Thursday, October 02, 2008

In search of the promised land

It is that time again...the time where I look at job ads and consider whether or not to apply for a job elsewhere. It makes me have to ask some of the harder questions... What do I want? And what can I reasonably hope for in an academic administrative/faculty job? I mean, what is the best you can expect?

Counselors would tell me to think about the best possible situation. What would the perfect job look like? After some consideration, here is my list for dream job:
  • Offers opportunities for learning and advancement in administration

  • Affable and collaborative colleagues who neither spend much time arguing nor slough off administrative and service duties
  • Researchers in my area of research who are interested in collaboration (and preferably have their own funding)

  • Racially, ethnically, economically, and culturally diverse population (faculty, staff, and students)

  • Comfortable office with appropriate furnishings and electronics

  • Friendly and helpful support staff

  • Attractive and well-maintained campus

  • Excellent pay and a full array of benefits, including domestic partner benefits

  • A steady supply of supports and resources for professional development

  • An administration that values shared governance and the appropriate balance of research, teaching, and service in public education

  • Located in a town with good options for restaurants, healthcare, shopping, and cultural venues

  • Located in a setting close to family and friends--or with enough (new) close friends and a nearby airport to get to see (old) friends and family

  • A position in a large public university with a high level of research production and a reputation for positive relationships to the surrounding community and the larger state

Obviously, I can't probably have all of these elements. But which ones should be the source of compromise? Which can I give up and be okay, and which are the deal-breakers? Should I be more attentive to professional opportunities or personal quality of life issues?

Beyond just myself, I wonder: Do our professional and personal needs and expectations stay the same or change as we get older and more accomplished? And how do the needs of our partners and family fit in?

I have one friend who left a tenured position for a post-doc, just to be closer to family. I have another friend who decided that the depression associated with living in a cold location was worth getting out and starting all over on the tenure clock again. Other friends have refused to move, regardless of situation... the devil you know, and all that.

I have moved up several times--from a small program to a big program to an administrative job at bigger, better program. Each of my moves have been made for a variety of reasons, both personal and professional, but it had the benefit of looking professionally logical. As with my doctoral coursework, I followed a path that met my interests and took advantage of opportunities, but it wasn't exactly planned in advance. I sometimes worry about making a move that looks strange on paper, that doesn't make sense professionally but instead meets my personal (quality of life) needs.

At this stage, I feel more planful. I am in a great setting with fantastic colleagues and a good standard of living. I am well known and (I think) well respected here, if requests for university committee service is any indication.There is potential for growth opportunities here eventually, though not right now. My partner and I are comfortable here, if not deliriously happy. I do not have to move.

Yet, I am ready to move into a higher administrative role, and there is nothing here right now or in the near future. I want to look at positions--wherever they may be--that could benefit my professional development as an academic administrator, especially as I am the person in our family who makes significantly more money. I also am tired of being so far from family and friends, away from the culture my gf and I both love, so I constantly look for positions in that region of the country, even ones that are far from meeting my professional needs.

As I weigh these competing factors (staying put and hoping to move up from within, moving closer to home at a less than perfect job, looking for the best opportunity wherever it is), I am somewhat at a loss about this conundrum about balancing professional opportunity with quality of life. Do I stay put and try to wait for opportunities here, because the school is good, even if it is far from our friends and family? Do I consider good jobs in less than ideal settings that may even move us further away? Do I focus on quality of life and move into a less exciting job in a preferred setting, because if I don't, my partner and I will merely survive instead of thriving?

Will the Chronicle list my perfect job, please?

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