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After applying to a couple local PhD programs and unsurprisingly not getting in, I'm going to be applying again (more broadly) for 2019. I know I'm not the only one who has done/ is doing a round 2 or 3, but I am curious what the work experience was for y'all. If you have an MA/MFA, did you become a lecturer? Did anyone struggle to get a job at least as an adjunct for a class somewhere? Are there folks here who took university staff positions instead? Or left university/college employment entirely?

I ask because, though it looks like I am fortunately fairly close to locking down a full-time lecturer position, some of my friends who also just finished up their MAs/MFAs seem to be coming up short on getting lecturer gigs. Some are considering taking adjunct gigs over 2 hours away just so they can actually get some more teaching experience, as it is hard to compete in an area like Austin. Did anyone here do anything like that?

Likewise, I've also heard from current lecturers and Senior lecturers that it can literally be the day before the class starts that some schools will hire on lecturers. Did any of you have an experience like that? If so, how did you not go crazy while waiting until late August to find out if you had a job?

 

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I don't have any answers, but I'm posting here because I'd love to hear what everyone has to say about this and any general tips for applying for lecturer/adjunct positions. I will finish my MA in 2019 and take a gap before (hopefully) beginning PhD in 2020, and I am definitely hoping to land a lecturer or adjunct position during that gap (not sure how likely this will be because my MA program does not include any TAing). Any tips for when to apply, how to apply, how to look for jobs, what interviewing and timeline is like, etc., much appreciated!

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I can't speak to successfully getting an adjunct or alt-ac position, but I see you mention non-ac employment - that is what I did after my MA. 

For context: My MA didn't have a teaching component. I worked 4 semesters as a writing center tutor, 2 semesters as a research assistant on a digital humanities project, and 1 semester as a grader (I split grading essays with the professor). I also applied (for my second time) to PhD programs during my MA and assumed that I'd just go straight on - alas, it was a shut-out.

So, I first looked into adjuncting but my lack of TA & teaching experience made me a poor fit for those jobs and I didn't have the time to buff up my teaching skills. Additionally, a percentage of the adjunct jobs made it clear that the PhD was preferred and I was worried that the market would be already flooded with people who had teaching experience & a PhD in hand.

So, I took a non-ac job at a small online sales company - I'm still there now and do copy writing & social media marketing. 

A few months after starting this job, I applied to about 25 alt-ac jobs (student affairs positions, alum relations positions, learning resource/writing center positions, general university staff positions) and I had zero luck. I didn't have the necessary training/knowledge/experience - most of the alt-ac jobs that interested me required someone with a M.Ed and all required at least 2 years (sometimes more) of specific types of work experience. **

There are positives to the adjunct and alt-ac route but I'll leave that discussion to those who actually work/have worked those jobs. So far as the pros to working a non-ac 9-5 job while applying to PhDs ---

(1) The money is nice. It's not 6 figures but I make considerably more than I would have made teaching and I've been able to save up as I've worked - this means that PhD applications weren't a huge financial burden this season and I'll enter my PhD program with a modest but stable financial base.

(2) The structure of a true 9-5 is great - I never take my work home with me, so my evenings and weekends are all mine. I spent June through Dec working on PhD apps and, while it was stressful, I never felt that my job interfered with getting the apps done (granted, it did help that I had 2 seasons of application experience behind me.) 

FWIW, I applied to 14 schools this season and got 5 offers. While I don't know exactly why I didn't get into the other programs, I can guarantee my non-ac job had nothing to do with the rejections. And I was accepted to a program that requires teaching in year 1 - I even asked the DGS if my total lack of experience would be a problem and they said not at all. 

I do have a few friends who went the adjunct route during the gap year between the MA and PhD - the advice they got (which I consider sound) was to not just take any adjunct position for the sake of having a teaching job. Teaching experience won't get you into a program - the SOP and the WS will.

Final thought: it's hard to get adjunct jobs and it's hard to get alt-ac work and it's hard to get a non-ac job. I think the best approach is to find a a job that doesn't take more time than a job should - long commutes and unexpected time commitments and extreme financial worries won't help you out during the application season. If you can minimize stress and maximize time spent working on the SOP & the WS, it'll pay off.

I'm sorry for not having better advice on adjuncting itself but I hope what I do have helps someone - good luck! 

** I searched for adjuncting and alt-ac jobs in a metro area that spans 3 states and which has a large number of community colleges, suburban private colleges, satellite campuses of large state universities, and a slew of inner city colleges & universities.

Edited by a_sort_of_fractious_angel
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Hm, I can speak to this. Teaching was a part of my MA, so while I planned to take a few years off before pursuing PhD plans, I was reasonably sure I could find full-time work. I was wrong. Experience is king to a lot of hiring committees for full-time jobs, and while I scored a few interviews and even made final consideration for one job, I ended up having to go with adjunct positions for a year. 

