AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

TAG | Jobs

Hello, I am Ayesha Tillman, a fourth year Ph.D student in Educational Psychology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (Illinois). I received my Bachelor of Science in Psychology and my Master of Arts in Research Psychology and never dreamed of working in evaluation. After receiving my MA, but prior to coming to Illinois, I worked as an education research associate in the Research and Evaluation Section of the Arizona Department of Education for two years.

Lessons Learned:

  • There are many paths to a professional evaluation career. There are many educational paths and even more opportunities for a career in evaluation. Evaluation positions can be found in academia, private consulting firms, educational research companies and government agencies.
  •  Government agencies are a great place to work! While you likely won’t make as much as working for a private evaluation firm or an educational research company, there are lots of perks to working for the government. These agencies often have great healthcare packages, ample vacation/sick time, job security and usually support professional development.

Hot Tips:

  • Know what skills they are looking for. Government employed evaluators are usually expected to be able to write reports, give oral presentations, have comprehensive qualitative and quantitative research skills, be able to develop surveys, and analyze data using SPSS, MS Access or SAS.
  • Know the policies. In addition to the previous, you will also be expected to have some knowledge of policy or legislation as it relates to the agency you are applying for.  For example, if you are applying for a state Department of Education, you should be familiar with the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
  • Know what to look for. Government agencies may not always post positions that require evaluation skills as “Evaluator”. Know what type of positions to look for. They may be titled: research associate or program specialist. Check the position description in the job posting. Don’t pass up a job because it doesn’t have ‘_JGevaluator’ in the title.
  • Know where to look. The AEA Career Center is a great place to start looking for jobs. You will also want to look at the specific government agency’s website as well. Some government agencies that hire evaluation positions are: Departments of Education (federal and state), the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and Government Accountability Offices.

Rad Resources:

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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This is Bernadette Wright. In April 2012, I made the jump to starting out as an independent consulting/sole proprietor of Wright Evaluation and Applied Research.

Lesson Learned: When I first starting exploring the idea of taking the plunge to independent consulting, it seemed like it could be a risky, scary move to make. However, I found that many resources are available to help with evaluating the decision to make this career change. These resources can help anyone considering independent consulting in evaluation feel more secure that you understand what it would take to make your business work and that you have a plan in place to make it happen. These resources can help answer questions like, Would I enjoy independent consulting? What are some good ways to find work? What does the market look like for the types of services I can provide?

Rad Resources: Below are some resources that I found to be especially helpful.

Gail V. Barrington, new book Consulting Start-up and Management: A Guide for Evaluators and Applied Researchers  is a very useful guide to all aspects of starting and managing a consulting business in evaluation and applied research. In addition, you can read a discussion led by Gail Barrington on the topic of best practices in evaluation on the AEA Thought Leaders forum and visit her website and blog .

Judah J. Viola’s 2006 article “I want to be an independent consultant: Considerations before taking the plunge,” in New Directions in Evaluation, while focused on recent graduates, provides helpful advice for anyone considering taking the plunge to independent consulting.

The online discussion forum for AEA’s Independent Consulting topical interest group is a rich source of information on things to consider in deciding to be an independent evaluator, how to find work, and tips for success. Also, AEA365 includes many posts related to this interest group.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) website on Guide to Starting and Managing a Business provides many resources on starting and managing a business, including things to consider in thinking about starting, information on where to find a mentor or counselor, and guidelines for writing a business plan.

Talking with friends, family, and co-workers can be a great way to learn from other people’s experiences and get other perspectives to consider. I was surprised to find out how many people I know have experience with independent consulting.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Washington Evaluators (WE) Affiliate Week with our colleagues in the WE AEA Affiliate. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our WE members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

Hi, I’m Ann Emery. All this week, you’ll hear from members of the Washington Evaluators about the diversity of evaluation opportunities that are available in DC. Evaluation is booming in DC! This is the best city in the world for evaluators because we can choose to specialize in one area or try out different settings, approaches, and content areas throughout our careers.

Hot Tip: The only thing hotter than our humidity is our evaluation scene. Evaluators can choose to work in government agencies, non-profits, foundations, consulting firms, public schools, charter schools, or universities (like American, Catholic, UDC, GallaudetGeorge Mason, George Washington, Georgetown, Howard, and the University of Maryland, just to name a few…). Would you rather be an evaluator in the suburbs? You can also work for Virginia or Maryland’s local government or award-winning school districts.

Lesson Learned: Considering moving to DC? Don’t be alarmed by our bad traffic – we’ve got the cleanest metro system in the world, three airports, AmtrakVRE, and MARC trains, pedicabs, and some of the best bicycling trails and bike commuting in the nation. And we’ll have streetcars next year! Still running late to work? You can always blame it on the presidential motorcade

Hot Tip: Need a break from evaluating programs? On the weekends, DC evaluators can put their skills to use by evaluating the Cherry Blossoms, Redskins, food trucks, farmers markets, museums, nightlife, or even Michele Obama’s fashion choices. Still need something to do? Don’t worry, Washingtonians can talk about politics for hours!

