Preparing for the Academic Job Market: Part II


Now that you have completed, or almost completed, your PhD with a career in mind, you are ready to apply for that position—Assistant Professor of Counselor Education & Supervision.  In other words, you published peer-reviewed articles, presented at national conferences, taught courses as the instructor of record, and conducted a second research project in addition to the dissertation.  You strategically positioned yourself to be competitive for that first job.  More about those prerequisites to be competitive are found in Part I of preparing for the academic job market. 

You notice on a job posting that strikes your interest.  It reads something like the following:

Small Town University invites applications for a full-time tenure track position in the Department of Counseling & Human Services with a concentration Clinical Mental Health Counseling.  The successful candidate will teach graduate level courses in clinical mental health, establish an active scholarly agenda, and participate in service to both the university and counseling profession.  Required qualifications include an earned doctorate in counselor education and supervision—preferably from a CACREP-accredited program—with focus in clinical mental health.  ABD (all but dissertation) candidates will be considered; however, degree must be conferred by the start date of the position.

Some postings also state other requirements such as being eligible for state licensure (LPC), supervisory credential (ACS), a CACREP-accredited degree, or other things that particular program values.  During this past year, I have been looking at the various jobs posted for counselor education, and on rare occasion a job allows ABD candidates to apply as long as that candidate confers their degree within one year of the start date.  With other jobs—like the one above—you need to have degree in hand by the start date.

So you see a job that interests you.  Now what?  At a minimum, you must tailor the cover letter and prioritize (and organize) certain CV elements.

The Most Important Thing: Tailor the Cover Letter

As I mentioned in Part I of this series, Karen Kelsky, Ph.D. provides invaluable insight in her book, The Professor Is In: The Essential Guide to Turning your Ph.D. into a Job.  She provides 12 common mistakes for applicants when they create their cover letter.  I’m going to review two important mistakes about the cover letter.

You Didn’t Do Your Homework

If you create a cover letter and all you do is talk about your research projects in applying to a teaching institution, you will be overlooked.  This is because faculty search committees will be reviewing dozens, if not hundreds, of applicants and need to know that you know that it’s a teaching institution instead of one that prioritizes research above everything else. If you can’t prove that in your letter, you will be cast aside.  In other words, demonstrate that you researched the counseling department and its specific faculty members.  Show them that you have read and appreciated their work and that you are interested in collaborating with someone specific in their department.  Maybe you’re interested in the service learning projects of a particular faculty member; you should mention that person and her work in your cover letter.

You’re Telling, Not Showing

Karen explains that it is vital to include evidence to your statements in your cover letter.  For example, never use empty claims such as “I’m passionate about students” or “I am honored and excited to be applying for this job.”  These kind of statements don’t hold any evidence, and faculty members don’t care to read that you have passion or honor.  The assumption is that everyone applying has passion; what sets you apart?  If this faculty member knows nothing about you—chances are, they don’t—how can you “prove” that you are a competent teacher, researcher, supervisor, and counselor in two pages or less? Instead you could say something like “My teaching framework is experiential; for example, I incorporated reflective journal activities in my Trauma Counseling course to enhance student learning while providing them a safe place to process the difficult material.”  That statement gives a specific example.  More showing than telling.  And that would be a statement that you could also use in your teaching philosophy or others like it.

Think show-and-tell instead of clichés.  Think examples instead of generalities, specifics instead of broad strokes.  More showing than telling.  If you say that you use research to drive your teaching, then provide a concrete example of how you do that when teaching counseling students.

Prioritize CV Elements

Remember your Curriculum Vitae (CV) is considered your “academic life.”  It is everything significant you’ve been doing for the last three to five years as a PhD student.  Don’t forget to include that workshop you gave last week, the spring course you taught, or the year supervisory experience you keep forgetting to enter.  Let’s now talk about a few general rules and content elements.

General Rules

While every CV is different depending on the profession or field, disciplines within that field, or even faculty members within the same department, there are some general rules of what to include.  As a whole, making a fresh, clean look is crucial. The best and easiest way to do this is to use the power of your computer’s tab key.  Other general rules are one-inch margins (think APA style for papers) all around, 12-point type Times New Roman font (again, APA), and single-spaced (not APA).  Karen recommends using the same consistent type throughout except the candidate’s name at the top which can be 14- or 16-point type.  Never use any bullet points, this is not a resume.  All elements are to be left justified.  Karen writes about many more general rules of the CV in depth within her book (chapter 24).

Oh hey, have you purchased her book yet?  I told you over a week ago about how great it is. What’s the holdup? Under 11 bucks, get going.


The following are some critical elements to include in your academic CV:

Education (always first, list by degree first followed by institution)

Professional Experience/Appointments (adjunct faculty experience, paid teaching positions)

Publications (peer-reviewed journal articles, books, book chapters, book reviews, manuscripts in submission, manuscripts in preparation, web-based publications, or other publications)

Awards & Grants (typical to include the $ amount)

Presentations (national/regional/state/local conferences, workshops, etc.)

Teaching Experience (Instructor of record courses, GTA experience, co-instructor experience)

Research Experience (dissertation, second research project, etc.)

Service to Profession (national leadership, editorial boards, state positions, reviewer experience)

University/Department Service (serving on the admissions committee)

Community Outreach

Professional Skills (certifications, intensive trainings, etc.)

Professional Memberships (ACA, ACA Divisions, State Branches)

Professional Trainings (only the best ones)

References (optional; can also say references upon request)

Depending on the university and what it values (teaching or research), you can rearrange the teaching experience or research experience above the other to match what is required by the position in which you’re applying.  Therefore, if you were applying to a top research university, research experience (and publications) would be placed higher on your CV than teaching experience.  However, a general rule is to value peer-reviewed activities (publications, conference presentations, etc.) in a higher position in your CV over other activities that aren’t peer reviewed.

What about the teaching philosophy and research statement? Yes, these are important, too.  Unfortunately, I’m going to have to cut this blog a little short, and I encourage you to research what goes into a solid teaching philosophy and research statement.  However, some of what was said about the cover letter applies to these—do more showing than telling.  If you do the things mentioned in Part I and II of this blog, you will be setting yourself up to be competitive for a difficult academic job market.  Not a guarantee that you will land that position, but most who land those tenure track offers do these things very well.

As time moves along, I will be sure to update you on my quest to land that first full-time academic position, and you can let me know here what’s worked for you.  We’ll continue this PhD journey together.  Ok, now back to my chapter three rough draft…







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