Letting the jobs come to you

Creative Commons License photo credit: jypsygen

The academic hiring season is going to start ramping up soon. If you’re new to the whole process, it pays to spend a little preparation time before the season starts so that you have to spend as little time as possible on finding and applying to positions when things begin in earnest. Trust people when they say that searching and applying is like a job in-and-of-itself and inevitably, you won’t have as much time as you want to dedicate to the task. So anything to streamline the process is a good thing.

I’m concentrating on the finding jobs part in this post. For my own academic job search, I found that searching for positions can be quite time consuming so I took the philosophy that I wanted the jobs to come to me. The underlying philosophy is push vs. pull. When you go out looking for a job in a paper, you’re “pulling” that information. It requires that you search the job ad out; more importantly it also means that you are spending time searching even if there isn’t a job you could apply for inside the paper. “Pushing”, not surprisingly, is the opposite. It’s about the job ad coming to you, much like a friend that connects you to a job they heard about.

I used three web-based services, two in conjunction, to help me: Google alerts, my RSS reader and a web page to RSS feed converter.

Google alerts

Once set-up, Google will send you an email containing the web pages that it has found containing the search terms you’ve provided. I had two alerts set-up last year:

“environmental studies” “tenure track” and “environmental education” “tenure track”

The same Google-fu you use for crafting your searches come into play here. So, I sent Google out to look for pages that had the terms tenure track (not just tenure or track, but both; that’s what the quotation marks do) and my two fields, environmental ed and environmental studies. I then chose what kind of notification worked best (Google can send hits immediately; I settled for daily).

Since setting these up in August 2010, I’ve received 185 emails directing me to pages with tenure-track and environmental studies and 10 emails for my environmental education search. Most were positive hits: ads for tenure-track jobs. Some results are false-positives. Most recently, for example, I got a link to a page trumpeting a University president’s record of starting an environmental studies program and the plans to hire new tenure-track faculty. Not exactly a job ad, but potentially interesting information none-the-less.

RSS reader & web page to RSS converter

Many web pages have a RSS feed that you can subscribe to using a RSS reader (e.g. Google Reader). I like subscribing to feeds because it means I can consolidate my attention in one place: visit my RSS reader once, and every new item since I last visited will appear. No need to visit all the blogs I’m interested in following individually.

Many departmental or faculty hiring sites lack an RSS feed. This typically means you need to bookmark the site and remember to visit it often enough that if a position is posted, you notice. Frustratingly inefficient. Thankfully, the web service Page2RSS can  help here. Rather than bookmarking a hiring site, I simply turned it into an RSS feed, then added it to my reader. When new positions were posted, I saw them appear in my reader. Page2RSS even will send you a tweet. Many disciplines have an aggregate listing of jobs (see the CAG job listing, for example). Page2RSS is perfect to set up this webpage as an RSS feed that will deliver new jobs to you, as they’re posted.

There can be a bit of “noise” with this method: any changes to the site will get pushed as an update. So if a department updates a news widget, you might get notification of that. On the whole, however, I found it to be of enough value that I didn’t mind the extra noise. It’s especially valuable when a site doesn’t offer to email you when new jobs are posted.

Job aggregation sites

A strategy that I didn’t mention as part of my web-based services but equally helpful are the job alerts that some (University Affairs being a notable exception) sites allow you to subscribe to. I’ll use the Chronicle of Higher Education job section as the example, though different sites offer similar services. After signing up for an account, you can set-up a job alert, which will send you an email when a job is posted that matches your search criteria. These sites are a rich source, which is why I wanted to mention them. No special hocus-pocus, however, in getting them to work. Register, subscribe and you’re getting job postings right away.

