As an adjunct instructor, I had the opportunity to apply for two tenure track jobs at the institution where I was teaching. I was well liked and even told I had a strong chance to get the job both times I applied. I was excited when I got to interview and even more excited when some of the full time faculty offered to help me prepare! Even with their help, I didn’t get the job. I was devastated and really did not understand what I was doing wrong. However, after the initial blow, I took some time to reflect. Every opportunity provides a chance to learn and grow. Here is what I realized: it was not that I was not good at teaching, but rather, I was not a good fit for the department. My skills and abilities, while valued, were not a good fit. I was not the right person to help expand the department.
I’ve since earned a full time position where my skills and abilities are utilized and needed. I have exponentially increased my wheel house and have received opportunities I had not previously considered, like being a program chair. As a program chair, I’ve learned how important it is to make the right choice when hiring someone to fill a full time faculty position. In addition to the person’s ability to teach, considerations like will the individual be a good fit, expand department offerings, and serve students and the college must be considered.
Are you a good fit for the position you are applying for? Are you a good fit for the department? There are several things to consider to determine this:
Culture: What is the culture of the institution? the college? the department. Review the mission and vision of the university. It is also important to consider how the institution is organized as this will help to determine if you are a good fit. Will you be comfortable working in this setting?
Department: It is also important to consider who you will be working with; who are the full time faculty currently working there? What is there relationship with each other? Maybe, you have been working part-time at the university and you already have a relationship with some of the faculty. If you don’t, these may be questions to ask prior to accepting a position.
Mentor: Consider if there is anyone in the department who could become a mentor. Guidance and support are important at every step in one’s career. But, this is the most important when beginning a new job. This will help with navigating the policies and procedures, preparing for new classes, and acclimating to the new environment.
Expanding the Department
Being a great teacher isn’t enough! The expectation will be that the person who is hired knows the content and can teach. In addition to teaching, the candidate needs to fill a niche. The department may be looking for a unique skill set such as a specific content knowledge or it may be leadership ability. Regardless, the particular niche being sought will help to expand the department. While it is important to work on developing new lectures and activities, it is equally important to develop a niche. As an adjunct, I was given this advice: ”develop a niche, decide what makes you standout and cultivate that into a need….something a department needs”.
As a faculty member, students are the priority. They are the customers. Full time faculty will often be asked to advise students. They may be assigned a particular group of students as the move through their four years. They may need to help students with scheduling or provide information to help them become ready for a future careers. Overseeing research projects that involve students, sponsoring student lead clubs, and assisting students to apply to graduate school or find employment may be expected of full time faculty. The desire to assist students in their transition from backpack to briefcase cannot be forced on faculty. When faculty are simply going through the motions, this becomes apparent to students. When faculty go out of their way to provide assistance, this is also abundantly apparent to students. Taking time to assist students can be life changing for them as well as the faculty member. There is a great sense of joy when a student who you took the time to invest in and mentor experiences success.
College and University Community
Full-time faculty are responsible for serving on committees. They become part of the organization’s culture. So, when a hiring committee is looking at potential candidate, they have to consider what their new hire will contribute to the department, but also, continuations that can be made to the institution as a whole. In considering committee work that must be assigned, the hiring committee may consider how the new hire will fit. Some things that are considered include the type of committee this person could contribute to and if the potential hire will work well with other members of the institution. Often college and universities have specific needs they as well, for example they may want a candidate that volunteers in the community. Keep this in mind when applying and interviewing. How can you serve the department, the college, and the university? What do you bring to the table that separates you from your competition?
Every department wants and needs people with different backgrounds and diverse ideas to increase offerings and better serve the institution as a whole. So consider your strengths; your niche. When you find the right place and the right position your expertise and skills will shine, and you will LOVE the work you are doing!