Question: I am a tenured associate professor actively seeking a new position. There have been ideological and pedagogical clashes in my department that have actually led to lawsuits, and the institution has begun to emphasize its founding religious identity to a degree that makes me uncomfortable. I have a greater interest in scholarship than most of my colleagues, and have been more successful in that area, which has led to some open hostility.
My problem is how to present my reasons for looking for a new academic position. I'm afraid that if I bring up any of the problems in the department or institution in an interview, the search committee may think that I'm merely trying to escape from an unpleasant situation. While there is some truth in that, I am applying only to institutions that I believe will closely meet my scholarly and personal goals.
Yet on the other hand, I don't think that it's honest to completely omit any mention of the situation that exists at my current institution, especially since dealing with it has to some extent delayed my publishing schedule. Can you offer me some advice on how to deal with this in interviews and in my cover letter in such a way that I seem frank about my reasons for wanting to leave, yet at the same time emphasize that I am not merely seeking any possible avenue of escape with little regard for the institution to which I am applying?
Answer: You say that you're applying only to institutions that would be a good fit for you. You need to stress that potentially good fit in each cover letter. It will be obvious enough that you believe the new position would be some improvement over your current one (why else would you be applying?), but you don't need to be explicit about why you're leaving, only about what you want to move toward.
In interviews, continue to stress your enthusiasm for the institution that is interviewing you and how you see yourself as a good match for the position. You could make some brief remark about your current institution changing its mission to a more religious one than it was when you joined (assuming you're not at another college with a religious mission), but don't discuss that in any detail.
People will probably respect you for not taking the opportunity to criticize your institution and colleagues. I don't see anything dishonest in this. It's a matter of being appropriately selective, using that precious interview time to discuss things that will help you and the department learn what you need to know about each other in a positive way.
Question: I am updating my CV, which lists a considerable publication record for a younger scholar. My question concerns how I should list chapters contributed to my own edited volume. I now list these chapters as separate publications, but I don't want to be accused of inflating my record.
Answer: Use one entry, in which you give the full citation of the book and name yourself as editor. Then under that entry, you could say something like "authored chapters" and list those you wrote.
Question: As I enter the job market, I am wondering if I should mention that I spent the past six years working in the corporate world, while I took classes and wrote my dissertation. Basically, I've paid for my education in this manner (and thus avoided a lifetime of loans). My job (in the information-systems division of a large corporation) is completely outside my scholarly discipline. I have benefited from the job in some regards, but I'm concerned that my lack of fellowships and teaching assistantships may raise questions. However, I've also taught as an adjunct at night for six years to gain teaching experience.
Should I mention my corporate experience on my CV or in my cover letters?
Answer: Congratulations on completing your degree while holding down a full-time job. You could list that job on your CV in one line under a section called "Additional Experience."
At this point in your life, that job is a significant part of your background and shows you can be amazingly productive, and the absence of detail would indicate that you also don't consider it particularly relevant at this point. A potential downside is that hiring committees may worry about whether you'll be willing to work for an academic salary, so make sure your cover letter is full of enthusiasm for the research and teaching that you now want to pursue.
Question: I am trying to rework my résumé into a CV. However, I'm having a problem finding examples of a CV where the person has significant nonacademic experience.
I am a lawyer with 20 years experience. I have switched careers and am now about to take my comprehensive exams for the Ph.D. My résumé looks like that of a lawyer, not an academic, and my academic experiences so far are rather thin (at least in comparison to my legal background). How do I craft a CV that doesn't have me looking like a 27-year-old who's never been out in the world?
And now that I mention age, I've had résumés with and without my graduation dates. Should I remove all dates except for my time in the Ph.D. program? I don't think the dates are relevant, but I can see where a résumé without dates would be a red flag to the hiring committee that I am a "mature" candidate.
Answer: I assume that you'll be looking for a position in your new Ph.D. field. If so, in many ways your CV will include information like that of someone much younger. You can look at Career Talk's most recent CV Doctor column for an example of a CV for a new Ph.D. with a prior professional career.
Cover your legal experience briefly in a "Prior Professional Experience" category. I tend to agree with you about the "red flag" nature of omitting dates, although some people swear by it.
Question: Should a thank-you letter following an on-campus interview be handwritten or typed?
Answer: Typed. In many fields, an e-mail message would also be appropriate.
Question: I want to move from a rural area to a large metropolitan area. I currently teach at a small community college. I have a mailing list of colleges in the city where I want to relocate and am planning to visit there in three weeks. How do I write a "cold-call" application letter? I have some very good software-application skills and a master's degree. I have taught for almost 20 years and am anticipating returning to school to work on my doctorate. I have valuable skills to offer. I just don't know how to sell them in a cover letter.
Answer: Most community colleges post their job openings online. Check to see whether there are actual openings at the colleges you want to visit. If so, in your cover letters mention that you'll be in the area.
Otherwise, I wouldn't send a résumé and cover letter in the absence of actual openings. Instead, try to reach relevant department heads by telephone or e-mail, letting them know you will be in the area and asking if you can stop by briefly so they'll be familiar with you in the event of a future opening. You can send a résumé as a reference point, but you want to minimize the chance someone will say there's no point in talking now because there are no actual openings. As to presenting your background, it's mainly a matter of stating what you have to offer relative to what the employer is seeking. This is why it's always easier to write a cover letter in relation to a specific job description.