This post continues our series, The Smart Scholar, with a focus on preparing for life on sabbatical.

In a previous post, I provided three tips for candidates working with search firms. After the release of that post, myself and Interfolio staff received several comments and questions from readers about job-seeking advice and the role search firms can play in securing future employment. Given these questions, I  reached out to search firm representatives to understand, from their subject-matter-expert perspective, tips and strategies for candidates. 

I solicited the advice of Dr. Sherry Coleman, Consulting Partner with Storbeck Search and Associates and Ms. Maya Kirkhope, Senior Consultant with Academic Search. To help organize the advice provided from both experts, below I summarize insights from our interviews on how to get on a search firm’s candidate database, prepare and review required applicant documents, and engage in the phone/video interview.

Getting on the search firm’s candidate database

During my conversations with Dr. Coleman and Ms. Kirkhope, both suggested that candidates often get on their radar through: 

  • Their 1:1 conversations with professionals in the field (e.g., other search firms, higher education professions)
  • Their targeted research efforts
  • Through candidates’ own efforts, such as reaching out directly to search firm representatives

Both experts encouraged candidates to reach out to search firms. Dr. Coleman suggested that it is important for candidates to reach out to search firms to: 

“… create a plan of action… and see what’s available, what’s out there, what are search consultants looking for, what are the organizations they represent looking for so that they can better prepare themselves for the search that is of interest to them.”

Ms. Kirkhope shared similar advice to Dr. Coleman and advised candidates to reach out to search consultants because:

“I think the advice and the guidance that we can offer can be incredibly helpful. Sometimes it’s not what you want to hear. Sometimes it’s about the readiness to get onto the market. Sometimes it’s really whether the skill set that we’re looking for for this position is going to be a good match.”

Mrs. Kirkhope explained that it was important as a consultant to help inform candidates if they had the prerequisite experiences—that would make them a viable candidate for a position—before they apply. 

Through our conversations about how to get on the search firm’s radar, I found that it is equally important for candidates to research search firms.These agencies are businesses and they each have their own niche of search they typically engage in. For instance, some firms only conduct searches for senior administrative positions (e.g., President, Provost), where other firms also recruit for endowed professorships. 

Preparation and review of applicant documents

From my experience serving on faculty searches, candidates may lack in presenting carefully crafted written materials. This is often a part in the process that can quickly eliminate a candidate from consideration for positions. During my conversations with the experts, they too expressed the importance of candidates putting together strong materials. Ms. Kirkhope expressed that common mistakes with applicant materials include:

  • The candidate’s CV is too long and is not tailored directly to the position the candidate is applying for. This signals to the committee that you may not understand what the search committee is searching for, specifically to determine if a candidate is a fit for the position.
  • The selection of references are not adequate for the position (e.g., you apply for a leadership role and have no reference that can speak to your formal leadership experience).
  • The cover letter does not address how the candidate’s experience meets the qualifications of the position.

In a follow-up interview, Mrs. Kirkhope suggested that when preparing materials, a candidate could give a summary overview of areas on their CV that were not directly related to the position such as listing a sample of classes taught when applying for an cabinet-level administrator role.

Dr. Coleman also explained that when creating a cover letter, candidates should make sure it is tailored to the job position and institution to which they are applying. She explained, “So you want to make sure your materials reflect your strengths, your experiences, your ability and is it your cover letter may address some of your least experienced areas. You want to make sure that your references complete your story.”

My takeaway on job material preparation? Take the time upfront in crafting your cover letter and selecting your references. Your goal for your written materials is to have the search committee eager to learn more about you and how you are a fit for the position. In many cases, this will lead to a video interview.

Thriving on the video interview

A question many readers from my previous post asked was, “How do I prepare for the video interview?” So, I had an extensive discussion with Dr. Coleman and Ms. Kirkhope about how candidates should prepare for this event. 

