Schools Training

How do you improve your chances of getting an academic job?

5 MAR 2014

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Mel Rohse, PhD in peace studies

I recently had an interesting conversation with a lecturer at the University of Birmingham. As I was telling her about the difficulties I had encountered in my job hunt so far, she offered some thoughts from her own experience. She suggested that, with the REF (Research Excellence Framework) just over, departments may start to look for youngeracademics to invest in, rather than focusing mainly on recruiting chairs, readers and professors.

My job searches this month have indeed returned a lot more lectureships and entry-level jobs than in January, although it doesn’t take away the huge amount of competition for each post. I’ve just heard that I haven’t been shortlisted for a job I applied for last month and was told that “there was a great deal of interest in this post”. In the guidance on applying for another job, I was warned that due to the high volume of applications, I should assume I was not shortlisted if I didn’t hear from the employer within four weeks.

One of the skills I try to encourage and develop in my Brilliant Clubstudents is resilience. In the current job market it’s a skill I need too, and after opening the refusal email, I tried to remind myself of Oliver Burkeman‘s words: “Failure is an inevitable consequence of the human condition. It’s how we deal with it that’s important.” The real challenge, faced with a rejection letter, is to be able to learn from what didn’t work out.

In the short term, I’ve already taken some steps to improve my applications. Over the last month, I’ve used lots of great tips I’ve found online to work on my CV. As I’ve applied for a few more jobs and done quite a bit of thinking about my transferable skills, although I still find personal statements the hardest. I need more practice at balancing the need for brevity with the requirements of proving I meet often long lists of essential and desirable criteria.

Tomorrow I’ll email the career adviser at my university to get some feedback on my application, find out whether I’ve properly tailored my CV to the job spec and get some help analysing what I could have done differently.

The more I look at job adverts, the more aware I am that I need a long-term strategy to really improve my chances of getting an academic job. At the moment, writing articles and networking are at the top of my list. Neither is going to happen overnight, though, and I’m arming myself with patience as I juggle my part-time non-academic work with the essential activities of the young academic’s life.

Goal for March: Sign up to conferences and networking events

Read full article: The Guardian