The unsolicited adjunct job application – 5 fatal mistakes

Someone is bound to see my resumeHaving been in human resources inside higher education for more than 15 years, I have seen the good, the bad and the very ugly of cover letters. If you are applying for a part-time faculty position, it’s best to apply for a position that you know is open and available. Regardless of how well your cover letter is written, unsolicited emails with your resume/curriculum vitae (CV) attached have about a 90% chance of being deleted. If a position is not posted, there likely is not an opening. And even if a college or university tells you that they keep your CV on file, although that may be true, they generally will not go back to research CVs kept on file. Unless instructed otherwise, always submit your cover letter and CV to a college or university by email. Nowadays, paper gets lost. If there is a 90% chance that your unsolicited emailed CV will get deleted, then there is a 99% chance that your paper CV and cover letter will see the shredder. Right about now, you may be saying to yourself, “But I heard that companies must keep applications for a year.” Okay, that’s true, but guess what? The rule does not apply to unsolicited applications. Even though your chances of receiving a response from an unsolicited cover letter and CV are slim, you may choose to do it anyway. If so, don’t make these trash-can-bound mistakes.

MISTAKE #1: Addressing the email “Dear Sir/Madam” I get this frequently. Someone will take the time to find my personal work email address, so I assume they saw my name. Then they address the email cover letter “Dear Sir/Madam” or simply “Dear Sir”. To be honest, I do not immediately delete these emails. I look at the rest of the content of the email. If the person has a skill that we are in desperate need of filling, I will reluctantly forward it to the appropriate department head. However, if desperation has not set in for filling a job, I will likely delete the email. Here is why you are likely to get deleted: If you are going to take the time to find my email address but then not take the time to at least know if I am a man or woman (and I don’t have a gender neutral name), then I can’t trust the amount of attention you will give your class.

MISTAKE #2: Writing a long-winded rambling cover letter Your cover letter should be as short and simple as possible, while conveying the important points. Remember the KISS principle – Keep It Short and Simple. I know academics have the reputation of being verbose. Even so, your cover letter is not an academic treatise. Your cover letter does not need to include how you found me, unless a friend of mine referred you. I don’t need to know where you graduated high school or how you moved to the city where you now live. I don’t need to know your philosophy about the subject you propose to teach. And, I really don’t want to know that you taught at another school that undervalued your knowledge and expertise. Yes, I have received more than one cover letter detailing each of these things. Here is why you are likely to get deleted: Years of experience tells me that a rambling cover letter is a red flag that the person writing it is generally unfocused and will be a high maintenance employee.

MISTAKE #3: Sending an email blast without tailoring it to the courses taught at the university It is important to know the courses that are being taught at the university before you send your CV and cover letter. You may ruin your opportunity to teach an available course by being too generic. If you are going to take the time to look up where to send the email, take time to look at the courses offered so that you can list the appropriate course titles. Here is why you are likely to get deleted: If you say that you teach English, that doesn’t tell me whether you teach grammar, literature (and what kind), fiction writing, or business writing. So instead of calling you to find out what you can teach, I’m more likely to delete the email. List everything you can teach.

MISTAKE #4: Sending something that looks like a sales pitch instead of a cover letter. Higher education is not known for being whimsical or prone to fall for sales language. I once received a cover letter that looked like the front page of a website. The headline read, “Meilleur professeur de français disponibles à enseigner.” First, I had no idea what the person was trying to say. I realized it had something to do with a Professor of French, but did not know the other words. And when sorting through over 100 emails a day, I don’t have time to pause and figure out your cute way of telling me that you are a great French professor. The remainder of the email continued in English and explained why he would be a great addition to the language department. I was fairly certain that the French instructor’s approach was a bit too cheeky to impress our faculty, but I passed it on to the department. No surprise, the department head was not impressed. Here is why you are likely to get deleted: Much of higher education has an aversion to anything that smells of sales. Your sales pitch will likely repel rather than attract the decision-makers.

MISTAKE #5: Not putting your cover letter in the body of the email I have received emails that say things like, “Please see my attached application for a position in your science department.” Most universities have an applicant management system to receive applications for posted jobs. If there is a job posted, I will write back and ask the person to apply online. I will usually provide the link. If there isn’t a job posted the email will likely get deleted, especially if my name is not in the email. I figure if you don’t know who you wrote to, I have no obligation to get back to you. Here is why you are likely to get deleted: Opening an email that doesn’t contain explanatory text in the body of the email is a quick way to get a virus on your computer. So, if you simply say “see attached,” I am not taking the chance that your intentions are less than honorable.

