Networking at Work

I am an administrator with teaching responsibilites, and at the same time I am a unionized faculty member. This role gives me the opportunity to lead a service department, and continue to teach and mentor. The department I run held our annual retreat this year and a colleague from Human Resources facilitated the event. Based on the response at the retreat and the ensuing days, I feel comfortable stating that it was a success. We did some team building and got to know one another better and this was fun. The manager and I also had a chance to speak to what is next and what our roles are in the unit. I am glad that I have taken the time to get out of my home department, Political Science, and know people throughout campus. 

Almost monthly I meet with my Human Resources consultant to chat about the unit, my team, and other issues as needed. These meetings provide me leadership coaching and human resources training. I have my advanced degrees, but none of them are in managing people or campus wide projects. The Human Resources team have been crucial to my leadership success. And, thinking back to the last year, establishing good, work relationships with others across campus has also served me well. Of course, it is not about me, but here I am thinking about the importance of face to face meetings and casual coffees to chat with people who I work with or need to work with on projects. I also have monthly meetings with others across campus, who I regularly work with and these meetings are coffees where we update one another about our projects. 

People always use the metaphor of silos for university campuses and it fits. Most tend to stick to their building or their side of campus. A new school year is upon on and I encourage academics and alt-academic types to venture out of their usual haunts on campus. Make a coffee date with a colleague who you have always wanted to collaborate with or who you know also teaches large first year courses. My point is to network with others who you might normally not take the time to get to know. 

This suggestion includes staff. It is my experience that academics tend to spend time with other academics. The campus is filled with people. Get to know others across campus in different roles. Before you know it, you have established more meaningful relationships around your campus. I realize that networking turns some people off, so think about expaning your circle at work. The photo below is one that I took at a conference where academics were the minority, but the goal was to move major projects across campus in a collaborative manner. It was a great exercise to see the numbers of staff involved in raising funds and planning for a new building or thinking about active learning environments for students. 


Taking Chances: Applying for an Academic Job

Another Fall and another season for academic job seekers. The calls for applicants are going out in full force and I want to offer some points of advice for applicants. I’ve previously blogged about this issue, but this post is slightly different and will speak more so to the fact that so much of this process is out of your control. Seriously, it is. Part of the vetting process is the committee looking at the files and thinking, “Do I want to work with this person.” That is really outside of your control–it’s essentially gleaned from the overall file.

You have control over most of your file. You need to write a great cover letter and put together an overall strong dossier. You hope that your references are strong and that the entire package stands out to the committee. But, unless you are part of the long list or lucky short list—it’s really out of your control. A great dossier makes it clear that you have looked closely at the call for applications and that you have done your homework. You have included teaching evaluations, publications, a research statement, and teaching statement. (I’m assuming here that these documents or parts of the dossier were requested in the call).

The department or faculty unit has put together a call that might be rather vague and offer them a “let’s see what we get” expectation or the call is so specific that they either have a candidate or two in mind or have made it so that the pool of applicants will be a small one. This is tricky. If the call is vague, you don’t know what they really want and they might not either! Try to find out more about the position–maybe send the department head an email. If it’s specific and it speaks to your fit, then go for it.

Remember to do thorough research about the department. Review the courses that they offer and speak to both the call and the courses that you are prepared or willing to teach. Also, explain where your current research is at and where you see your research progressing during the next 3-5 years. You should demonstrate that you are not only prepared to hit the ground running when you’re hired, but that you bring something special or specific to the department. You might also note why you would want to move to the region or join the department. Overall, be concise and promote yourself wisely.

Now, for the things that are beyond your control: there might be different factions in the department and Faction A wants a generalist and Faction B wants a niche candidate, then Faction C doesn’t particularly like your file,your dissertation, and/or your letter writers due to the pedigree and sub-field. There are some moments that you just have no control over, when you’re applying for a job. The other important thing to understand is that no job is “your job.” Be careful. You don’t want to go on public record diminishing the application process and you also don’t want to possibly piss off the hiring committee. Even if you have an inside track (occasionally this does happen) be careful. You need to impress the department, the Dean, and the Provost (in most hiring instances).

And, yes, one time I did apply to a department and was told that I was a sure thing for an interview by several people close to the department. I didn’t get an interview. I kept my chin up and was very quiet about it. Everyone around me—librarians, colleagues, and friends were pissed off. Hell, I was pissed off for a few weeks, but kept quiet. It was the best thing that  I could have done. I got over it.

Related to this, if you don’t get short-listed or do and don’t get offered the job—please, please, please don’t be filled with sour grapes and insist that the “winner” was hired based on her gender, race, or connections. First of all, that sounds very unprofessional and do you really want to be that person making possibly false and hurtful assertions? You might in fact be correct or just plain wrong, but be the consummate professional. Each discipline and sub-discipline is smaller than you think and words always seem to make the rounds and then you might feel really embarrassed when your claims of discrimination or just plain sour grapes makes it way around to the person who got the job, around the campus or the discipline. Looking for work in higher education requires patience, thick skin, and good luck. Well, this is in my experience in the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.

With that–I do wish anyone on the job market in higher ed or other wise–some good luck!

Challenge Update

I am participating in a challenge with some of my colleagues at the University of Venus ( @UVenus ). We are taking special care to network and meet people across our campus. Given that I am the Chair of the Academic Women’s Caucus this provides me an easy way to do this, but I have also had a few coffee meetings to meet with different colleagues across the campus and would like to speak to how helpful this has proven during these last two months.

Most recently I met with the coordinator for the Anti-Violence Project and we are working on a shared conversation about safe spaces on campus and the university support of safety. These are just the early conversations, but it was great to have this meeting that caused us to find out that we share some of the same professional networks.

Last month I had coffee with Dr. Jentery Sayers from the English Department at UVIC and I was so impressed and envious with his courses and current area of research. I was happy to get some of the flyers for his course, “How to Network a Novel.” It looks like an amazing course and I have since shared the flyer with the students enrolled in my courses.

For the second year I am sitting on the December 6th memorial planning committee, and the committee is made of some different staff from last year and I have the opportunity to work with a great group of women from all over campus. And, I look forward to the events that we are planning.

I have also met informally and formally with different staff from the UVIC Communications team and have repeatedly found the team helpful and professional. If your campus has a communications team and you haven’t met them yet—get to it. They can help get you on the Experts Database (if your campus has one) and make sure that you are included in media releases.

And, the last thing that I spearheaded was the nomination of a colleague for a teaching award. This turned into more work than I anticipated, but it was a great process for my involvement. I contacted probably upwards of 60 people for the dossier and the file fielded some strong, personal assessments. Ultimately, I felt honored to play a small role in this nomination. It is important for me to note that this nomination was based on my position as the Chair of the Academic Women’s Caucus. I hope that next year the Caucus can nominate another woman on the Steering Committee. Part of my self-imposed mandate is mentoring and this includes peer to peer mentoring and support.

I have had a productive first few months for the challenge and look forward to the next few months!