How much will it stain me?
September 25, 2010 3:47 PM   Subscribe

I have a good job as an academic that benefits my career each day that I am there. I am hooked into a pretty cool network of scholars. Yay... but my commute is a nightmare. I am interviewing for a full-time faculty position that I will like and that will make my commute enjoyable and that will allow me to do the kind of scholarship I want to do.... but it may stain my resume. Yes, it is a for-profit school, but I get the sense that it is "one of the good ones," to the degree that that is possible. (It's not a chain, it has been around for many decades, they are moving in the right direction in terms of best practices.)

I don't want to besmirch my career for the sake of a better commute. My question: when I apply for other jobs in a few years, after finishing my doctorate, how much do you think a hiring committee in the humanities would be turned off by someone who had taught full-time in a for-profit institution?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
They will be turned off. I work for a university. What school is it?
posted by fifilaru at 3:49 PM on September 25, 2010

Yes, this will surely look bad to readers of your CV. Still, everyone understands that the current market is bad enough to force academics into less-than-ideal jobs, so CVs may be read somewhat more forgivingly these days. I guess the best approach you can probably adopt is a combination of security through obscurity — if the name isn't "University of Phoenix," many readers may not recognize it as a for-profit school — and your ability to articulate good professional reasons for choosing to work there (i.e. not the shorter commute, but the teaching and research opportunities you're afforded there).

It's not entirely clear whether you're asking about the "stain" on your CV because you're deciding whether to take the for-profit university job, or just asking for advice in future job searches. If the former, I'd still hope you choose to vote with your feet and steer clear of for-profit academia rather than contributing your own scholarly work and reputation toward legitimating it. Conventional academic work is already exploitative enough, and every time another academic endorses the for-profit model, we come one step closer to mainstreaming these mercenary teaching factories and destroying what's left of academia's intellectual independence from the basest forms of capitalism. In my opinion, someone with any kind of workable position in a real academic institution should stay away from the for-profits, and instead treat them as a position of absolute last resort.
posted by RogerB at 4:10 PM on September 25, 2010

I've been on hiring committees for academic positions in the social sciences. I wouldn't be turned off solely by your position at a for-profit institution if you have other teaching experience and everything else is positive. Frankly, I'd be more turned off if your degree was from said institution. But if there were other red flags in addition to that position, your CV might go into the circular file. And seeing that you left the "good" job for the for-profit job would raise some questions in my mind.

Also, this doesn't seem like a fair trade. If this good job is so beneficial, how nightmarish is this commute to outweigh all that? Is there anything you can do to make it less awful? You might find that there are other aspects of teaching at a for-profit institution that will outweigh the benefit of the better commute. One of these could be the possible detriment to your future career.
posted by Fuego at 4:17 PM on September 25, 2010

Disclaimer: I am not an academic but I work for firms that invest in secondary and higher ed debt, so it is a market that I watch closely for trends and big picture.

anonymous: "Yes, it is a for-profit school, but I get the sense that it is "one of the good ones," to the degree that that is possible. (It's not a chain, it has been around for many decades, they are moving in the right direction in terms of best practices.)"

Something to be mindful of is the increasing scrutiny and public distaste for the questionable ethical practices of the for-profits. There appears to be a growing wave of public disapproval and pushback from the higher ed community over the practices of the "few bad apples"... a wave that will likely further blacken the reputation of all for-profits in the near future—in a way that you might not be accounting for, at present.

If someone had asked in December 2007, "Is this a great time to go into hedge funds or high-risk mortgages? Or could it stain my resume down the road? Hmm... guess I'll play it safe," I suspect that the feeling one year later would have been the grateful relief of dodging a bullet.

It seems like the for-profit college industry is on the brink of big trouble. This might not be the greatest time to take a detour through that... especially if you would be leaving a perfectly good non-profit position to do so.
posted by pineapple at 4:30 PM on September 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm in the social sciences, I've been on a bunch of search committees and read more CVs than I care to think about.

I wouldn't care specifically about working for a for-profit as an ABD. Ya gots to make ends meet, and it's probably better than some things I considered (ie, packing dildos all day for the local sex-toy company).

Still, I'd recommend thinking pretty hard about this. The adjuncting train can be easy to get onto, easy to sort of make ends meet while you're on it, but it doesn't lead anywhere and it takes enough time to keep you from getting research done, which is your real ticket out of the grind you're in.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:35 PM on September 25, 2010

One thing to consider is that if you are still enrolled as a PhD student, you could just leave this job off your CV. It won't look like a gap, as plenty of people don't work during their PhD. Of course, that depends how many people know you are working there, and it might also require you to explain why you left the job you have now...
posted by lollusc at 6:44 PM on September 25, 2010

Why don't you just move closer to work? It's much easier to find a good place to live than it is to find a great job.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:47 PM on September 25, 2010 [7 favorites]

I have been on a ton of humanities search committees and would not blink at someone having worked at a for profit.
posted by LarryC at 7:43 PM on September 25, 2010

I have a one year teaching job on my CV from before I returned to grad-school full-time to finish my PhD, (I also had a 4 year appointment elsewhere). I was worried it would scream "He can't commit!" but was told by my advisor and another faculty mentor that since it occurred before my PhD it wouldn't be a problem. They both agreed that search committees (in math, at least) realize that people move around a lot and do different things before finishing a doctorate, and in my case it was actually advantageous to have different teaching experiences. Once you graduate it's a different story.

Anyway, that's my experience, and the posters before me seem to expect otherwise, so grain of salt, caveat emptor, etc.
posted by monkeymadness at 5:36 AM on September 26, 2010

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