If you are involved in a mid-life career change or a long job search, you may be getting advice to expand your horizons and try new fields. Recently the New York Times suggested that career changers explore the possibility of adjunct teaching. Read the full article here.
The article makes some good points.
First, teaching won’t pay a lot but it can broaden your resume. You’ll have some answers to a prospective employer’s question, “And what are you doing now?” Almost any paid employment will be better than staying home.
Second, you don’t always need an advanced degree or teaching experience. Some departments will welcome you when you just bring successful experience and at least a BA degree. You get support in putting your course together. Some schools even assign you a mentor to help out when you are new.
Third, you may be able to find new contacts and even clients.
However, I would add a few points.
First, never assume anything. Go ahead and apply. Well-meaning friends will say, “They won’t hire you” or worse. Find out for yourself. Informal networking is less effective in academia than any place I know (except maybe government jobs).
Second, tailor your resume to emphasize related experience in the field as well as any teaching, training or even speaking experience. If you’ve got somespare cash, you can hire a coach for an hour or two to help you revise your resume.
Third, you may decide you like teaching and want to pursue a full-time job. It’s very rare to move from adjunct to full-time in the same school. Ask around to see if others have made this move at a particular place where you are teaching. If few people have made this move, build up a portfolio of good course evaluations and apply elsewhere.
Fourth, if you are interested in higher ed teaching, you can’t afford to assume that all degrees are created equal. Academics are selective about degrees and credentials. Some non-traditional degree will be helpful when you stay within your company or even change jobs in your field but will not be recognized by academic institutions.
Finally, I often recommend adjunct teaching as a helpful activity during a job search or career change. If nothing else, doing something new will bring a new perspective to your life and career. Many professionals are energized by novelty.
However, teaching can be exhausting, especially at first. My first days teaching at a junior college left me wiped! After years of experience, teaching a night course left me both tired and too “up” to go to sleep right away.
And yes, you can make contacts but I wouldn’t count on them. Some adjuncts have had great luck: students hire them as consultants and colleagues expand their professional network. Others have zero success: their students are too junior to do much good and colleagues can be aloof and clique-y.
All in all, though, adjunct teaching is a useful addition to your between-jobs activity and I’d recommend checking it out. I made a major career change this way.
For information about returning to school as a student, go here.
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