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How to (Re)frame Your Teaching for Non-academic Jobs

Posted by on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 in Events, News, Resource.

By Andrew Greer, Graduate Teaching Fellow 

Attention fellow graduate students: Eventually we will seek employment outside of our programs. If you’re like me, your search is in full force. With the majority of academic applications behind me, I’ve switched my strategy to applying for non-academic jobs. This switch not only requires transforming my CV into resumes (tailored for each application), but I also have to change the degree to which I highlight my teaching experiences. In spite of a hefty set of diverse teaching experiences, I found myself moving teaching descriptions to the bottom of my resume and minimizing my teaching experiences for non-academic job applications. However, a recent workshop led me to reexamine (and reframe) the skills that teaching imparts.

As a part of the annual Graduate Student Teaching Event for Professional Development (GradSTEP) hosted by the Center for Teaching, Ruth Schemmer presented useful strategies for non-academic job seekers. Schemmer is an Assistant Dean with Career Development in the Graduate School, and she discussed two ways that teaching experiences are useful to graduate students pursuing non-academic jobs. First, she suggested that teaching experience is management experience. Second, Schemmer discussed relationships between teaching and outstanding oral communication, a requirement for many non-academic (and academic) jobs.

Teaching is Managing

Schemmer suggested that teaching should be framed with hiring managers in mind. She further argued that teachers manage classrooms in multiple ways. Teachers manage the classroom environment (e.g., lesson plans, time management), and they also manage a team of students (monitoring progress, holding students accountable). Schemmer suggested thinking about students as clients or even employees when applying for jobs. You assess students’ work and even provide evaluations of their ongoing progress as well as an overall assessment of their performance. In exchange, your students evaluate you, and you can provide such evaluations to potential hiring managers as evidence of effective management. To the extent possible that you can frame teaching as management, you might qualify for jobs that you would have written off previously. Even more important, potential employers might be persuaded to hire you.

Outstanding Teaching is Outstanding Oral Communication

Schemmer suggested that evidence of effective teaching shows that you convincingly communicated ideas to a target audience. And multiple jobs require outstanding oral communication skills. What types of evidence might you have? First, you probably have some evidence of how well your students learned the concepts that you taught (e.g., assessments, awards). If you quantify and qualify the accomplishments that your students made, you might convince a hiring manager that you have outstanding oral communication skills. For example, a mathematician may have 10 award-winning students that applied the skills learned from her class to win the National Math Competition for Scholars in Tacoma, WA (disclaimer: this is fabricated). Further, you likely have evaluations that show your effectiveness as a communicator. One student reported that I made them think about the world in a different way for a class that focused on inequality. Such statements, when framed appropriately, provide evidence of effective oral communication.

To reiterate, don’t hide teaching experiences hastily when applying for non-academic jobs. Instead, (re)frame them to highlight evidence of management skills and outstanding communication. We can remain in our programs as RAs and TAs for some time, but ideally, we’ll move on to our dream careers after becoming newly minted PhDs.

While some people – a rare few – move seamlessly through the ranks of the tenure track, most of us will not. It’s time for a reframing of the transferrable skills that we learn as university instructors. For those of us who are seeking non-academic jobs, we shouldn’t be so quick to hide our valuable experiences in the classroom.

For more information, contact Ruth Schemmer at:

To make an appointment with Ruth: 615-343-2727
Website:  Graduate School Career Development
Follow Ruth on Twitter




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