How To Apply for Your Second Job

Today is a Special Request Post for Matt, who wishes to know the ins and outs of applying for a second tenure track job.   That is to say, how to apply for a job when you are already in a tenure track position but hope or dream of getting another, different (better) one.

This is an excellent question.

It’s tricky. Maybe one of the trickiest things there is in an academic career. There is usually a certain amount of secrecy involved for at least some part of the process. And secrecy breeds anxiety and stress.

At the same time, sometimes people overestimate just how secretive they actually have to be, and cause themselves unnecessary levels of stress and anxiety.

Before we delve into that question, though, let’s pause to consider the question of when to go back out on the market. While the answer to this will be highly personalized, there are a few considerations. Going back on the market in the first two years of your tenure track job is often a mistake. The market is stressful and time-consuming. It is good to enjoy the stability of your first job to get some solid teaching under your belt, and learn how to be an assistant professor. The job doesn’t have to be perfect.

At the same time, if you discovered that you’ve landed in a viper’s nest and need to leave for your own physical and mental health, then go for it, no matter how soon it is.

At the third year, you have a bit of a chance to look up and ask if you’re happy, and on track for tenure. If for some reason your tenure case is already looking extremely shaky, then you might consider jumping ship as an option. It’s usually a terrible option, because the job market and the hassles of moving and starting a new job will put you even further behind in your writing, most likely. But, if you move to a place with lower tenure expectations, then you might turn out ok.

You can also consider leaving, around the third year, from a position of strength.  If your publications are on track, and you’ve accrued great teaching experience, then you will be well situated to make the move to a better, more appealing, or higher status assistant professor position.

Another well traveled path is to go on the market closer to year four or five. The reason is, you’ve been working toward tenure, and your c.v. looks fantastic. Your book is written and possibly already in press, you’ve been promoting yourself like mad at conferences, and your first blush of reputation is reaching its peak. It’s an ideal time to move up! As long as you can clearly articulate in your materials and interview that you are leaving not because of problems at university #1, but because of your ambitions for a brilliant career at university #2, then you’ll be an appealing candidate for many top tier positions, and may be able to negotiate tenure as part of your offer.

Be aware that when you move without tenure, and you aren’t advanced enough to do the above, then you lose years toward tenure. The publications that you did prior to arriving at university #2 will not count at university #2, unfortunately (unless you make special arrangements at the time of offer), and you may end up having to write a whole second book (!) or another set of articles for the new department’s tenure case. Get the expectations in writing before you sign on the dotted line.

Now, having chosen a time to go back out on the market, be aware that it the trickiest part of the process may be judging whether or not your job search will, if discovered, earn you the universal enmity and resentment of your department.   It might not.  In many universities, going back on the market for a better job is in fact a time-honored tradition, which is practiced for a number of reasons, including:

  • Wanting to elicit a counter-offer to gain some important benefits at institution #1, such as a raise or spousal tenure track offer.
  • Feeling aggrieved and unappreciated at institution #1 and wanting to prove one’s value outside.
  • Needing to accommodate a partner’s career requirements.
  • Actually just wanting a better job.

The important thing to realize here is that every department, and every departmental culture, is different. You have to move cautiously. This is one time when it is really, really critical that you have the advice of a trusted senior mentor, either in your department or outside of it (and in a later post I will be talking about how to find senior faculty mentors). That mentor can tell you what happened to “the last guy” who went back out on the market, whether he was shunned or envied by his colleagues, whether they still talk to him at conferences, whether he got a reasonable counter-offer or not, and what ultimately happened to him. You need to gather this real-life information first, before doing anything.

Now, if your researches reveal that your department is a vile, toxic, back-stabbing environment in which real retaliation follows on acts that colleagues consider disloyal, then you should, indeed, proceed in a very secretive fashion, quietly letting your letter-writers know that you’re on the market, and asking that they keep it quiet.

However, if you find that you are in a more typical departmental environment, one with a reasonable level of collegiality, and learn that assistant professors have indeed moved on to other jobs without being stabbed in the back as they leave, then it is my general opinion that honesty is a better policy. By which I mean, telling your department head. This is a professional courtesy that will gain you a great deal of good will if and when you come to the point of entertaining a counter-offer.

