Altac Job Search Tips

Tip #1

Don’t always judge a job by the job title.

Job titling in the non-academic world is very inconsistent and can sometimes be quite opaque. Many altac job hunters are missing out on good opportunities because they don’t come packaged with an intuitive job title.

The click stats on my newsletter are very revealing here. Reliably, four types of jobs get disproportionate clicks:

1. Remote working jobs. This makes sense, as they are relevant to more people.

2. Very high paying jobs. Again, this makes sense.

3. Jobs at recognizable or high-profile companies or institutions (Netflix, The Smithsonian, etc.)

4. Jobs with titles that sound very “academic.” (e.g., “Research Fellow” or “Postdoctoral Researcher”)

People prioritize a lot based on #4….which is a problem in an altac job search. Plenty of great opportunities will not come to you with a sexy or even an intuitive job title. Lean towards being expansive, don’t just look at jobs with really familiar titles.

Tip #2

If you aren’t getting any bites with full-time permanent roles, try contract or temporary roles.

I know, I know. Many people are searching for altac jobs because they want out of the contingent employment cycle. But in other industries, contingent work can be a great stepping stone toward permanent employment (unlike in academia).

Why?

First, it helps you get non-academic work on your resume. It can get you out of the catch-22 of can’t get a job without experience, but can’t get experience without a job. This is often a huge hurdle, and temporary or contract work can be a way around it.

Second, it can give you more professional contacts and wider networks. Unfortunately, we live in a world where a lot of hiring is done because somebody knows somebody. And while this is unjust and fucked up, it is a way to become part of professional networks outside academia.

Third, employers are less risk-adverse when hiring for temporary/contract work. Employers are VERY risk-adverse when it comes to hiring full-time permanent employees. While this is annoying, it is understandable. Hiring people is a lot of work, particularly for institutions that don’t have full-time HR people or departments. They don’t want to go through the arduous process to hire someone, have it not work out, and then have to do it all over again in three months. But with contract work, they aren’t locked into anything with you, and it’s typically not as big a problem if it doesn’t ‘work out.’ So they are a little more willing to take chances with you.

And sometimes, they might decide to bring you on permanently.

Tip #3

Actively stalk organizations you would be interested to work for (and sometimes it is worth reaching out to them proactively)

I don’t mean in a creepy way. But, for example, if you are really passionate about working in disability rights and activism, I recommend creating a document or spreadsheet where you keep a link list for all the organizations you can find that do this kind of work.

Check their website hiring pages every week. Follow them on LinkedIn and Facebook and Twitter. Figure out who their high-level people are, and follow those people on Twitter, particularly if their profile states their role and employer (this indicates they use the account at least partially for work purposes). Often they will put out hiring calls on social media.

All of these actions make you more likely to find a role when it becomes available.

Also, at smaller organizations, you can absolutely send them your resume cold with a short email cover letter explaining who you are and why you’d be interested to work for them. Odds are, they will keep your resume on file. Relate to tip #2 above, smaller organizations hate the extra work it takes to hire people. If they have your resume on file already, and you seem like a solid fit, when a role comes up, odds are decent they may reach out to you first.

This is not necessarily a good strategy at large corporations or organizations with big HR departments. They will likely just throw your resume out. But at smaller organizations, this is absolutely a viable strategy and is perfectly professionally acceptable.

Tip #4

Let other people know you are job hunting.

I get that this can be hard because there is a lot of social stigma around being unemployed. But people (generally) want to help. Share on Facebook and Twitter that you are job hunting. Tell the people in your D&D group or your softball league.

People want to help. And again, personal recommendations go a lot further than your resume mixed in with 500 others in someone’s inbox. Is this meritocratic? Absofuckinglutely not. But it can be a way to get out of the trap of unemployment.

Tip #5

Remember, computers filter and sort most job applications, and they look for KEY WORDS.

Therefore, you need to edit your resume so the computer recognizes you as a good match. Remember, algorithms are still blunt instruments. They can’t think qualitatively. They are looking for KEY WORDS. And they can’t make inferences about your qualifications.

For example, if you are applying for a job as a Curriculum Designer, and you have experience designing curriculums for your undergraduate classes. But your resume does not use the word “curriculum” anywhere, the algorithm probably will not prioritize your application, despite your direct experience, because you didn’t use the magic words.

When you fill out online job applications or edit your resume for jobs, think like a computer. Game the algorithm. Write things very literally and use words and phrases used in the job title or the job ad. This increases the likelihood your application will actually get to a human being.

Tip #6

It’s worth applying to jobs where you meet MOST of the qualifications.

Obviously, you should not bother applying to jobs WAY outside your “strike zone.” But if a job seems like a close match for your skills or qualifications, except for that one thing, apply anyway.

Some employers will be sticklers. But a lot of employers will make exceptions, particularly if you have something extra to offer…for example, a PhD when they are only looking for a Bachelor’s.

Tip #7

Be on the lookout for opportunities in unexpected places.

Personal story time. When I left academia I was unemployed for about 9 months and it was grueling. And my hand to god, what finally got me out of it was a Facebook post from a minor TV celebrity that had nothing to do with employment whatsoever.

My research as a PhD student/candidate was on entertainment fandoms. I was (and still am) an active entertainment fan myself. One of my fandoms at the time was Supernatural. As such, I followed the main actors on social media. And one day Misha Collins (an actor from the show) posted this Variety article on his Facebook: “Why Understanding Fans is the New Superpower.” The article discussed a year-long multi-modal research project to help entertainment brands better understand and relate to fans.

The article linked to the company that was doing the research (Troika). I went to their website and checked their hiring page. And BEHOLD! They were hiring people to be analysts on the project! I applied, went through multiple interviews, and was eventually hired. I have worked in entertainment market research ever since.

And the take away here is not to follow a bunch of celebrities on Facebook. The takeaway is to keep your ear to the ground for opportunities, even in unexpected places.

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Want some extra help finding good job opportunities? I can curate jobs just for you! Reach out to me. (I even offer delayed payment until after you are employed)