I’ve worked with many postdocs who are applying for lectureships. It’s a really pivotal career stage, making that lectureship leap. But there are certain things that people don’t quite know or haven’t quite thought of when applying for a lectureship. Let’s learn from the mistakes postdocs make when applying. All people that I’ve been privileged to work with.
#1 Not knowing who your students will be.
Universities are all different. Chances are you will be applying to a different university to the one that you’re at currently or that you might have studied at. aAll universities have their own ethos, their own mission and a very distinct student feel. All my different client universities have very distinct feel to the campus, how they educate their students and who their students are. And this is the key mistake that a lot of people make is actually not understanding who the students will be. If you are applying for a lectureship. You turn up in September. You have a brand new cohort of students, Who is in the room? What are those students like? Is there an international mix? What educational background to those students have?
Who is going to be in your classroom? How do we find that out? Researchers I think are very adept at looking at looking at the research group page, find out who’s going to be in the faculty. But what you need to do to understand this is go to the student facing pages. How do they attract undergraduates onto courses?
You’re applying to a lectureship, you need to paint yourself into that role. Knowing who you’re going to teach and what they are expecting from their degrees is essential. The university student facing undergraduate recruiting pages will lay out expectations. Is there a focus on employability, skills or being able to go into research career? Then you’ll be able to write your application, and how you can best deliver for those students.
#2 Not knowing why this lectureship is being advertised
The second mistake is not being this square peg in a round hole. Trying to squeeze yourself into a role that isn’t made for you can be really uncomfortable. Finding out why the lectureship is available is essential. Now, the reason that this in the mistakes section here is that people don’t do this enough. Look at the job advert. If there is a contact for further information? Take them up on it! Why? Firstly, it gets your name noticed and remembered. Good when they are shortlisting. But you can also find out a lot more information about the post.
I encourage you to approach the named person with a quick email saying “I’m really interested in this position. Would you have time for a quick phone call?” The first question that you need to know – also is a very nice opener – is “How did this lectureship post come about?” Has someone moved on from the university? Do they have new money and they’re trying to expand? Are they looking to build a new Master’s course? All three of those things are very, very different in how they want that post holder to act when appointed.
The other reason you want that conversation is that it might be completely the wrong post for you! And a job discussion is a two way process. But without it you are playing second fiddle to those who do have the bravery to ask for a conversation.
#3 being a great researcher is enough
Right, the third fatal flaw, absolutely fatal flaw is, “oh, I’m a great researcher. It doesn’t really matter that I don’t care about teaching, they’re just going to want me for my research.”. I think this is a very ancient, somewhat archaic viewpoint. It used to be the case for sure that in some of our universities, if you were the best potential Nobel laureate out there. Then of course, you could have a lectureship. That is absolutely no longer the case. All universities, whether they’re research intensive or not, are very much focused on how their lecturers can deliver learning to their students, partly because of the Teaching Excellence Framework. But also, because I have seen a seismic shift in universities really wanting to help their students. Typically, a lectureship is a third research, a third teaching, and a third administration. Administration covers all sorts of committee work and outreach, running conferences, journal editing etc. If you’re applying to more teaching intensive University, you can see that the third teaching is going to expand.
It is important to have some teaching experience. Now no one is going to expect you to have a lectureships worth of teaching experience when you’re a postdoc. But you need to build up diverse experience. Have you given a couple of lectures, run masters course seminars, run seminars for undergraduates, delivered workshops or worked through problem sets? You might have worked one on one with students to mentoring or tutoring, research supervision also counts. So some of you might think I’ve not taught any undergraduates, but you’ve probably supervised PhD students, master students, formally or otherwise. So use your postdoc time to build up a nice spread of different types of teaching experience. Think about your teaching too! Often applications will ask you to write about your teaching philosophy.
Need another pair of eyes on that tricky lecturehsip application? I can help …