It is important that if you do decide to tell the Head, you tell her some legitimate reasons for wanting to leave. These would include:

  • Wanting to be at a department or institution with more strength in your field
  • Wanting to accommodate a partner’s career
  • Needing to be by elderly parents
  • Being actively recruited by another institution
  • Wanting better conditions of work, such as lower teaching load and more research money
  • Wanting to work with a particular type of student, or graduate students (if you program doesn’t have them)
  • Wanting to move to a more teaching/research oriented institution

Your reasons should not be random complaints about colleagues or the weather (although god knows, those play a role). Your Head will respect you more if you articulate clearly that the things you wish to gain are things that are simply not possible at your current job.

Be aware, though, that your Head MAY come back with an offer to “fight” for you—and to elicit from the Dean many of the goodies you seek. You have to be honest, again: would you consider staying if they give you a raise? If they hire your spouse? If they give you teaching release?

Do not walk into this discussion with the Head (and that includes after you may have already gotten an offer) without knowing your own bottom line. Because the Head should never be put into a position to spend precious capital with the Dean to “buy” you advantages, only to have you thumb your nose at them. That elicits ill will all around.

Returning to the question of whether to tell your Head that you’re on the market, once again, I want to emphasize that ultimately you must be cautious, and look at a multitude of variables, including how supportive your Head has been to date, how short-handed the department is already, how brutalized the department has been by previous departures, and so on. To repeat: the advice of a trusted senior mentor is going to be your very best protection as you move forward.

But the reason I advocate telling the Head, is that ultimately, it can work to your advantage in several ways. First of all, the very best application will include a letter from your current Head or from a senior faculty member in your current department.

Here’s what you may not have considered. The first question that department #2 will ask is: why is he leaving department #1? Was there a problem? Was he hounded out? Was he about to get turned down for tenure? Did everyone hate him? Will we hate him?

The letter from your current Head is your greatest insurance against those doubts and questions. That letter will say something like, “We love Matt. He’s been a great colleague and a fantastic teacher. We’d love to see him stay here for his whole career, but we know that our campus has few of the resources in rainforest studies that he seeks to support his research agenda, nor do we have a graduate program in the department. So we support him in his ambitions to move to a larger, R1 institution.”

Now, as you proceed in the application process, if you are short-listed, the Head can assist you in other ways.  She may reiterate her desire to fight for you. She might even go to the Dean for what’s called a “pre-emptive counter-offer,” which is an offer made to you that will induce you to drop out of the search, and turn down the campus visit. These are not common, but do happen. They’re most common at more advanced levels.

For assistant professors, particularly at cash-poor institutions, a far more likely response is: “well, we’d be sorry to lose you. I hope you don’t like it there!” And then the Head waits, because there is no point in getting everyone all worked up until she knows if you actually have an offer or not.  But she will be starting the groundwork for a possible counter-offer if you’ve indicated you’d consider one.

The ethics of making campus visits while you’re in the middle of a teaching semester are obviously rather fraught. It really isn’t quite kosher to cancel your classes and fall down on the job you do have in your mad rush to get a better one. Please treat your current students and colleagues with the respect and consideration they deserve. But ultimately, yes, you have to make the campus visit if you’re serious about the job, so plan ahead, and have videos, out-of-class assignments, or guest lectures planned well ahead to drop in at a moment’s notice (as campus visit invites can often be a bit last minute).

When you are on your campus visit at department #2, the single most important rule is not to complain about or criticize department #1 in any personalized or emotional way. Why? Because your would-be future colleagues are closely studying you to see how you talk about you colleagues, and if you come off sounding like a malcontent vis-a-vis department #1, they have no reason to suspect you’ll be different with them. You MAY, on the other hand, speak honestly about the legitimate needs that are not getting met at institution #1, such as:

  • a graduate program
  • abundant research funding
  • a library rich in your field
  • an appealing geographical location (especially when it relates to your work, as opposed to personal desires; for example, the appeal for an Asianist of a job on the West Coast)
  • spousal opportunities

Department #2 will feel flattered and smug about having those things, and will look favorably on you for wanting them for yourself.

Once an offer is made, usually in mid-spring, then it is critical that you tell your department immediately, and communicate as clearly and directly as you can whether you will consider a counter-offer. If you will not, then the department must immediately make plans for your replacement in your scheduled fall classes, committee assignments, etc.

