"Out-Ac" tips and suggestions
So, applying for “real world” jobs is awful.
When it came to the academic job market, I was EXTREMELY charmed. I don’t say that in Billy Mays font to sound vain. My academic job search was impossible. I applied for one tenure track job, ever, and got that one job. Let me reiterate. One cover letter. One skype interview. One in person. And then I started my life on the tenure track. I realize how this sounds to absolutely everyone else who has applied for hundreds of jobs. I’m not trying to salt the wound here, but the only story I can tell is my own. My experience applying for “real” jobs is much more similar to an everyday reality.
In the course of 2 months, I have applied for 130 jobs. The experience has been horrible, demoralizing, soul crushing, and terrifying. Even though two members of my immediate family work in corporate hiring and recruiting, I was largely flying blind throughout this process. Partially because they were sick of me asking them to look at my resume every other day, partially because they thought I was making a bad decision leaving the academy. I may seriously be making a bad decision leaving the academy.
I wanted to write this post to document some things I’ve learned about transitioning between a CV and a resume, and how to write a cover letter. When I get a “real” job, I will post examples of my cover letters on the site. Here are some things I’ve learned through this process:
1. CVs are a measuring contest. Resumes need to be short. I cannot stress this enough. Resumes are supposed to be no more than two pages. Nobody in the corporate world cares that you presented 3 papers at a single conference. Nobody cares that you went to every regional MLA. No one wants to read every book review your advisor pulled strings to get you.
2. Academic skills are super transferable. You just have to sell it right. All those humanities skills you picked up in classes are transferable. Did you make a syllabus? That’s curriculum design. Did you teach a class? That’s training and instruction. It’s all about telling the story right and figuring out how to repackage yourself.
3. Research Industry key words. Know what words to put on your resume that are specific to the field you want to get it. Recruiters search resumes by looking for key words. If you don’t have the right ones, your resume doesn’t get looked at.
4. Learn how to read again. Being in the academy really messed up my reading comprehension. I have a really hard time reading every word of every job post. While it may not seem like a big deal, it is something that you have to do. Skimming over job calls is not going to get you anywhere.
5. Get a LinkedIn account. I found it really helpful and a great way to connect with recruiters. Spend the 10 minutes to build a nice account, upload your resume, and have a good head shot.
6. Have multiple resumes. I have different resumes for the two different industries I’m applying for. Because they are so short, they have to be specialized. I will also post examples of my resume up somewhere.
7. Cover letters have to be specific, but not too specific. I have 3 major cover letter forms; one for every industry that I’m applying for. Each one talks about specifically why I want to relocate, why I want to work for that company, and what skills specific to the call I can do.
8. Save every cover letter. Every single one. So when they call you, you can remember what you told them you can do, and what the company does. That’s why it pays to be specific in the cover letter about why you want to work for the company.
Documenting the "up and out" process. Somedays are easier than others.