Rad Resource: Visiting DC for a few days? Connect with the Washington Evaluators, Eastern Evaluation Research Society, or the nearby Baltimore Area Evaluators. You can mingle with evaluators at one of our happy hours or attend a brown bag while you’re in town. We welcome visitors to the Washington Evaluators monthly board meetings, and with meetings at hip restaurants in Chinatown, you can’t go wrong.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Washington Evaluators (WE) Affiliate Week with our colleagues in the WE AEA Affiliate. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our WE members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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My name is Bob Spencer and I work for the Riverside, California Department of Mental Health. I serve as an evaluator for a program that aims to keep children with mental health and substance abuse problems in their natural home with their family. My goal for this blog post is to share some of my experiences from my recent job search. Finding a job in this economy is an unenviable position, but with enough persistence and tenacity, it is certainly not impossible.

Ted Williams, widely regarded as one of the best baseball players ever, owns one of the most famous quotations in the game. He said, “Baseball is the only field of endeavor in which a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer.”

“Teddy Ballgame” never had to look for a job.

As anyone who has gone through an extended job search can attest, receiving a call back on just one of ten applications can be promising, let alone three. If baseball is known as the “Game of Failure,” what does that make job hunting?

Here are some of the things I focused on when looking for my first “grown-up job.” Hopefully they will help you as well.

Hot Tip: Be Persistent!  Hiring managers are extremely busy—filling open positions is but one of their many responsibilities. If you submit an application or resume and do not hear back within several days, do not hesitate to follow up with a polite e-mail or phone call. Applicants are sometimes afraid to seem to “pushy,” but a friendly reminder can often help your chances of getting an interview, and may help you stand out from the other candidates. I actually looked forward to that follow up call, because it gave me the chance to connect personally with my potential employer instead of being just another name on a page.

Hot Tip: Give Them No Reason NOT to Hire You! Double-negative notwithstanding, this was my philosophy for any job interview I got. A well-crafted resume and cover letter are essential for “getting you in the door,” but it is up to you to make a lasting impression and convince the hiring manager that you are the right person for the job. Be prepared to talk about your experience instead of just your coursework and research history. Be true to yourself—the worst thing you can do is misrepresent yourself to your future employer. In my experience, adaptability is key. If you do not have experience with a certain skill or resource, emphasize that you are willing and able to learn anything they need you to learn. Always have questions for your interviewer! Have several questions, prepare them ahead of time, and write them down if you need help remembering. Your interviewers will be pleased that you are taking a genuine interest in the position, and will certainly not mind the role reversal of having you interview them for a few minutes.

Hot Tip: Most importantly, Don’t Take It Personally! Ted Williams hit 521 career home runs, but he also struck out 709 times. Job hunting is undoubtedly a frustrating experience. However, the key is to not take it personally when you get turned down, and instead continue looking for your next opportunity. As in baseball, patience and persistence are the tools for success in finding a job. Don’t get discouraged if you strike out. Instead, step up to the plate again, knock the dirt off your cleats, and swing for the fences!

This contribution is from the aea365 Daily Tips blog, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org.

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My name is John LaVelle.  I am a student at Claremont Graduate University and served as the Research and Jobs Coordinator for the evaluation program for two and a half years.  Today I will be sharing three tips and one resource.

Well, it’s graduation time of year, and congratulations to all the new graduates!  When I was working as the Jobs Coordinator for my school, I would often help our students identify opportunities for them to practice their craft.  What I learned was that there are a lot of organizations looking for individuals with evaluation skills!  But the job search can be intimidating and a bit overwhelming at times; where should a person start looking?!

Hot Tip: The American Evaluation Association’s Job Bank.  This is a wonderful resource that advertises a LOT of evaluation opportunities.  The bank can be instructed to look for opportunities by state, or you can just browse!  As of yesterday there were 90 opportunities in a range of sectors.  http://www.eval.org/programs/careercenter.asp

Hot Tip: Association for Institutional Research.  It seems that evaluation shares some interesting characteristics with Institutional Research, and IR might be a fruitful avenue for some young evaluators to follow. This is a link to the jobs page of the Association for Institutional Research. http://www.airweb.org/?page=2

Hot Tip: USAJobs. This is the official website of the US government!  There are a lot of departments that employ evaluators, from the Department of Justice to the Department of Transportation to the Government Accountability Office to name a few.  A tip in this area is that they may use the term “program analyst” or “specialist” or “assistant.” http://www.usajobs.gov/

Rad Resource: Virginia Tech’s Career Services website.  Most colleges and universities employ career specialists to help students and graduates with cover letters and resumes.  I have to say that the resources offered by Virginia Tech are excellent, and I very much appreciate all the excellent advice on the essential elements for all cover letters.  In addition, they have examples of letters of inquiry, letters of inquiry about internships, and follow-up communication. http://bit.ly/VTcoverletters

This contribution is from the aea365 Daily Tips blog, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org.