The question of when to tell your graduate students is one of the most fraught. They will panic, and you can’t really prevent that. It is perhaps kindest to tell them rather later, after the offer is 100% sure, rather than cause them to fret and lose sleep for all the months that you are on the market. One thing to remember is that sometimes, if department #2 has the resources, you can negotiate graduate funding for one or more graduate students to “follow” you to the new job.

[As noted in a comment below, the other school of thought is to tell them early in the process, so that they don’t hear vague rumors that they aren’t allowed to substantiate, or have to walk around awkwardly pretending that they don’t know you’re on the market when they do.  In addition, more lead time gives them more time to make their own alternative plans.   This is probably the better advice].

I did that successfully for my first Ph.D. student, who started her graduate studies at Oregon, but completed her Ph.D. At Illinois.

This is more common for more advanced people, but even an assistant professor can pull it off occasionally.

When you have signed on the dotted line, and all is official, have the head of department #1 make an official announcement to the department, so that there is no confusion or backchannel gossip. Be gracious and kind to your colleagues, affect a rueful grimace, and learn to say, “I really wish I could stay, but in the end, the offer from XXX was too good for me and my family, and we had to take it. I’m sorry to leave, though—I’m really going to miss it here.”

[This is a topic that I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface of. Readers, please weigh in with your own advice and experiences.]

 


Comments

How To Apply for Your Second Job — 51 Comments

  1. As a graduate student whose advisor just moved to a new institution and only announced it on May 1st, I would suggest informing graduate students of the possibility of the move earlier rather than later. Through the grapevine of the new department, I was aware as early as the preceding Fall that my advisor was applying for a new position, which left me with a year of awkward interactions (including having to suggest to prospective students that they go elsewhere for bogus reasons). Graduate students sometimes have children, spouses with jobs, etc. It is courteous to let them know as early as possible if they will have to rearrange their lives. You should, of course, let them know that discretion is advisable.

  2. I find myself in one of those rare viper pit departments and am returning to the market this year (year 5, on track to receive tenure at current institution). Your post reaffirmed all the advice I had cobbled together. Thank You!

    • Hi,
      I found this post quite useful, but I wonder what your opinion is on downgrading or being “overqualified”. I am tenured, but have been through an unsuccessful round (from Associate Prof. to Assistant Prof. — mainly balance and social reasons), I found that in spite of a research profile that is more than commensurate with my career stage — a fact that was openly acknowledged during the interview.

  3. I made a successful move at 3 year from a t-t to a “better” ranked school. My real reason for going had to do with spousal opportunities but my interview reason was for a chance at graduate teaching. The committee accepted this as an obvious reason why I would prefer B to A. Applicants, have an answer prepared – they will probably ask! And it’s not a bad idea to answer pre-emptively since they’ll be thinking it even if they don’t ask. Bringing up the spousal issue in letters of rec, application materials, or interviews, however, is trickier. That is, if you are going to angle for an accommodation. If they can solve your family/spousal issue without having to do anything, they will feel smug indeed. It would be great to see you have a post on this (esp vis-a-vis the interview process), Karen. (Some schools take the legal injunction not to ask about partners so seriously that they will actually kind of freak out if you mention your spouse at the interview, for just one example.)

    • Erin, thanks for raising this important point! Don’t ever mention the spouse!!!! That is, until you’ve been offered the job! And yes, every department I’m familiar with was intensely conscious of the legal injunction about mentioning family/personal issues and nobody ever asked about spouses, leading sometimes to awkward silences when the subject might naturally arise in conversation.

      So, yes, you must have a Non-Spousal reason prepared to give for seeking the new job—a reason that flatters university #2 for its resources, location, faculty, quality of graduate students, etc.

      I’ve said before and I’ll say again: Once the offer is made, ALL their eggs are in one basket and that basket is you. Bringing up the spouse at that point obliges them to at least TRY to find some accomodation, because they can’t just dump you as an option at that point. if you make the spousal hire your #1 and ONLY MAJOR demand (foregoing money, leave, etc.), you can maximize your chances for success. Be aware though, that often-times they really don’t have a t-t line to offer your spouse. Just make sure you give it the best attempt you can.

