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Preparing a successful application
Associate Professor Susan Thomas
Successful Applicant Level D 2014
Academic Promotions Applicant Information Session
Getting Started
• Read all Policy Documents/Guidelines carefully. Be especially mindful of dates and
short-term appointments/secondments you have held at the same academic level.
These may require emphasis (by you or your HoS).
• Assemble your own committee. Consult with a wide range of senior academics,
preferably those who have chaired or served on promotion committees. Insist that
they be brutally honest about your timing and chances of success.
• Assume the stance of your harshest critic when assessing your own achievements.
• Remember that writing for promotion is a distinctive genre that can be quite
uncomfortable. Nevertheless, persist.
• Dismiss “advice” that is merely personal opinion or hearsay—e.g., “Avoid X
Stream: No one knows what to do with it.”
• Choose referees carefully—avoid “parachuting in” experts. Contact referees early,
and ask them to focus on particular areas of your application/achievements.
• Remember that this is a WRITING EXERCISE, so the same rules of effective
writing apply.
Good Writing Basics
• Begin early; allocate similar time required for a journal article
• Brainstorm—make lists, mind maps, index cards, etc. Review
your email and files for details you may be forgetting.
• Know the audience and speak their language
• Write about what you know—i.e., tell your story
• Engage in peer review
• Avoid clichés and generalisations. Show rather than tell.
• Avoid repetition
• Support claims with evidence—citations, examples, etc.
• Anticipate Rebuttals
• Observe word limits
• Revise, revise, revise
Specifics for Writing Compelling Applications
› Use the language of the guidelines for the particular stream you are
applying in, emphasising “exceptional,” “superior,” or “satisfactory,” or
perhaps “upward trajectory” as necessary.
› Back up every claim with evidence and statements of impact (obvious for
research, but less so for teaching and service), e.g.,
- What have been the long-term results of committee work/leadership?
- How has your teaching or published work on teaching impacted those beyond
your classroom?
- How have your teaching and service impacted the development of colleagues?
› Use strong action verbs, avoiding the passive voice wherever possible.
This will also help cut down on unnecessary words.
› Remember that you are arguing that your current performance already
corresponds with the level you are applying for.
Some Things to Avoid
Resist the urge to list or catalogue everything you have done since your last
appointment or promotion. Focus on the narrative and where the pieces fit.
Do not assume that committee members will know what you are talking about;
in fact, assume the opposite.
Resist saying “my department, my unit, my faculty, the University” when you
should in fact be saying “I.” Or, in other words, embrace the language of selfpromotion, uncomfortable as it is. It is possible to acknowledge the work of
others while making a convincing case for your own specific achievements.
Do not waste the “summary of case” section by recapping or summarizing what
you will flesh out in the main sections. An effective summary of case should
persuade the committee, with subsequent sections clinching the case.
Summary of case should be heavy on anecdotal evidence and impact and
should paint an overall picture of your credibility at the level sought.
Do not assume that your referees or HoS will make the case for you.
A few final points
› “Relative to opportunity” arguments exist for a reason. Do not be ashamed
to discuss career interruptions or setbacks you have experienced. These
are part of your story, and the committee really does need to know.
› Select the stream that is right for your achievements NOW. It may not
necessarily be the appropriate stream for your next promotion.
› Remember that promotion streams are unrelated to employment
conditions, so applying in the Education Stream, for example, does not
necessarily mean that you are a teaching-focused academic.
› If at first you don’t succeed . . . .
- Read the committee’s report—with an open mind—about a week later.
- Remember it is not personal, but usually a problem with the written submission.
- Talk to senior academics about their setbacks and how they overcame them.
- Make an appointment with the committee chair(s) to discuss and strategize.
- Ask close colleagues to share their successful applications.
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