The Unknown Adjunct

January 28, 2009

What is the art of the possible in the academic job hunt?

Filed under: Applications,Job Hunt — unknownadjunct @ 8:26 pm

My current academic job search is my introduction to yet a third set of rules for applications. When I moved from government to the business sector, I had to learn a new set of rules for job hunting.

Once again, I’m in the learning process. I find considerable difference between the two sets of rules:

Take resumes vs. CVs, for example. One of the first things the headhunters tell you is to lose the fancy paper and formatting when applying for a business position. Most business resumes are now scanned for keywords via OCR, and fancy fonts or artistic formatting will screw that up. You need to make sure your resume is easily accessible, and your main task is to give the HR person who glances at your resume a reason to read it carefully. Brevity matters as well: a business resume for a job fair should be one page, and a “long” resume would be two pages. So the key is to get your competencies and accomplishments up front.

Not so with your CV. The CV always starts out with your education, dissertation topic, and your chair. From a business or government point of view, this is all pretty meaningless. You either have the required education/experience or you don’t. There are very few organizations in either the government or business world that care where you went to school, or even what your major was.
However, since the prevailing conventional wisdom (see the CV Doctor or other online sources) is to start with your education, dissertation, and dissertation chair, then those things are obviously the most important — otherwise why would you put them in the money spot?

The temptation at this point is to fulminate about the unfairness of it all for those who due to family or monetary circumstances are unable to attend a top-10 program and are stuck at places like EMU, but at this point, having a pity party is not helpful (although some Laphroig with water might be). If those are the rules of the game, those are the rules, and about the only thing to do (besides transferring to a different program) is to make sure you don’t pick a dissertation chair who has been spending the last 20 years making enemies.

Perhaps, all it means is that those of us from places like EMU shouldn’t worry about getting hired into a top-tier department, since we don’t have the right patents of nobility. That alone could save us significant money and effort in the job search.

So I ask a question of my legion of devoted followers (yes, that means both of you). Is my admittedly outsider perspective accurate? Is the guidance that a newly-minted PhD can’t go to a higher-tier school, (and probably not even to an even-tier school unless you have exceptional qualifications), an accurate way of looking at the situation?

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1 Comment »

  1. I’m a swing-for-the-fences personality, and I have a hard time managing expectations. That being said, however, even newly-minted Ph.D.’s from the fanciest of schools have a tough time cracking the top tier. The market (at least in English) is ridiculously competitive, and my peers at regional universities of various shapes and sizes are flooded with apps from newly-degreed peeps that hail from the Dukes and Yales and Berkeleys of the world. Those peeps, alas, are getting outpaced by folks who earned their degrees 3-5 years ago, some of whom are returning to the search with books and other bona fides under their belts. The pedigree makes a difference if the credentials are already there, but from what I’ve gathered from weathered vets (my own experience on the kindly side of the hiring desk being limited) the folks at high-end schools tend to pick and choose from those whose work has already proved the proverbial pudding. Productive folks from smaller colleges stand as good a chance as anyone, although they now have to compete with productive Ivy Leaguers who are climbing through the ranks as well.

    Comment by williamhwandless — February 2, 2009 @ 10:53 pm | Reply


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