Dr. Coleman suggested some very poignant steps candidates can take to succeed during the video interview:

“Well I think some people are not comfortable with sort of video conversations and I would say practice from every aspect. Where you’ll be seated, what’s in the background, how high your laptop computer is so that you present well, are there glares? If you have glasses, is there glare on your glasses? And some of that has to do with positioning. And so you want to practice that ahead on Zoom with a friend or colleague or someone who can give you feedback.”

Dr. Coleman added that search firm consultants could possibly be helpful in giving candidates suggestions for the types of questions they will be asked. She also advised that whenever possible, candidates should reach out to colleagues who hold the position they are applying to in order to understand the types of questions they should be prepared to answer. 

Ms. Kirkhope added to Dr. Coleman’s recommendations on interview preparation by encouraging candidates to make sure they are actually answering the search committee’s questions. 

“A lot of times people think they are answering,” Ms. Kirkhope explained, “but one of the biggest mistakes candidates make is they get very general in their responses. They don’t provide examples, or they talk incessantly and they spend 20 minutes on the first question. When interviewing you typically have 4-5 minutes per question.” 

She further explained that not answering all of the questions impacts candidates at decision time. Search committees may not have candidate responses to key areas that are germane to their position, thus they may be less likely to move forward in the search. 

My takeaways? When thinking about a video or in-person interview, candidates should prepare ahead of time, solicit the feedback of a trusted colleague, and think intentionally about specific examples that allow you to thoroughly answer a question.

What thoughts come to you after reading this post? Are there any lingering questions about working with search firms? Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter. 

I would like to personally thank Dr. Coleman and Ms. Kirkhope for their time in serving as experts for this piece.

Author Bio: Dr. Ramon B. Goings is an assistant professor of educational leadership at Loyola University Maryland. His research examines gifted/high-achieving Black male academic success PreK-PhD, diversifying the teacher and school leader workforce, and the student experience and contributions of historically Black colleges and universities to the higher education landscape. Dr. Goings is also the founder of The Done Dissertation Coaching Program which provides individual and group dissertation coaching for doctoral students. For more information about Dr. Goings’ research please visit his website www.ramongoings.com and follow him on Twitter (@ramongoings) and for more information about The Done Dissertation Coaching Program visit www.thedonedissertation.com.

Any opinions, findings, and conclusion or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.

It’s “busy season” for those on the academic job market—a stressful time that lives up to its name—so we have launched live chat within the Dossier application. 

We know that many of you only have a minute or two during your jam-packed Dossier user session to ask and get a question answered. You may not have the time to call in, or need a more immediate response than an email reply can offer. We heard this loud and clear! Providing support across multiple channels enables you to focus on the work you’re doing, and allows us to serve you more quickly. 

Here’s how to get in touch with us over live chat. 

  1. Once you’re logged into your account, look for the green “Chat with us” button in the bottom-right of your screen to start speaking with a live agent in real time.
  2. You’ll be prompted to provide your name, email address, and a description of your question or issue. To note: It’s helpful to make sure the email address you provide is the one associated with your Interfolio account. This helps us pull up your information quickly.
  3. Share with us as much detail and specifics as possible to help us expedite the conversation.

If you click the chat button and get a message that no one is available, know that we aren’t ignoring you! It means that all of our agents are currently speaking with other users and we should be available soon. You can refresh the page to see if an agent has come available at any time. If you can’t catch us on chat, you can always give us a call at 877-997-8807 to speak with someone on our team.

We’ve already had over 7,000 chats with our users and we look forward to supporting you over chat soon! And remember, Scholar Services is now available on phone and live chat from 9:00am – 6:00pm and email from 5:00am-10:00pm U.S. Eastern Time for Dossier users.  


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.

Last week we launched a new Dossier product feature in our ongoing quest to save our user’s time, and so that we maintain our exclusive offering as a full-service Dossier. We received feedback that the process of requesting a letter of recommendation through Interfolio could be confusing and unintuitive. In response we’ve enhanced the user experience working with our product design team.

