Looking for Jobs in Academia
An Evaluation of a Personal Process
Everyone wants to have the perfect job for themselves. If they never find it, they want to know that they did everything in their power to search, interview and hope. In the end, they will know that they simply weren’t the right person for the job, rather than feeling like they didn’t do enough. That is the sort of process that I want for myself – I want to know that I did everything I could to find what I’m looking for.
As part of the evaluation procedure, the history of my job search techniques was described in an effort to lead into the current state of affairs. The evaluation method used was an interactive one, where I was part of the team and feedback was incorporated into the program. I used surveys in an effort to both get feedback from my peers and organize my own data collection.
The evaluation determined that the job search process is individual and while there are some things that can be done to streamline it and make it more successful, those are going to vary from one person to the next.
Description of the program evaluated
I hope that I’ll be able to look at my job search and see how I can make it more efficient and effective. I will use data from web searches and from surveying colleagues, friends, and family to create a clear picture of my job search process. While this program is geared specifically toward me, it is possible that this evaluation could be of use to other academic professionals wondering where to start with a new job search.
Length of the program is going to vary from one person to another. In my case, I hope to search for and be hired in a new position within about 5 months. However, this process can take anywhere from 1-18 months. I hope that by distilling the process down to basics and good quality resources, I can decrease the average amount of time it takes for people to find appropriate jobs to apply for.
In order create these objectives I thought about what I needed from a job search. I need to be able to complete the search on the go or in between doing other things – when I finally have a break from school, there is going to be so much that I want to do and while finding a job will be a top priority, it will be far from the only thing I am focusing on.
- The first program objective is to be more prepared to find a new job.
- The second objective is to determine the most popular and efficient method for searching for jobs.
- What websites are the most popular?
- The third objective is to determine what my peers find valuable in a career search.
- What resources did/ do they utilize in their search process?
- Most valuable career resources.
Determine appropriate jobs through entering key words into job search engines online.
Jobs found through first using the search engine Google to find sites on which to search for jobs, such as careerbuilder, higheredjobs, or craigslist.
Read through job descriptions and determine appropriateness based on my qualifications.
- Internet access/ email
- Flash drive
- Resume file
- Cover letter file
I found most of my respondents via twitter and facebook. I created the survey using Google and posted a link, asking politely for people to respond to the survey for me. In order to make sure that I had as many respondents as I felt I needed, in order to be able to perform some analysis on the data, I wanted to get more than 50 responses to the survey.
My response rate is approximately 42.4%. The actual value is wildly variable because of the mediums I used to deliver the survey – on facebook, I had a population of about 100 people and through utilizing Twitter, I had access to roughly 30,000 people. It is impossible to say how many of those accounts are inactive, weren’t paying attention to Twitter, or simply didn’t care about filling out the survey.
I found my sample based on the people that were willing to fill out a survey for me. I knew that Twitter would be a good resource. One thing I should have done is make two separate surveys, one for twitter and one for facebook. If I had done that, I would have a much better idea of the makeup of my population sample.
Dr. Alec Couros of the University of Regina posted my survey to his 26,000 followers on Twitter per my request. I do not know how many of my respondents resulted from him sharing my survey with them, but I appreciated the help nonetheless.
There’s an old adage that says it’s all about who you know. For me, sometimes, it also is a matter of luck. For example, in May of 2006, I was volunteering at the hospital in Tillamook, and met a lady whose husband was leaving a small engineering firm up the coast. She thought I should apply for his job. I did and worked there for a little over a year before realizing that I really wanted to work in education.
After a temporary stint at a middle school in Seaside, I stumbled onto a newspaper ad that did everything shy of ask for me by name. I applied and was hired to work in Coos Bay, where I stayed for 2 and a half years before my grant-funded job ended. In this case, I believe luck played a role in getting this position. I learned that I really fit in well within the community college setting, and that there is a variety of opportunities for someone like me.
I came home to Tillamook to work on my Master’s degree. I collected unemployment for a short period of time before starting work at the hospital in town as a Data Analyst. Later, I also tacked on a part-time position at the local community college. I found this job through sheer obsessive compulsion. I knew that I wanted to work at the school and at just about every available moment of every day, I clicked on their employment link to see if anything was available. I applied for the first thing that popped up and was hired.
Since that time and knowing that I didn’t have long before I was done with school, I have been looking around for the perfect full-time position. My search has been sporadic, at best, and inefficient. This fall, I saw a perfect opportunity to re-evaluate what I was doing as someone that is actively looking for a new job.
While working on this class, I have been conscious about what I am doing in my job search. Rather than hope I will be lucky enough to stumble on to something, but not wanting to make myself crazy, I have been sticking to one website, for the most part – http://www.higheredjobs.com – and exploring websites of schools and organizations that are particularly interesting to me.
This conscious effort to make my process less crazy, while it hadn’t yet incorporated any of my survey results, was a result of knowing that I needed to evaluate the process.