I think if you're willing to teach high school, however, the rules are a little different. I know plenty of people that were hired immediately by high schools/tutoring companies once they graduated. If you feel like you need to have education-related work experience I would go with high school jobs. The schools around me are always looking for people.   

There is a happy ending to my story though. After a year I started e-mailing departments again, and this time I took the initiative, e-mailing department chairs, looking for unstaffed classes etc. One of the people I e-mailed did, in fact, need a lecturer and they kept me on staff full-time until this summer (2 years). So in my experience, it was more helpful to reach out to individuals than to respond to job postings, in part because many of those jobs are posted as a formality anyways (they have a candidate they like, but HR requires them to make the position public). 

The huge caveat to all of this is that this is my experience in a large metropolitan area, so take all of it with a grain of salt. I'm happy to answer any questions/respond to any messages. 

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On 6/7/2018 at 3:05 PM, CulturalCriminal said:

I ask because, though it looks like I am fortunately fairly close to locking down a full-time lecturer position, some of my friNoends who also just finished up their MAs/MFAs seem to be coming up short on getting lecturer gigs. Some are considering taking adjunct gigs over 2 hours away just so they can actually get some more teaching experience, as it is hard to compete in an area like Austin. Did anyone here do anything like that?

No, your friends should not do that. They don't need more teaching experience. They probably need more money and should do what @a_sort_of_fractious_angel did. Adjuncting is horribly exploitative and should be avoided if at all possible, not just for their sake but for the profession's sake as a whole. And as @a_sort_of_fractious_angel points out, additional teaching experience will NOT help their application. 

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2 hours ago, Bumblebea said:

No, your friends should not do that. They don't need more teaching experience. They probably need more money and should do what @a_sort_of_fractious_angel did. Adjuncting is horribly exploitative and should be avoided if at all possible, not just for their sake but for the profession's sake as a whole. And as @a_sort_of_fractious_angel points out, additional teaching experience will NOT help their application. 

Yes! I totally agree that people should generally resist and avoid adjuncting, as it's become a huge problem and is exploitative. We had a guest lecture talk to one of my classes about this very issue last year, and he said that the only way he thinks we can change the adjunct situation is if people flat-out refuse to do them, because then universities will be faced with a crisis and may have to consider offering more secure positions (perhaps that's an optimistic view; in my pessimistic view, I'm sure they'd find some other way to exploit labor). 

But, I digress... 

Discussions of adjuncting aside, I do think it's valuable to get more teaching experience not necessarily for the PhD application, but for also for job applications. If you have a few years of teaching under your belt before you start your PhD, then you have some solid experience, CV lines, and student evals. Then, when you get to the PhD, you can maybe branch out and do more administrative assistantships, research assistantships, etc. And be on fellowship and not have to worry as much about not gaining teaching experience. 

Part of me wishes I had taken a year or two (like some of my colleagues did) to teach for a while and gain more experience that way. I do a lot of administrative work now, and I fear I'll go on the market without enough teaching experience, as admin work at my university lightens your teaching load. 

Anyway, my advice is to teach (in a good situation/setup) if you want/if it's feasible for you, but perhaps don't view it as much as "getting into a PhD program" but gaining skills and experiences that can help you throughout your academic career.

Best of luck! 

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An addition to my previous post - if your friends, @CulturalCriminal, want more teaching experience, they can likely get that through volunteer work.

While working my non-ac job, I volunteered with two programs that emphasized teaching. One program focused on adult ESL learners - I was fully responsible for creating a "syllabus" for my student by using the program's materials to help her reach her goals. The time commitment was 3 hours a week, split between two days. The other program focused on college prep for inner-city, low-income students - I was responsible for helping my student with regular academic work as well as college application materials (especially writing.) The time commitment was 3-4 hours of most Saturdays during the high school academic year and a few hours a week via email/Google chat during high-stress times (summer program apps, college apps, etc.)

A majority of cities will have literacy programs (it looks like Austin has several) and most will have college-prep programs, all of which likely rely on volunteer work -  I'd also guess that all of these programs are relatively low-commitment and can be structured around any kind of day job (academic or otherwise.)

In my case, I put these positions on my CV and, while I never cited them directly in my SOP, they definitely helped me talk about how and why teaching is an important part of my scholarship. Additionally, these positions gave me skills and experience in teaching that I will use when I begin my TAship at my PhD program.

Again, hope this helps!

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11 hours ago, klader said:

Discussions of adjuncting aside, I do think it's valuable to get more teaching experience not necessarily for the PhD application, but for also for job applications. If you have a few years of teaching under your belt before you start your PhD, then you have some solid experience, CV lines, and student evals. Then, when you get to the PhD, you can maybe branch out and do more administrative assistantships, research assistantships, etc. And be on fellowship and not have to worry as much about not gaining teaching experience. 

I'd say this is true only if one is heading to a PhD program that doesn't offer many teaching opportunities. Like, I know a lot of people from the Ivy League who got their PhDs having taught only one or two classes. (I, on the other hand, as a PhD student at a large flagship, had more teaching experience than I knew what to do with.)

