From Industry to Educator: How to Land a Higher Ed Job

 Marketing Director   November 3, 2022  Career Transitions

Instructor using her industry experience in the classroom

The struggle is real for an industry professional switching to a career as a teacher in higher education. Full and part-time positions in colleges and universities are in high demand and turnover among teaching faculty in particular is often low. This article shares a few pointers on how to stand out in a crowd by showing how your real-world, industry experience can benefit students and the institution you seek to join.

First, consider this: your experience on the job does not automatically translate to success as an educator. Neither does your experience as a student. But there is good news: teaching is not an innate skill, but a craft that can be learned and improved over time. One way to begin is to observe a few classrooms to see what works. Another is to read about teaching; you could start with the “On Teaching” Series by The Atlantic Magazine.

Although you may not have a background in classroom teaching, you have a lot to offer based on your experience and expertise. Here are some tips on what you can do to showcase your real-world experience during the job application and interview process.

Demonstrate Your Added Value

As an instructor, you will make choices every week about how to help students gain relevant skills and knowledge. An asset you bring, beyond anything a textbook or software package can, is knowledge of what works in your workplace and an awareness of trends in the industry. Be ready to talk about how you will provide opportunities for students to prepare for this environment. Think about projects you worked on, the technology you used, the directions your field is headed in, and the ways you collaborated with colleagues. Can you teach students to excel in these areas?

You can also come up with authentic assessments. As an instructor, you have the freedom to decide how students will demonstrate their learning. In your profession, do managers use multiple choice tests and term papers to determine if employees are accomplishing their goals?  If not, what do they use?  Can you design a “test” that replicates or simulates how adults are assessed in the workplace or in civic or personal life?  Be mindful of the needs of different learners. It is your responsibility to ensure that all students have the support they need to perform the tasks you set before them.

Leverage Your Professional Networks

Very few students will know as many working industry professionals as you do; you might be the most accomplished professional that your students connect with. Communicate how you will use your network to benefit students seeking opportunities such as jobs, internships, and informational interviews. Consider how you will be inclusive of underrepresented minority and first-generation students as you share access to your contacts.

Serve as an Informal Career Advisor

Think back to when you were looking for your first job out of college. What do you wish you knew then that you might take for granted now? Is there practical advice you can share on how to choose a career, prepare for interviews, and thrive in a professional environment?  Although many colleges and universities have career counselors, these professionals may have little or no experience in your field.

Show Off Your Growth Mindset

Sometimes the best candidate is the one willing to share about a time they were humbled and how they grew from the experience. Similarly, otherwise qualified candidates can get passed over because they could not articulate a meaningful answer to questions like, “Tell us about a time when you experienced conflict in the workplace” or “Share with us a time when you failed to meet a goal at work”. If you cannot articulate a time when you picked yourself up and tried again, how can the hiring committee trust that you can support students through their trying moments?

There is no one way to get your foot in the door of higher education and no exact process or set of rules to be followed to get your dream job as a college instructor. But there are steps you can take towards becoming a competitive candidate. Hopefully the tips shared above will get you further along on your journey.

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About the Author: Jesse W. Raskin, J.D., State of California Single Subject Teaching Credential, is a student-centered Professor at Skyline College in San Bruno, CA, where he received the Meyer Excellence in Teaching Award. Professor Raskin teaches across disciplines in Administration of Justice, Business Law, Paralegal Studies, and Political Science. In addition, he has served as the faculty lead for professional learning and has presented across the state of California on topics including Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice and Career Education for 21st Century Students.