      • Reading through all your old posts, I see the spousal issue coming up over and over again. Going back on the market as an Assistant Professor, I have found myself having to navigate this issue by the seat of my pants, and it seems I’m not alone.

        It would be great if you could dedicate a post to going back on the market for the single reason of the spousal hire. It seems like so many of us on here are in a 50% situation, where half of a couple is somehow accommodated. We (my spouse and I) have been dodging this issue as best we can, but it inevitably comes out.

      • I am a US/Irish citizen applying for a job in Canada in part because my partner lives there and we would like to live in the same place. She is not an academic and is not looking for a job. The school says they have a preference for Canadian citizens and residents. Would you still council never to mention her as part of the reason for moving – even if there’s a possibility that I could become a Canadian resident through marriage if offered the job. The application is due tomorrow so I’m crossing my fingers on a speedy response. I’ll dig through the other posts in the meantime. Thanks.

        • This answer probably comes too late, but maybe it may help others. All Canadian universities will mention that preference will be given to Canadian citizens and PRs, not because they are xenophobic, but because they would need, should they hire you, help you obtain a work visa, and to do that, they would need to demonstrate that they were not able to find an equivalent local candidate. The same is true in the US by the way, even though this fact is generally not mentioned in job ads. So, for the most part, you can ignore that advisory, as in fact if you are the best choice, they will hire you and get you a visa. The fact that you will get citizenship in the future has nothing to do with it, as the issue has to do with you legal status upon hire – what happens down the line is mostly irrelevant.

  4. I am really curious how the actual application should differ. The tenets of the letter remain the same… but if you are 3-5 years out of your dissertation, you are probably knee-deep in your second project. So what is the letter supposed to emphasize? Do you still even discuss your dissertations, or more generally your research agenda?

    • Good question, Debora. Definitely your post-diss research agenda, but it’s important to show how it originated with your dissertation, so that your growth as a scholar can be traced.

      A related point is that anyone more than a year out of their diss needs to have at least one rec. letter from someone prominent not at their Ph.D. granting institution. And as the years go by, you will have more of these. This reflects your increasing reputation in a national/international field and your collaborations with a range of prominent people.

  5. Here’s a tricky one: what about 1st jobs that were diversity hires gone horribly awry? What if you’re invited on campus to interview at a school that is actively–and successfully, if slowly–making *its* diversity hires work? –I ask because the diversity officer was present at the conference interview, and my upcoming on-campus interview isn’t a diversity hire, but a “straight-up” job (I really don’t know how to put that well).

  6. I accepted an offer at an institution that made big promises – financial promises of research support, offers to be sure lab space and machinery were supplied – and now that I have signed on the dotted line and begun teaching classes (we are about 1 month in) it is clear that those things aren’t going to happen. Ever. I feel deceived, too, as those in the interview committee talked about how they were a healthy department(behaved that way and said as much), but now that we are living here, its clear that its a viper pit. Most of the department members can’t stand to be in the same room with each other. I had other offers. I feel that I was lied to, because they needed to get a warm body in this spot. This is my first academic job, just finished my PhD, and moved my family (3 kids and spouse) across the country to be here. I desperately want out, but don’t know how it will look to apply for jobs now (weeks into this new one), but feel I need to before my career ends up being sucked down the toilet. I have an appointed “mentor” but she doesn’t want to give advice in this area, and keep referring me to my dept. head. (Who is part of the problem.) What do you do when you find you are at the end of the world in an academic position? How soon is too soon to apply for other jobs? What and how much detail do you tell to prospective hiring contacts?

    • I am in your exact position. I realized a month into my TT position that my department is a viper pit. After accepting the position and moving, the department chair made it clear that he opposes me having access to the research lab space that was written in my contract (he also made it clear that he opposed my hire). The chair is a nightmare of sexual harassment, discrimination, and manipulation. For this reason I applied for the first three jobs that opened in my sub-discipline. I have been offered on-site interviews at all three. The first interview went really well and nobody asked me why I applied after only two months in my TT position. I didn’t say anything about my current department to the committee (this would have been unprofessional). I mentioned what I am currently teaching, and how I would modify those classes to better suit the particular students at university #2. My advice to you Katie is apply as soon as you can. You are much more marketable now that your PhD is complete. You also know some pitfalls to avoid in departments and better questions/dynamics to try to understand during the campus visit.

