Using my own experience following a recent job promotion I wanted to use this blog to give some advice on applying for a senior position in academia.
Less than a year ago I was a lecturer in journalism at Sheffield Hallam University but as of June this year I will be a principal lecturer and subject group leader for the journalism team.
My fairly swift progression from lecturer to senior lecturer to principle lecturer has been due to a number of factors, some of which are summarised here.
Being a manager or taking on a principle lecturer role is not for everyone but for those interested in these positions the following may be of some use.
- Make yourself familiar with human resources and grading processes and don’t be afraid to use them. Although I was originally appointed as a lecturer, via the regrading process I successfully argued that the work I was carrying out was equivalent to a senior lecturer. This then made for an easier transition to principle lecturer.
- Grasp any opportunities that allow you to take responsibility for students or staff. Whilst I was on maternity leave I was asked if I would take on the course leader role when I returned to work. Despite being out of the workplace for almost a year I said yes and embraced the steep learning curve.
- Don’t think you can’t do a job or don’t have enough experience. It is better to challenge yourself and put yourself forward for things that are slightly out of your comfort zone as it shows you are committed to career development and pushing yourself.
- Don’t assume that someone else will do a better job. It may be the case that no-one else applies for a responsibility or post and therefore you are automatically top of the pile. And just because someone has been at an institution for years doesn’t mean they are the best candidate. Sometimes new ideas and an optimistic fresh face are more appealing than age and experience.
- Get yourself noticed. You should be doing this before any potential promotions arise so your name is familiar among senior managers. It could be little things like attending all of the team, course, department, faculty meetings or responding to global emails with constructive comments. Or it could be by promoting the work of your students and staff via an e-letter or website.
- Use outside experiences in application process. Draw on things outside of the workplace for examples in your job application and interview. For example in my recent interview I talked about a voluntary arts organisation that I run as an example of managing people in different sectors.
- Fill in all of the boxes – correctly. A good job application, even an internal one, will fill in all of the required information to a good level of detail and will be carefully proofread. Make sure you read each section carefully and give all the information asked for. If it asks for an example in each section then make sure you give one.
- Do your homework. Read through your job application carefully before your interview as you may need to recall some of the information in it. Don’t assume the interview panel have read your application. If it is a management position then do some online research on what makes a good manager and questions likely to be asked in an interview.
- Have lots of examples. An interview panel for a senior position are likely to ask you to give specific examples of how you have dealt with a variety of situations. Make sure you have appropriate examples to reel off such as a conflict you have had to resolve, how you have dealt with difficult members of staff, how you have shown leadership in your team etc.
- Be prepared to challenge the panel. In your interview don’t simply agree with everything the panel says or suggests if this is not what you really think. Be prepared to disagree albeit with a robust argument and in a polite, non-confrontational manner. The panel may be playing devil’s advocate and testing your ability to support your team/subject.