Pearls of Wisdom–The Blog

~~ “Her occasional pomposity does not render all her points poor”  ~~     FeministPhilosophers

I post once a week, usually on Friday, on topics related to the academic job market, academic life and politics, general professionalization skills related to writing, publishing, conferencing, networking, and scholarly comportment, and the tenure process.

I also put up two posts on the Post-Ac/Non-Ac job search by my Panel of Post-Ac Experts, on Monday and Tuesday.

Let me know if there’s a topic you want to see me post on!  I am always happy to put Special Requests into the queue. Comment here, or email me at: gettenure@gmail.com.

You can  always get to a particular Category by clicking it in the Categories column to the right.———>

Please note that as of January 2013  the rate of comments to this blog has exceeded my ability to respond individually to each one. I’m sorry that not all comments will get a personal response by Dr. Karen.  If you have a really pressing question, do consider getting in touch to get on my calendar to work together.  I strive to make services affordable to all.

Here’s a short glossary to help you follow the discussions in the blog:

 

TT– tenure track

 

VAP–visiting assistant professor (position)

 

ABD–all but dissertation (status)

 

SLAC–small liberal arts college

 

R1–top ranked research-intensive institution with Ph.D.-granting departments, such as University of California at Berkeley, University of Michigan, etc.

 

R2–research institution with primarily MA-granting departments




The Top Three Things To Know About Corporate Jobs – Polizzi #4

by Allessandria Polizzi

Dr. Allessandria Polizzi

When I was pregnant with my first child, I bought this book with a very worried looking woman in a horrible maternity outfit called “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.” They have since updated it with a spunky looking pregnant lady, no longer in a rocking chair, but the gist is the same. We all worry and have lot of questions when facing something new for the first time, especially something daunting and life changing like childbirth.

The same might be said of career change.

Like having a child, your sleep patterns will probably change (I say this from experience having previously enjoyed a midday nap to get me through some late night writing or grading or reading in prep for class). You will probably lose friends because you no longer have as much in common with them, wanting to talk about your new life as much as they want to talk about your old one. There may even come a surreal and existential moment when your look at the change you have made and question yourself, longingly thinking about your former life when you had more control over your schedule and it didn’t take you so long to leave the house.

I say these things not to scare you, but to try and set expectations if you choose to switch from academia to a corporate career. So with that, I would like to share some of my observations about what to expect in a corporate career. I am pulling these from two places: 1) my own transition and 2) having had a few former academics work for me in the past. I am sure this won’t cover everything, which is why I am open to questions. But until then, here are the top 3 things to expect.

1. You will no longer own your time completely –When I was in academia, I was very driven to publish and present in service to beefing up my CV with an eye on a tenure-track position. These deadlines and goals were self driven. I owned my syllabus. I told students when things were due and when I would have them graded. I set my own office hours, and if I had a yoga class at 10, did not have office hours at that time. As mentioned before, if I got tired at 3 (which I still do over a decade later), I could take a nap.

I am sure you can imagine that, some silicon valley start ups aside, napping in the office is, as a general rule, frowned upon (I say “general rule” because I once worked with a guy who would literally pull out a pillow and nap every once and a while. He was a contractor; he didn’t last long). In a corporate position, there are deadlines set by external forces. You are expected to be in the office during normal work hours (and even if they say they have flexibility, I would strongly recommend you be in the office when your boss is in the office… It causes fewer questions. Side note: this was why I enjoyed working for a CA based company. When my boss came in early, it was still 2 hours later for me in Texas, so I could sleep in). While people will say they don’t care abut how you get things accomplished as long as you get the outcome (or they should say this), they only kind of mean it. They really want to know that you are working hard, so being present and visible, available when they have a question is hugely important. They aren’t just paying for your production; they are paying for your time.

2. Politics is nothing compared to stakeholder management: –People talk a lot about politics in the work environment. After having worked in both, here is what I have to say about that: the world is full of people and people make decisions, some of which impact you. It’s how you navigate within this that makes a difference. Managing your manager, be it the head of your department or the person who writes you annual review at ABC Widgets Inc, is something we all have to do if we are going to have someone else worry about the details of where the money comes to pay us or give us benefits. You could say being an independent contractor or entrepreneur would make this less of an issue, but I will let the experts in this space speak to that.

What I can say, however, is that there is another layer in the corporate space that I did not expect. These are called stakeholders. Stakeholders are the folks who believe, either correctly or incorrectly, that they have a “stake” in whatever it is you are doing. Sometimes, it will be obvious who these folks are; other times, you will be shocked to find out that someone unrelated to the project felt left out (& did not support your decision).

Personally, I still struggle with this because there are a lot of inefficiencies, and the more political the culture, the more you will have to deal with it. One thing that has never failed me was advice I had early on in my change management career: identify the opinion leaders you are working with and bring them in the kitchen. Over-communicating to people who, when asked, say that they absolutely agree with the direction you are taking is invaluable, so getting them involved early is extremely helpful.

