There’s a very vocal, and very loud contingent of folks in higher education who talk about nothing other than the precarity of adjuncts, and how unfair it is. As someone whose spouse could find nothing other than an adjunct role for 8 years, I COMPLETELY agree. And I will continue to support that we need more advocates for adjuncts, more positions that pay livable wages, positions that come with REAL benefits including sick leave, healthcare, professional development, and retirement, and alt-ac careers that can save adjuncts from a lifetime of worry about where their next paycheck is coming from, or how they’ll cobble together enough work for housing & food.
And yet. Unpopular take ahead.
Precarity is not limited to adjuncts. I’m sorry to say this, but it’s true. I’ll give you a couple obvious examples and then dive into some data that shows how the landscape of long-term employment is ever-more-precarious.
This is part of my Transferable Skills Talk: An ongoing series in which we identify and discuss your transferable skills as an alt-ac. Today’s edition: how to talk about your current work AND how to talk about what you’d like to do in your resume and cover letter.
When you are trying for a career change, as an alt-ac does, one thing that can hold you back is how you describe what you do.
When you change careers, one thing you have to do is clearly connect the dots between what you do now and what you want to do. Let’s look at some strategies for rebranding your already awesome self so that you don’t leave hiring managers scratching their heads on why you’re interested or a good fit.
Here’s a question from my inbox, and it’s one we can ALL relate to. “I applied for a job that closed last week. I’m eager to hear back from them. I know it’s probably too soon, but what is a ‘reasonable’ amount of time before I should expect to hear something? And when should I – and how do I – follow up with them?“
Let me take you behind the scenes of what’s probably happening to get you a better idea of when you might hear from them.
I’m going to use my current employer as an example because it’s the process I know best. Here are the parameters to keep in mind.
When it comes to job searches, a lot of alt-ac clients want to find a job that allows them to at least in part work remotely. I know how important this is for academics in particular.
So today I’m tackling one of the most common questions in my inbox: “Where do I find remote jobs?”
Why Academics Want Remote Jobs
Academics WANT control over their work. Autonomy and independence are some of the biggest reasons for pursuing academia and grad/professional degrees in the first place! We wanted to become experts so that we could exercise greater control over the kinds of work we do. The ability to make choices about what kinds of tasks we take on. The ability to schedule our own workday as we please. That is part of the expected deal. That what comes with deep expertise and authority over one’s subject matter is a more professional level of job.
And these days, most of us are smart enough to realize that there’s often no compelling NEED for us to physically be in the office 5 days a week. (Or at all?!) Between Zoom, Skype, Slack, and I don’t even know what else, can’t we be connected no matter where we are? If dumb #influencers (yeah, I said it!) can work from anywhere, why can’t those of us with highly specialized knowledge and skills be afforded the same courtesy?
Why Academics Need Remote Jobs
And then there’s also very real needs. Many of us alt-acs NEED remote work – for all kinds of reasons. Many academics are members of dual-career households. Many are partners with someone who is faculty and/or otherwise geographically bound. My alt-ac PhD spouse, for instance, specializes in the archaeology of the Colorado Plateau. Even if I find a great job in Minneapolis, that’s not going to work for his career. So should my career suffer when I’ve maxed out my opportunities locally?
Of course I’m all for finding the style and type of work that you need AND want, but I’m afraid I’m here to warn you that there is no great answer to this question.
The job hunt seems to take forever, doesn’t it? When you’ve been job hunting for a while, you may find yourself trying to think of new ways to say the same thing over and over again in your cover letter. It made me think: imagine if you could be brutally honest – how much easier and faster it would be to churn out a cover letter! So in honor of it being Friday (and me being braindead as a result!), here is my sample of a brutally honest stream of consciousness cover letter.