'). It could be that your ambitions are unrealistic, in which case adjust them, don't give up that dream altogether.
You are not alone, there are many people who will support you, from partner, family and friends to PhD supervisor and academic colleagues. If you feel like you will never get a job, talk to someone: they will be able to give you some perspective, and may be able to give you a nugget of advice to help you on your way.
Many academic jobseekers set a time limit on getting a permanent job. Human beings are inherently conservative, we like security and stability. If you are getting unsettled and depressed by the constant search for that next job, then you must ask yourself if this is really what you want. You will know when the time is right to try Plan B, so do not put yourself through hell trying to pursue a particular career when really you know you would be happier doing something else.
If you decide you want to continue searching for a job under challenging circumstances, then this shows a good deal of courage and commitment right away: just the sort of skills that will stand you in good stead when you do get a job! When times are hard remind yourself of why you want your particular career, why it's so rewarding teaching undergraduates, or why you want to see your book in print, or meet that famous academic at a conference. Being able to visualise these moments of satisfaction will give you the confidence to go on in your search for the perfect job.
To view 'Academic Applications' click here
To view 'Academic Interviews' click here
To register for Jobs by Email click here