  7. Hi, thank you so much for this website. I have a specific question – here is my situation: I go up for tenure in my current job next year, and I am on track to receive tenure. As far as my colleagues are concerned, everything is going well. However, I am unhappy, primarily because of the pressure to get grants and publish our perish. I find that I like teaching a lot and I’m good at it. A dream job just opened up at a community college and I have a good shot at it. My problem is that I do not feel comfortable communicating to my chair or others in my department that I am applying for this position, particularly because I have decided to stay with my current position if I cannot find something like this dream job. I believe that if I discuss my plans to apply for this one job with my chair etc, I may jeopardize my chance for getting tenure at my current institution. I have received excellent performance evaluation letters from my chair and from the provost every year. My question is: In my application to institution #2, is it possible to use my performance review letters in lieu of a recommendation letter from the chair of my department?

  8. Thanks for this post, incredibly helpful. Not sure if you’re still responding to comments on older posts like this, but I’d like to know more about best practices for letters of recommendation for someone looking for their second TT job? Would current department chair, diss advisor, and someone from outside the field be good?

    • I second that query! It’s a tricky thing figuring out exactly who to ask for recommendations–especially because it prematurely (possibly) reveals intentions. Would someone within department or administrative work? What about someone from a previous position? And should we still be calling on our dissertation advisors if we’re already in a TT position?

      • You can use the advisor for many years forward, as long as they are continually updating your record to grasp your professional achievements and don’t mention your grad school persona or record in any way.

        You need a person from the campus–a faculty member or dean–who can verify that you’ve been a good and successful colleague. yes it shows your hand, but you need it if it’s possible without putting yourself in a politically untenable situation in a backstabbing vindictive dept, as i explain here.

        You should have a set of tenured people out in the field, at diff. high status campuses, to ask as well.

  9. Thank you for your ever-helpful website. I have a double query on the issue of space management in a 2nd/3rd job application for a senior position: how to squeeze years of post-dissertation research and publications in a 2-page cover letter? Is it appropriate to skip the sections on “innovative teaching techniques” et similia (and maybe even the “sociable character” “team-work oriented” paragraph) to have more space to focus on what we are researching, writing, and teaching?

    Thank you!

  10. In response to Anonymous, above: I too had the experience of moving across country to start a TT job, only to be told after arrival by new colleague that she was against my hire, and in fact viewed me as too “young” and “inexperienced.” And, I had two other offers which I turned DOWN for this job. I did not grieve age harassment, for fear of losing tenure. I stuck it out for four YEARS at this toxic workplace, but happily, I start a new TT job in 2015. If I experience harassment there, I will launch a formal grievance from the start. Lesson learned.

  11. Hi Karen,
    I’m a second year TT assistant professor at a low-ranked research U. Due to massive budget cuts, I’ve been informed my contract won’t be renewed for a third year. I’ve done very well at my job – got along with everyone and am well-liked by both colleagues and students, my first book is coming out soon, I’m well-published, great teaching evals, etc. I guess it was just that I was the newest expendable person in terms of coverage. I have some interviews for new TT jobs. Do I tell them about the contract, or not? If I don’t get a new a job this year and spend next time adjuncting a bit but mostly publishing, do you think it’s possible that I get back into a TT job in the future?

  12. Hi Karen,

    With the objective of moving to a higher ranked/more prestigious university, would you say it is strategically better to wait until just prior to my tenure evaluation, or until after promotion/tenure before going back on the job market?

    Thank you.

  13. Your posts have been very helpful. Can a tenured prof leave academia for a very lucrative position in the private sector in his/her field and return to academia in a few years and seek a tenured position at another institution, or must they go back on the TT and start over? Realize that this private sector job is directly related to the research/teaching/service they were performing as a tenured prof (so it would enhance a future application). I recognize there is a lot of facts left out of this posting (e.g.,the private sector job’s compensation while very high, is not the only reason for leaving), and not all institutions are the same, but was curious about the narrow question of leaving a tenured position and returning to academia a few years later (but at a different institution).

