What do academic employers want?

My friend and colleague Dr Rachael Pitt, otherwise known on Twitter as @thefellowette has had a conventional academic career.

By ‘conventional’ I don’t mean that she finished her PhD, accepted a permanent position as a lecturer and has worked at the same university ever since. Oh no no no – that was a conventional academic career back in 1980.

The ‘new normal’ academic has done a decade or so of adjunct teaching work, and/or a rag tag bunch of jobs that last anywhere from a week to three years. I did the former; Rachael did the latter – what we are starting to call the ‘post-post-post doc’ or the ‘portfolio career track’. There are some unexpected upsides to the new normal academic career, at least for the survivors. All of Rachael’s jobs have been loosely in our mutual field of expertise – research education – but all of them have required her to learn new things fast and work out how to function in different university settings. As a consequence she’s highly skilled and adaptable researcher and a great collaborator who never has trouble finding work.

Most of the time I’ve known Rachael I have thought about her as the one woman academic SWAT team who has ably worked both the academic and professional side of the university fence. Start a new undergraduate research program with only vague idea of where it’s all headed? Rachael’s your woman. Your reliable post grad admin officer had to leave to have a baby early and has no time to make hand over notes? Call Rachael – she’ll keep the show on the road. You want her to move cities to join your research project? Make her an offer she can’t refuse!

@thefellowette (left) and I squeezing a visit to Edinburgh Castle in before a research nerd conference in2013. If you're wondering why the faces, it was REALLY COLD that day ok? :-)

@thefellowette (left) and I squeezing a visit to Edinburgh Castle in before a research nerd conference in2013. If you’re wondering why the faces, it was REALLY COLD that day ok?🙂

Rachael has moved to a different city every couple of years. She’s had to find new places to live, learn new public transport systems, pack and unpack her stuff – and make new friends. This pressure turned Rachael, who, like many of us, self identifies as an introvert, into one of the best academic networkers I know. In fact, Rachael and I know each other because she cold called a colleague of mine, explained that she had just moved to Melbourne and suggested we all have lunch. From this humble beginning, the now famous Circle of Niceness was formed.

Until recently, Rachael was the perfect worker for the neo-liberal university system, which I think of as a bad boyfriend because it offers little in the way of loyalty and virtually no job security. However, after watching her do this for the better part of a decade now, I know Rachael found the ‘hypermobile’ academic life physically and emotionally taxing. Rachael is an academic AND a fully rounded human person: a generous friend, a fun aunt and a loving daughter. All this moving around for an academic career made sustaining her existing relationships, and building new ones, with say, a life partner (or even a pet), difficult. So I’m very happy to report that last year Rachael got married to a lovely man and moved back to her home state of Queensland where she can play with her nieces and nephews whenever she wants.

Of course, she found a job in 3 seconds flat too.

I wanted to tell you some of Rachael’s back story because we recently wrote an academic paper together which was deeply informed by her hypermobile portfolio career. We called it Academic superheroes: a critical analysis of academic job descriptions.

Rachael came up with the idea one day, three years ago, when we were sitting on the couch talking shop, drinking tea and eating chips, as you do. At the time Rachael was staring down the end of yet another contract. Funding was running out and she was about to be in the wind yet again. In amongst the troubles talk, we started musing about the difficulties and general tediousness of the academic job application process.

In Australia academic employers list ‘key selection criteria’ which the applicant must respond to in writing, in addition to a lengthy cover letter and a CV (an epic task in its own right). Both of us are more than familiar with how labour intensive this ghastly business is. Each application is bespoke, so every rejection letter represents hours, sometimes weeks of work. Rachael told me that some of the responses she had to write were nearly 15 pages long. It’s not advisable to try to make the process quicker by cutting and pasting between them because, while each ad asks for essentially the same things, they ask in different ways.

