Contributors to this series share their key tips!
1. Think about collecting evidence of the ‘influence’ of your work. At the ECR stage, committees largely hire based on ‘promise’ (not problematic at all!). But by mid-career you should have been able to prove where your work is having an impact. Is it being cited a lot, and where? Is it being used for teaching? Has it been favourably reviewed in journals? Is it recognised by prizes and grants? Have you done ‘impact’ work in terms of what the REF recognises? Those are all obvious questions, but the challenge is shaping that information into a story about how you are an influential researcher now. Many will baulk at the individualism of this. ‘But my best work is collaborative, I facilitate networks etc’. Sure. And maybe there are committees out there who will value that. But a great many will simply be looking at their REF checklist, and worrying about classic single-author outputs.
2. Research the institution, department etc. This may sound obvious, but I think the level of research you need to do for mid-career is massive compared to ECR applications. Every time I’ve been in this situation, I wished I’d known MORE about the institution. The website is not enough. Awkward as it is, you will probably need to talk to people working there. The more, the better. And you absolutely should contact the named contact on the application form. They are often able to say a little more than the job application form does, for instance providing a helpful sense of whether you would even be a contender. For instance, for a job in medieval history ‘with a preference for medical humanities’, they may tell you: ‘medical humanities would be a bonus’ or they may say ‘we really need someone in that area’.
(1) Be specific with examples and evidence in your responses. In interviews, think STAR (situation, action, task, result). For a mid-career job, you’re bringing experience of the discipline and the field, and you want to be able to show that you’re knowledgeable while still curious, experienced while still eager, and use examples from your career so far to demonstrate these things. Prepare your examples, write them out, and think about how you can use them in verbal questioning.
(2) Have a sense of what type of researcher you are, but also what type you will become. As you move into mid-career, there’s a tendency to summarise the stuff you have done but remember that this is a path towards what you will do; your job in the interview is to show how your journey so far will help you with your future destinations. I was presenting on a second book project for which I’ve submitted the proposal and done a chunk of, but the new institution quite rightly wanted to know what came next, and I needed to be able to give a meaningful account of that. This is about track-record and trajectory, and you need to be able to narrate that in an accessible way for a group of potential colleagues who are busy speaking to other candidates and juggling their own responsibilities – make it clear and make it compelling.
(3) Be enthusiastic about what this new role will make possible. If you’re shifting jobs, you don’t want to have a negative narrative about that (whether it be disliking the old place, struggling to get the support you need, being worried about job security, or anything like that) but instead to have a positive narrative about what this new role could enable you to achieve in partnership with them (are there great local resources you could include in teaching, could you bring experience to reshape some element of their careers offer, do the institution’s priorities better match your own values in terms of diversity, mission, etc?) and to be explicit about those positive motivations. Remember that the panel is recruiting a new colleague, so it is worth thinking about the colleague you would want to be. In my case, that means positive, capable, and enthusiastic.
(1) Be yourself. It’s much harder to fake it when you have a track record.
(2) Be prepared to meet and/or be interviewed by people you know or who know you. This can be rather disorientating.
(3) Do you know what people think of you in a professional setting? It can be useful to think about this in advance of an interview. Mid-career scholars will have a record of working with colleagues, and reputations that precede them. If people call you abrasive or retiring, how can you pre-emptively counteract that impression in an interview? What do people say are your qualities, and how can you showcase these?
(1) Double check the date & time with the committee (story to come…)
(2) Read the job spec closely to make sure you show how you meet their criteria
(3) Showcase your unique contribution to the field in a friendly but confident manner
(1) Sell your mid-careerishness. You’ve got extensive teaching and research experience, but are not yet a professor who might have mapped out the rest of his/her career – you’re still interested in developing new directions in terms of teaching and research and don’t plan to lock yourself in your office to finish your next book (disclaimer: I am not saying this is what all professors do!)
(2) Show that you are a good academic citizen.This is not something really valued in external funding applications, or necessarily in person specifications for jobs either, but it’s really important. Don’t forget the people interviewing you are thinking, ‘Do I want to work with this person?’: ‘What will it be like writing a new course/ designing a research project/ sharing admin roles/ supporting a student with additional needs with this person?’ ‘Is this person going to monologuing about their own research at someone else’s seminar?’ ‘Is this the kind of person who asks a pointless question at the end of an already too-long meeting?’ ‘Is this person always going to accidentally ‘forget’ their wallet every time we go to have a coffee?’ OK, so maybe not the last question in an interview context, but you get my drift.
(3) Be yourself. It’s cheesy, but the interview is also your opportunity to find out if you w