This seems important to mention to you because it is very different from the academic life (or at least the student one). I found this out when I had my first intern (& have seen it in myself, as well as others). As a student, you are used to being given an assignment, going off by yourself and completing it and then handing it in for a grade. In talking to someone about taking on an intern, she said this was a big issue she had seen with them, as they would take the project assignment, create what they thought was wanted, and then be devastated when there were changes needed (or worse, they got it wrong). This is true of myself and many others I have seen from academia. They don’t realize there is a process called stakeholder management, which has many steps between assignment and completion. There is alignment on outcomes, agreement in goals, draft/initial proposal reviews, and meetings before meetings.

And feedback is not a grade; it’s an opinion. It’s an opportunity for you to get better and improve the outcome. It’s needed, for both yourself and the person giving it. That’s right… The feedback you will receive will be as much about the person giving it feeling important and involved as it is about you and your project. I wish I would have known this when I first started; it would have prevented a lot of heartache.

3. You will get to / have to work with people - people, people everywhere, and rarely a place to think. Between cubicles, and meetings, and group emails, and team off sites, and mid year reviews and annual reviews, you are going to have a lot of people to contend with. When I was teaching, I had three groups of people  around me: students (who I saw only a few hours a week), friends/family (who I also saw a few hours a week), & strangers (at the library, the grocery store, etc). I spent a lot of time by myself reading, writing, and grading. The papers I wrote, for the most part, were written from the comfort of my home, with only the company of a snoring pug and a warm cup of coffee.

In a corporate environment, you will be evaluated on your “how” as well as your “what.” Depending on the company you work for, your “how” (or the way you work with others) can be measured as much if not more than the things you accomplish. Some people would say this is politics, but I see it very differently. It is about how you work with others to accomplish your task, which in many cases will be a team effort and not an independent one. If you hurt someone’s feelings because you said something out of turn (or in my case, too bluntly), you may find yourself attending a training on interpersonal interactions.

Once you get the hang of it, though, it can be a lot of fun. You get to know people in new ways. You also learn a lot about yourself: what you like, what you don’t, what’s energizing, who you can be in a variety of situations. Which is why it is a lot like parenting. You never realize until a few years in that, despite the terrifying experiences of having no idea what you are doing, you are finally able to make it. You will know what you are doing. You will feel confident and capable.

And then you’ll get promoted…

 

Teaching Teenagers Without Tweed Armor – Tebbe #2

A lot of Ph.D.s contemplating the postac route look closely at the world of high school teaching.  Jason Tebbe is here to tell us what that job looks and feels like.  First surprise: students are more engaged.

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by Jason Tebbe

Jason Tebbe

Jason Tebbe

 

A friend of mine from grad school likes to call the jackets he wears to class his “tweed armor.”  When I was a college professor, that metaphor totally made sense to me.  Getting up in front of large classes, sometimes in lecture halls, meant having to play the part of The Professor.  Part of this meant creating a layer between myself and my students.  My tweed jackets were part of this mystique.

As a grad student I had acquired a few that actually fit me at the local Salvation Army.  Some of my peers mocked or chided me for getting dressed up for the classroom, but I thought looking the part would help win me respect from students, and give me the confidence I needed.

Now that I am a high school teacher, I still wear my tweed, but usually only to keep warm or look professional, not to create some kind of aura or to armor myself in the classroom.  Being a high school teacher is very different in many respects from being a college professor, and one of the biggest differences is my relationship with my students.  As in most other independent schools, there are a handful of students I advise, and this advising goes far beyond planning schedules.  I see the students I teach every day, and our relationship is much more personal and less distant than it is between professors and undergrads.  Many academics I know hold undergrads in distant contempt, an attitude that will not be tolerated at private high schools.  With that in mind, here are some other ways that teaching at a private high school is different than being a professor.  Be warned, if these things don’t appeal to you, making the leap into a teaching job may not be the best decision for you.

 

Teaching high school is hard work in the traditional sense

Having been a professor and a teacher, I can tell you that teaching is harder work.  I do not mean more intellectually difficult or even more time consuming.  I probably work fewer hours than I did as a professor, and I am no longer spending as much time poring over documents written in 19th-century German or plowing through dense academic monographs.  (That’s actually become my hobby.)  The hours I am working, however, are much, much more intense and can be physically and emotionally draining.  I taught a 4/4 load with 160 students per semester and no TA when I was on the tenure track, but that’s nothing compared to spending all day, every day in the classroom.  I also teach at a progressive school, which means I lecture very little and spend a lot of time leading discussions, guiding projects, and constructing elaborate classroom activities.  Standing for fifty minutes in a hall and performing a lecture -no matter how interactive- is a lot easier than that.  There is also the matter of having to focus the attention of teenagers and manage the classroom environment, and to grade more regular homework.  On the days when the students are distracted or tired trying to keep them on track and focused feels like trying to walk for an hour into a hurricane-force wind.  Much of my lunch break is spent counseling and helping students, and my free periods can be eaten up by spot-subbing for other teachers or chaperoning field trips.  On my train ride home every day I usually pass out from exhaustion.

