You have your MFA in hand and you’re looking for a job. For whatever reason – money, lack of class availability, the desire to try something new – you find that you aren’t looking for adjunct work. But you love the university setting and you don’t want to leave.
When you’re checking out the staff postings for your local university, here are some jobs to look for.
1. Academic Success Coordinator
Keep your eyes open for jobs in the student success center on your local university’s campus. They will be the best bet for finding positions that still involve teaching or advising students if the English department doesn’t have any positions available. There might be positions with career coaching, success advising, or even managing student tutors. This position has opportunities to give presentations on learning skills to classes when teachers are absent and to teach First Year Experience courses to Freshmen. The biggest downside to this position is that students can view their mandatory time spent with a success coach as punishment for poor grades.
2. Writing Center Teaching Assistant
At some community colleges and universities, there is a designated teaching assistant in the writing center. This position acts as a tutor to students, but also gives supplemental presentations on writing topics. For some teachers, this is a dream job. You get to have one-on-one interaction with students, helping them with their writing with no time constraints, and you don’t have to grade papers. You won’t have your own lesson plans, and you’ll need to interpret the assignments made by English faculty, but you’ll be at the heart and center of the kind of teaching that makes drastic improvements in students’ writing.
3. Administrative Assistant
Working as an administrative assistant at a university can actually be a lot of fun. If you work in the graduate studies office, you might have the opportunity to work with theses/ dissertations or schedule fun events, like the Three Minute Thesis competition. There are downsides to this type of work. You may have to work with budgets, take minutes at meetings, etc. And you will have to make peace with the ennui of office life and learn how to prevent ego damage: dealing with being called a secretary/ sometimes treated as if you’re inferior. With this type of job, your co-workers can make or break your chance of happiness. So ask around to see which departments have good reputations for staff satisfaction. If a job comes open because someone has retired (instead of applied for a transfer to another department), then that’s usually a good sign you’ll like working there for as long as you want.
4. Contracts and Grants Coordinator
The professors you studied with during your graduate career probably spent at least some of their time preparing and submitting grants so that they could have more opportunities to do research and outreach. In any university, there is an office that manages these grant applications to make sure the professor has the best chance to receive funding. This job will help you learn about the proposal development and submission process and can be a way to get your foot in the door for grant writing. However, this type of work is stepping farther away from your roots as an academic, and comes with some high costs. You’ll have little contact with students, as your primary contact is with faculty submitting grants. You will have to deal regularly with high stress deadlines, brush off your math skills to develop budgets, and there will be little if any writing.
5. Academic Writer
If you have any courses in communications, or any history in professional writing, then you’re more likely to be able to find a job that has writing in the job description. At my university, the academic writer composes short articles on recent campus events, alumni who have received awards, and students who are participating in interesting projects. There aren’t many of these positions, but they exist. So keep your eyes open.
Two additional points to note:
1. Don’t be afraid to put your creative publications on your resume. They were a great conversation starter at all of my interviews during my job search, and it shows potential employers that you have goals and aspirations outside of the 9 to 5. You’re a hard worker and imaginative. Both bonus points that set you apart from other applicants.
2. Temp if you can. Universities love to hire from within. If you’re offered a temporary position, it is a good way to start making contacts that can recommend you for permanent jobs later on. Most of the people I have met at the university started as a temp and then were hired on as permanent staff after a year. Keep checking the job board – you might have to apply to a job in a different department in order to make that leap. (Thanks to Amy for this tip!)