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Best practices for keeping your career materials current

Ask a Candidate | Topics in Higher Education | Interfolio's Dossier

This post continues our series by a onetime academic job seeker, now academic-at-large, on how to keep your career materials current.

You don’t want to find yourself in the position of needing to rustle up syllabi, statements, CVs, teaching evaluations, and reference letters when you’re in the throes of applying to a job. Do your future self a solid and try to keep an updated archive of those materials in between searches. Here are some ways to do that.

Keep it all together.

In 2019, it probably makes the most sense to maintain your career materials in digital form—with ample backup on hard drive and in the cloud, of course. (Using a third-party system like Interfolio’s Dossier service makes this easier.)  If you have some items in paper form, scan them. A bit of annoyance now can save you from a lot of confusion later—not to mention a strained back from carrying those files up and down stairs.

Consider using tags or folder structures to categorize materials.

Depending on where you’re keeping your documents, you might want to enlist metadata to help you remember which documents would serve for which purposes. The most basic way to do this is to create a folder structure that stores documents by type, by subject matter, etc. If you use a system that offers tagging, take advantage.

Start a habit of scheduled maintenance.

Pick a few times when you’re under a little less pressure at your job—possibly the end of the semester, between grading and travel?—to survey your career documents folder and make sure everything is up to date.

Keep a checklist:

  • Have I published any new articles?
  • Have I taught any classes with student evals, and do I have the results here?
  • Did I change my syllabus, and if so, do I have a copy of the new one here?

Take a moment to update your CV, too, even if you’re not using it to apply to anything at the moment.

Note contacts you might want to ask for a reference later.

Maintain a little list of people you meet along the way who might be good candidates for letter-writing in the future. Set a goal to develop those relationships; make notes in this list to indicate your progress (“November 2019: Read her chapter and offered feedback”). That way, if and when you do ask a contact to write a letter for you, you can consult your notes before you write that email asking for the favor. An email that says exactly why you think your colleague would be the best person to write the letter, and suggests which areas of your relationship you think the letter-writer could address, is far preferable to a generic ask.

Take notes for your future self.

If you don’t feel like writing a new teaching philosophy statement (for example) while you’re happy at your current job and not planning to move, try to leave yourself a little help. Jot a few things down at the end of each semester, during your scheduled maintenance times, that you think might make good additions to your next version: stories about student responses to projects; observations about discussions that were particularly successful. Human beings are forgetful; your notes will make it a lot easier to add color and depth when you do end up updating that document.

 

Interfolio’s Dossier enables scholars to collect, curate, polish and send out their materials at all stages throughout their academic professional path. Learn more about Dossier here.