by Bertin M. Louis Jr., Ph.D.
Head over Heels/ Shutterstock
In my last essay, I offered advice on casting a wide net to increase your chances of finding a tenure-track position. In this article, I offer additional tips to help you think critically and compassionately about higher education and the role you can play within it.
Academic job searches can be grueling. We have all experienced the feelings of disappointment and sadness when we can’t find a job, don’t get the job we want, work at a position that is far away from our loved ones, or are currently working in a job at a place we do not want to be.
One way you can counter this is by feeding multiple birds with one piece of bread. While looking for an academic position, you can help others in your network to counter the unequal aspects of higher education. Previously, I’ve discussed the importance of academic mentoring for HigherEdJobs. In that article, I mentioned how it was crucial to create a network of mentors based on the advice of Dr. Johnnetta Cole, one of the Association of Black Anthropologists‘ most famous and impactful members. Your academic network will help you tap into opportunities that you may not realize are available to you. Now that American society is opening up for face-to-face encounters despite the ongoing COVID pandemic, there are opportunities available for you to attend academic conferences, panels, and talks at local colleges and universities where you can meet more people who could help you in your job search. For example, if you are on a panel with an assistant professor or a senior colleague (advanced associate or full professor), you could always ask them if their department or institution plans to hire soon and if so, could they keep you informed if something becomes available.
There are also ways of growing your network, when searching for jobs or just trying to navigate higher education, which do not require face-to-face interaction. For example, you can grow your network digitally through social media platforms such as LinkedIn (where you can also create job alerts) or follow accounts on Twitter that regularly post jobs. For example, I follow @CulturedModesty, @SpiritCitizen, and @DrAriaHalliday who regularly tweet job postings in African American History, Black Studies, Gender and Women’s Studies, Religious Studies, Asian American Studies, Health Studies, Sociology, and other academic-related positions.
But what I would like to emphasize here is to grow your network in a way that is not transactional but that is reciprocal and relational. In other words, don’t just use your network to extract all of the possible job opportunities just for yourself. First and foremost, remember that your network consists of people. Your network consists of human beings who deserve your respect and should be treated in an ethical manner. Your actions within your network must be undergirded with an ethic of care that, at so many times, is lacking in higher education. Pay things forward by sharing job opportunities, advice, and other resources with others so that they have a chance to realize their goals of securing a tenure-track position, being a professor with some job security, or moving from a job for another opportunity. In other words, sharing advice, wisdom, and opportunities with others allows you, to borrow language from my former pastor, the sagacious Reverend Doctor Willa Estell of Saint Paul AME Zion Church in Maryville, Tennessee, to be “a blessing to someone else.”
I hope this advice helps as you progress within academia. If you benefit from the commentary you’ve just read, be sure to share it with others and also offer your own advice when appropriate. In a recent discussion I had with members of the University of Virginia Rising Scholars Postdoctoral Fellows Program and graduate students from the UVA anthropology department, many of us agreed that we had no idea how to strategically approach the academic job markets when we were graduate students. So, if you are a graduate student who is reading this, also remember to push for professional development efforts within your own academic departments. If you are a professor in a department that grants advanced degrees that does not currently have professional development opportunities for your graduate students, begin this vital conversation with your colleagues.
Disclaimer: HigherEdJobs encourages free discourse and expression of issues while striving for accurate presentation to our audience. A guest opinion serves as an avenue to address and explore important topics, for authors to impart their expertise to our higher education audience and to challenge readers to consider points of view that could be outside of their comfort zone. The viewpoints, beliefs, or opinions expressed in the above piece are those of the author(s) and don’t imply endorsement by HigherEdJobs.