the Academic Job Market
Barnett, Director, TRC and Deparment of French
As I meet and
talk with graduate students throughout the College, it is obvious that
wide recognition of the tight job market in many academic disciplines
has prompted equally wide discouragement and pessimism about the future.
The fact is: UVa graduate students are eminently employable, but you need
to take as much control of the process as possible. In a buyer's market,
you need to be selling yourself well and selling what the buyers are looking
of you as an assistant professor and one part only is your teaching expertise.
In the past five years, quality of undergraduate teaching has become much
more important to faculty and administrators in many colleges and universities
as they respond to national interest in education at all levels. You can
improve your chances of being hired, as well as your choice of options,
by developing your profile as a teacher now, no matter where you
are in your graduate study. Here are a few ideas, based on TRC services
(for more information about any of them, contact the TRC at email@example.com
/ 982-2815 / http://www.virginia.edu/~trc/home.htm :
- Create a
teaching portfolio, a narrative statement that details your teaching
experience, approach, philosophy, and successes. Appendices give examples
to support your assertions. The next annual TRC Teaching Portfolio Workshop
runs May 15-23.
- Begin now
to prepare for the Teaching Portfolio Workshop or to create individual
documents about your teaching that will be informative to possible employers.
Consider the following devices:
- Ask a friend,
colleague, or TRC staff member to conduct a Teaching Analysis Poll with
your students in the first four to eight weeks of the semester. You
will get their majority opinion about what most helps them learn and
what suggestions they have about problems. Your written analysis of
and reaction to this data can show how you approach teaching, how important
your students are to you, and how you solve problems. It's a telling
document for chairs of departments who value excellent teaching. We
can quickly train anyone to conduct a TAP.
with a TRC staff member about your videotaped teaching. The hardest
part of having yourself videotaped in class is finding the courage and
time to schedule it. Having a camera in class rarely intimidates students;
you can erase the tape if you don't like what happened in class and
do it again; the consultant is working only to help you improve
your teaching. As with the TAP, you can describe the experience in job
applications; you can also offer to send a copy of the tape as preliminary
to an interview. This offer, alone, will make your letter of inquiry
different from most of the hundreds it's judged against.
- Write your
reflective statement about your teaching, or teaching philosophy statement.
Samples are available for consultation at the TRC in Hotel D, from faculty
and TAs who have won teaching awards and/or created teaching portfolios.
You can give potential employers a view into your teaching by detailing
in a page-length statement how you approach the teaching of your discipline
and why you've chosen that approach. You will be better prepared for
interview questions about your teaching. You can focus your statement
in any of several ways, perhaps by asking yourself some of the following
questions: How is my discipline most easily learned? What is my view
of the role of students and teacher? How does critical thinking manifest
itself in this discipline, and how do I motivate and show students how
to tackle the discipline? How does my teaching relate to my research?
- Attend workshops
on teaching, and add that fact to a curriculum vitae section
many call "Professional Development" or "Development
as a Teacher." Add a sentence to each entry that encapsulates what
you learned from the workshop.
- Offer to
lead a teaching workshop through your department or the TRC. Share the
great ideas you've developed through your UVa teaching experience, and
get a special letter of recommendation in the process. Make sure someone
who could write for you attends the workshop and knows of your interest
but know as much as possible about what a job hunt entails and begin several
months before lists appear. Here are but a few pieces of general advice,
gleaned from years of following the job market peregrinations of graduate
students, mostly in the humanities:
- You can
never begin too early to work on your future marketability. Remember
that faculty members are judged on their teaching, research, and service.
Take advantage of interesting opportunities to augment and highlight
your skills as a researcher and as an administrator and colleague.
- Take advantage
of departmental offers to critique your curriculum vitae and
letter of inquiry, as well as chances to undergo a mock interview. In
fact, if your department does not yet offer such help, provoke it. Ask
your advisor or any supportive faculty member to assess the effectiveness
of your application. It is normally essential that you present yourself
as positively and professionally as possible, and your faculty colleagues
have succeeded in this way.
- Throw your
net as widely as possible. You can always rule out positions on the
basis of the first interview. If you never get the first interview,
you'll never be sure what the job might have been like.
- Once on
the market, consider short-term positions. You are always competing
with people who have more experience; a one-semester or one-year position
will give you that stepping stone next year.
- Tell your
faculty supporters about the positions that most interest you. They
may have information or hints for you about that institution or department
or positive words to drop in the right ear.
the positions for which you interview. Read the catalogue on microfiche
at Clemons Library. Go prepared to express interest in or ask questions
about faculty members' specializations as well as about departmental
preparation, you won't need so much of the good luck that we wish you!
NOTE: We are
just beginning to collect articles to help those hunting for an academic
job. If you're interested in applying to liberal arts colleges, stop by
for a copy of one of our first:
Steven A. Leibo, "Using the Annual Meeting to Win a Position at a
Small Undergraduate College: What Your Advisor Never Told You." Perspectives
[journal of the American Historical Association], December 1995: 15passim.
Here are relevant
TRC library books:
"Quick Starters: New Faculty Who Succeed." New Directions
for Teaching and Learning 48 (Winter 1991): 11-121.
I. and Susan A. Ambrose. The New Professor's Handbook: A Guide to Teaching
and Research in Engineering and Science. Bolton, MA: Anker, 1994.
Leigh, et al., eds. The Academic's Handbook. Durham, NC: Duke Press,
et al. The Teaching Portfolio: Capturing the Scholarship of Teaching.
Washington, DC: AAHE, 1991.
W. Good Start: A Guidebook for New Faculty in Liberal Arts Colleges.
Bolton, MA: Anker, 1992.
Mary Morris and Julia Miller Vick. The Academic Job Search Handbook.
Philadelphia: U. of Pennsylvania Press, 1992.
McLaran, et al., eds. The Art and Politics ofCollege Teaching: A Practical
Guide for the Beginning Professor. New York: Peter Lang, 1992.
Successful Use of Teaching Portfolios. Bolton, MA: Anker, 1993.