Educational Development

Curating an on-line academic presence


Creative Commons License photo credit: pavila1

As part of ePortfolio week at the University of Guelph, I co-facilitated a session today on teaching dossiers and ePortfolios with my colleagues Janet Wolstenholme and Jason Thompson. My part of the session was to talk about the possibilities out there when thinking about an on-line presence to communicate about your academic self. The take-home message of my chat was, regardless of platform, it is in your best interest as a graduate student to start creating a place on-line where people can find your academic persona ((For graduate students, the best anecdote is exemplify how important this is was my own recent job search—thanks to analytics associated with the tool I use, I was able to see the kinds of visitors I had to the academic section of my homepage. Clearly employers were out there looking for and at me.)). To help think a way through this, I created a matrix with the following axes:

  1. Professional <—> Personal, and
  2. Low Stakes <—> High Stakes

Choosing a platform or tool should be a process of deciding where you’re comfortable operating along the two continuums: a) how willing, able or concerned you are to share information about your personal self and b) how much effort you’re willing to commit (and this commitment might be measured in effort, technological expertise or otherwise) to the set-up and maintenance of the tool.

I should point out that while one end of the professional/personal axis is strictly personal, I don’t feel it makes too much sense talking about that end here as communicating strictly personal information would have little (intended) impact on this idea of communicating about your professional self. It’s part of the matrix, but for the sake of focus I’m ignoring it. So, it’s my belief that if you can match your own interest and intended scope for communicating your academic persona to a tool, you’ll be happier with the product.

With that in mind, I shared a range of tools and examples today. If you’re more the independent type, you can visit the bundle of links on your own but I’m going to break the tools down a bit and explain where I see them fitting along the two axis I describe above.

More Professional, Lower Stakes
An example: an profile is a social network pitched directly at those working (considered loosely) within academic institutions. By adding yourself to your school, department or college, you begin to see and can connect to others at your institution or with those academics, independent of location, that share similar research interests. You can also use the site to build your academic presence by sharing talks, papers and other forms of academic “currency.” I consider it lower stakes because you can add as little or as much detail as you like and it doesn’t really requires upkeep beyond a semesterly visit to update your activities. An added bonus is analytics; you can get an email anytime someone’s Google search brings up your profile. It’s egosurfing in reverse!

More Professional, Higher Stakes
Examples: the academic blog; D2L ePortfolio

The academic blog, which I unoriginally would define as a blog that focuses exclusively on your academic work, fits right into this quadrant. Importantly, it shares little or no personal information, which is often understood to be the mainstay of a blog. I like it because the blogging can provide an external audience with a more sophisticated understanding of your scholarly approach—in short its richer. For the graduate student, it might mean writing about stages in your dissertation or a particular challenge in your field.

I consider it higher stakes because you need to create content on an on-going basis and initially need to create the structure. Will you, for example, include a CV or a statement of teaching philosophy? Some of that structure can be static (i.e. more like permanent web pages rather than updating blog posts), with content often dictating design. It demands that you have an interest in maintaining the site, too (or having a friend or loved one who will do this for you).

More Personal, Lower Stakes
Example: profile

Here’s my profile; you’ll see it is one page with a quick outline of my academic interests. Visual. And a list of links to other places: twitter, flickr, linkedin and my personal blog. Creating the page took about five minutes for entering the content (and truthfully fifteen to fiddle with the look). It offers visitor analytics so you can get an idea of traffic and who is looking for you. I suggest that this profile is more personal because I’m linking to my various other presences on-line—one of which could be your lab website or graduate student page on your  school / department / college website—and letting those sites do the “heavy lifting” regarding answering the question who I am.

More Personal, Higher Stakes
Examples: the personal-academic blog hybrid; informal ePortfolio

At the risk of disappearing into a never-ending self-referential cycle, I’ll cite this website as a “personal-academic blog hybrid”. While I post photographs I’ve taken well outside the academic sphere, I also do the same things I suggested for the “pure” academic blog: write and ruminate about approaches in my academic field. My site byline is “proudly muddying the line between my private and public persona” and I think there is some value to this. It’s more the real me for one—I show a balance of what informs my personal and academic practices. So, the whole is quite rich for someone wanting to know more. But I also carve out a significant portion to static pages that outline my academic training and publications. Again, like the professional blog, it is a tool that requires some more sophisticated knowledge about creating and maintaing the site. I must say, however, that that sophistication allows for more creativity in creating something that perfectly matches your goals.