Having said that, none of these people had a difficult time getting a job despite their relative lack of teaching experience. Sometimes less is more on the job market, in that quality of teaching matters more than quantity. 

However, I do think that getting teaching experience for its own sake is useful, especially if you can teach a population that you don't normally come in contact with. Like, say you get your degree at an elite private school. Adjuncting at a community college or public university might show potential employers that you are dedicated to public inclusive education and that you know how to reach students of different backgrounds. (Again, though, I've seen a lot of people with very skimpy teaching experience get very good jobs at all kinds of colleges and universities, so who knows.)

11 hours ago, klader said:

We had a guest lecture talk to one of my classes about this very issue last year, and he said that the only way he thinks we can change the adjunct situation is if people flat-out refuse to do them, because then universities will be faced with a crisis and may have to consider offering more secure positions (perhaps that's an optimistic view; in my pessimistic view, I'm sure they'd find some other way to exploit labor).

Lol, that's actually what I think. Sadly. I think that universities are probably more likely to do away with humanities requirements altogether than actually pay their teaching staff a living wage. But just so I'm clear, that's not an endorsement to adjunct!  There are still many other things an MA or MFA in English can do that will guarantee them the living wage and benefits that every person deserves. 

Edited by Bumblebea
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On 6/8/2018 at 1:56 PM, Hermenewtics said:

I think if you're willing to teach high school, however, the rules are a little different. I know plenty of people that were hired immediately by high schools/tutoring companies once they graduated. If you feel like you need to have education-related work experience I would go with high school jobs. The schools around me are always looking for people.   

There is a happy ending to my story though. After a year I started e-mailing departments again, and this time I took the initiative, e-mailing department chairs, looking for unstaffed classes etc. One of the people I e-mailed did, in fact, need a lecturer and they kept me on staff full-time until this summer (2 years). So in my experience, it was more helpful to reach out to individuals than to respond to job postings, in part because many of those jobs are posted as a formality anyways (they have a candidate they like, but HR requires them to make the position public).

@Hermenewtics Any tips on applying to high school teaching jobs? When to do so, how to look for openings, what to put in applications/interviews, etc. Also, I assume these are all private schools, right?

Also, any tips on what to say when reaching out to university English departments and when to do so?

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Private high schools generally, but the rules for certification vary from state to state, so I'm sure that some of them found public jobs. 

Honestly, I didn't apply to any high school jobs, so I'm not qualified to help you there. Sorry. 

Hm, well, I think summer and spring/mid-fall are usually good times. I typically attached my résumé or CV to a brief introduction. I would explain who I was, what I was looking to do, how many classes I'd like to teach, etc. I'd say I got about a 33% success rate. Some schools will keep that information on record and contact you a few semesters later when classes open up (happened to me more than a few times). Good luck! 

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  • 1 month later...

Most of my advice is covered by @a_sort_of_fractious_angel above, as I could not get a teaching job at all with my MA, even though I had teaching experience. For financial purposes, I fully suggest a non-ac job in between- you will stress way less about money if you have a solid base under you.

I also just want to offer a bit of advice as someone who is attempting to go back for my PhD after several years in a non-ac job after my MA- the job experience that you will get if you get a non-ac job is truly invaluable. It really put things into perspective for me, and made me realize that I absolutely do thrive in and want to return to academia. But I'm incredibly grateful for the experience to see how the corporate world functions, and it allowed me to decide what my right path is. The whole "9-5," leaving work at the office thing is something I will certainly miss. It might be worth experiencing at least once before starting a PhD. 

And just another side note, I don't think I even need to mention the poor state of the academic market. Chances are, you (and me!) might not get a tenure track role, and might not want to live on an adjunct salary for the rest of our lives (I thought I did- let me tell you now, I absolutely do not). Having a bit of "real job" experience on your resume when applying to jobs after grad school is going to make you FAR more marketable than someone who only had academic jobs. Most companies don't care about your teaching experience, your GPA, your fellowships, etc. They care about whether you've done similar work before and where. Having a non-ac job on your resume will make you way more competitive and give you a leg up on some of your colleagues who went straight through academia.

Just my two cents!

Edited by kgras13
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Update: I have landed a full time lecturer position. I think the non-ac experience is certainly valuable to those that haven’t had it; I just got that experience while I put my BA on hold to work for 4 years and now know that leaving academia isn’t attractive for me. I also keep up a side hustle in content writing and know making that full time (while financially lucrative) wouldn’t be a good fit. Super excited to get to keep teaching and not have to worry about adjunct bs this year.

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17 hours ago, indecisivepoet said:

Congrats, @CulturalCriminal! Any tips?

Be a veteran and find somewhere that needs a veteran to run their veteran tutoring program ?. The position is a 75/25, lecturer/administrator, position that the department had to fill (with a vet) or they loose grant money.

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