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I've just been contacted by a friend's friend who decided I'd make a great adjunct professor at a community college, IT department, application development. Suddenly I heard myself agree to an "informal" job interview, and now am freaking out. What am I getting myself into?

I have all the hard skills necessary, in fact probably overqualified as far as the hard skills go. Soft skills, different matter. I am shy and fear public speech. Counselling one-on-one is no problem, but I do get a bit shaky in the knees thinking about standing in front of an audience. Which is why a part of me wants to do this job - to overcome my fears, to develop leadership skills, which I could then use in private sector. I also have a few interesting curriculum ideas I'd like to try. From tutoring my nephew through his university years (different school), I saw much in the Comp Sci curriculum that I think could be improved.

I wonder though whether this will help or hurt my career in the private sector. First of all, the very fact of being an adjunct professor at a community college (one of the weaker community colleges actually) - is it a resume builder? From looking at the faculty, it just might be.. the staff seems to have good bios.

Then there is the RateMyProfessor.com. As a newbie, and a pretty anxious one at that, there is a non-zero chance of me screwing up and getting a bunch of low reviews that will then haunt me for the rest of my career. The HRs do google job candidates' names.

My current career as a software developer has had its ups and downs: have worked for a few prestigious, big name corporates, left for a startup of my own, the startup is imploding, time to get a day job. While the bottom of my resume (where the old jobs are) looks great, I need to build up the recent part of my resume, need references. Would this be a good move or not?

  • Please limit yourself to one question per post – ff524 Oct 23 '14 at 6:20
  • Done. For the reference, here are more questions that I edited out: " Ideally, I would want to try myself at one or two free-standing lectures, to see how it goes, before committing to more. Can this be accommodated? As a side note - I was told the salary is going to be very low. That's OK, because I am not going to do it for money, but exactly how low, and is there room for negotiation? Any chance for medical/dental insurance?" – Ruby Oct 23 '14 at 6:23
  • The answer is simple. Do you you want to teach or not? If not, don't. If so, then go for it! – ybakos Oct 23 '14 at 23:09
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Without wanting to sound harsh, this whole post is all about you and how it will benefit your further career (after leaving this job). You seem to forget that you will be teaching real, young people that need a good teacher, in order to get the education they deserve. So, unless you refocus on them first, perhaps you should reconsider getting this job for simply "overcoming your fears, developing leadership skills, which you could then use in private sector" and leave it to someone more passionate about it.

To directly answer your question: Getting a job you are not sure you are going to like and risk being bad at it or prematurely leave, always looks bad on any resume. So, unless you are really passionate about this, perhaps you should stick to what you already know.

  • That was harsh. Are you making a point that I will fail? That I will be worse than the average adjunct professor at a below-average community college, struggling for IT professionals as it is? How do you know that? Did you get the part that there is a whole lot I can teach them professionally, if I am able to overcome my fear? If all people listened to you and avoided what they "don't already know" for the fear of "risking being bad at it", stayed in their comfort zone at all times, where would we be as a society? – Ruby Oct 23 '14 at 16:35
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    @ТаняТ. It is 100% OK for someone to leave his comfort zone, if he really wants to excel in something for a job he 100% wants to do. But it is obvious you consider this job on this "below-average community college" too low for your standards. Teaching is not an easy job and starting from classes of hundred people, teaching university level material, without any experience or training, is more than leaving your comfort zone. I never questioned your ability (I do not know you) but I only question your motivation. – Alexandros Oct 23 '14 at 16:47
  • what you are saying might be 100% correct in your line of work, but I can bet you are not in Comp Sci. Do you know how desperately even the larger companies with all the resources in the world are wanting for qualified developers and to what lengths and expenses they go to find one, and how shortage of qualified staff is their main bottleneck impeding their growth? Even more so in community colleges. There is simply nobody else to teach them, and no way they can learn on their own. Who will I leave this job to? – Ruby Oct 23 '14 at 17:34
  • BTW, I hope I won't be teaching 100 people right off the bat! If that is true, then I just might bail out. Is that the only option for an adjunct? That's an important data point, thank you. – Ruby Oct 23 '14 at 17:40
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    Around here the CC has smaller classes than the elite universities. – Anonymous Physicist Oct 23 '14 at 19:18
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As a full-time I.T. employee with a CS background at a community college, I feel I may be able to chip in here. We have a lot in common -- great hard skills, shaky soft skills, a desire to overcome our limitations, and a desire to better educate the next generation of programmers.

As Alexandros said, first you need to focus on the students. You've pointed out that their CS material could use revision, so I think you're already on the right track there. The best CS professors I've worked with have one thing in common: they all had prior or concurrent industry experience. Current, real-world experience gives you an advantage when it comes to curriculum development that can really benefit the students.

As for the class size, I'd have a hard time imagining 100 students in a CS class at a community college. Our class sizes tend more toward 10 than 100, limited apparently by interest, not class size caps. It's still more than one-on-one, so you'll still have to get over that, but just remember why you're there.

Don't worry about how badly you might screw up. Even the best professors get occasional low ratings and the internet is full of anonymous jerks spewing vitriol. You're not in middle school anymore, just don't worry about it.

As for how it looks on your resume, I can't personally speak to this with any great experience, but as a hiring manager I'd look favorably on it, particularly if you teach only one or two classes per semester for awhile. It shows that your soft skills are maybe stronger than the next guy and that you're comfortable conducting training and writing documentation within your field of expertise. Those are all desirable qualities that are a little harder to find in the software industry. The only negative point I can think of for it would be if they thought you might be trying to get your foot in the door as a full-time professor, they might not want to bring you on full-time. Not a lot of places think like that, though.

Finally, regarding benefits: I can't speak to any other school's policy, but adjuncts here are simply part-time faculty. As part-time employees, they don't get medical/dental benefits. They're hired on a per-class basis, so if you want to teach one or five classes, that's up to your desire and their needs. We're pretty flexible, I expect that's pretty standard.

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Cons: Adjunct teaching at a community college may be a poor way to get references because you will mostly be working with students, not professionals who can serve as references. I taught one class at a CC and met my department chair a total of twice.

I would not worry about ratemyprofessor.com. Most people don't take it seriously. All students are different, so you are sure to get one occasionally that does not like your teaching. You can use a different name for teaching if you are really worried.

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