How Do I Get Hired In Higher Academia?
September 21, 2012 3:35 AM   Subscribe

What are some other employment resources to get noticed at a major University?

For the past year, I've been trying to get hired at a major University in Boston, but so far have had no success other than a series of short, disconnected temp placements there through an agency.

There is a huge canyon that exists between the people who already work there and those who don't as far as who gets first pick at open positions.

I'm worried that my hope for a future career at this institution will just devolve into a meaningless track of infrequent temp gigs unless I get some other kind of traction there. The conventional wisdom is that "after you've temped here awhile, they usually hire you once you're in the system." So far, at least for me, that hasn't happened.

I do excellent work, and have a two-page reference list from the supervisors I've supported, but that also seems to fall flat when I'm applying for jobs.

Any help is appreciated, and will definitely keep my spirits up as I navigate through this.
posted by Lipstick Thespian to Work & Money (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What kind of job are you trying to get, and what are your qualifications for said job?
posted by two lights above the sea at 4:21 AM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Are you looking at other university or college jobs in Boston as well, or just that one institution? Sometimes it's easier (cheaper, less paperwork, "new" positions are mainly reshuffling of already-hired people) to hire internally, and the last year hasn't been great for most departments. You may have more luck getting a longer-term position to strengthen your application at another university, if you really absolutely want to work for that one place alone. A year honestly doesn't seem like a very long time, given the sometimes glacial pace of getting new positions approved. Could you add a little about maybe the kind of work you're looking for?
posted by jetlagaddict at 4:49 AM on September 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

I work for a major university in Boston, and have connections to several others. Send me an email and tell me where you're looking, and I might be able to shed some light on what's going on.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 5:05 AM on September 21, 2012

Are you a PhD looking for a tenure-track gig? If so, I think the advice you are hearing is wrong. Are you a building management person? Then maybe, I don't know, although I agree with jetlagaddict that you may be best served by getting a permanent gig elsewhere to strengthen your credentials and then circling back.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:08 AM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Not sure about your major university, but my major university has an internal temp pool. Getting involved in that pool is one way to bridge the gap you're talking about. Good luck!
posted by DrChurlish at 6:17 AM on September 21, 2012

I am not at a university in Boston, but my HR situation might shed some light on what you are facing. I am required to fly a position internally (meaning only open to internal applicants) before advertising it externally, unless I go through the extra steps of proving to HR that there are no possible qualified internal applicants. I'm only going to do that extra work if there is a particular external person I want for the position, and it really is a lot of extra work -- I'll probably have to rework the position description first, go through a bunch of email and phone back-and-forths with both HR and people above me who need to sign off, etc.

But without that, it's hard for an external candidate, because good positions get snapped up by internal applicants, and the entry-level positions (the ones these internal applicants are moving up from) often get applicants with an inside track as well. Applying blind is a hard way to break in, honestly, which is why people are telling you to keep temping in the hopes that you become the insider candidate.
posted by Forktine at 6:22 AM on September 21, 2012

My attempts to get a job at a large University were helped greatly after I was able to schedule an informational interview with a person fairly high up in the department I was hoping to join. She didn't end up hiring me herself, but after we had talked, she offered to walk me around the building to meet people, and I was able to hook on with one of the people I met semi-randomly that day. Can you leverage your temp contacts into informational interviews with the people who would be hiring for the kind of jobs you want?
posted by Rock Steady at 6:53 AM on September 21, 2012

Forktine has it. I once worked in a lab where the funding that paid my salary got shuffled around. This basically forced a whole new hiring process, so I had to reapply for my own job that I had been doing for over a year! But to an external candidate it looked like there was a legitimate listing on the university job board for my position, when it was never really "open" in a true competitive hiring sense. You're probably running into this. Go talk to the people you want to work for and find out from them what jobs are actually going to come available in their departments in the near future.
posted by slow graffiti at 7:15 AM on September 21, 2012

My university is also preferentially hiring internal candidates at the moment. The university's own temp pool is currently the best ticket in, because university temps are considered internal candidates (whereas temps from an outside agency wouldn't be).
posted by mudpuppie at 11:20 AM on September 21, 2012

In answer to the above:

I'm not a professor - I'm simply looking for mid-high level program or faculty support positions at the school. I've done the following roles: Faculty Assistant, Staff Assistant, Program Assistant, Event Manager, etc.

My dream role would be in a larger public-facing, customer service-driven area like Admissions, Operations, or in a Student Life undergraduate position. I excel most in high density, fast-paced, distraction-laden environments where I have to answer hundreds of questions a shift about campus life/policies/etc. Ambassador for the University situations are ideal.

Hope this help in clarifying what I'm on about here. I have a very strong background in similar work both at the University as a temp and in permanent roles in corporate settings.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 4:25 PM on September 21, 2012

I'll second or third the comments that you need to be on the inside to some degree. Also, resumes and cover letters need to make it pass the HR department before they get to the hiring department. You need to figure out how to create a resume and cover letter that will catch the eye of HR and get it into the hands of the hiring manager.

Lower level positions will be easier to get into, but you'll need to stand out in some way. From there it's easier to step up to another position, or to another university or college.

In my experience trying to contact the hiring manager/professor directly isn't a good idea, but having a colleague/friend of theirs, whom you know, give a verbal reference and your resume will help a lot. So you need to know someone who knows someone. Check your LinkedIn contacts and ask friends or former colleagues for introductions (it can't hurt).

Also, with the current economy they're receiving lots of resumes for each job, which makes it hard to stand out. :(
posted by zaphod at 5:33 PM on September 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

What zaphod is talking about is a mild version of what in this FPP was called "sponsorship" -- someone in a position of power on the inside who will vouch for you.

Once you are on the inside, those connections can happen more or less organically. From the outside, it's harder, and you might need to think through the people you have worked with in your temp positions.

I'm simply looking for mid-high level program or faculty support positions at the school

It's worth noting that any position above a certain level will be basically a national search; what that level is exactly will vary by the institution, but you need to be aware of who your competition actually is for the positions to which you are applying.
posted by Forktine at 10:28 PM on September 22, 2012

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