Friday, September 17, 2010

Looking for a job after tenure

I have been talking to several friends who are a few years post-tenure who are thinking about looking for new jobs. Their reasons for the searches are varied: one wants to be closer to his aging parents, another has never really felt at home in her university, and another has been commuting back and forth between the college town and the home she shares with her partner, several states away. I have had similar thoughts after not getting the administrative job I had hoped to land in my own program. But none of us actually HAS to leave, which is a different (and undoubtedly good) position to be in when looking for a job. And most of us are loath to make a big mistake, like leaving a known, stable, relatively good job for a new position in a viper pit. As a result, I can tell you that all of us are a little uncertain about the process.

One issue we are facing is how to weigh the location against the type of institution. All of my friends are at R-1 public schools. Are we willing and able to move to a SLAC? Are we committed to public schools, or would we work at a private school? A religiously-affiliated school? How important is being near family? Friends? A decent dating pool?

As a group, we also seem to be struggling with how to approach this search. Do we treat this kind of search like any previous job search: follow the ads in the disciplinary website and the Chronicle, submit the letters and CV, and hope for an interview? Or is it different, as a senior faculty member with specific location concerns? Obviously, as senior faculty at our current institutions, we need to be clear in our letters that we would expect an Associate/Full position (and I would talk about needing tenure with the Dean, if I landed the campus interview). But does it also make sense to reach out to the Dean or Chair to find out if positions might become available, if they knew we were on the market?

I do know, as a former search committee member, that several of our more senior hires came about through back channels. A senior woman was hoping to move into our area, so she reached out to the Dean and expressed interest in a position. Another senior hire was the result of a phone call from that person's current Dean to our Dean, letting us know that he was looking to move, was a steal, and we should consider him. In each case, the CV came from our Dean to the committee, and it went from there. I have also heard of other hires where a person at one school wooed a faculty member from another school to make a move.

Yet, even while my colleagues and I know these stories, it is difficult to believe that they could apply to us. Sure, superstars might get recruited, but would a Dean or Director really make a space in their program just in order to hire us? Would they turn an Assistant line into an Associate or Full line for us? And what makes someone desirable as a senior hire? Is it just federal grants and kickass publication numbers, or are there other factors (e.g., national reputation, awards and honors, administrative prowess) that might make us attractive to other big schools? I have been shocked at how my colleagues, who I find VERY impressive on paper and lovely in person, underestimate their marketability and attractiveness to other institutions. And I think we also forget how nice it is for a Dean or Director to hear that someone really wants to work with you at your institution.

I am convinced that this issue is compounded for someone like me who wants to work in administration. If I go on the market next year, I will certainly go after jobs listed in the usual places. But I think I also need to reach out to the leaders I know in my discipline and let them know I am interested in a move. I am hoping that perhaps someone who might have filled an administrative job from within might reconsider if they knew I would be interested in the job.

Anyone out there looked for a job post-tenure?  Any lessons you want to share? Any Deans and Chairs with advice? My friends and I are happy to learn from you.


susan said...

I moved as a full professor, from being a department chair at my old uni to being a director of a faculty development unit at my current u. The move was somewhat happenstance, in that I'd been wanted to move out of my former city, but hadn't much been looking (mostly b/c of the two-body problem; my partner is also an academic and getting two jobs together, again, seemed hard to do).

I saw my current job posted on some listservs (I wasn't looking at the regular job postings in the Chronicle and whatnot) and then got contacted by the search committee chair (who had gotten my name from someone else in the field who had probably suggested a number of people). I decided to apply and all the rest of the details eventually worked themselves out, so here I am.

Senior hires seem so idiosyncratic that I don't know that my observations would lead to any advice. I can't imagine someone who would have done an internal search deciding to do an external search b/c of your interest (usually the internal/external decision is a matter of budget, set from above). But letting those in your professional network know that you are interested in moving seems like a good idea. (The tricky thing there is not having your current colleagues learn about this and get cranky. Even though I think that's a bad thing to get cranky about, but that's another topic.)

I'm glad you brought this up--we don't talk enough about career paths post-tenure (or the fac-to-admin moves).

Anonymous said...

I was approached by an institution about a job about five years post-tenure. At first I demurred, as I wasn't interested. But about mine months later, after they were unable to fill the position, they came back to me again.

The second time I gave it more thought, and decided it was worth at least investigating. You are right that it's much easier when you're in the position of not needing a new position - this puts you in a much better bargaining position.

To make a long story short, I interviewed for the other job, was offered it, and gave it serious consideration. It was a very good offer, for an endowed chair at a prestigious institution. But in the end, my partner and I decided that it wasn't the right time for us personally, and professionally it wasn't enough of a draw.

But the offer from the other institution was enough to cause my current home to counter with a very good package (including a part-time administrative position), much more than I would have otherwise received. This wasn't my goal when I started the process, but in the end, it worked to my advantage. I know enough about the way the game works that this is generally the only way you can get a substantial increase in salary and perks, rather than relying just on incremental increases through the annual review process (or even internal promotion).

So my general recommendation to people is that if there is a position out there that you are seriously interested in, i.e., you can see yourself living in the community and working at the institution, then it is worth investigating. The worst case is that you'll discover your current situation is perhaps not so bad after all.