Rachael had noticed that many job ads seemed down right impossible to live up to, or had conflicting, ambiguous criteria that were impossible to evidence. She showed me some and I was quietly outraged. Why is there a selection criteria asking for “a PhD and evidence towards submitting for your PhD in psychology” while the one immediately below was “evidence of expertise in psychology?” – doesn’t one imply the other? And how do you evidence a statement like: “Effective organisational skills to plan and organize work to meet competing deadlines and ability to work independently with minimal supervision, showing initiative and flexibility”? I guess you could write some lines about why you are awesome at that stuff, but why should someone believe you? Wouldn’t it be better just to ask your referees if you had these attributes and capabilities? No wonder many PhD students who are exploring the academic job market are so confused and demoralised.

Being huge research education nerds, Rachael and I started connecting this problem with what is being taught in the PhD.

In her last research gun-for-hire job, Rachael had uncovered evidence that academic employers were unhappy with PhD graduates after they hired them. We found this both odd and ironic: academics design the PhD experience, put students through it, evaluate the outcomes and then employ around 40% of the graduates – and they are UNHAPPY WITH THEM?

What the hell is going on with you academic employers?

When I tell people about this finding, they always ask the obvious question – why don’t we just change the PhD so it better matches academic employers’ expectations? While there is some innovation around the edges, most PhD programs still ask for the production of a long thesis document. This document is evidence you can think, be creative and write academically, but is decidedly not evidence that you can teach, sit on committees, write peer review, and design curriculum or any of the other myriad tasks and chores that you have to do in a large and complicated bureaucracy like a university. Dr Mary-Helen Ward has accused the PhD of having an ‘accidental pedagogy’ and I think she’s right.

While I’m sympathetic to the ‘life of the mind’ aspect of keeping the dissertation part of the PhD, I think we can do better. Rachael pointed out that the job ads she was reading were asking for a really wide – and possibly unrealistic – set of skills, many of which are not explicitly in the PhD experience by default, although they might be in the environment in which the PhD unfolds: the university itself. In other words, you will learn just as much (perhaps more) about doing academic work by taking active part in the life of the department as you do from writing a thesis. Being a student representative on a committee and watching how people behaved when other students weren’t around was certainly an education in academic politics for me.

Together we started to wonder how you might redesign the PhD to explicitly include more of this accidental stuff. This is an interesting intellectual exercise if you are, you know – a total nerd, but there is little in the way of evidence on which to base your new policy ideas. Most of what we have about employer expectations is retrospective self report; to my mind often the most unreliable of all qualitative research methods. When surveyed and interviewed, employers express dissatisfaction with, for example, graduates’ communication skills, but as I have written previously, this might be more about a culture clash between academia and work cultures on the ‘outside’, than lack of actual skills.

Rachael made the brilliant suggestion that we take a close look at the text in ads to see what the jobs were asking for and see if they matched what was being taught in the PhD. Fast forward three years of toil, presentations, extensive consultation with colleagues and bewildering rejections the paper has finally been published!(that’s a whole other story).

You can download it, but since I am way over word count, here are two things we didn’t expect to find:

Academic employers want people who play well with others: I’ve written before about how you can be a clever, productive asshole academic – and get away with it. This might be true when you are well entrenched somewhere and management are too scared to get rid of you, but watch out on the way through the door. Many ads were very explicit about wanting team players who could carry their burden of the emotional life of their department, including counselling students and other staff members in times of crisis. Other ads signalled that they want academics who will treat their non-academic colleagues with respect and courtesy. When short lists for jobs are created it’s my experience that people ask around informally… actually, let’s not sugar coat it. People will try to find out the gossip about everyone on that list. Your reputation is always in the process of being made – and not just with your academic colleagues. Good admin people know everybody; they are often highly trusted and excellent sources of gossip. If you are the type of person who is ‘too busy’ to treat everyone, regardless of status, with respect, you might be in trouble.

