Avoid Remote Only Job Sites

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.

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Why Higher Ed Needs to Invest More in Staff Professional Development

One of the prevailing paradigms in higher ed these days is student success. Cynics decry it as a framework devoid of meaning. After all, haven’t all of us in higher ed existed to ensure student success at all times? As in: how is this “new” or advancing the field? But more narrowly constructed, many universities, colleges, and community colleges frame their missions and strategic plans around it.

Student success can mean many things. It can entail access – ensuring that education remains available to all to the degree possible. It can include breaking down scheduling and financial barriers so students are able to complete their programs and graduate to a rewarding career. And it can mean that institutions provide services for its increasingly diverse students, such as food insecure students, first generation students, etc.

But what does your higher ed institution do for career success for its staff? Anything?

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Show Me the Data on the Job Market

Today I met up with a client who is wrapping up their postdoc in a few months and unsure where to turn next. I made an offhand remark during our conversation that while “alt-ac” (or alternative academic) career is the prevailing term, that many oppose this term. And with good reason, too. When over 70% of the jobs are, well, alt-ac, then it’s actually tenure-track or permanent faculty positions that have become the “alternative” career path. If you have to label us working outside of tenure-track faculty, some argue for using career diversity instead.

And I thought that the conversation would just continue on that same path, but she said “Wait, what?! I knew that there weren’t that many tenure-track jobs, but you’re saying chances are less than 30% that I’ll get one? I had no idea!” Sad, but true. But then here’s what she said: “What are your sources?”

Well, folks. That’s a good question that I’m tackling here today.

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A template for a tailored cover letter

Having a great cover letter isn’t nearly enough. As in “a” singular cover letter. In this job market you must tailor each and every cover letter and resume to the job you are applying for. 

When I was on the job market after grad school, there was an opening in my field, in an organization where I had volunteered for a semester. When I applied, I didn’t even get a first-round interview. Why? When I asked my intern supervisor for feedback, she said that in order to make it past the intial screening, I needed to “be sure to clearly and unequivocally address every single minimum and desired qualification.”

What she meant was that the hiring committee needed an apples-to-apples comparison. A way to use your application as a checklist against their job ad. That makes it easy for them to easily and quickly calculate how you stack up against each and every qualification they are screening for.

You Need Your Cover Letter to Cover your Bases

So here’s my step-by-step for you for a template today to help you avoid my mistake. 

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Who to turn to for Career Advice

Even though I don’t work directly in teaching or with students anymore, and my husband has left adjuncting for greener alt-ac pastures, I don’t think I’ll ever stop thinking of my life in terms of semesters. So as this fall semester comes to a close, I’ve been reflecting on my time in grad school at Northern Arizona University. I was pursuing a Ph.D. in history there until 2006, when I made a deliberate decision to leave academia behind.

Actually, that’s not exactly true. Even while I was in the Ph.D. program, I had already made a decision not to pursue academia. I wanted to go into either academic publishing or museums – something *other* than academia. I was all about the alt-ac before that was even a thing!

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