Here are the changes we’ve made:

  • Instead of having a blank “Recommender” search field, you will now have two options: “Choose Existing Contact” or “Add New Contact.”

requesting letter of recommendation through Interfolio

  • In the default option shown, when you select “Choose Existing Contact,” a drop-down menu will display all of your existing contacts.
  • The “Add New Contact” option will allow you to add a new contact. 

We’ve made this change due to user feedback—it clarifies that a letter request has to go to a particular contact.Once you’ve selected the contact that you want to send the request to, you are ready to do so.

We encourage you to add more detail and personalization to the request, but the only requirement of sending a request for a letter of recommendation is providing the contact information of your recommender. Here is a link to a help article that fills in more of the details.

How do these changes impact me?

First and foremost, it saves you time. It is far more convenient to simply select saved information than to type it in from scratch for every request. In addition, it helps to avoid errors in email addresses and names. Requesting and sending letters of recommendation is a stressful but necessary part of applying to many scholarly positions and other opportunities. Let Interfolio help you manage this portion of your to-do list, confidently and confidentially.

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.

This blog post continues our series, Scholar at Large, written by an academic on how departments can prepare job-seekers for an inclusive humanities job market.

During my postdoc year, I ventured into the fog of mythology around the “alt-ac” world as I forged ahead on the traditional academic job market. As Interfolio’s “Scholar at Large,” I’ve written about how these pursuits are far more related than we realize. I’m happy to say that this process has helped me find a career opportunity that matches my values and will allow me to holistically grow my PhD skill sets and expertise. In August, I will be starting as an Assistant Professor of English at an equity-focused, public liberal arts college in southern Nevada serving primarily first generation and non-traditional students. 

I am positive that the career exploration processes I undertook helped me secure a tenure-track academic position that is an excellent fit for who I am as a humanities practitioner. Throughout my interview process, I found myself using the  knowledge and conversational approaches that I honed during my career explorations as I spoke with search committees, deans, and students. Most importantly, my understanding of how the work of the humanities takes many shapes will enable me to become a better professor for my students and for my colleagues. 

With that news, I end this iteration of the Scholar at Large series by highlighting four small shifts that humanities departments can make—based on things that they are already doing—to embrace the “alt” and prepare their job seekers for an inclusive job market that enriches the humanities as a whole. 

1. Bring the “alt ac” conversation out of the shadows.

My conversations with PhDs working outside of the academy consistently highlight how their career trajectories are hidden from those within the academy. This norm means that not only are PhD students losing out on a valuable network of diverse colleagues, but also that they aren’t as equipped to help their new departments promote the career opportunities that a humanities degree can yield.

What might bringing the conversation out of the shadows look like? 

  • Keep track of and celebrate all career outcomes of graduates. Make this information available on your department website. 
  • Bring all alumni (tenure-track or otherwise) back to campus for career discussions with current graduate students.
  • Connect graduate students with robust resources for careers both inside and outside of academia – and include those career possibilities in the same conversation. 
  • A more advanced step: begin to make changes to the graduate program itself. This could involve anything from how graduate course syllabi are designed to approving non-traditional dissertations. 
2. Affirm that job opportunities (academic or otherwise) are a single point along an extended career trajectory.

Help graduate students approach the job market with a sense of confidence and control by encouraging them to think strategically about what a position might offer them. A particular position might be a good fit for the job-seeker at this juncture; it is not a contract for what a job seeker may do for the rest of her life. What form might this support take? 

  • Teach graduate students to do informational interviews (this will help them with networking at academic conferences as well). 
  • Shift the language of your department’s “placement committee” to that of a “career planning committee.”
  • Develop workshops that will help students understand career resources. This could be as simple as including them in your Fall Orientation.
3) Emphasize skills in addition to content knowledge; that’s how transferability becomes clear.

Embrace the idea that the training you provide to graduate students already produces skills along with expertise that are applicable in a diverse array of humanities careers. Embracing this does not mean that professors need to teach graduate students differently, or that rigorous intellectual projects and academic research will be compromised. All it means is talking more openly and inclusively with graduate students about these issues and shifting the language we use to talk about putting our PhDs to work. And on that important point:

4) Discourage language or messaging that suggests that careers beyond the academy represent a “Plan B,” that students are “giving up” or “can’t cut it,” or that such job-seekers are not committed to the advancement of humanistic knowledge.