Academic employers want your network – but probably not for the reasons you think. A big and solid, peer-to-peer academic network is like gold. You can get early news on jobs, warnings about funding cuts and other valuable intel, as well as a ready supply of people you can work with. But it’s not JUST your academic network that academic employers are after. They want your connections outside too. If you have worked in a practice based discipline such as architecture, nursing, education or the like, universities can get you to use people you know to help them place undergraduates in intern programs. Other departments are interested in what consulting monies you may be able to raise or even what philanthropy you might be able to encourage. Many PhD students are warned that if they ‘step off the academic road’, and become one of the 60% who don’t go into academia on completion, they will never launch an academic career. Looking at these job ads I’m not so sure about this advice, although it might have been true in the 1980s – when many of the people giving it out started their career. I suspect that if you go ‘outside’ and actively maintain your ties by collaborating with academics, you might find yourself in an excellent position 10 years down the track should you decide to come back. The pay tends to be better outside, though, so you might decide to stick with the 60% who don’t bother pursuing an academic career.

There is so much more I could say about this topic but I am now way, way over my usual  1000 words. Rachael is temporarily out of the academic rat-race in a professional role (you’ll see she’s identifying as ‘independent academic’ on our paper), but I am actively carrying on this line of inquiry with other colleagues. We are interested in the 60% who don’t pursue an academic career – the majority of candidates now. What do non academic employers want? I will report when we have more results.

But for now I’m wondering, what do you think? Have you started looking at the job advertisements and wondering what to do next? Love to hear your thoughts about this post and the paper.

Mentioned in this post

Download our paper “Academic superheroes: a critical analysis of academic job descriptions”

Dr Rachael Pitt on Linkedin

Dr Mary-Helen Ward’s thesis about the PhD

A paper I wrote about the value of whingeing to other people: Troubling Talk: assembling the PhD candidate

Previous post on this research – ‘academic on the inside’

Academic assholes and the circle of niceness

Is the university a bad boyfriend?

 

 

 

 

42 thoughts on “What do academic employers want?

  1. Oh yes, I’ve started wondering. I’d initially thought I would be an academic but in the past few months I’ve began to think about straddling both worlds, working outside but maintaining ties through collaboration and occasional teaching. I’m not sure yet if it’s possible. People look at me as if I have two heads when I tell them what I want to do. Life is always more straight forwarded when you choose one or the other, I suppose. But I’ve never gone the easy route! Thanks for this.

  2. Thanks TW (and Rachael) for an engaging insight into what appeals to university employers. As the focus in this post is on the PhD and post doc experience, the question for me is ‘How can the PhD program encourage us to remain involved with the life of the university AND life outside?’

    The answer for me is about developing our ‘community of practise’* where we, as PhD researchers, can gather with other like minded professionals both inside and outside academia. This is active work and takes time away from cloistered research/writing. And when those people are not knocking at your door, be like Rachael, and go find them and invite them along. This approach calls for generosity and a shared purpose (and courage!).

    Whilst I was on campus there was overt support for a community of practise. It was one of the highlights of moving back to full time study. I shared a room with 3 PhD colleagues, participated in College/University committees and functions and was supported to attend conferences. When I moved off campus, this overt support and opportunity ceased. I had to create my local/virtual community of practise which combines virtual and face to face support.

    I am currently combining professional work with PhD as are my local SUW buddies. This integration of theory with practice (praxis) feeds our work; practise informed theory and theory informed practise.

    * practise as the verb as I am gathering with colleagues to work out how to do this thing….as opposed to practice as a noun when this thing is ‘done and dusted’.

  3. This is a really timely post for me, thoroughly enjoyed it. I have been scouring the Conversation jobs board for a couple months now – I am 5 months from submitting my thesis but best to get in early, right?!

    Very interested to hear about jobs ‘outside’ of the academic sphere – as a phd we (well I at least) do not get much exposure to options outside

    • Our next research is showing just how much opportunity there is – potentially. The problem is employer awareness and acceptance of the PhD as another form of qualification that signifies certain skill sets. Articulating and evidencing the value of PhDs in a range of workplaces is our next challenge. We’re working on it🙂

  4. Hello and thanks for your post. It was informative and also bit terrifying! I am doing my PhD in ecology and from what I’və seen so far I can say that there is a huge differences among supervisors. I belive your PhD mentor is playing a key role in training you as potential lecturer or researcher. I belive that is the reason why we have to do seal postdocs! to finally, but hopefully, land in academic position. I wish there was a course on academic teaching and career which all PhD students could take and learn the basics.

