Surprisingly, the start of term can be a very productive period for job-hunters. What particular opportunities exist around the beginning of the academic year, and how can you get through to decision-makers during a very busy time?
Plugging the gaps.
Especially with the student numbers cap gone, the most typical opportunities arise due to over-recruiting. Every university and college over-recruits if it can, on the assumption that some students will go with a different first choice, and a few will decide against doing a course at all. However, sometimes the best-laid plans go wrong in the best possible way, resulting in a larger intake than projections made allowances for. Suddenly extra lecturers or administrators are needed to cope with the fact that the number of student actually arriving won't fit into the number of modules being taught.
These tend to be temporary, part-time or adjunct positions, but play your cards right (and make sure those extra students are retained) and it could parlay into the post you’ve been looking for. If nothing else, it will help pay your bills in the here and now, provide networking opportunities, and keep you in the academic job market.
Staffing gaps can also arise unexpectedly at any time during the academic year. Sudden absences due to accidents or ill health are particularly hard for institutions to cover.
Look beyond the adverts.
Last-minute jobs often aren't advertised—there just isn't time. That means using any personal contacts you may have at universities, such as former lecturers, or friends with academic posts or connections, will be invaluable for finding out about opportunities. Don't just let them know you’re looking, make sure they have your contact details and your CV on hand.
Check your social network connections as well. Often former classmates have gone on to work in academia without your really noticing it.
Connections don't need to be at the top level to produce results. In fact, department secretaries are frequently the best-connected and most helpful people when you're hoping to scoop up a last-minute role. If you can't come up with a personal connection, simply stopping in to drop off a CV with a cover letter explaining what you’re after can actually work, especially if you take the time to chat with office staff. They know more about the staffing needs of academic programmes and various administrative departments than you might think.
Make friends with HR.
Of course, university HR departments can also be quite useful. Stop by in person if possible, explain that you are looking for work, and enquire about what the procedure is for finding temporary and last-minute staff,
Some universities keep a register of available adjuncts. If you can get onto the list, make sure your contact information is up to date and your profile accurately reflects all of the areas you could potentially teach in. Some have their own internal “temp agency” to fill admin posts that become open due to staff illness, parenting leave, or sudden departures. Others make use of a specific local or national temp agency, so knowing which one they use can help you target opportunities.
Colleges and universities are large employers, and with that size and the nature of education comes a bit of staff fluidity. Take steps to be noticed, and it can work to the academic job-hunter’s advantage.