 

Parents are present

Although it is getting more common for parents to intervene in the education of their college student children, it is easy for profs to brush them off by yelling “FERPA! FERPA! FERPA!” at them.  For high school students, it’s different.  Teachers have to talk with parents quite often about the progress of their children.  As you can imagine, this can often be tricky or frustrating.  However, it can just as often be enlightening and enjoyable.  I have liked getting to know many of the parents, who are often wonderful, engaging people.  Having parents present can also be invaluable in giving you the tools to reach and help struggling students, something that professors aren’t able to do.

 

Your level of responsibility is higher

When you teach high schoolers your students are minors, which already implies a different level of responsibility toward them.  You might have to adjudicate verbal disputes, break up fights, assist a student having a seizure, or alert guidance counselors and parents to troubling behavior.  If a student is doing poorly in your class, you are expected to get in touch with parents and advisors, not just let them twist in the wind.  Private school teachers are also usually expected to be responsible for chaperoning overnight field trips, advising clubs, or coaching sports.  But I think the responsibility goes much deeper than maintaining a curfew on a road trip or knowing which students have epi-pens for their food allergies.  As a teacher you will see the same students every day for the entire school year, not two or three days a week for fourteen weeks.  You are responsible for them for a significant chunk of their waking lives, and while that fact daunted me in my first year, I soon learned that it created a much deeper and fulfilling relationship with my students.  The responsibility can be challenging, but I wouldn’t trade the payoff for the world.

 

Students are more engaged

After hearing all of this, you might wonder why I prefer my current line of work to academia.  Despite all of the issues I have listed above, my work is so much more fulfilling, and that has everything to do with the attitude of the students.  It’s not just the deeper connections, it’s also their general attitude.  I find my students to be much more engaged in their studies and far less jaded than college undergrads, who are often (quite rightly) more interested in exploring their newfound independence and defining themselves than in giving themselves over to their studies. Many undergraduates maintain that commitment, but the percentage of students who still viscerally care is much higher.  Also, because the students have a deeper relationship with their teachers, they feel less alienated from their work and more motivated to do well.  To put it more simply, when I am away on break I miss my students, and graduation is a bittersweet parting.
So these days I still teach in my tweed, but I’ve discarded my armor and let my guard down.  The reward has been immeasurable, as difficult as my job can be.

Job Market PTSD

RE-posted from 2011.  When this went up the first time, it got very little response.  That surprised me.  I think this is a real thing.  Readers?

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Today’s post is another Special Request post, this time coming from Kate, who wrote an eloquent email asking for advice on how to cope with what I will call “Job Market PTSD.”

By Job Market PTSD (hereafter JMPTSD), what I mean is the state of being so traumatized by the academic job search that even when it is successful, and you get the coveted tenure track position, you cannot stop feeling anxious, inadequate, panicked and insecure.   This isn’t any kind of “official” diagnosis–it’s just something I’ve observed.

JMPTSD includes the survivor’s guilt that you feel toward the comrades-in-arms you left behind as you boarded what seems like the last helicopter out of The Search. It includes classic trauma symptoms in that the sustained terror of potential joblessness/insolvency, combined with the psychological warfare of hope offered and then snatched away (particularly in the new phenomenon of searches and offers canceled at the last minute), steals away your sense of security in the world. It includes a large component of Imposter Syndrome, in that you wonder “Why me? Why did I get this position?” And it includes an element of Stockholm Syndrome, in that your gratitude for the offer is so abject that your normal emotional boundaries evaporate in a frantic attempt to please your new employer.

I believe that JMPTSD is more widespread than commonly acknowledged. And in current market conditions, it is likely to get worse.

There is certainly a variety of JMPTSD that afflicts those who are ultimately unsuccessful on the job market. And that variety may be the more serious.

But for today I want to address the JMPTSD that afflicts those who DID get the tenure track job, but find themselves struggling to leave behind the trauma of the search.

Because what I’m hearing is, search trauma is having an impact on these assistant professors’ performance on the job. Instead of being a triumphant transition into professional security and financial solvency, the move to assistant professorhood provokes renewed fear and anxiety and self-doubt.

While all of us who have been through the assistant professor stage remember the struggle to cope and keep our heads above water, this seems to be qualitatively different.

This is a kind of sustained state of fear that saps your confidence and sense of well-being. Its primary symptom is a profound feeling of unworthiness that arises when the conditions for hiring are so chaotic and opaque and seemingly random, that it is impossible for you, the successful candidate, to feel that you actually deserved the job more than anyone else.

Given that the fundamental logic of assistant professorhood is based entirely on external approval to begin with, this effort can have toxic results. The main one seems to be an extreme susceptibility to exploitation.

