Making the Most of Your Off-Season-Part 1

Making the Most of Your Off-Season, Part 1

July 18, 2011, 11:32 am

By Rob Jenkins

Here we are, roughly halfway between the end of the spring hiring cycle at community colleges and the first of the fall job announcements. Welcome to the academic job hunter’s off-season.

If you’re still looking for a tenure-track position, you may be feeling discouraged or frustrated, even despondent. That’s understandable. But perhaps you can take some inspiration from college and professional athletes, who know that what goes on between seasons is almost as important as what happens during. As my coaches used to tell me, “players are made in the off-season.”

That might not be entirely true, or true in the same way, for people hoping to land tenure-track academic appointments. But it is true that the ultimate success of your search may depend on things you could — and should — be doing right now. Here are a couple that come to mind:

Keep up with the postings. Even though most of the jobs that were advertised between October and February have been filled, and most of the new announcements won’t be out until midfall, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few colleges out there still looking — or looking again — to fill positions.

Believe me, a lot of things can happen during the summer that affect the job market: People take other jobs or decide to retire. They change their minds about making a move. Enrollment projections warrant more full-time positions. And that’s not to mention things like sickness and death.

I have twice been hired for tenure-track positions late in the summer. In one of those cases, the person I was replacing actually did pass away suddenly at the end of June. The other involved a faculty member who left unexpectedly to take a job closer to his home and family. You just never know.

Network. Because people in the academic world tend to be a little less busy during the summer — theoretically, at least — it’s a great time for catching up with old friends and acquaintances from graduate school, from previous jobs, even from your personal life. Again, you never know who might know somebody who knows somebody, or who might have heard about a job that’s available or could become available.

Social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn are great places to find and make contact with people you used to know. If you’re itching to do something constructive in terms of your job search, but can’t figure out exactly what, try listing all of the people you’ve been friendly with over the years who might be able to help you professionally. Then set about finding and exchanging messages with each of them over the Internet. You don’t have to ask for any favors at this point; that can come later. For now, your goal is just to re-establish your relationship so that you can include them on your list of potential contacts.

You might also discover that this activity yields other, more personal rewards. Recently, I set out to learn what had become of an old friend and co-worker I hadn’t seen in 18 years. I was able to track her down via the Internet, and we ended up exchanging long e-mails, catching up on our professional and personal lives. I doubt I’ll ever need a favor from her, but if I do, I’ll know where to find her — and I won’t just be dropping in out of the blue, hat in hand.

In my next post, I’ll talk about some additional strategies for you to pursue during your summer “downtime.”

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