The Comfort Pursuit

The academic job selection

Several months ago I mentioned I was moving to Cairns (Australia) to take up a position as a lecturer in Urban Design, and I promised I’d share my experience here. In this process of finishing the PhD and applying for academic positions I have prepared many documents, put together websites, read books and blogs, talked to tweeps and colleagues. Truth be told, it wasn’t easy but was worth every step of the way.

When I became an expat I wasn’t a beginner in the academic life, before staring a PhD in New Zealand I had been a full lecturer in Brazil for three years (2008-2011). I arrived in New Zealand and soon after got a PhD Teacher Fellow Scholarship which allowed me to teach 10 hours a week while undertaking my research. This was an excellent start in academia in a new country, and I’d suggest this is definitely an opportunity to embrace if you have a chance.

JCU’s Lecturer in Urban Design position was advertised in June-July 2016. At that stage I had read The Professor is Inby Karen Kelsky, which I strongly recommend to anyone going through the academic selection process. Although it is focused on the North American system, it has some great advice for anyone aiming for an academic career. I also followed many blogs dedicated to early career researchers (The Thesis Whisperer, The Research Whisperer, PhDTalk), and as I considered alternative pathways I followed From PhD to Life and Jobs on Toast. To both Jennifer and Chris, thanks for the skype conversations and for the encouragement.

Reading through the job advertisement I thought JCU’s position was a good match for my experience, background and research interests, so I applied. The application requirements were Cover Letter, Curriculum Vitae, response to the selection criteria, and a document (three pages maximum) outlining how we’d set up an urban design degree, as this is a new major at JCU. This particular position did not ask for a design portfolio, which is a reasonably common requirement for architecture and design fields. However, as I had my own online portfolio already made, I added some links throughout my application. My portfolio consists mostly of research projects and publications, teaching, and some design work.

A couple of weeks after the application deadline I got a letter with the great news that I had been shorlisted, and on the 7th September (the day of the Independence of Brazil!) I flew to Cairns. It is worth mentioning that in the meantime I read again Karen Kelsky’s book. The schedule of the visit included the presentation of a seminar and an interview. On this seminar I presented my trajectory (how I came to be interested and study what I study), my most recent research, and my 5-year plan (thanks again Karen!). The interview took around 1 and a half hour and the panel had five staff members. Flying back home I had a good feeling, but I also knew it was a competitive position.

Thankfully, it all ended up well. All the heavy work of the PhD and the academic prep jobs were worth it, and I am really enjoying working at JCU. Throughout this process plenty of people have helped me through books, blogs, twitter, or real-life conversations and friendship. As I have benefited from their advice, I thought perhaps this could help some obstinate academic candidates out there, I really hope it does.

If you have questions I have not answered, or you think I can be helpful somehow, please leave a comment here or send an email through the contact form on the top right menu. I’d be very happy to help as I’ve been helped through all these years.

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