My first data source (Appendix, page 11) was a Google Form that I used to visit each of the following job search web sites.
I entered the site name, the search terms I was using, and the locations in which I wanted to find jobs. I reported the number of results for each set of search terms in each location, for each website.
The search terms I used included the following:
- Academic Advising
- Distance Education
- Faculty Development
The locations in which I searched for jobs included the following:
- Portland, OR
- Denver, CO
- Seattle, WA
- Boise, ID
My second data source (Appendix, page 11) was also a Google Form. I asked respondents about their job search habits, interests, and success rates.
Survey of Peers distributed via Facebook and Twitter (Appendix, page 11)
|Average Age (yrs)
Figure 1 Demographics of Respondents to Survey
Figure 2 Breakdown of where respondents were located, based on survey responses.
Figure 3 Results of Survey Distributed to Peers via Facebook and Twitter
From the results, there does not appear to be a correlation between a high rate of success in the job search and spending more hours looking for a job. In fact, as one of the respondents with a high success rate pointed out:
“Let people you trust know you’re looking or at least interested; you can’t overestimate the power of a personal suggestion made in a timely way.”
This reinforces my belief that the job search can sometimes be about who you and about a little bit of luck. You also need to be receptive to new possibilities.
Search on my own for jobs (Appendix, page 11)
Figure 4 Results of my internet search for suitable positions.
This was a really cursory search, where I did not look at any of the results in-depth. For example, I know that most of the results for the Chronicle of Higher Education resulted from the search terms “faculty development” without quotes, and I know a lot of faculty positions are posted on that website. Therefore, most of those positions would not be appropriate for me.
Even looking at this search by city, where Seattle and Denver generated the most results, doesn’t give me a perfect indicator with respect to where I should be looking for jobs, or even what jobs are available. Most recently, I found the best postings for my set of skills in Coos Bay, Oregon and Nampa, Idaho. However, Boise generated very few results in this search.
The purpose of this evaluation was to help me streamline and organize my job search, thus making it more successful. I stated that I wanted to make sure I was doing everything in my power to make sure that I find what I’m looking for.
The results of my data collection indicate that there is no great correlation between success in the job search and amount of time spent on the job search. More than one person that completed the survey indicated that they rely on referrals as part of their search for new ventures.
Survey of Peers
The results of my program, which consisted mainly of a trial search and a survey of my peers (Appendix, page 11), were mostly inconclusive. The data I collected from my peers indicated that there was no correlation between the success rate of people looking for employment and the amount of time spent on their job search, as seen in the following plot.
Figure 5 Time spent looking for work vs. Success rate in looking for work.
The R2 value indicates the level of correlation between the 2 sets of data – if the R2 value is close to 1, there is a very high level of correlation between the 2 sets of data. If, on the other hand, the R2 value is close to zero, then that indicates that there is very little or no correlation between the 2 sets of data.
In a larger sample, I think I might find some kind of correlation among a long time (per week) looking for work, a low success rate, and a high number of sites visited online. This process is inefficient and one of the things that I learned from collecting this data is that my search process might not be all bad.
If I had spent more time culling a population sample, rather than posting a link to the Twitter community, I would have seen different but not necessarily better results. Maybe there would have been a correlation between hours spent searching online versus the success rate of applicants, but it might not have been a good or positive correlation.
When I searched for jobs on my own (Appendix, page 11), I got results that I expected. I found that there were more postings in larger cities like Denver or Seattle. I found that there were fewer postings when I used search terms grouped in quotes (for example, “faculty development”) than if I entered the search terms without quotes.
Unfortunately, when I do not use quotes in my searches, I wind up with results that I did not necessarily want. For instance, when I searched the website for the Chronicle of Higher Education, using the search terms “Faculty Development” (without quotes) and choosing a location of Colorado, the site produced 21 results. However, when I instead entered the search terms “Faculty Development” (with quotes), the site produced zero results. I am more interested in results from the second search.
Here is a summary of my search from the Chronicle of Higher Education’s website:
|Search Results – The Chronicle of Higher Ed
Figure 6 Table Summarizing Search Results at Chronicle Website
With this evaluation, I set out to streamline my job search process. I wanted to evaluate my process in order to make it more efficient and successful. Since I focused only on the search portion of the job search process, I did not actually apply for or interview for any positions. How do I define whether the evaluation was successful, then?
Heading into the next phase of my job search, I will be focusing my efforts on the Pacific Northwest and Colorado. When I go online to search, I will continue to focus on using http://www.higheredjobs.com/ and the categories of “Instructional Technology and Design,” “Faculty Development,” and “Distance Education.” For the purposes of this evaluation, I used “Academic Advising” as one of my sets of search terms, because I wanted to make sure that I generated results.
A couple of things I will do differently with my job search, heading into the next phase, include setting aside a particular chunk of time, during the week, when I can search for jobs and work on applications. Over the break, I will also try to refurbish my resume and a good cover letter that I can cater to each position. The main change will be considering the job search another job; something that must be completed.
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