Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Advice for applying to (and getting!) jobs at small liberal arts and 4-year teaching focused schools

Our last two meetings have focused on what it's like to apply for and work at small liberal arts schools and 4-year teaching-focused schools, so we wanted to post some of the take-home points and general advice that we've collected from these two meetings!

1. It is critical to be the "instructor of record" on at least one, preferably more courses...whether this is at a place like Berkeley (e.g. if you can get a position as the summer instructor of record for a course), or at a community college or somewhere else doesn't make that much of a difference, but this seems to be a minimum for making it through the door...GSIing isn't sufficient for being a professor in these types of positions.  Summer courses with high-schoolers where you are responsible for designing and executing the curriculum are also valuable. So is giving even just one lecture of a course you're GSIing.  For GSIing, having taught a diversity of courses is definitely more valuable than doing one course multiple times.

2. Publications are still important for getting in the door, too.  4-8 first-author publications, as an estimation. However,  surprisingly, multiple people have mentioned a trade-off where you actually don't want too many high-profile publications, otherwise the hiring committee will think you're only applying to small liberal arts schools as a back-up. Some teaching focused schools are actually starting to require post-doctoral experience.

3. It is a big selling point if your publications have undergraduate co-authors (they should be indicated with an asterisk on your CV).

4. Your CV should be restructured for teaching-focused jobs (the Berkeley Career Center can help with this)

5. It's hard to do field work - especially international field work - and be a liberal arts school professor. If you are trying to pitch any field work (and particularly international field work) when you apply, keep in mind it will only be possible in the summer (unless it's super local), and you'll want to come in being able to pitch specific sources of research funding that would also support bringing undergrads to the field.

6. During the interview process many liberal arts schools will have you do a teaching lecture for students and the hiring committee, usually on a general topic that is not your specific area of expertise.  Once you're in the door, the teaching lecture is often the thing that makes or breaks candidates. Even if it's a stretch, try to incorporate tried-and-true material into the lecture that you're familiar with, excited about, and know works well. Also do some interactive hands-on stuff, because the students like that and their feedback will be used.  Some schools will actually have you lecture on surprise topics that they don't let you know about beforehand, so be prepared!  Also, at small schools you will meet with everyone (from all the faculty to all the administrators), so be sure to have a very broad description of who you are and how you fit into the school.  

7. The community college interview process is different from the small liberal arts school / 4 year teaching-focused school process. Community college jobs should absolutely not be thought of as "back up" jobs, that's not what they are, and the hiring committee will be able to tell if you're applying for the job only as a back-up. Generally these positions won't care as much about your research and will be much more teaching focused. Their interview process will sometimes have writing portions in which you'll have to respond to a writing prompt (which you won't know of before-hand). Their teaching demos are often on surprise topics. 

Online Resources for finding Academic Jobs:
University/institution-specific websites (very important)


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