Basically, not to put too fine a point on it, assistant professors are so abjectly grateful for the job that they find it impossible to say no.

Teach more? Sure! Take furlough days? Absolutely! Increase your class size? No problem! Give up your TAs? That’s ok—I can TA my own classes!

As one new assistant professor told me, “It made me less willing to negotiate, to speak up for myself, or to assert my wishes as to what I would teach.”

The marketplace has done to assistant professors what the eradication of tenure promises to do to their seniors: remove the possibility of resistance to disintegrating conditions of work.

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What to do?

Well, at the risk of being cliché, I say: first, get therapy. This is legitimate trauma and should be treated as such.

Find other new assistant professors and start a regular lunch group. Don’t make this a writing group. Make it a support group. Share your experiences. Hold each other accountable for doing what it takes to stay mentally healthy.

Get outside and get in your body. Exercise regularly, eat well, and get enough sleep. Find a good doctor in your new town and schedule an appointment for the Fall term.

Find a trusted senior mentor if you can. Don’t expect this person to really “get it,” though. If they’re already tenured, then they won’t really get it. But they can help you navigate your department and set healthy boundaries and avoid over-exploitation from service expectations.

Forgive yourself for needing downtime that seems to be “unproductive.” It is ok to watch TV and play with your kids and hang out with your partner and sit on the sofa and stare at nothing.

Keep creative, right-brain activities in your life.  Draw, journal, write poetry, throw pots, build a fence, plant a garden, restore an old car, make jewelry, sing, knit…. whatever speaks to you.

Remember that you deserve to be there and you are a full-fledged member of the department. You have the same rights as every other faculty member.  You are not a graduate student and not a second class citizen. You do not need to apologize for existing. You are entitled to ask for what you want. If trauma prevented you from negotiating everything you wish you had at the time of the offer, let your department head and your trusted senior mentor know what you need now.

You were hired to be a scholar. Insist on the time you need to produce scholarship, both at the department and in your home life.

You deserve the job you have. You deserve to enjoy it. And you deserve to succeed at it. And you deserve the support to make that happen. Don’t let anyone (including your own insecurities) tell you otherwise.

~~Readers:  Please let me know your experiences of Job Market PTSD.  I’d really like to hear them~~

 

 

Should I Blog About My #Postac Decision? – Fruscione 2

Last week on Facebook, a commenter wrote, “I quit my PhD in December and I still carry the ‘shame’ with me, as if I did something horribly wrong. ‘But you’ve already put so much work into it I was told. Four and a half years to be exact – I know! I was able to ‘convert’ the PhD course work into a Masters and now find myself telling people ‘…but I only have a Masters now,’ like it’s a bad thing.”

I think it’s safe to say that virtually every Ph.D. (at least in most areas of the humanities and social sciences, where work outside the academy is not an obvious choice or option) experiences feelings of shame and despair about the postac transition. The issue is, what are you going to do about those feelings?  They can be utterly debilitating (as they were for me for over a year), and you need resources and strategies to confront and overcome them.  Joe Fruscione suggests sharing your experience publicly, through blogging and other means, despite possible risks.  He explains why in this post.  There is a large postac community now–don’t be afraid to seek its help and support.

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By Joe Fruscione

Joe Fruscione

Joe Fruscione

Should you blog about your career change? Do we need more entries in the growing Quit Lit GoogleDoc? (I say yes, but make your own choice.) What I’ve done—PBS NewsHour appearances in March 2013 and February 2014 and a video for Adjunct Voices—clearly isn’t for everyone. I’m in a relatively safe position: I’m part of a contingent faculty union, and I never say anything too incendiary or combative that would get me fired or make me unhireable. (What else would you expect from Adjunct Yoda?) Maybe I’m just naturally extroverted and good at being the face of something, or I’m trying to get others to join me in front of the camera.

Regardless of whether you go public with your choice, deciding to leave academia may embolden you to talk about what you’re doing, collaborate with new alt-ac and post-ac colleagues, and begin translating your experiences into marketable skills. Speaking out has been incredibly cathartic. If it would be for you too, write something. Outlets like Chronicle Vitae, Hybrid Pedagogy, Adjunct Action, and others are interested in hearing about post-ac or “Quit Lit” narratives, and writing about your soon-to-be old career may lead you to a new one.

Let’s remember, as Allessandria Polizzi reminds us, that blogging about academia and/or your decision to leave it has inherent risks: we’re all Google-able, so who’s to say a potential employer won’t find some of your work? If you’re criticizing your former university, an employer may think, you may later criticize them publicly. Given this (very real) risk, remember to write with purpose and balance if you’re publicly criticizing your university and/or higher ed while using your own name. Save the ranting and raving—no matter how justified—for private groups and/or anonymous blogging.