I cannot overemphasize how crucial this small shift in rhetoric is for job-seeking success, and more importantly, for the mental and emotional health of job-seekers. If you do nothing else, work toward developing an affirming, rather than damage control-oriented, departmental culture of career exploration.

Do you have experience with a job-seeking practice that worked well? Continue the conversation with me on Twitter and through the hashtags #withaphd and #PhDchat!

***

Author bio: Dr. Molly Appel is a Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow at Penn State University. Her research explores how literature works a space of teaching and learning for human rights and social justice in the Americas. You can find her on Twitter @mollyappel.

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.

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.

This post continues our new series, The Smart Scholar, which explores the attributes and qualities that make a successful academic applicant.

In my two previous posts, I discussed the under-appreciated skills for scholars on the job market and two practices that are useful for underrepresented scholars in the academy. While these approaches will certainly support your ability to be an ideal candidate, it is equally important to explore how you manage multiple applications. Thus, for this post I would like to focus on the actual job search.

Below are three tips on how you can enhance your organizational and logistical approach to your search for your next academic position.

Keeping up with where jobs are posted and shared

Do you know where to find jobs for your discipline? If not, start by reaching out to your scholarly village and learn where you can find opportunities. Generally, academic positions are listed on university websites. However, because of the amount of work it takes to look at individual university websites, there are many job forums that cover jobs across disciplines:

  • Higher Ed Jobs
  • Chronicle Vitae
  • Inside Higher Ed

In addition to general job boards, there are discipline-specific venues to find jobs.  For instance, in my field of education, job seekers can find positions on:

As an applicant you must allocate time to learn where jobs in your discipline are located and keep them bookmarked on your web browser.

Develop a tracking system to keep up with due dates

If you are open to a variety of opportunities, you may be applying to 10 or more positions during the job season. Given the quantity, it is vital that you have a tracking system to keep up with the various due dates. When I work with my dissertation clients who are on the job market I have them keep an Excel spreadsheet with headers (like the example below) in order to keep up with all of the requirements. Additionally, in order to ensure I did not miss a due date I would review the document every day.


Apply for jobs where you are a fit

When searching for jobs, conventional advice may be to apply for as many openings as possible so you have the greatest chance to secure a job. I would caution against this mantra when searching for academic positions. As a faculty member, I can observe that being on a search committee takes a lot of work. Search committees are responsible for:

  • Screening applications
  • Conducting phone and in-person interviews
  • Taking candidates on tours of the university and city
  • Deliberating to make a hiring recommendation

Given the amount of time involved in the search process, it is in your best interest as an applicant to apply to jobs that are a fit for your skillset as well as your career aspirations. I suggest taking this approach because if you are not a good fit for a position, the odds are your application will not proceed past application review. Due to the competitiveness of the job academic market, there are many applicants who are a direct fit for the position and meet all the criteria. This competitive market ultimately leads to search committees weeding out applications early in the process. My suggestion? As the applicant, your first job is to do your homework on a role and confidently apply only if you are an ideal candidate for a job.

Do you have a system you use to stay on top of your job search? If so, feel free to share it with me on Twitter (@ramongoings) as the academic community would love to hear about innovative ways to stay organized on your job hunt.

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.

Author Bio: Dr. Ramon B. Goings is an assistant professor of educational leadership at Loyola University Maryland. His research examines gifted/high-achieving Black male academic success PreK-PhD, diversifying the teacher and school leader workforce, and the student experience and contributions of historically Black colleges and universities to the higher education landscape. As a writing coach and editor, Dr. Goings enjoys supporting the scholarly development of doctoral students and professors in higher education. For more information about Dr. Goings, please visit his website www.ramongoings.com and follow him on Twitter (@ramongoings).