    • You’d return only for tenured positions; I can’t opine how competitive you’d be for those since I don’t know your record, and I don’t know the conventions of your field, to know biases about industry work. So there are many caveats. What I can say though is that the jobs to which someone like you would apply and be considered, would be tenured jobs.

  14. Help. I gave notice last week that I am not coming back at the end of the semester for another position. I thought letting the dept chair & dean know sooner than later was the right thing to do. Now the dept chair is trash talking me to my students, taking my responsibilities away, and just generally making it a hostile environment among other things. How am I suppose to survive the next 90 day until graduation without the students paying the price?

  15. Hi, I’ve been very happy about my current job and have loved it here, however I have applied for another job that would allow me and my current long distance spouse to be closer together. The offer from this school has now come through and I’m really not sure what I want. I love my current job and my partner (non-academic) is trying to move closer however nothing is settled. Should I let my department head know that I have this better financial offer from elsewhere and see if there is a possibility to negotiate for more time closer to my partner?

  16. If you are going back out in year three-who should letters come from? Is it still permissible to have letters from your PhD institution? I’m doubtful that any one in my current department would write one…not because of performance, but I’ve been told multiple times they don’t want to see me go.

  17. This post is really helpful. I am currently working as a tenure-track engineering faculty in a small teaching school in Puerto Rico since last fall (moved here due to spouse’s job) and would like to obtain tenure-track position in a research university. I obtained my PhD and postdoc from a well reputed university in US.

    Due to the high teaching load here, my publication rate has been slower. Although, I have been able to submit a few proposals and close to getting one of the proposals funded, there aren’t many research oriented graduate students here. As a result, I have started applying to research schools but I am worried that my lack of publications or working in an unknown school outside of US will hurt my chances.

    Would it be better for me to continue here with the funding (publishing mostly on my own or with help of a few undergraduates) and keep trying or try and secure another postdoc position in a top university or research lab?

    Thank you in advance for your suggestions.

  18. This year I applied, on a very limited scale, to R1 tenure-track positions while just starting out with the same position at a more teaching-oriented school. I received and accepted an offer from one of these schools, so I am in the process of moving on from my current institution.

    One thing I would definitely emphasize is that you don’t have to stay if the basic structure of your job doesn’t feel right, and that it is ok to leave even if you have only been there for a very short amount of time. My current department isn’t a vindictive one, it’s just that I didn’t feel right in my current job type, and it took me a couple months (and a couple a people asking me to apply to other jobs) for me to see it.

  19. I am an assistant prof and was solicited by another institution to apply for a position. The other institution is a higher level, top notch tier 1 program in my field. I was selected for an on campus interview and notified my director of the interview. I was cordial in explaining my reasons why I applied. My director told me to keep him informed. Long story short, I went on the interview and after a two month, apparent internal debate according to the committee, they decided to go with another candidate; apparently there was a stalemate between myself and another. That’s how it goes but my question is how should I go about notifying my director that the search is over and I was not selected? I feel I need to notify him because I made him aware of the on campus interview to begin with but naturally it doesn’t necessarily look good that I wasn’t selected, although making it to the final candidate at a much higher order tier 1 university should show some worth. Any input appreciated. Thank you

  20. Pingback: The “Tenuous Track” (A Guest Post) | The Professor Is In

  21. Thanks so much for your posts, Dr. Karen. FYI: I just bought your book and am finding it extremely helpful. Here’s my question/comment: I’m a tenured associate professor at a two-year institution. Over the course of eight years, I have consistently received outstanding teaching evaluations from peers and students alike. Additionally, I have consistently published in my field. Two months ago, a prestigious UP published my first book, which is a new work of literary theory. I am eager to apply for jobs at four-year research institutions, but do not want to apply at the assistant professor level since I already have tenure and have been promoted. My current department chair and I have a cordial relationship, but he does not trumpet my achievements in the manner that my former chair did. Do you think I need to tell my current chair that I’ll be going on the market? Do I really need a letter of reference from him, if my cover letter clearly conveys that my new book warrants my earning a position at a four-year institution?

    • I think it’s fine that you proceed without a letter from your current chair, but a a letter from somebody at your current institution would be helpful to reassure people of your collegiality, etc.

  22. Hi Dr. Karen, I forgot to mention that my new book received a rave review from one of the top experts in my area of specialization. Thanks for your advice!

