Market Potential for Excellent Teaching:
Using Your Skills as an Educator to Find Employment
Ceperley, Assistant Director, Office of Career Planning & Placement
and Former Teaching Assistant in the Department of Rhetoric & Communication
Shaw once claimed, "Those who can, do. Those who cannot, teach."
For those of us who have established careers in education, this edict
elicits outrage. We remember the difficulty we experienced designing our
first syllabus, leading our first discussion section, and defending our
grading criteria to a disgruntled student. We remember nervously pouring
over our first set of student evaluations in hopes that we would be rewarded
with a consensus of "thumbs up." Our experience has taught us
that to teach is indeed to do. Yet still, we may wonder
how our efforts toward excellence in teaching might help propel us forward
in non-academic careers.
At the University's
Office of Career Planning & Placement, we advise graduate students
daily on how to position themselves for employment opportunities in today's
challenging job market. We herald the importance of "communication"
skills, and we question students on the word's denotation. To "communicate"
is to write, to persuade, to train, to present, to inspire, to inform,
to entertain, and yes, to teach. Surprisingly, many graduate students
fail to convey adequately their prowess as communicators, too often downplaying
their teaching assistantships in discussion or merely listing them without
explanation on their resumes.
one's background as a teacher when job hunting is essential. After surveying
513 employers representing business, industry and governmental agencies,
Michigan State University's 1991-92 Recruiting Trends reports that
a significant shortcoming among today's college graduates is the inability
to communicate effectively. This perceived weakness represents a window
of opportunity for the advanced degree candidate with teaching experience.
If described thoroughly and strategically, one's teaching can, and often
does, generate an impressive list of transferable skills valued by a variety
How to define
your teaching skills
A senior consultant
with a Fortune 500 corporation who was interviewed for Groneman and Lear's
Corporate Ph.D., reflected on the transition he made from a Ph.D.
in Far Eastern Studies to management consulting:
I know how
to organize myself; I know how to work well independently; I know how
to use the library. I lecture; in fact, I'm a better lecturer or presenter
now than I was before because there is attention given to it here...;
it's just second nature to me. Running a client interaction is no different
from running a college seminar.
lends credence to the concept of transferable skills. Simply defined,
a TA who succeeds in facilitating seminar discussions may also succeed
in facilitating board meetings. Career author Anthony Medley quoted Shakespeare
to drive home the point: "Your past is prologue."
on the job market, consider your actions as a teacher, and brainstorm
an applicable list of active verbs. Steve Bennett suggests in Playing
Hard Ball with Soft Skills that your list might look something like
and explaining concepts
retrieving, and evaluating potential materials
to identify at least one dozen additional transferable skills that relate
to teaching. By building such actions into your resume and describing
in interviews the ways in which you took such actions, you persuade employers
that the value you added as a teacher can be replicated in their workplaces.
You explain to them literally what it means to teach (because many do
One Ph.D. in
English Literature recently met with an OCPP counselor to review his application
for an editorship with the Federal Government. He discussed his teaching
experience in a manner that created an active image of what he did:
I have drawn
upon my own experience composing a book-length dissertation to teach
students how to analyze and communicate in writing. I held office meetings
to develop and shape their ideas. I assisted them in outlining and drafting.
I then commented in detail on those drafts, and, finally, I graded the
final product and composed written evaluations for each assignment and
for the semester as a whole.
the hillside beneath Garrett Hall lies the University's Office of Career
Planning & Placement. OCPP is open throughout the academic year and
summer, and its staff provides advice and assistance as you inventory
your teaching accomplishments and synthesize them into an employment plan.
For the academician, OCPP's credentials supervisor will catalogue your
letters of recommendation and mail them per your instruction to the academic
employers you are pursuing. If the scope of your career interests is broader
than jobs in the academy, OCPP's counseling staff can help inform your
search for careers in the business, media, nonprofit or government sectors.
We can assist with self-assessment testing, resume critiquing, mock interviewing,
and job search strategy. OCPP's career library houses an extensive collection
of resources, applying a one-week checkout policy for most books.
are a new TA or a seasoned graduate instructor, the skills you develop
as a teacher are invaluable. Along with an appropriate job search plan,
they position you for industry, for nonprofit, and for many other career
areas you may choose to pursue.
job search publications available in OCPP:
Job Search Handbook, by Mary Morris Heiberger and Julia Miller Vick.
Careers for Humanities Ph.D.'s, by Lewis Solmon, Nancy L. Ochsner,
and Margo- Lea Herwicz.
Doctor: Preventing, Diagnosing, and Curing Fifty Ailments that can Threaten
Your Career, by Neil M. Yeager.
Ph.D.: Making the Grade in Business, by Carol Groneman and Robert
Guide to Alternative Jobs and Careers, by Ronald Krannich.
Job Change Manual, by Jacqueline Yorgen Lichty.
- Hot Tips,
Sneaky Tricks & Last-Ditch Tactics: An Insider's Guide to Getting
Your First Corporate Job, by Jeff Speck.
Ph.D.'s and Nonacademic Careers: A Guide for Faculty Advisors, by
Roger E. Wyman and Nancy Risser.
Palms: The Neglected Art of Being Interviewed, by Anthony Medley.