Academics looking for work

Looking for a job is one thing, looking for the right job for you is something else entirely. If you want stability and career progression, fulfilment and job satisfaction then you want a job that you desire as well as a job that you can do. There is a fundamental difference and so before embarking on job search you need to identify what it is you want to do specifically.

Generally speaking as an academic you will have decided what career path you want to pursue before you embark on your college/university course as the two are intricately related and the qualification you are studying for may be an integral part. While at college you will be mixing with others who have the same interest as you so you can begin to network, make useful contacts and perhaps your tutors can point you in the right direction or give you a head start re where to apply etc.

If you are going to be seeking employment in the business world, you may not be familiar with what certain jobs involve. Select your jobs by focusing on the work an employer needs done, rather than what message the job title invokes.

For example, just because you enjoy working with people does not mean you should train and work as a social worker. What you might find pleasurable about people interactions may not occur with great frequency in the job of a social worker. It may involve a great deal more paper work than you anticipate and dealing with antisocial people.

Consider instead which industries, companies, and businesses that you'd like to work in. Study them and learn how they operate and what makes them profitable. Find out what tasks are performed in various departments, and then consider your personal skills and attributes and how they might meet the needs of the employer.

Once you have decided what it is you want to do, the next phase is persuading people to hire you and remaining sane and organised in the process!

Get organised

Organise yourself so that your job search doesnt become a confusing mess.


Start by listing in order of preference any jobs that you apply for. If you are invited to more than one interview on the same day in different parts of the region you will need to know which to attend as a matter or priority and which to reschedule. Your list will help you to identify which interview is your first priority.


You could also set up a database/spreadsheet or even a paper file for keeping track of applications. The column headings in your spreadsheet can include:

  • The companies name,
  • Location/address/contact numbers/names etc
  • Number of positions available/type
  • Deadline for applications,
  • The job listing/depts URL,
  • Required application materials,
  • The status of your application including when you applied/what was sent etc
  • Date you received an acknowledgment
  • Interview date

And so on

Word processor

You can use a word processor to support address labels, allowing you to type an address once and use it many times. In addition you can write a standard cover letter and keep it as a template that you can personalize for each job application. Your CV can be typed online, benefiting from existing templates you can find on the web. Be sure not to write anything false and to personalise it to each and every individual employer.

Road map

Use a road map to identify (using coloured pins) wherever you apply for a post. It allows you to easily see the status of your job search visually. The map can also help in planning the order of visits. Use a web service to tell you how far away the job is and gain any commuter information re flights/road travel/train etc.

Keep a folder for all your CVs/cover letters copies of any correspondence and job specs etc.

Where to Apply

Play the numbers game and apply anywhere that you might be remotely interested in working. You might not be aware of how attractive a place is until you accept their invitation to interview. Whatever you apply for though, make sure that you put in extra effort for the jobs that you find preferential.

Partner constraints

If you are partnered with a fellow graduate it may be a priority that you work in the same region so that you can live together and share your life. This will of course limit your career options. You may find though that you can pool your resources and apply to places with multiple positions or are near other employers. You may need to compromise and apply for jobs that arent at the top of your list, in order to find employment local to each other.

The Application

View the job applications of successful job seekers in order to gain insight into what works and what does not for your first drafts. Have an advisor or a friendly professor look over your CV and cover letter and suggest changes they deem necessary etc.

If you are applying for a post in a business environment, when writing your resume rather than focusing on your academic credentials, try instead to describe your understanding of the business of your target employer. Detail how you will do the work and how you will add value to their organisation. You already have the skills acquired as a student such as research, application and knowledge. Apply those skills to the job search process and be confident that while business may not be your background as an academic in business you can certainly add value to that business environment.

Always ensure that applications are sent in by the requested date. Late applications may be returned or discarded without being viewed.Most employers will send you an acknowledgment within a few weeks of receiving your application or the deadline. If you do not receive an acknowledgment, email or telephone the contact person.

Make contact

For every position you are interested in, you should try to find a personal contact. In order to avoid being dropped by the Human Resources dept you want to find out who the hiring person is and make direct contact with them. Introduce yourself and tell them you are interested in the post and why. Hopefully they will then make a special effort to view your application or they will immediately identify with it when they do see it. With numerous applications to go through, you need to do whatever you can to make sure you are not forgotten and discarded, and be seen!

Stay calm

Academics are not accustomed to rejection and failure. Job search may be your first taste of that so keep your spirits high and do not become demotivated if you are not celebrated the way you may have been in University.

Responding to Invitations


When a prospective employer contacts you they may want to do a telephone interview first. Be prepared for this eventuality and anticipate any questions you may be asked and have your answers handy so that you can refer to them, or rehearse them. Dont be worried if when the interviewing process starts you are not offered a job right away. With every interview you will improve your technique and be more prepared.

Your interview invitations will arrive in a random order. If you have already started travelling to interview out of your area you may find juggling different destinations during the same couple of weeks quite difficult and be travelling back and forth a lot. When you are scheduling trips, make sure you schedule a day off so you can recover from any flights etc. You want to be your best at the interview and so do not want to be over tired from all the travel.

Preparing for Interviews

This can be an expensive business not just with regards to travel but hotel costs and new outfits. Most of the travel expenses may be reimbursed but not immediately so you will need to budget ahead for those. A bridging loan for students may be used for this purpose. Ensure clothing is practical and doesn't wrinkle too easily. You will also need luggage and a garment bag if you're bringing a suit.

The Interview


Remain calm, in control and confident without being arrogant. Prepare for the interview by researching the company and the post and anticipating any questions and preparing your answers. Be able to demonstrate how you would do the job.