Build An Effective Job Search Query

Once you have done your research and figured out what kind of work you want, where and how do you start to find jobs in that field?

Invest your search time in sites that host higher ed jobs

This may seem obvious, but some job sites will return more academic results than others. For the most part, when you are looking for work in higher ed, you’re not going to uncover as many results using a general job search engine (like LinkedIn, Monster or Indeed) as you would using a site like Inside Higher Ed. One recent exception to this rule seems to be Google Jobs search, as this has proven decently useful for uncovering academic jobs from across sites, including LinkedIn, university careers sites, and others – though its algorithm also pulls in irrelevant jobs more frequently than a more higher-ed tailored jobs site, so you will have to toss out results more frequently. And one final caveat: while Chronicle of Higher Ed has gotten more inclusive of non-faculty jobs, their bread and butter has always been faculty job listings. By all means, give it a shot, but for jobs in academic advising, career or alumni services, foundation development, communications, and so on, you’ll probably find more results elsewhere.

Know where you want to be? Start there

Even with sites that aggregate jobs in higher ed, the fact of the matter is that most jobs at colleges and universities get posted only on their own careers website. It costs hiring departments money to advertise their position on national job boards, so the majority of the time, what you’re seeing on sites like HigherEd Jobs or Inside Higher Ed is only one small slice of all of the jobs you seek. So if there are specific colleges or universities you want to work at, start on their careers site.

Similarly, even if there’s not one specific university you’re targeting, if there is a city you’re targeting – like, say, Boston – get a cup of coffee (cause this’ll take awhile!) and start googling. You’ll need to list all the colleges and institutions in the Boston metropolitan area and then for each one, find the careers site. Once you find it, bookmark it, copy them into a Google sheet, whatever works for you. This time spent up front (and we’re talking a few hours, particularly if you’re looking in Boston!) will save you from having to remember your list or re-google all of these later down the road.

Stay connected to professional organizations

Whether you’re aiming for jobs in Academic Advising, Research Administration, Nonprofit Management, or anything else, I all but guarantee you there’s a scholarly or professional association or listserv that posts jobs in that field. Find them, and add their site to your bookmarks or Google sheet so that you remember to check their listings regularly.

Save your search

You’ll probably start your search with keywords, or some combination of filters (Academic Advising, full-time, within 20 miles of Boston). You took the time to build an initial search, now be sure and save your search. Often this requires you to sign up for a free account on the site, using your email so the site will email you matching results when they appear. One reason many people fail to hone in on an effective job search is they skip this step; and so each and every time they return back to, they re-engineer their search. Sometimes you may be able to remember what uncovered some interesting leads last time and other times you may not. Save your search criteria, as that will also save your future self precious time down the road! Not to mention: you’ll be among the first to know the moment your perfect job gets posted, so you can get on with doing your homework about that job.

Start wide, and narrow as you go

Once you build and subscribe to your search query, at first, you may experience one of two things: either no results at all, or too many results to realistically evaluate the results. If you’re suffering from no results after a couple of weeks, you need to get less specific with your keywords and filters and see if that turns up additional leads. A job one university calls Academic Adviser another might call Academic Coach, Student Services Specialist, and so on.

But more often, you might have too wide a search and be getting far too many results. That’s actually a good thing, because now you can apply filters to get closer to what you want. Be sure you apply filters one at a time so that you can see which ones help you get better results. One important note: don’t skip the narrowing of your search. You may think it’s great at first to be getting 50-100 results, but after even just a week or two, those 50 results will pile onto the previous 50, and you just can’t keep up. It’s simply not sustainable.

Remember this is only part of the process

Once you find a job listing that appeals to you, remember there’s still a long road ahead. To be successful, you still need to:

  • get a reading on the job
  • assess the employer
  • make a decision on whether to apply, and
  • prepare a strong application package.

And that is where a lot of your time and energy during the job search gets absorbed – tracking down the information you’ll need to submit a strong application. That is why you want to make your job search itself as stress-free, easy, and efficient as possible.

Let us know in the comments what tactics you have tried for making your job search easier and more effective.

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