Archive for May, 2010

And I thought I was wordy

May 27th, 2010 No comments

Let’s start with a moment of honesty: I’m self conscious about how many words I use to say anything. I hear myself on the phone all day, and constantly think that I should simplify what I say, and how I say it.

So it was perversely satisfying for me to see the following words in one sentence of a cover letter this morning:

multiplicity, pedagogy, systemic reformation, efficacious modalities, citizenry

I may be wordy, but at least I don’t sound like a caricature of an effete intellectual.

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A Small Success

May 19th, 2010 No comments

Remember the days of 5% unemployment? Neither do I, but here’s a little bit of good news about my home state of Washington.  On one level, it’s hard to celebrate 9.2% unemployment, but on the other, any downward trend is a good one.

It’s hard for me to quantify, but this feels like a trend: more people I talk with are able to pursue more options.  Cautious optimism is in order.

Higher Education

May 17th, 2010 No comments

One of my good friends recently got an offer to become a full time professor at a local community college after being an adjunct professor for a year.  Well done to him, given the funding crisis in public higher education.   As a result, hiring in higher ed has been in the back of my mind for a few months now, and this article fits nicely with that line of thinking (thanks to Megan McArdle for posting it).

McArdle and her her readers make some interesting points.  I’ll start with a brief digression before I get to the point, though. An excerpt from her reader:

In making my choice between English and accounting, I listened to the price signal sent by starting salaries and earning potential. Dilute that price signal and many more will opt for a career in the humanities — which makes sense since the humanities is more intrinsically interesting as a field.

I can’t decide if it was Joyce or Hemingway that best evoke the universal human experience of diluted price signals… I would submit, with all due respect, that the academy wasn’t the right place for this particular person.

Anyway, what stood out for me was the quoted fact that 73% (!) of teaching positions are filled by non-tenured professors.  These institutions are entrusting what is (nominally anyway) their most basic function to people that don’t, by design, have a long term connection to the school.  Madness.

If I had answers and epiphanies this is where I’d share them.  I don’t, so I’ll instead offer a couple of observations.

  1. This is a rational response on some level. Higher ed’s tenure system creates a highly inflexible portion of the workforce, so it seems a natural reaction for the system to create greater flexibility where it can.
  2. Workforce planning in this sector sounds like a nightmare to me. This post illustrates the point.  This much volatility in number of students that accept spots in a given school makes it difficult to plan for the long term.

Nothing I’ve been able to come up with explains the 3:1 ratio of temporary to permanent professors though.  I don’t see other professions with numbers skewed that much, and contrary to some of the more breathless accounts, I don’t think there’s a risk of any moving strongly in that direction.

Internet = Hiring Transparency

May 15th, 2010 No comments

This article from the Economist a few weeks ago stuck with me.  It’s an interesting piece on how the rise of forensic science shows like CSI has changed the practice of forensic science in the real world.  Jurors now believe (not always correctly) that they know enough to challenge forensic evidence use in the courtroom.

As a recruiter, I had an unexpected empathy for forensic scientists.  A big side effect of the Internet on recruiting has been to give anyone that can do a web search for “job search tips” a huge number of opinions (even the staid BLS is in on the act).

As with anything online, the available resources are a mixed bag.  I can’t tweet my resume, and I have no interest in practicing.  But even though CareerBuilder is trying to sell job seekers services (which, by the way, feel sketchy. Where’s the pricing?), they still offer reasonable advice.

So recruiters, like forensic scientists, are working with people that have a flood of information about how hiring works, and how we do our jobs.  I started recruiting in 2000, towards the beginning of the Internet recruiting era.  And I got used to being able to position what I do as a black box: I’ll find you talent, don’t worry too much about how I do it.  It’s a little uncomfortable, that vague feeling that every candidate and hiring manager is looking over my shoulder.

The denouement to this story is, not surprisingly, similar to that of forensic scientists.  The way that I see it, we as recruiters have to embrace greater transparency (and the second guessing that comes with it), and be less nervous about telling both candidates and hiring managers exactly what we’re doing, when, and why.

The easy part of job seeking

May 15th, 2010 No comments

Vault’s Career Blog gets it right with this one.  Having gone through a few job searches myself over the last few years, I can attest first hand to the value of giving yourself a break.  Job searches can’t occupy 40 hours each week, and expecting them to drives you crazy.

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