Other examples

Institutional repositories, such as the University of Guelph’s atrium.

Almost sterile of the personal, institutional repositories allow you to store your academic work in perpetuity (or, at least as long as the sponsoring institution exists). So that longevity is a good thing. Possibilities do exist to share that work too as the uploaded documents get metadata and URIs for easy sharing. At the same time, it’s not explicitly designed for accruing a public persona, so it could be difficult to curate an identity. I’ve used it in conjunction with to host academic articles I cite and link to there.


A business-flavoured social networking site, LinkedIn has started to up its academic chops by, for example, allowing you to update citations to published works. Short-term, part-time or transient work (like TAships) don’t translate that well into the structure of the on-line resume. I would say it sits higher in the stakes category as it looks best if you create a complete profile, which can take some work.


When scheduling confrences gets complicated

Earlier this week, I posted a list of academic goals for the upcoming year. Kind of key, in my mind, was presenting at the upcoming 5th World Environmental Education Congress. Unrelated, I was asked earlier in the year if I would lead the Quest trip to Point Pelee next spring in addition to my regular Yukon gig. I said yes.

Now, my two worlds collide because they’re both scheduled for the same time. Colour me conflicted and disappointed. I was stupid to say yes to Quest without checking the dates for the congress. Now I’m not sure what I should do–do I cancel with Quest (which I should get on right away so they can make arrangements; problematically I think that they’ve sent their brochure to the printer with me listed as the leader) or do I just re-adjust my plan?

I thought that I might re-adjust by submitting a paper to next year’s AERA (the American Educational Research Association), a conference that Leesa keeps saying I should attend, but I just found out this morning that the deadline for the conference in April was in June. Shit. On the whole, it’s not that bad because the AERA conference is in San Diego. West-coast means expensive travel (or, at least more money then I want to spend) and I would rather travel to conferences on this side of the continent for cost-related reasons.

Here’s part of the crux of the decision for me: I can get paid to lead a tour for 8 days (and goodness knows I need the money, so it’s a good decision in the short term) which arguably does little for my academic vitae OR I can try and present a paper at a conference scheduled for the same time, pay for travel, accommodation and get a new entry on the academic vitae, schmooze and perhaps even come out of it with a publication (which I would be doing in the good faith that the extra citation in the vitae would help me get a job in the future). It’s a classic short-term versus long-term conflict and I don’t know what to do.

If I wanted to be a shyster (or at least it feels like a shyster move), I could submit a paper proposal to the congress, see if it gets accepted and then make a decison about the Quest tour. I think I may need to call Quest and at least let them know that its a possibility. They’re not going to be happy, but at least I’ll be transparent.


New Year’s Resolutions

It seems to me that September, and the start of a new academic year, is a more significant mark of the passage of time and the beginning of the new than January 1st.  This academic year also holds to be more significant than my previous years: working on research and writing a dissertation are the end-moves to a long term project like a PhD. I’m thinking that in order to be successful this year, I need to establish some resolutions and deadlines. Here’s what I’m thinking right now I would like to complete for this time next year:


  1. Two publications in the pipe-line, one peer-reviewed and one other kind of publication
  2. Present a paper at an 5th World Environmental Education Congress, one other conference presentation ((even better-turn these papers into publications, see goal #1))
  3. Dissertation submitted and ready to be defended
  4. Application in for at least one post-doc ((the 2009 SSHRC post-doc is out of the question because I have to submit evidence of a dissertation exam by April 09–something that will not be happening. It makes more sense to apply for 2010)), one academic job and one non-academic job

Deadlines after the jump.