    • From what I see, I agree with you. Supervisors have a lot of power in science communities to place people. But don’t forget, that science is often carried out in communities. There’s often been opportunity to make connections with a range of mentors.

  5. Brilliant post and a very real one for a lot of us. I’m still stumbling my way through working our how to best respond to selection criteria but I agree as well – your reputation is so important. Being known as someone who works hard and well with others helps but also how you do your research matters (at least in my field). Being recognised as someone who is flexible, community-embedded, and just as willing to cut fruit before a footy match as analyse data has helped just as much as my track record. There’s so much to think about in this post so thank you for raising these really vital questions.

    • I think you cannot underestimate the effect of character assessment. All those qualities you mention are so essential, but hard to ‘evidence’ – you have to be creative about it that’s for sure.

  6. Congratulations on your research and recent publication Inger and Rachael. It is a timely post as too – I am about to head off to run a session for HDR’s on applying for academic and non-academic positions.

    From my experience, many HDR’s leave considering career options until they are just about to submit their dissertation. This is far too late! The conversation about developing broad employability skills for academic and non-academic roles needs to start at the beginning of the PhD program. PhD candidates would benefit from participating in range of activities within the university and the broader community which would assist them to develop a more adaptive employability skill set. Universities, academics and supervisors could really assist their PhD candidates by encouraging them to build networks with a variety of employers and community groups rather than focussing primarily on academic networks to enhance potential research outcomes/collaborations.

    I am one of the 60% who hasn’t pursued an academic pathway post-PhD completion. While I remain linked with the academic environment via my business, I am no longer associated with my research. This is primarily due to monetary reasons and a relatively inflexible research system e.g., I would not be paid to write a grant application to fund further research (the time involved would cost me potential income) whereas an academic would be.

    Providing opportunities for post-docs to straddle the academic/non-academic environment would, in my opinion, be incredibly beneficial to all parties!

    • Thanks Shari! One of the great things about doing this kind of research is that the results are immediately applicable in lots of ways. I’m glad you found it useful in your work. It adds some evidence to the claims we are already making with students, that a broad range of skills is vital.

    • I think it also links to the point Inger made in the post about the value of networks, including those outside. Students who do this throughout their PhD are not cutting themselves off from an academic career but might be making that more likely at the same time as expanding their options,

  7. I seem to hear the ‘overqualified’ word too often in the non-academic arena of employers. I suspect they are fearful of employing someone with a higher qual than theirs or their work colleagues.
    Frustrating.

    • It’s also possible that employers are worried the “overqualified” person will leave, ie that they will keep looking for other/better jobs and move on quickly. Recruitment can be frustrating and time consuming for the selection panel – especially if there are hassles dealing with HR & organisational bureaucracy. No one wants to do it again in the near future if they can avoid it.

      • In a small field, and smallish communite, when I see who got the most recent job, and considering the educational quals of the most senior person (the one who told me I was overqualified). I think it is the fear thing.

        It is a pity as both experience and education should go hand in hand.

        Then again, if I am honest I think the job was already given and the application process was a tick-box one.
        Such is life.

  8. Great post (I liked the paper too!) and I think this is a big question across the board for higher ed – what is it that employers want in graduates? I suspect the answer is less likely to be area-specific knowledge, and more likely to be so called “generic skills”, including the ability to continue to learn and pick up new things quickly. Each employer has their own nuanced environment so the specifics would have to be learned for that place anyway…

    The question then is – how can graduates demonstrate they have these skills (aside from prospective employers picking up the phone to ask referees), and how can universities assess and accredit for them? Is this even part of their role??

