This answer is provided by our guest author, Ellen Mehling.
Q: I spent seventeen years as a teacher of English in a high school and the past fifteen years as a secondary school library media specialist. It has been a fantastic experience. I want to share my experiences with the higher education world. I am retiring in July from a wonderful career with the New York City Department of Education. I want to teach teachers or library students. I do not have a Ph.D. Are unsolicited CVs frowned upon? I know where I would like to work, but don’t see any available positions. What is the best way to approach this?
EM: As with any kind of a career switch, making the move from high school teaching to teaching in higher education is likely to take some time and effort. Competition for such teaching positions is very strong right now, with dozens or even hundreds of applicants for a single posted opportunity, and employers prefer to hire those who already have the desired experience (in this case, teaching in college/graduate school). The burden is on you as the applicant to persuade a hiring manager or committee that you should be given a chance. Any kind of teaching at the college level would be beneficial for you to do to start getting such experience, on your way to your goal. You may want to try local community colleges first.
If you’re seeking an adjunct position, the lack of a Ph.D is less of an issue; that is more likely to be a requirement for full-time (tenure-track) positions. Examine job descriptions carefully to see what the skill, experience and education requirements vs. preferences are.
The job market is slowly improving, but it can still be very difficult to get a response even if you are fully qualified and applying to a posted job opening. Just sending an unsolicited CV in the hopes that the employer will hold on to it and then have you in mind if something does open up is not likely to be worth the effort as a job hunting strategy, especially if you are not otherwise known to that employer.
Start talking to those already in your network who are doing the kind of work you want to do, and seek to make additional new contacts in higher education. Try to find online groups on LinkedIn or elsewhere of people who have made the switch you are looking to make. The time it takes to expand your network in this way will be well-spent, as the benefits can be substantial: advice or mentoring, the possibility of hearing about opportunities before they are posted, and even possibly recommendations to hiring decision-makers.