All in all, I suggest not sending unsolicited emails for jobs, if you are going to do anything unsolicited, I suggest you pick up the phone and call the chair of the department where you want to work. Ask if there are any openings and give your qualifications. Don’t try to carry on a long conversation. Say what you have to say and if the reception is less than warm, say, “Thank you,” and hang up.

Have you have sent unsolicited job applications? What has been your experience?



Five common myths about being a part-time professor

myths stampAs you enter the field of adjunct faculty, you will hear both positive and negative things about how part-time faculty are treated and respected. In this article, I will debunk the five most common myths.

Myth 1 — You have to have a PhD to teach in a college or university.
Although the traditional four-year university primarily that hires people have doctoral degrees to reach upper division and graduate level courses, a masters degree is often all that is required for lower division or community college courses. Trade schools may only require a bachelors degree and experience and notable accomplishments are also taken into account when evaluating credentials for teaching in higher education.

Myth 2 — You must publish
As a part-time professor there is no need for you to publish. If you have written a book or articles, that’s great; but generally the publish or perish paradigm is referring to a very specific type of publishing. Peer reviewed articles and university press publications are the valued publications. Publish or perish is more applicable to tenure-track and tenured faculty as it relates to review and promotion. Bottom line, you don’t have to publish to be a part-time faculty member.

Myth 3 — Adjunct faculty aren’t respected
If you have heard this myth, you are probably talking to an adjunct who had thwarted dreams of parlaying their part-time gig into a full-time tenured professorship, and who does not have a profession aside from teaching part-time. Most students don’t know the difference between an adjunct faculty member and a tenured or core professor. If you are introducing yourself at a professional conference and mention that you teach part-time at a university people will be impressed. You will definitely be viewed with respect as an adjunct professor.

Myth 4– Most adjuncts want a full-time job
Most adjunct faculty either have full-time jobs, are retired, or are self-employed and don’t want a full-time job. According to a report by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), titled Who Are the Part-time Faculty, only 38 percent of the part-time faculty would like to teach full-time. Most of those are recent graduates with little other work experience.

Myth 5 — Adjuncts are overworked and underpaid
This is a matter of perception. I think the majority of people in most professions would say that they are overworked and underpaid. If you are teaching at a university part-time strictly for the pay, you may feel it isn’t worth the effort. If you are driving an hour each way to teach a one-hour class three times a week, it is probably not the best way to supplement your income. However, if you teach close to home or teach online, the intangible rewards and supplemental pay may be just perfect for your needs.

If you are interested in teaching part-time in a college or university, CLICK HERE to get a free copy of the book Become a Part-time Professor.


Why would you want to be a part-time professor?

questions2Maybe you read the ebook Become a Part-time Professor or maybe teaching a college or university course has been something you have dreamed about for a while. If you are thinking about applying for part-time faculty positions, I have a question for you: Why? What’s your motivation?

It doesn’t really matter what you choose to do in this life, but choosing consciously or being clear about the reasons you are doing what you are doing is important to know. Being a part-time professor, or adjunct faculty member as it is called in most colleges, can bring many rewards. It offers the opportunity to:

  • Have the prestige of being a certified expert in your field.
  • Share your knowledge with others and position yourself as a thought leader in your chosen profession.
  • Be in the company of other thought leaders where you will have the opportunity to engage in intellectual dialogue about subjects you love.
  • Educate the next generation of leaders based on your real-world experience.
  • Share your passion with others and get them excited about learning.
  • Add to your resume and credentials.
  • Have an additional income source.

As a part-time professor you will receive some compensation. For the person who is concurrently working full-time, who is retired, or who has their own business, the supplemental income is a nice perk. However, you could be in trouble if this is your only source of income. As an adjunct, you are not going to make the salary of a full-time professor, you are not going to receive tenure or be granted a paid sabbatical after years of teaching; nor will you likely receive health benefits or retirement benefits. It is a part-time position. If enrollment is low, your class could be canceled.

On the positive side, in most institutions you will not have to attend faculty meetings, you will not have to maintain a research discipline, you will not have to publish, and you will not have to perform service on behalf of the college or university. As an adjunct professor, you can teach your class and go home. If you are teaching online, you can teach from anywhere that has an internet connection.

You will of course have to prepare your lesson, grade papers, and hold some form of office hours. It is estimated that the amount of time you will spend outside of class on average is 1.25 hours for every hour in class. That will vary depending on if it is your first time teaching the class or your tenth. Initially, you will need to put in time to prepare for your class.

If you don’t have a clear and personally compelling reason for becoming part-time faculty, you could quickly become disenchanted. However, for the right person, with the right reason, being a part-time professor can be extremely rewarding. So, are you ready to become a part-time professor? If so, register to become a part of our growing community of adjuncts and prospective adjuncts.