Monday, October 03, 2005
Tips for Faculty Job Candidates
- If you’re applying for a teaching position at a community college, don’t spend the entire cover letter describing your dissertation. We care that it’s done, but we don’t care that much about the content. If you spend the entire letter describing your research, we’ll assume that you don’t really want to work at a cc, and move to the next applicant.
- Think about the order of items on your c.v. Savvy applicants at this level place teaching experience before publications. To detail your publications lovingly while offering a perfunctory list of courses taught tells us where your heart is.
- Especially in your cover letter, find ways to portray yourself as a good colleague. Did you pick up the administrative tasks nobody else wanted? Have you done committee work? Have you picked up night classes and intro courses? Do you play well with others?
- If your graduate program is Ivy or otherwise super-prestigious, you have to convince us that you actually want to work here. Have you adjuncted at a cc before? Have you worked with non-traditional students before? Have you worked with students whose college skills lack polish?
Grad school trains people to think of the market as some sort of linear meritocracy, with a vague notion of an old-boy network or system of connections operating on the margins. It’s just not true. It’s not the NFL draft, with lower-level institutions getting the draft picks that the top schools passed over. What we want, and what R1’s want, are different. I don’t want the second-best researcher; I want the best teacher. Apply accordingly.
Last year we had a faculty search in which we got ridiculously strong applications from ridiculously prestigious institutions, and we promptly relegated many of those applications to the recycling bin. From the letters, it was abundantly clear that we were little more than a port in a storm, and that the applicants would deign to work here only until something they really wanted came along. No, thanks. I want people who want to work here. That may seem cold, but if you think about it from the employer’s perspective, it makes perfect sense.
Finally, keep in mind that the market, such as it is, is glutted, irrational, and largely random. It’s not just about you. Don’t let despair become self-doubt.
Good luck out there!
Also, moving from category A from category B in such a situation is almost impossible. Don't view category B as a "foot in the door." It's not. (I don't pretend that this is fair, it isn't)
It's a tough call. And if you think taking a CC job is 'settling,' you probably won't be happy. But if you think of it as a valid choice, where you will be giving up (or making difficult) active scholarly participation for the most part in exchange for quicker tenure and a focus on teaching and on providing a solid education to people who might otherwise not have the opportunity, it's a great gig. And with many CCs now carrying satellite campuses of 4-years on their sites, there are increasing opportunities to teach an occasional upper division class, I hear.
I think there are plenty of people who get hired where they aren't suited. And I do think that CC faculty make sacrifices that really aren't fair, in terms of what they provide to society. But so do people in lots of other public service positions. On a daily basis, I love my job. I will apply for the TT position that my colleagues want me to apply for. I really like my colleagues, my students really do bring me joy every day, the campus is great, the librarians get me obscure volumes from R1s and are thrilled to do it, my chair helps to work my schedule and number of preps to make sure I can make myself a good candidate on the market this year in ways I hadn't thought to request ...
I'd be really happy if I stayed. But 15 class hours a week is really hard. Especially for the money. I will never be able to buy a house, or even a condo, where I teach, unless I marry again. I will always have to work twice as hard as my colleagues at four years if I want to remain engaged in the wider academic world. So I do wonder 'what if?' And in talking to most of my CC colleagues at three different CCs, I have to say that the best of them -- tenured faculty who are getting the teaching awards and are campus leaders and whose students move on successfully, the ones who seem most happy in what they do -- they also ask 'what if'?
Makes you wonder about the system, I guess.
I was on my first CC hiring committee last spring.
I'd add that you should be sure to actually read the job announcement and address the areas suggested... Also, make sure you get all the parts of your application in.