How can I make my work experience relevant for a job in academia?
August 12, 2013 1:09 AM   Subscribe

I am in need of some help... I've just completed an M.A. in Anthropology, I'm trying to pull together a CV for a job teaching as an adjunct professor or community college professor. I don't have professional teaching experience, even though I've got loads of experience teaching to my peers in graduate seminars. (I'm also not sure how to convey that, other than in a cover letter.) I've got some of my written work (, and one of my presentations on YouTube. I'm in the process of revising some other papers to put on Hoping, I suppose, that displaying my work will make me a better candidate. Now, here's the question: How can I make my existing (non-teaching!) work experience relevant to applying for academic jobs?

Here's what I've got on my resume:
  • Graphic Designer (current)
  • Web Assistant
  • Data Entry, Accounting
  • Disney World cast member (quick service food & beverages) - twice
  • Production manager for documentary
  • Intern/Assistant Editor for a fashion-centered editorial press agency
  • Art Director & Photographer for a small indie film

  • Other (unpaid) experience:
  • Elected board member for a small museum, where I help plan and run events, discuss & vote on various decisions at meetings, keep up community relations, and work on developing an exhibit that is in the future (within a year, hopefully)
  • Also, a related question: Should I include "M.A." after my name? It seems kind of braggy to me, and less impressive than "PH.D" - but is it something that people usually do in this case?

    *sigh* ...This is all very new to me.
    posted by ScarletLark to Work & Money (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
    Rather than try to shoehorn a lot of non-related work experience into a resume that tries to position all those jobs as somehow related to academic positions, why wouldn't you contact some of the institutions at which you'd like to teach, either through their HR departments, or through the offices of various academic deans, and just see what their application and training process for new adjuncts is? There is a high rate of turnover of adjuncts, and so most institutions are prepared to take people with a masters degree from many walks of life, put them through training amounting to some 10s of hours of classroom, and some observation, and have them teach some introductory classes with a set curriculum, to start. I doubt any form of resume will be of as much benefit in getting you such a job, as a willingness to teach, and the chutzpah to approach some possible institutions that might need your services about getting a job doing so, and the capability to fill out the paperwork they will happily hand you, and return it, organized and timely.
    posted by paulsc at 1:25 AM on August 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

    Was your MA related to visual anthropology or ethnographic film-making? I would wonder if you could spin your film-making/media experience in a way that linked it to the MA. But I'll defer to people who know community colleges better as to what positions that would open up for you.
    posted by col_pogo at 1:26 AM on August 12, 2013

    Getting started as an adjunct

    How to apply for adjunct positions

    For an adjunct position, the person in charge of hiring will be looking for teaching ability, and almost certainly will not bother to read writing samples (although it might be nice to say that you've got some). You've got an MA in anthropology--what kinds of introductory classes are you qualified to teach? Your written work at least allows you to say that you can offer classes in such-and-such. As col_pogo says, the film experience may be relevant if it can somehow be related to the subject you want to teach.
    posted by thomas j wise at 4:08 AM on August 12, 2013

    Almost all adjunct hiring in my big city and my field is done by informal word of mouth referral. I know which of my advisees need work. My friends who are department chairs or otherwise in a position to hire or recommend adjuncts know my students can teach. So I get emails or calls every July/August and November/December saying "who've you got available on short notice?"

    In my city the gigs almost all go to PhDs or ABD PhD students. And getting them depends on personal networks in which your adviser has standing. Ask your department or MA adviser if s/he can realistically recommend you or refer you to gigs or pass on inquiries from other departments.

    Anthro without a Phd or significant teaching experience will be tough. There's a lot of unemployed PhD competition in any big city setting.
    posted by spitbull at 4:39 AM on August 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

    Create a few sample syllabi. It shows that you're prepared to teach those classes, and also gives some insight into your pedagogical philosophy.
    posted by baby beluga at 6:28 AM on August 12, 2013

    Full-time community college professor is going to be nigh impossible without teaching experience unless you have connections there, and even then it won't be tenure track without a Ph.D.

    Adjunct at either a CC or university is far more likely, and there will probably be more courses opening up starting in January as the new healthcare reform kicks in so employees who work over 30 hours a week including prep get employer-provided health coverage (and you also can't get around it with a second state system job because that's still just one employer). All of which means at least in the short term that adjuncts who are currently working closer to full-time will be getting a course or two dropped so a MA adjunct might have more luck.

    Ditto that you generally get offered courses via your network (so reach out to your network including the museum as there's usually a fair amount of museum/education crossover), but in each case I've still had to submit a resume. Resume-wise, have you ever been a TA? Have you supervised anyone in any of your previous roles? (I see you've held a title of manager at least once...) I'd try to highlight those experiences as being related to teaching, and might even pull it out so that I had two sections: Teaching Related Experience and Other Experience. I would not put MA after your name. It just highlights your lack of a PhD and looks pretentious as well as naive. I also second making sample syllabi.

    Also, call/email all local possibilities (not pushily) just before the semester starts as there's often a couple immediate staffing needs discovered then. I'm talking two to one week before classes start.

    Finally, if you're the type who likes to be uber-prepared, start reading the Chronicle of Higher Education forums.
    posted by vegartanipla at 7:37 AM on August 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

    Seymour Zamboni is right. I too was a department chair and hired scores of adjuncts every year, and still have near final word (as a program director) over a few now. The approach is standard: a simple short cover letter and a vita, and yes to sample syllabi, they are absolutely necessary. And three references ready to speak or write on short notice.

    You are going to have to get lucky or be connected the first few times. Teaching experience is generally the key qualification. You might consider offering to do some volunteer guest lectures in the classes of professors you worked with for the MA (if you are still in the same town) to get some experience and also a few references for your teaching. Short of that, network by attending talks or conferences at your local universities. It's like any other gig, and takes a lot of sweat equity to get set up.

    The other factor is always "how mature, professional, and responsible is this person?" All of us have seen adjunct disasters. We need an utterly reliable person we can entrust a class full of immature undergrads to. So you can also get at least one reference from a non-academic but professional setting that speaks directly to your organizational skills, work ethic, and maturity.

    Also, if you speak a foreign language spoken by immigrants in your city, that can be a credential for some community college gigs. Be sure to make it clear if you do.
    posted by spitbull at 8:12 AM on August 12, 2013

    Response by poster: Thank you for your responses - all great advice; I've got some things to consider.

    Regarding visual anthropology: no, that's not really my focus. Though I have additionally worked as a professional photographer (my first career choice, before I decided to go back for grad school), I haven't really applied those skills in my studies in any substantial way. Not that it hasn't been considered - there just hasn't been much support for that in my department. I have studied visual anthropology through many classic examples, and I have used photography in my research, but it was mainly as a note-taking device and for personal record-keeping.

    I think my interest in using past experiences is not so much in trying to "shoehorn" it all in, but in displaying other, possibly related skills and interests. However, this being my first time applying for an academic job, I need help identifying what could be relevant - and even how something like that would be formatted ("related interests" or "skills"?). I found myself deleting long portions of a template when starting out my CV, and it seems to me that mine needs to look a little different at this stage of my career.

    Also, unfortunately, I do not speak a "minority" language (Spanish, in my neck of the woods). I can read & write in French, but that hasn't helped me here.
    posted by ScarletLark at 1:09 AM on August 13, 2013

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