  23. I and my spouse are assistant professors in related but not the same engineering fields. We had been long struggling with a two-body problem, and had decided to apply this year together. Quite unexpectedly, and completely out of the hiring season we received a dual offer from a university without even asking. My department did not want to lose me, and made a counter offer to my spouse almost immediately, though before they had repeatedly refused to do the same considering my spouse’s research area not a fit for the department. None of these moves were optimal for my spouse, yet we decided to end our two-body struggle and my spouse moved to my department. But almost immediately after accepting the offer, we are facing several issues–it is pretty clear that this move had been very suboptimal for my spouse’s career. We have got very stressed with this situation and want to apply together as we had planned before. We are at the peak of our careers–but we are unsure how to explain this complicated situation to any university we apply to. Any advice?

  24. This may be a totally daft question. I am a tenured professor in the market. I have had a couple of campus invitations and my question is about what to wear. Is formal suit still a requirement? Or can I get away with a semi-formal (but nice looking)outfit? The point being, I cannot fit into any of old ‘real’ suits anymore!

    • Have you read the chapter in my book, What Not to Wear? Or, please check out a recent Chronicle Vitae post on the same subject. The suit question is variable—it’s still the norm for many, and in particular formal fields and geographical lcoations. But not all. Many cis-gender women will also wear a dress with a jacket and scarf, with tights and boots for examples, and that is very appropriate. I guess I’d say, not fitting in your old suits is not in and of itself a reason not to wear a suit. If the suit is appropriate for the field and campus, go buy a new one! But in any case, I write a great deal about this in the chapter and the Vitae post i mention above.

  25. I’m guessing that for a visiting assistant, going on campus interviews is to be expected (and maybe less controversial). I’m trying to do my best to be a good teacher while making it to these interviews (which means cancelling class, putting together videos, or getting a substitute).

  26. Maybe the answer is obvious, but it’s not so for me. That is, when has a tenured professor crossed the invisible line after which going on the market is futile? What if said person has refereed publications, including a book, an excellent teaching record, etc., but finds an assistant professorship position advertised at another institution more appealing than her associate or full professorship position at her current institution? It’s not so much a matter of escaping a viper pit, but having something to offer for what sounds like an ideal fit at an institution further up the academic food chain. Do senior faculty have a chance for jobs not advertised as full professorships or “senior faculty” positions?

    • People apply for these frequently. I don’t think it’s completely futile, but the chances are slim, mostly because of budgets—asst profs are cheaper and the budgeted line probably can’t accommodate a more senior person. And they won’t de-tenure you if you’re more than about a year beyond tenure at your current place, even if you’re willing for that to happen!

  27. Hi Karen,
    Thank you for the wonderful post! I have a question about the job talk when looking for the second t-t job. Newly-minted PhD’s typically present (part of) the dissertation at the job talk, but what about for assistant professors who are looking for the second job? Do they still present a specific study (i.e., pick one from the most recent publications) or do they give an integrative presentation on what they have been studying over the past few years? Thank you in advance for your thoughts!

  28. Dear Dr. Karen,

    I am in a bit of a strange situation and wonder if you have any advice.

    I am a tenured social sciences professor at a first rank Brazilian federal university with ten years of teaching experience, seven as an assistant. I have a book out in Portuguese and about fifty peer reviewed articles, half in the U.S. and European presses and half in the Brazilian Portuguese presses.

    Brazil is on the brink of a major melt down and all university salaries have been frozen by constitutional ammendment for 20 years. It is thus time for me to start looking for other options.

    Given this, I have three questions:

    1) I speak and write English and have permission to work in the U.S. I also have a long history of international projects and publication. I still don’t have first rank English-language journal publications, but I do have some very respectable stuff. Will U.S. or Canadian universities even consider me, or am I wasting my time?

    2) Should I lay out my reasons for leaving my current position (my country fall down, go boom) in the cover letter or is this too much pathos?

    3) I am in the twilight zone between being an associate and an assistant. In the normal course of affairs, I would be appointed to associate this coming September. What size cover letter should I write and how much detail should I go into regarding my extensive publication list? Right now, I am following your advice for newly minted PhDs, but that’s not my case.

    Any advice you might have would be very welcome!

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