    (I got very, very, lucky in my job search; it would seem that my generic skills were more worthwhile than exact area of expertise overlap, though it seems there’s more to connect peer learning in medical education, and assessment & digital learning, than I previously thought! And hence the assessment flavour…)

    • That’s an excellent question Joanna – what counts as evidence and how? I’ll be posting on this a bit as time goes on, but it would be interesting to research what evidence is credible and whether it varies. Given previous research on racism and sexism in hiring practices I suspect the variation might be the interesting aspect to explore (and most infuriating problem to solve)

  9. May I put forward that STEM/Medical and Arts academic jobs are inherently different, and the bias within the medical community towards those who have medical degrees offers a totally different perspective? I am a slight anomaly at my university, I work in the Med school, as a researcher with a PhD, but I do not have an MD/MBBS/health Science degree. Closest I got is an MSc in Epidemiology🙂
    I could go on a whole rant about the perception of PhD’s in med school v “real” doctors, but it is a bias that I find very evident. Paper looks interesting, so am going to read it tonight….

  10. I’ve come to the conclusion that job ads are little more than verbal Rorscharch blobs wherein you write what you think they are looking for, and the selection panel interprets their statement and your response in different, and often divergent, ways. The person who gets the job is the one who “looks and sounds right” on the day in some amorphous sense; often the incumbent to the role who was the stand-out favourite before the whole charade began. If there is a genuine contest, the most powerful person on the committee in terms of academic stature sways the vote.

    –Demonstrated extensive and broad experience in leading, motivating and developing a team of professionals to deliver service excellence and inspiring a working culture of support, recognition and ongoing development.

    Whaaaat?

    –Outstanding research, analytical and evaluation skills, including the demonstrated ability to devise innovative solutions to complex organisational issues whilst maintaining a continuous focus on service standards.

    They should have stopped after “skills”.

    Having just been turned down for two roles because I did not meet a completely *unstated* selection criteria, you can forgive me for being jaded. (I complained to HR on both cases and was ignored.)

    • Hi Inger,
      Fascinating post, as usual. I haven’t yet read the paper, but I wanted to respond to one sentence in the post:

      ““a PhD and evidence towards submitting for your PhD in psychology” while the one immediately below was “evidence of expertise in psychology?” – doesn’t one imply the other? ”

      Just for context, I’ve had the joy of reading, writing, and responding to a lot of selection criteria over my decade+ in the public service… In my experience, responding to selection criteria requires a unique style of writing – more like marketing or technical writing than academic writing. Even interpreting selection criteria requires a different set of skills!

      The first statement is a little strange, and I wonder if this is a simple error, i.e. “and” should in fact be “or”. This Selection Criteria is possibly referring to the minimum qualification required – a PhD in psychology *or* evidence that you’re working on one. If it’s the first in a list of SCs, it’s probably related to the industrial award / level of appointment / pay grade assigned to the position. I’d expect an answer to this SC to be 1-2 lines: “I have a PhD in Psychology from [institution], awarded in [year]”; or “I’m currently enrolled in a PhD in Psychology at [institution]. My expected date of submission is [date]”.

      The second SC – “evidence of expertise in psychology” – is then asking about actual experience. I think “evidence” here means “examples of”, rather than any more precise meaning used in academic writing. It also might be used here so that every SC doesn’t start with “Demonstrated experience in …”.🙂
      If I were answering this SC, I’d probably start with something like:
      “My expertise in psychology is evidenced by my clinical work as a [Job Title] at [Organisation] and research experience as a PhD candidate at [Uni].” Then write a para on each that has specific examples from the resume/CV.

      One approach to writing SCs that I came across recently is STAR(L) – Situation Task Action Result (Learning) – e.g. http://www.careers.qut.edu.au/student/resource/Selection_Criteria.pdf . This seems like a good way to capture “evidence” of what you’ve done and link it (using the same position titles, organisation names) to the resume/CV. Another tip is to get hold of position descriptions from previous jobs – the words/ phrases can help describe what you were required to do.