Also remember this: networking isn’t necessarily a dirty word. Though it may conjure up images of schmoozing and shady backroom deals, expanding your connections is key to expanding your post-ac career. Build a network of professional contacts inside and outside academia. If this prospect seems overwhelming, set manageable goals: start by making 1-2 new professional contacts per week via LinkedIn or Twitter. Then, check the followers and/or contacts of someone you admire who’s doing similar work. Their connections can then become your connections.

Amid my various forms of outreach and activism, I’ve been reflecting on how to market my academic skills in the private sector. The trick for all post-ac job seekers is virtually the same: stressing how our rich academic backgrounds and sets of skills are transferable in the private sector. Regardless of our areas of expertise, we’ll draw on the various thinking, writing, and editing skills our years of teaching and researching have given us. I’ve already had to do this during a pre-screening and formal interview for an editing job. Although I didn’t get the job, I began crafting my story about how 15+ years inside academia will help me outside it.

Consider a few things:

If you’ve published a book and/or edited a collection, how can you make an employer see these writing, editing, and organizational skills as necessary for them? What aspects of the writing and publishing processes would help you do the kinds of work the employer does?

How will all those pages of student writing you’ve commented on help market you as a skilled consultant, writer, and editor?

How can you get your feet wet, so to speak, in your new post-ac career? What opportunities are there to do the kinds of work—speaking, writing, blogging, reviewing, lobbying, whatever—your new career will entail? Is freelance work an option? What kinds of skills can you develop in a relatively short time frame (such as while you’re still teaching)?

What current connections inside academia can help you outside it? Who can vouch for you as a thinker, writer, and colleague? Who “might know someone” and be willing to help ease your career transition? Who could steer some work your way to help you get started?

I was fortunate, for instance, to work with a former graduate school professor on his book manuscript. His press had given him the “revise and submit” response, and he needed new eyes on it. I first read and commented on the manuscript (about 400 pages), made suggestions for cutting and restructuring, and then looked at a revised final chapter and conclusion a few months later. He was thrilled with the work I did; he wrote a short testimonial about my editing that I put on my LinkedIn profile. He was (and still is) supportive and willing to help me build my editing portfolio and client list.

If I can reiterate something from my first post: talk about your post-ac decision and progress. You might find someone willing and able to help you transition. You never know whose spouse, partner, or friend is looking to hire someone with your interests and qualifications, even if only on a part-time basis. I’ve gotten two freelance copy editing projects and a job interview simply by publicizing my process of changing careers.

As I continue narrating my reinvention, I’ll surely be sharing mistakes, questions, might-have-been moments, feelings of ambivalence and being stuck, and so on. My experiences won’t necessarily be universal or relatable, and there’s definitely no one-size-fits-all approach to post-ac. What I most hope is that my successes, failures, experiences, and strategies become learning moments other post-ac job seekers can adapt to their own needs.

Remember: you’re not in this alone. There’s a very strong and enriching we in the growing post-ac community. Lean on and learn from it.

From Academia to Small Business Ownership (Part 1): Making Peace with Capitalism – Horton 1

Margy Horton, introduced last week, runs a successful scholarly writing consulting, coaching, and editing business named ScholarShape.  She’s here to illuminate the transition to small business entrepreneurship, the post-ac route closest to my own heart.  Today, she demystifies the “world outside”:  it’s not as bleak as you think!

by Margy Horton

Margy Horton

Margy Horton

You believe that academic work is your calling and that academic people are your tribe. The thought of leaving behind the socialist utopia that is the University and selling your soul for a bit of filthy lucre makes you want to cry red tears. But unless you’re a woodland creature or the resident of an actual socialist utopia, money is what you use to put a roof over your head and food in your mouth. And getting money by selling your labor on the free market, rather than essentially giving yourself away as an adjunct, is a sound and responsible thing to do—not a sign of moral and professional failure.

First of all, we’re not talking about embezzling elderly people’s retirement savings or forcing undocumented persons into servitude at a sweatshop. We’re talking about providing useful products to people at prices that that they, the people, freely decide are worth paying. Honest, hardworking entrepreneurs provide goods and services that save people time and money and improve their quality of life.

Second of all, being an entrepreneur does not have to mean giving up the work you love. Take me, for instance.  Here’s what made me happy while I worked in academia: Talking with students during office hours and helping them to sort out the ideas they wanted to express in their papers; drinking cups of tea by the dozens while analyzing students’ essays and writing suggestions for improvement; and working long after dark with my dachshund, Herman, snoring softly in my lap. Here’s what makes me happy as the owner of my own writing consultation/editing business: Talking with clients and helping them figure out how to express in writing what their research means; drinking cups of coffee by the dozens while analyzing clients’ work and writing revision suggestions; and working long after dark with my dachshund, Herman, snoring softly in my lap (and my other dachshund, my husband, and my son snoring softly elsewhere).