Earlier this week, we hosted a free webinar and Q&A providing a glimpse into a Dossier Deliver user’s account —focusing on letters of recommendation—for scholars to get the most out of Interfolio’s free Dossier and Dossier Deliver.

We decided to include a demo-heavy portion in the webinar to address some common questions we were getting from users, and to share some of what we’ve learned about the folks using our products. We also touched on the newest features available, specifically how to utilize our quality check process. The webinar also features an exclusive Q&A session, leveraging our attendee’s questions as they participated in the webinar. 

Opening with some of the background and research underlying Dossier, the webinar covers several of the product’s common real-life applications and the best subscription for each of these lifecycle stages. It sheds light on best practices surrounding the three core areas of the Dossier account:

  • Materials
  • Letters
  • Deliveries

Alex Aponte of Interfolio’s Scholar Services team leads the audience through each of these account areas in a product demo of a Dossier Deliver account, diving deeply into many specific questions about confidential letters of recommendation. We know that requesting a letter of recommendation, or providing one, can be a delicate and sometimes stressful process when deadlines are involved, so we offer features and a support team to make those logistics simple.

Check out the full recording here, or read on below for the Q&A portion:

Here are a few of the most common questions we got during the webinar, and a quick recap of what our audience learned:

Q: Is there a way to store a confidential “generic” letter without sending it right away? I plan to apply for many positions, and I don’t want to make my letter writers send all the different letters one by one.

A: Yes! That is a very common use for Dossier, and you can do it for free. You can either request a general letter, or specify which opportunity the letter is for. Just use Dossier’s “General Request Recommendation” feature—look for the “Recommendation Type” section in the request form.

Q: When requesting a letter of recommendation through Interfolio, how should I use the due date feature? Can a letter writer still upload a recommendation letter after the due date has passed?

A: In Dossier, the due date feature is not technically binding—it is just a tool (attached to the request itself) for you to communicate to your letter writer the date by which they should submit their letter. If you set a due date, it will not prevent them from uploading their letter afterward. Also, if you set a due date, we will send your letter writer reminders 7 days and 1 day before the letter is due via email.

Q: What is the quality check feature and how is it helpful?

A: If you have a Dossier Deliver account, you will receive a guaranteed quality check on your letters of recommendation as they enter your account. There are a variety of things we look for and flag as inconsistent with what a user expects within their letter, such as:

  • We check for a signature.
  • We make sure there’s an official letterhead.
  • We ensure the file uploaded is in fact a letter.
  • We verify the letter bears both your name and the letter writer’s name.
  • We establish the letter is legible.

You can choose to send your letter even if it has errors–like a missing signature–so you retain control of your materials and deliveries.

Q: What type of deliveries are available through Dossier Deliver?

A: If you have a Dossier Deliver subscription, you can have your application materials (including letters, CVs, publications, images, and more) delivered to almost any destination via one of three methods:

  • You can provide us with an email address, and we’ll send your materials there, arranged in the order you specified.
  • You can provide us with a mailing address, and we’ll print out your materials and mail them, arranged in the order you specified, either First Class Mail or at an expedited service level.
  • If you’re applying somewhere that requires a confidential letter upload into their own online application system, we can substitute for your letter writers, and directly upload the letters stored in your Dossier. We only do this for letters, not other materials.

Finally, please note that anyone can use the free version of Dossier to apply to positions hosted entirely through Interfolio.

So, what can you do if you have questions about your Dossier account or creating one?

  • Watch the webinar. It’s about an hour long and includes a pretty comprehensive product demo.
  • Check out the FAQ section of our site for quick tips and tricks on how to navigate Dossier and Dossier Deliver.
  • Reach out to us. We’re people that thrive on serving our customers.

Today we launched several new Dossier product features in our ongoing quest to ensure our user’s time is spent on activities they choose, and so that we maintain our exclusive offering as a full-service Dossier (almost 20-years strong!).

In March, we introduced a valuable new feature to help prevent document quality issues from holding back your applications—for users with active Dossier Deliver subscriptions, we now perform a quality check on all confidential letters of recommendation.