Hello!  My name is Stefanie Leite and I am a Research Assistant for Advanced Empirical Solutions and an Independent Evaluation Consultant.  As program evaluators, we seem to find ourselves in the role of interviewer more often than not.  However, job seeking transfers our role to interviewee.  While it may take a different set of skills, I daresay that as evaluators, we make the best interviewees!  This is because we tend to be sympathetic toward interviewers (having been in their shoes), and hyper-sensitive to answering questions in ways that provide the exact bits of information that the interviewers seek.

Hot Tip: For the purpose of this blog, I’d like to share with you some interview questions I have come across as an interviewee for jobs in the evaluation field, with the intention of helping those of you out there who are job seekers to prepare.

  1. What computer skills do you have and how have you applied them in research and evaluation?
  2. What steps do you take to ensure the integrity of the data?
  3. What experience do you have in quantitative/qualitative data analysis?
  4. Describe a problem you encountered in analyzing data and how you handled it.
  5. Describe your experience in [project management/developing data collection instruments/report writing/presenting results and recommendations to stakeholders].
  6. [The interviewer reads a case study of a program.]  How would you evaluate this program?
  7. Describe an accomplishment that you are especially proud of.
  8. Describe a mistake you made.  How did you handle it?  What did you learn from it?
  9. What is the most challenging aspect of program evaluation for you?  What is the most rewarding aspect?
  10. Describe your ideal work environment.
  11. Describe your ideal supervisor.
  12. Describe your experience working in a team.  What do you like most about working in a team? What do you like least?
  13. Why are you interested in working for us?
  14. In what ways would this position contribute to your long-term career goals?
  15. In what capacities would you like to grow professionally?

One more thing—at the end of the interview, the interviewer always asks, “Do you have any questions for me?”  An excellent strategy is to refer to your own list of questions that you prepared prior to the interview.

Read Resource: These two books by Tony Beshara have been indispensible in helping me prepare for job interviews: The Job Search Solution (2006), and Acing the Interview (2008).

Best wishes to you all in securing the job of your dreams!

This contribution is from the aea365 Daily Tips blog, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org.

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My name is John LaVelle, I am an advanced graduate student at Claremont Graduate University.  When I worked as the Jobs Coordinator for my department, I would encourage the students to develop a personal statement about evaluation.  This is important because when they would go to interviews, they would often be asked to describe their understanding of evaluation and explain it to people that may or may not have an background in evaluation.  This exercise eventually became an important element in the Evaluation Procedures course.

Hot Tip: Develop a personal statement of what evaluation means to you and how it can and should be practiced in dynamic, fluid, and political organizational and community environments and how it differs from basic research. In other words, if a client asked you to explain your understanding of evaluation, your approach to evaluation, how you would work with stakeholders, and so on, what would you tell him or her? In your statement, explain what processes you think are important for designing and implementing an evaluation, and how you would approach determining an evaluation’s design and data collection methods.

What might your personal statement of evaluation look like?

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My name is Susan Kistler and I am the Executive Director of the American Evaluation Association (AEA). It is my pleasure to contribute each Saturday’s post to the aea365 blog.

Are you seeking work in the field of evaluation? Draw upon AEA resources, networks, and colleagues to identify leads.

Hot Tip: Find an Evaluator: Create a website that identifies your services, skills, and provides examples of your work. There are many low-cost/no-cost site builder options out there. Once you have a site, if you are an AEA member, sign on to the AEA website and submit a listing to the Find an Evaluator directory at http://bit.ly/findanevaluator.

Cool Trick: Browse for Ideas: Browse the Find an Evaluator listings to identify examples of great ways that your professional colleagues are promoting their business and sharing their expertise.

Rad Resources: AEA Career Center: Search the Job and RFP listings on AEA’s Online Career Center, the largest repository of job listings of interest to evaluators. http://bit.ly/evalopportunities.

Hot Tip: Sign up for Email Notifications of New Job Listings: Sign up to receive an emailed notice, once each day for which there are new listings, of the new additions added to the AEA Job Bank. http://bit.ly/evaljobfeed. (Free and available to members and nonmembers)

Hot Tip: Post Your Resume: Post your resume in the AEA Online Career Center, in particular if you are seeking full-time employment.

Hot Tip: Join AEA’s LinkedIn Group: Join AEA’s LinkedIn Group  in order to build your professional network and to check out the ‘jobs’ tab on the AEA LinkedIn site. Although we encourage cross-posting of jobs, because they are self-submitted, occasionally opportunities appear on the LinkedIn page that are not in the Online Career Center. Also, on LinkedIn, you are more likely to have a clearly identified person with whom you can correspond and ask questions. http://bit.ly/evallinkedin.

Hot Tip: Network, Network, Network: Join your AEA Local Affiliate if there is one in your area, participate in their activities, and reach out for informational interviews. Build your network and let your colleagues know of your interests and skills. Some affiliates post positions on their websites as well. http://bit.ly/aeaaffiliates.

This contribution is from the aea365 Daily Tips blog, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org.

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