Perhaps you’re wondering how I got from there to here. How exactly did I leave behind traditional academic work—a move that, to many in academia, is tantamount to abandoning the balmy comfort of the earth’s atmosphere for the terrifying vacuum of outer space? And how, in leaving, did I manage to bring with me all the aspects of academic work that I most loved? If I must answer in one sentence, I’d say that I got here through some combination of forced introspection, NPR podcasts, and self-help books.

My son was born five weeks after my dissertation defense, in the middle of the academic job season. I spent my first few months of motherhood doing little more than nursing my growing baby and thinking about the tenure-track job I was supposed to be pursuing. Every day that went by, academia felt more and more remote from me, and yet I really did miss working with my brain.  Somehow in the midst of those achingly sleep-deprived months, as I listened to hours and hours of NPR podcasts to keep my brain sharp, and as I read self-help books propped up on my son’s breastfeeding pillow, my writing consultation business gradually took shape in my mind. I literally came up with the name of my business, ScholarShape, while changing my son’s diaper. I’m grateful for those months not only because I got to be with my son as he adjusted to life outside the womb, but also because my circumstances forced me, at that crucial moment in my life, to assess what really mattered to me, what I considered worth working for, and which direction I wanted to point my life.

Only gradually did I realize that the world beyond academia is not a dark vacuum at all. It is, in fact, a lot like academia itself: it’s a diverse marketplace of ideas, a bustling world full of people and their problems and solutions. All of the multiplicity, the flexibility, and the uncertainty that I enjoyed in academia are present in equal or greater measure in the outside world. I set out into that world to discover whether entrepreneurship was a viable option for a post-academic like me. What I found was that entrepreneurship is actually the perfect option for a person who wants to fashion a personalized career out of favorite scraps from academia.

In the series of posts to follow, I’ll give you specific suggestions for how to begin the transition out of academia and into small business ownership. You will begin by identifying your own marketable skills, matching these skills to an unmet need in the marketplace, and developing a strategy for building a profitable business that suits you perfectly while also filling a real need for other people. In describing my own experiences, I’ll point out some elements of my story that are generalizable to readers contemplating a similar move from academia to the free market. Finally, I’ll discuss in more detail the varied work of editors and consultants, who sell their intellectual expertise, because this work is a natural fit for many Ph.D.s.

 If you’re not yet done with the Ph.D. and you do plan to finish, your first step will be to figure out how to complete your degree in a timely way. Check out my blog post that lists 101 Tips for Finishing your Ph.D. Quickly. If you’re done with your doctorate or don’t plan to finish, now is the time for some serious reflection on what you have to offer the world. Get to it, you budding capitalist, and we’ll talk again soon.

 

 

Dr. Karen F**ks Up

A constant tension in my work at The Professor Is In is the awkward balance between the free content that I provide on the blog, and the fee-based services I charge money for.  From the start there has been a chorus of detractors who decry the fact that I run a business and make a living from helping job-seekers, the idea being, I think, that I am exploiting their desperation, or taking advantage of an already disadvantaged population.

I know this, and I basically get the position, but I don’t agree with it.  It is OK to pay a consultant to help you master a skill or overcome a challenge, or pay an editor to improve your writing.  In addition to the volumes of free information I gladly provide–which countless readers write to tell me they have used to overhaul their materials, rock the interview, and negotiate offers without paying me a cent — I also offer the Job Seeker Support Fund to allow those who are desperate circumstances to still work with me at extremely reduced rates.  All of my rates are carefully considered to reflect the value of my services in light of the limited financial circumstances of my clientele.  I work hard never to turn anyone away for inability to pay.

Nevertheless, the tension remains, and I try always to be sensitive to it.

Well, yesterday I kind of f**cked up.  It happened in a comment I made to Todd K. Platts’ essay on his failure to find a tenure track job.

A little background.  I’ve never talked about this publicly, but whenever I come across a story in a major venue like the Chronicle or IHE by a job seeker about their struggles on the job market, I contact the writer privately to offer a bit of free help. I do this because I appreciate the courage it takes to come forward with one’s job market disappointments, and I want to extend a hand to help. I call it my “taking one for the team” assistance.  I offer to edit one or two job documents for free with no strings attached.

I’ve always done that privately, but in Todd K. Platt’s case, I decided to do it publicly.  This happened because when I googled his name to find his email address to get in touch, and clicked through to his academia.edu site, I landed on his Teaching Statement for job market applications.  “Oh, look at that,” I thought, and proceeded to read it.  It had some serious problems.  That inspired me to look at his CV, which had much larger problems.  So, instead of quietly proceeding with my email, I decided it would be a good idea to provide this feedback on the comment thread, and offer my help there, publicly, so that readers in general might benefit. In hindsight, especially to this heartfelt and very personal essay:  really, Karen?

I included my name and business name so that he would know who I was and why he might want to follow up with me. I thought my wording made it clear that I was offering the help for free.

Well, not so much.  It looks like I am, in fact, leaping on the desperation of a job seeker to extract profit.  In fact, a couple people castigated me for using someone’s pain and suffering to “shill my wares.”