And as of today, we have added several more features related to (1) how a Dossier user requests letters of recommendation and (2) how a letter writer receives such a request, further personalizing and streamlining the process.

As a Dossier user requesting a letter of recommendation I can:

  • Save my letter writers’ contact information
  • Attach multiple support files to my letter request via my Dossier account
  • Share my multimedia materials like video links and URLs within my request
  • Request multiple letters of recommendation at once
  • Auto-populate each letter writer’s name in bulk requests for professional appearance

To add a new contact while requesting a letter, click “Letters” in the left sidebar:

Click “Request a Letter”:

Start typing in “Recommender” box:

Click “Add New”:

And as a letter writer, when accessing supporting materials attached to a request for a letter of recommendation, now I can simply view them online within a convenient document viewer—or I can download them as always.

Click “View Documents” vs. “Download”:

Why do these changes matter to you?

First and foremost, it saves you time. It is far more convenient to simply select saved information than to type it in from scratch for every request. In addition, it helps to avoid errors in email addresses and names. We understand that receiving a stellar letter for a job application is the end goal, not requesting it.

Requesting and sending letters of recommendation is a stressful but necessary part of applying to many scholarly positions and other opportunities. Let Team Interfolio help you manage this portion of your to-do list, confidently.

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.

This post continues our new series, The Smart Scholar, which explores the attributes and qualities that make a successful academic applicant.

As the academic year is coming to a close, the summer is an excellent time to reflect and evaluate where you are on your journey to seeking your next academic position. For some this means engaging in the beginning development of  your dissertation proposal, data collection, or editing of your dissertation/thesis. For others, this time is valuable for putting together your job materials (such as your CV, cover letter, teaching philosophy, etc.) for the upcoming job season. Regardless of the everyday tasks at hand, now is an excellent opportunity to put a plan in action so that the job of your dreams can become your reality.

Given this context, below are two practices, especially relevant to those that are underrepresented in higher education, that can be developed during the summer as you prepare to land your dream job.

Cultivate your village of mentors

There is the African proverb that says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I would argue that to land a position in higher education it takes at least a village. So how do you develop relationships that will help you be successful?

As you think about this, consider the following questions: who are the people that affirm me as a scholar and/or can help me navigate the job market to land my position? I propose these questions as I believe it is critical that you develop a deep bench of mentors—one person will never be able to meet all of your needs or criteria for success. Thus, you should take the time to search for people who:

  • Can support your job application materials
  • Can speak in rooms on your behalf
  • Push you to submit the application
  • Will be in and stay in your corner during the best of times and the worst of times

Moreover, success in the job market, for better or worse, often comes down to who you know and who knows you. So taking the time to cultivate your village could make the difference in landing your next position.

One such venue to develop this scholarly village is a group called R. A. C. E. (Research, Advocacy, Collaboration, Empowerment) Mentoring, which was co-founded by Drs. Donna Y. Ford, Michelle Trotman Scott, and Malik S. Henfield. R.A.C.E. Mentoring (also referred to by group members as RM) is a virtual Facebook group of over 700 members that provides support, mentoring, and professional development to faculty and graduate students of color to increase their representation in higher education.

In addition to the virtual networking, a summer conference will be held at Vanderbilt University July 13-15, 2018 which would be an excellent opportunity to connect with scholars across the country who can become part of your village.

Assess the needs of the job market against your current skill-set and fill in the gaps

As graduate students, we engage in training that prepares us to be researchers. However, depending on your particular institution you may have had (or not had) certain experiences to develop skill-sets needed to land your next academic position.

  • To account for this possible gap, you should take time to assess, “What are the requirements for someone to land the job I’m looking to go after?”
  • Once you do this assessment, the next step is for you to reflect and determine if you met all of the necessary skill-sets to make yourself a viable candidate. To make this determination, work with  your scholarly village as they will have an understanding about the skills you may need to secure your next position.
  • Lastly, if for some reason you need a certain expertise that you do not currently have, develop a plan to get that experience. For instance, if positions in your field require experience securing grants and you did not have the opportunity to work on a grant during your scholarly training, it would be beneficial to engage in grant writing training and collaborate with others who have been successful grant writers so that you can learn the craft. While gaining a new skill set like this won’t happen overnight, taking the time to develop it will pay dividends when you seek your ideal academic position.  

