2020-2021 Graduates Sharing Job Searching Tips

For recent and upcoming graduates looking to start their careers, the 2020-2021 job market was daunting. Looking for work during the COVID-19 pandemic meant parsing through an unusually small number of opportunities and carrying out much more of the interview process virtually. During these uncertain times, lab members Lin Lu, Nathan Hawk, and Mike Nelson were able to successfully land meaningful positions that will begin in the summer and fall of 2021. Below you can find brief profiles of them along with descriptions of their new positions. They have also provided some insights regarding what they thought helped them navigate the difficult job market.

Dr. Lin Lu, Postdoctoral Scholar at University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Lin Lu was a full-time international student, working part-time as research associate on complex data management and analysis. Lin joined the program and the lab right after graduating from college. Lin was originally trained as an information technology teacher. She paused her high school teaching career and decided to research the intersection of technology and education. Lin has contributed to many projects related to computer-supported collaborative learning, distance education, and learning analytics.

In the fall of 2021, Lin will work as a postdoctoral scholar in the Office of Learning Analytics in the College of Education at University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She will continue her research interests in online education, lead more research projects on college students’ engagement and academic achievement in the online learning environments, and produce learning analytics solutions for more educators in higher education. When asked about the job-seeking experience, Lin said,

I’m glad that I am able to devote myself to the projects that I’ve always wanted to do. Knowing my strength, weakness, and the things I value made me land a job that I can be intrinsically excited about. My whole Ph.D. experience contributed to this self-awareness: living as a foreigner in the States, hanging out with people with diverse backgrounds, working hard with lab members, writing scholarly papers in a second language, getting accepted and rejected for new ideas, and feeling confident and hopeless on different occasions… All of these shaped my career path and became the source of self-efficacy for the future jobs.

Dr. Nathan Hawk, Clinical Assistant Professor at Texas A&M University

Nathan Hawk is currently a high school mathematics teacher in Columbus, OH at Central High School. He has spent over 15 years as a high school teacher, with experience in various charter school settings, generally working with nontraditional students. As a doctoral student, he taught an undergraduate online course focusing on strategies for success in online learning. During his time at OSU, he was actively involved with the RLDL in research, various papers, conference presentations, and data analysis. He engaged with the lab in school-based research projects.

In his new position, in the fall of 2021, he has recently accepted an offer to join the faculty in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Culture at Texas A&M University as a Clinical Assistant Professor. His primary affiliation will be to teach undergraduate courses in the Technology and Teacher Education program. He will assume responsibility for the educational technology lab, oversight of the University Peer Mentors in Technology program during his appointment. Nathan has this advice for current and future scholars in the field:

It is critically important to build a well-rounded educational experience from day one in your program. Early on, know what you want to do with your degree, so that you can build a programmatic experience to match. This advice was given to me by my advisor and Lab Director. While coursework is important, writing manuscripts, presenting at conferences while also networking are quite important too. In addition, the practical experience I gained from working as a professional in the field as a K-12 teacher was instrumental to securing this new faculty appointment. Many of the job calls in my field preferred K-12 experience.

Being a part of the Lab allowed me to strengthen my connections with K-12 school-based research. Also, it gave me a stronger position to have this new opportunity. The Lab has been important for me to build both personal and professional connections with fellow scholars and peers.

In all, you never know what is out there. Given the highly competitive academic job market because of COVID-19 and other factors, I was not in an especially strong position, however I put myself out there and was able to land a great position at a flagship university thanks to the experiences in high school and within the Lab.

Dr. Mike Nelson, Associate Staff in Cleveland Clinic Education Institute

Mike Nelson is a former high school teacher and current instructor in the College of Education at Oregon State University. As a doctoral student, Mike taught an undergraduate education course and researched the role of technology in teacher education. He joined the lab as a research associate in his final year in the program and worked as a research consultant in the year following graduation. During this time, he was involved in the design and implementation of research in K-12 schools that investigated technology integration and the impact of school curricular initiatives.

In his new position, Mike will be an associate staff member in the Cleveland Clinic Education Institute, where he will have an academic appointment as an assistant professor through the Lerner College of Medicine. He will work to assess and improve the educational offerings at the Cleveland Clinic with technology as his major focus, and he will conduct research based on his work. He had the following to say about how he was able to land this position.

I think the most important thing for me was to cultivate a diverse set of skills and experiences throughout my doctoral education. My coursework was certainly important, but my experience teaching, conducting research, and collaborating with peers across numerous settings probably made a bigger difference. I am thankful that I had the opportunity to join the lab at the end of my time at Ohio State, as it helped me develop my ability to work with a team to complete large projects. I also made new friends and had some great experiences collaborating with my fellow lab members that gave me practical research skills that I can take with me to my new position.