      • Oops, I meant to respond to the whole post, not to Martin! Apologies…

        PS Martin, Sorry to hear of your experiences. It’s frustrating when there is an incumbent in an advertised position and the employer is vague about whether they are simply “going through the motions” to reappoint the person or not.

      • oh thank you Emma – that is so useful. I’ll follow up on the link. One of the findings of this research is how BAD many of the ads are. I recently went through the hiring process here at ANU and was pleased to see there was much more guidance and consistency than I saw in the ads we looked at. I know it took a lot of work from HR to help me get it right, so perhaps the problem is under resourcing as much as anything

  11. Yes I have been looking at jobs/positions recently. Finished PhD earlier last year. But wanted to give myself some time to focus back into my music creative work which had taken a back seat for some time, and planning on slowly nudging myself into a hopefully lovely academic job, with a vision to being both sensible and creative.

    However, I have been finding it a bit overwhelming, because the job descriptions seem to want the applicant to be an all rounder yet have serious expertise in one area but also loads of experience in several, and I just don’t have that already. I am an ‘entry level’ graduate, I presume, as I wasn’t working in the same area pre-PhD and I’ve never worked at uni before (unless you count singing gigs and office assistant, long ago – both paid employment). But really don’t know where I can ‘fit’ now in the greater academic scheme of things.

    I’ve been disappointed to see that so many have seemed to want long term experience in university lecturing and teaching, but not focusing on the areas I can contribute with expertise or experience.
    One position was almost so perfect for me, regarding my PhD topics, but they wanted someone with serious years of everything-else- under-the-sun, and proven ability in the funds area and management of teams blablabla.

    It’s really really interesting to me that you say 60% (maybe?) don’t join the academic side of work. I had wanted to be in a university position, and contribute that way, hopefully to some of the positive changes within adult education. But I am wondering also at times whether creative practice is where I might need to work. But I didn’t need a PhD to go into creative practice! I was already a creative.

    Thanks for this blog post. It really puts some things in a different perspective. But… onwards with the search.

  12. Having done my (science) PhD in a world of disappearing chief supervisors (4 in 5 years) and much field and lab work, I left academia for the public sector and have now since moved to the private. If I’m faced with two candidates for a job, one of whom had a PhD I don’t think it makes them a brilliant thinker. I think it shows that they can work under their own motivation and have oodles of tenacity. I also expect them to be able to present findings in a logical manner, both verbally and written. These traits and soft skills are all assumed…

  13. Is preparation for an academic career what a PhD is all about? Is that the only thing it is about? I am doing a PhD far too late in life for it to be considered a career move. For me, it is all about the research project. My PhD research is its own reason, not a by-product. I would have been very put-out if I had been forced to do a bunch of other training geared towards making me a desirable employee in the university, given I would have no expectation of it leading to an actual job.
    If there were to be different training for those trying to enter academia (you make a good case for it – and I would love to see a higher standard of teaching in the tertiary sector) perhaps there would need to be a divergent path, or a different way, so that those who want/need to do a research project for its own sake can have a structure to do that in.

    • Yes, absolutely. In fact, our next research project is to address this aim specifically. I think there is huge scope for innovation, especially around career options outside (or alongside) academia, but without evidence to guide it, we can end up with a lot of wasted effort.

  14. This is so true Inger – I’m one of the 40%. Graduated with my PhD last October and started a 6 month project the following week with a big university. I initially accepted a .6 position and then through some networking have been offered an additional .4 until August. I don’t know what will happen after that but I know my biggest asset is to keep connecting with others, demonstrate that I can work quickly and creatively and be diverse. It’s exciting and terrifying but I don’t want to walk away without giving it a try. The uncertainty suits my life stage as I have little kids so temporary work means I know I only have to juggle for certain periods. It’s a complex web we find ourselves in (but it beats a desk job hands down!)