With the increasing use of online learning platforms, gaining some of these experiences and skill-sets can occur from the comfort of your home. Moreover, this would be an excellent time to work with your village of mentors to help solidify your plan.

As you develop your summer plans, I look forward to hearing about how you have landed your dream position this upcoming year. And if you need a member in your village for support, count me in! I’d love to hear your progress via Twitter (@ramongoings).

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.

Author Bio: Dr. Ramon B. Goings is an assistant professor of educational leadership at Loyola University Maryland. His research examines gifted/high-achieving Black male academic success PreK-PhD, diversifying the teacher and school leader workforce, and the student experience and contributions of historically Black colleges and universities to the higher education landscape. As a writing coach and editor, Dr. Goings enjoys supporting the scholarly development of doctoral students and professors in higher education. For more information about Dr. Goings, please visit his website www.ramongoings.com and follow him on twitter (@ramongoings).

This post continues our series—begun last fall during faculty hiring “high season”—by a onetime academic job seeker, now academic-at-large, on how to make the most out of student evaluations.

Student evaluations of teaching can be terrible.

  • So say a growing number of professors who are tired of feeling like their careers hang on the whim of students who have taken a dislike to them.
  • So say researchers who have found that students evaluate women and people who aren’t “hot” as worse teachers than men and the attractive.

But, as Kevin Gannon recently wrote in the Chronicle of Higher Education, despite every flaw of this system, “students are experts on what they experienced and learned in a course, and they ought to have a voice.” Most institutions continue to agree.

So it is with some ambivalence that we recommend some things you can do to make this process as painless—and maybe even helpful?—as possible.

Leave plenty of time for students to complete evaluations.

A cynic might point out that there are a number of things you can do to manipulate the situation so that your students perceive you kindly at evaluation time. We’ve heard everything from “Don’t hand back an essay or a test right before giving the evaluation” to “Bring in brownies or cookies on evaluation day.” We have no comment on these tactics, but one thing you should definitely do is make sure students aren’t filling out forms in the last five minutes of the class, with backpacks half-zipped and one foot out the door.

Make clear the stakes of the process.

Don’t be desperate or get weird about it (it’s never great to beg), but do let students know how their evaluations will be used, on the job market or in seeking promotions. Also let them know that their feedback will be used to improve the class in following years. If possible, you could give an example of something you’ve changed after reading feedback from their predecessors, to show you’re serious.   

If you can, elect the option to give your students evaluation questions that are specific to your class.

This may or may not be possible at your institution, but if you are able to select particular questions, or to make up questions of your own, do this. This goes a long way to mitigate the institutional feeling of the Scantron sheet. Your students will get more of a sense that the evaluations are connected to the class they took; you will get better feedback for improving the class next time; and the evaluations will be more meaningful for assessors reading results.

Know how student evaluations are used at your institution.

The research on student evaluations shows that there are better and worse ways to use them in assessing a faculty member’s effectiveness.

  • Will your tenure committee know to consider patterns of response, instead of individual negative comments from bitter students?
  • Will they take the difficulty of your class into account?
  • Does your school know about the research into student bias, and will assessors integrate it into their process?
  • Will the student evals be combined with other ways of assessing your teaching effectiveness?

The more you know about the process, the better—and if the process is antiquated and unfair, investigate ways to change it. (We know, we know—in your free time, right?)

When you are presenting evaluations for promotion or to get a job, try to put them in context.

If you’re given space to do so, embed your evaluation data and students’ written comments into a narrative. You can let your reader know what kind of class you were teaching, what kinds of assignments you gave, and any other information that would help them understand why you got the scores and comments that you got.

And, last but not at all least: Try not to take any individual bad evaluation too personally—summer is just around the bend.

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.