Looking at the wording, I see why, and wish I’d taken more care.

I know why I didn’t.  It was exasperation. I find it tremendously frustrating that so many unsuccessful job seekers look at their record, and look at their unsuccessful outcome, and complain about the unfairness of it all—-without taking a moment to look at their body of writing that mediates the two:  the application documents themselves.

In my webinar on Grant-Writing yesterday, I told participants “you have your research profile, and you have the grant outcome you’re seeking, but what too many people overlook is the intermediate step, which is the painstaking work you must do to use your writing to articulate the research profile into language that motivates the funder to award you the money.  Too many people think that this writing can be tossed off in a day or two, because the research ‘speaks for itself.’  It doesn’t.”

A grant application or a set of job documents requires hours and hours of painstaking, exhausting, excruciating work.  In the current economy there is no space for slipshod, sloppy, poorly-conceived or executed writing in these documents.  Somehow, though, applicants forget that (and in addition are rarely told or assisted in it by advisors) and believe that all the years of work in their Ph.D. programs will simply automatically translate into the outcomes they desire, with no sustained critical effort on their part to do the translation of it in language the funder/search committee will respect and respond to.

That interim place of translation is what The Professor Is In occupies. It’s the space I love, and the space I’m obsessed with.  I have been since I was still a Ph.D. student leading my very first “job market workshop” for my crew of peers in my graduate program at the University of Hawai’i, after I scored my tenure track job offer.  I’ve been obsessed with this work for 18 years!

Some dismiss this attention to the writing as an anal, OCD preoccupation with meaningless detail.  It isn’t.  The space of translation between the record and the outcome is a space of tremendous creativity and meaning — it is a kind of self-making — and it deserves a deep care and attention.  And so I find myself frustrated when writer after writer complains of unfair outcomes without giving any attention to the quality of their translation work in their application materials.

Of course it goes without saying that the job market in the broadest sense is terribly, patently unfair, in that a whole generation of Ph.D.s has been trained for jobs that no longer exist, and misled about that fact.  But that doesn’t mean that every single outcome is uniformly unfair, or mysterious, or inexplicable, or that every single application outcome is nothing more than a “crap shoot,” in the common idiom of post-academic critique. In fact, there is a correlation between the quality of job documents and the outcome. It is not a perfect correlation, and it is not a correlation that overcomes the basic fact of evaporating tenure track jobs and the wholesale adjunctification of the academy. But it is a correlation nonetheless.

And so, exasperated, I tossed off a comment without my usual care.  And it was a mistake. I do look kind of like a dick (as one commenter put it), and I really regret it.  I followed up with an explanation, but I suppose the damage is done.  I hope this post explains a little bit of how I ended up there, looking exactly like what I work so hard not to.

 

Introducing More #Postac Experts: Margy Horton and Maggie Gover

As I gathered my team of post-ac experts, I wanted someone to represent the experience of entrepreneurship, specifically of a small academic editing business, as that is a very appealing option for many Ph.D.s.  I am so glad to have found Margy Horton, who runs ScholarShape.  Entrepreneurship is the post-ac topic closest to my own heart, and the one that I most want Ph.D.s to grapple with, because it means confronting the deep fear of/contempt for/denial about money that characterizes so many corners of the academy, and make peace with the fact that man is an economic animal, and money is not the enemy.  Margy’s perspective is very close to my own on this issue, and I am excited to have her blogging and sharing her experience of creating her business.

As the post-ac option has gone from being an outre and maligned “Plan B” to an increasingly viable and accepted career path for Ph.D.s., more and more graduate colleges are creating offices and programs dedicated to helping their Ph.D.s make the transition.  Rather than reinventing the wheel here at The Professor Is In, or getting bogged down in Quit Lit confessionals, I wanted to make The Professor Is In a source for the best and most current “actionable” advice, just as it is for the academic job search.  I’m so pleased that we’ll be joined by Dr. Maggie Gover, who is Director for Professional Development at the University of California, Riverside.  She does post-ac advising full-time, and runs a dynamic series of workshops and events dedicated to helping the lucky grad students of UC-Riverside confront the challenges of the non-academic job search.

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Dr. Margy Horton

Margy Horton

Margy Thomas Horton founded ScholarShape, a writing support service, in 2013. Through writing consultation and editing services, she helps scholars, researchers, students, and academics to work efficiently as they produce high-quality theses, dissertations, proposals, and other projects. Although based in the Research Triangle of North Carolina, she works with clients nationwide. Margy’s interest in helping academic writers began while she was a doctoral student at Baylor University, where she served alternately as a writing consultant, professor, and tutor. She taught courses in academic writing and collaborated with administrators to develop support services for Baylor’s graduate student writers. She has also published peer-reviewed articles. She blogs at ScholarShape.com/blog.

