Monday, June 02, 2014


Ask the Administrator: Recovering from a Layoff

An occasional correspondent whose administrative job was recently eliminated writes:

When an administrator loses her job, does she do a resume or a CV or some combination of both? I had been faculty, not administration, for over 10 years when I applied for the admin position in another state. Having been an administrator for several years, how do I best show my work when applying for my next position, whether that be administration or faculty? I'd bet I should use a CV for faculty positions [would need to include the admin work to explain a multi-year gap?] but am not sure how to proceed for the admin work.

First, my condolences.  It really sucks when good people get tossed for reasons having nothing to do with performance.  

That said, I think you’re right to position administrative applications differently from faculty applications.  The key is to remember that people hire to solve their problems, not yours, so you need to show them how you solve their problem.

For a faculty position, a focus on teaching and/or research -- depending on where you’re applying -- makes sense.  (For cc’s, obviously, it’s about the teaching.)  It would make sense to acknowledge the administrative work, of course; depending on where you’re applying, it could even come across as an asset.  I’ve seen plenty of departments over the years in which absolutely nobody wants to be the chair, and people reluctantly endure their turns in the role in the same way they endure dentist visits.  If you show up with the skill set to step up if/when needed, you could solve a real problem for some departments.  

Be aware, though, that you may have to overcome the suspicion that you’re not “really” interested in the faculty role for which you’re interviewing.  Only you will know whether that’s true, but some may wonder.

For deanships and similar roles, it’s important to have that faculty background, but the first and most important credential to highlight would be managerial experience.  Plenty of absolutely wonderful faculty fall on their face in administration because they’re too used to being independent operators.  They have trouble adjusting from “I’ll just do it myself” to a more indirect and collaborative role.  (Others have trouble adjusting from receiving the benefit of the doubt to being under constant scrutiny.  It’s disorienting at first.)  If you can show some specific achievements in your administrative role, and come prepared to speak thoughtfully about lessons learned, you should come off well.

The layoff presents a complicating variable.  Some of us -- cough Gen X cough -- understand that austerity is the new normal, and has been for some time, so we tend not to hold a single instance like that against a candidate.  Others still believe in the older idea that downsizings are nothing more than excuses to clean house, so anyone who got cleaned out must have deserved it.  It isn’t fair, but it is what it is.  I’d suggest coming prepared to disarm any suspicion along those lines, to the extent that you can.  If your downsizing was part of a systemwide change, for instance, highlight that.  I agree that it sucks that people still think that way, but many do.  Better to know that upfront.

Good luck!  It’s rough out there.

Wise and worldly readers, any suggestions?  Have you seen someone successfully get around the “if you’re so good, why are you available?” issue?

Have a question?  Ask the Administrator at deandad (at) gmail (dot) com.

I have two different CVs--one for administrative positions and one for a faculty job. The administrative CV focuses on my administrative accomplishments in each administrative role. It then lists the faculty positions in a brief section. You can see info about an administrative CV on

I don't think serving in an administrative role is a big faculty career buster. I just integrate the administrative position in the list of jobs on the faculty version of the CV. Then you let your cover letter focus on you love of the faculty role (teaching, research, service) and the admin role as just a way to contribute in another way. to an academic institution.

Good luck!

Do you write at other blogs?

Bill at Angry Bear
As I understand the job market, at least in the USA, you use a resume if you are applying for a corporate or business job, and a CV if you are seeking an academic appointment. The resume simply summarizes your education, your job experience, and your training, and should be limited to just one or two pages. The CV is much more detailed, and will typically be several pages long and will depend on what type of institution you are applying to. If it is a research-oriented university, you should give lots of details about your research agenda, a list of your publications, plus a list of your externally-funded research projects. If it is for a teaching-oriented college or a CC, your CV should include your teaching philosophy plus a list of all the courses you have taught. Maybe even include a couple of favorable student evaluations. If you are applying for a deanship, a detailed list of your administrative experience will be essential, plus a list of all the innovative ideas and projects you have started and guided through to completion.

I have heard that if you send in the wrong type of document (e.g. a CV for a corporate job or a resume for an academic job ) this could be an automatic disqualifier, and your application will go right into the electronic trashbin.

Unfortunately, it is altogether too easy nowadays to apply for a job online—all it takes is a single mouse click. This means that the college or university will be literally deluged with hundreds of CVs for their single opening. Many of them will be from only marginally-qualified individuals, but some of them will come from super-qualified people. You need to figure out some way to stand out from this crowd.

Because of the flood of applications that most advertised job openings seem to attract, most job applications go through an initial electronic screening process before a human ever looks at them. If the computer doesn’t find the right buzzwords in your CV, it goes right into the electronic trashbin and no human ever sees it.

Consequently, make sure that your CV contains all of the currently-popular buzzwords (the words “outcomes assessment” should appear several times). Include just about every computer language, database, or operating system you have ever used. Include expertise in things like Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Excel, PowerPoint, etc. Your CV should look as if someone spilled an acronym dictionary on it. This might get you past the initial electronic screening process, which will improve the chances that a real honest-to-goodness human will actually take a look at it.

Also bear in mind that if you are applying for a tenure-track position at a teaching-oriented institution, including a long list of part-time gigs in your CV could work against you. If you have been a part-timer for too long, people will start thinking that something must be wrong with you. They conclude that if you were any good, you should have landed a full-time gig by now.

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