  15. Great post and also conversations following. I have an interest in a related but different scenario. As a later in life PhD working in a senior position in a consulting business I am really interested in the opportunity for someone in my position to cross over into academia in a way that recognises my research and also my years of experience in industry, my professional network and organisational and leadership skills. Keen to hear any thoughts or pointers to any resources to read further.

  16. What an informative, thought-provoking, concerning and inspiring post – all in equal measure! Thank you so much for this. I’m a recent post-doc as well and am on the job market. Throughout my PhD (and in the recent “after”), I have married my love of research and teaching with constant networking with and contributing to the “outside”. As an ethnographer, I always saw my non-academic networking, community involvement and (dare I say it) activism as fieldwork in its own right.

    I’m facing a huge dilemma now – it appears that my thirst and talent for scholarship might be best served outside the academy, in the charity sector. This remains a daunting thought because the British government’s funding cuts to the social sciences and charity sector mean that my pickings are very slim either within academia or outside. So the biggest worry I have now is that my bank account keeps haemorrhaging even as I continue to find fulfilling albeit non-paying jobs/tasks/networks to contribute to.

    At this point, I still don’t know whether I’m part of the 60% who leave academia or not because the PhD was also an identity-building process for me. In my mind, I was training to become a scholar and with that came vague yet pervasive visions of eventually working in some sort of academic setting. Now that I have invested so much emotional and other intangible labour into creating this identity, I find that it is taking more effort than I anticipated to rethink my idea of what it means to be an engaged, kind yet effective scholar.

    Which is why, again, I have to thank you and Rachel so much for your work. This is really helping me to envision a new way of being. (If anything, I hope it will help me to stop panicking about my uncertain future 5 minutes before bedtime.)

  17. I finally had a chance to read the full paper. Kudos to @thesiswhisperer and @thefellowrette for this mammoth piece of work!

    My first thought as I was reading was that things are similar in the public service re Position Descriptions / Key Selection Criteria. Certainly I’ve read some that – on the surface – seem impossible to meet. And yes, they can be littered with errors too. (HR, from what I could tell, rarely reads or edits them before they get uploaded.)

    There are definitely are bigger issues about what academic employers want from graduates. At the same time, if the current system revolves around KSCs, it’s worth spending time learning how to interpret and respond to them. There are many good guides now online, e.g. from unis and government websites. If the position is covered by an industrial award (as the academic positions in the study were), I think it’s worth reading the award to understand where some requirements may come from. For example, travel requirements are written in if there is *any* chance you’ll have to spend time away from your office/campus. At first glance it seems onerous – but it’s the same provision that allows academics to travel for e.g. conferences either as part of regular duties (and paid as regular work time) or CPD (paid as professional development leave, or regular work time).

    I did wonder about these two comments on professional training / registration though:

    “Across the jobs sampled, there was a strong focus on professional disciplines with almost 43 per cent of the roles being in the allied health, public health, veterinary, dentistry or medical fields. This reflects the increasing demand for professional training over the conventional humanities and social sciences and science, technology, engineering and maths disciplines.”

    “The requirement in many ads for applicants to have practitioner registration with the relevant disciplinary body suggests applicants would have a prior history of professional employment outside of academia.”

    In some disciplines mentioned – e.g. allied health, veterinary, dentistry, medical fields – practitioner registration is a legal requirement and relates to use of “protected titles” listed on the Register of Practitioners. There is a list of these at the bottom of the page here, under the heading “What are the protected titles in the National Law?”: http://www.ahpra.gov.au/~/link.aspx?_id=D4E5EF420D3C4EAB8B247FDB72CA6E0A&_z=z

    As far as I know, all of these registration boards have categories of registration for non- practising professionals, or people who meet the requirements for qualifications, but have no employment history. These categories may have restrictions in terms of independent practising (e.g. require supervision or different types of CPD), but still allow the practitioner can be registered and legally use the title. (If these provisions weren’t available, graduates, people taking career breaks, academics etc could not be registered at all. This would be a big gap in terms of regulation/oversight of the professions.)

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