Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Participants Share Tips for AEI Success

by Stephanie Prosack

Even the most successful new faculty members could have improved on the steps they took to obtain their dream jobs in academia. We found the best advice and tips from former participants in the Academic Employment Initiative (AEI)—a program that allows faculty candidates to network with university recruiters—so you can make the most of your next poster session. From preparation to networking, these tips will make you a star at your next academic presentation.

Be Your Own Investigator
You may perform chemistry research for hours during your day job, but remember, research pays in the job search as well! The top piece of advice from past AEI participants was to investigate relevant information prior to the AEI event. Gather the details important to you about institution type and job criteria, and then see which schools offer the same. “I used AEI as an opportunity to find out if the school was a good fit for me before I invested a lot of time in the application process,” says Lenny Demoranville, an AEI 2013 participant who is now a visiting assistant professor of chemistry at Centre College. Another way to investigate the potential recruiter pool is to remain active in online social media forums, such as the LinkedIn AEI Group. After seeing who some of the recruiters would be at the poster session, Demoranville performed homework on his flagged schools. “I also had individualized questions for the schools that I was really interested in. These questions were both important to my decision on whether to apply or not, and showed that I was really interested in teaching there.”

Make Your CV and Poster Pop
After you consider your goals for the poster session, crafting CVs and posters to clearly reflect your interests will help to make the AEI more purposeful. Saliently display details including your background, research, and career aspirations. However, do be mindful of the amount of content; the easier it is for recruiters to read your poster the better! Demoranville, interested in primarily undergraduate institutions (PUIs), created his poster by choosing “to submit an abstract that highlighted an interesting lab activity I had developed,” he says.

Katie Walker, a fellow 2013 participant, prepared her poster by doing extra leg work. First, she reached out to a past AEI poster session participant to gather ideas about how to best make her own poster sparkle. Then, Walker highlighted her positive attributes in a way that confidently represented what she could bring and add to an institution.

The poster acts as a great visual for a recruiter, and it allows you as a faculty candidate to make a first impression, in person, with representatives of institutions currently hiring new, fresh faculty members. In addition to presenting an organized and distinctive poster, keeping a stack of crisp CVs available (for both the recruiters you speak with and those you don’t) can also make the AEI more of a success. Not only will your background be displayed in a tangible form on the poster, but CVs will also give recruiters contact information to take with them so they can interact with you at some later date at their discretion.

Throughout the AEI poster session, interactions with a variety of people—colleagues, fellow presenters, and recruiters alike—and genuine communication after the poster session can work in your favor.

Business cards can aid networking in a big way. It is not only important to make sure to collect business cards from recruiters; in addition, handing out personalized cards of your own allows chemists interested in your capabilities to connect with you later. In addition to serving as memory prompts, cards can prove useful if you are unable to speak with someone on the spot.

Keep networking after the event. Following the 2013 poster session, participant Judy Jenkins made time to meet and follow up with interested recruiters. Jenkins remembers, “Plan so you can be available after the poster session for informal meetings. I went to dinner with one recruiter following the poster session and I visited with a recruiter the following day as well.”

Of course, participation and communicating with recruiters during the AEI does not guarantee a faculty position, or even an invitation to interview. It does, however, allow you to demonstrate your qualities, establish connections with fellow chemists, and learn about specific details presently valued by institution representatives.

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