Margy’s consulting philosophy:

Margy wants to beat over the head any Ph.D. who thinks his or her only option is to pursue the tenure-track and/or serve in wage slavery as an adjunct. She believes that people who come by their Ph.D.s honestly are, in fact, brilliant at defining problems, locating the information needed to solve problems, and organizing that information into meaningful solutions. In her career consulting, Margy will help you to apply your finely honed problem-solving skills to your current career transition. She’ll help you to take a good look at your own unique mix of knowledge, skills, and abilities; then, she’ll help you to look at the world (dare we call it a “marketplace”?) and determine the unmet needs that only you can fill. She’ll guide you as you develop a specific strategy for turning your doctoral brilliance into a paying profession. She will probably refer you to some of the very resources she used during her own career transition.

[Note: the career consulting that Margy offers under TheProfessorIsIn is distinct from the writing consultation services that she offers through ScholarShape. The latter services are aimed at helping clients with specific academic writing projects. ]

1. From Academia to Small Business Ownership: Take What You Love and Leave What You Don’t
This post will point out the parallels between small business ownership and academic work (creativity, multiplicity, flexibility, uncertainty, and emphasis on problem-solving). I’ll also point out key differences between the two fields, specifically the relationship between cause and effect and the relationship between self and institution. I’ll describe how I crafted a career that enabled me to keep what I loved from academia and leave what I loathed.
2. Discovering Your Inner Capitalist: How to Carve Out a Profitable Niche as a Post-ac Small Business Owner
 
In this post, I’ll describe how I identified my marketable skills (expertise in academic writing, among other things), matched these skills to an unmet need in the marketplace, and developed a specific strategy for building a profitable business that suits me perfectly while also filling a real need for other people. As I tell my story, I’ll point out what is generalizable to other post-academics so that readers can easily glean practical insights.
 
3. Become an Editor or Consultant: Excavate Your Expertise, Then Sell It
By the time they earn their Ph.D.s, academics have so much more knowledge stuffed inside their heads than many of them realize. In this post, I’ll guide readers through the process of identifying the unique mix of expertise, skills, talents, and personality characteristics that they can sell by working as editors or consultants. I’ll touch on various forms of editorial and consulting work; readers may be surprised to discover just how many forms of editing and consulting are available to them. I’ll also describe my own recursive process of “excavating my expertise” (discovering, defining, and packaging it), and selling my expertise. In my work as an editor/consultant, I’ve found this to be a continuous process as I respond to clients’ needs and learn more about entrepreneurship, academia, and everything in between.

Dr. Maggie Gover

Maggie Gover

Maggie Gover serves as the Director for Professional Development at the University of California, Riverside.  Her career is dedicated to helping students successfully complete their graduate degrees and then transition into successful professional lives.  As such, she has quite a bit of experience helping students identify industries in which they may be successful and describing their graduate careers in ways that might be attractive to those industries.

While she is most knowledgeable in alternative academic jobs, she has helped students transition into private industry, government, and non-profit jobs as well.  Maggie’s service to students began when she was an undergraduate at the University of Southern California where she served as an intern in the Office of Admissions.  While she was completing her Master’s degree at the University of Oxford she served as a Junior Dean at St. Hilda’s College.  When she was a PhD candidate at UCR she was the Coordinator for Academic Preparation and Outreach and then the Graduate Student Mentorship Program Coordinator. While she is now primarily an administrator, she is still researching and publishing in theories of new media and 19th C visual sciences.  Get in touch with Maggie at maggie.gover@ucr.edu

Maggie’s Consulting Philosophy:
I am a strong supporter of graduate education and think that society benefits from having those incredibly creative and analytic minds in diverse industries.  I want to help students find careers that are satisfying to them and in which they will excel.  Remember that no career search is easy!  It will take hard work, knowledge, dedication, and perseverance.  However, the great joy of working with graduate students is that they have dedication and perseverance in spades!  You bring that to the table, and I can help with the knowledge.
Examples of blog posts:
Networking
Translating a CV into a Resume
Realities of the Non-Academic Job Search
Diversifying Your Resume (while still a graduate student)
Deciphering Job Postings
The Industry and Alternative Academic Cover Letter

How I Became a Corporate Shill and Other Ruminations – Polizzi 2

by Allessandria Polizzi

Dr. Allessandria Polizzi

Dr. Allessandria Polizzi

Lets cut to the chase, shall we? I became a corporate sellout because I am a big fat chicken. There. I said it. I saw the job market, my looming credit card debt on top of my growing mound of students loans, the piles of papers to grade for students who would phone it in and complain about how busy they were over the weekend skiing. I saw a future of writing papers, and trying to get tenure, and I was terrified.

I remember the first time I walked past the room of interviews at an MLA conference and being stopped cold.  Getting into grad school had been hard enough. Many departments only took a handful of doctoral students, so I had ended up having to move far away from home to attend. I was fortunate enough to get a teaching spot, as well, and felt pretty lucky. Until I saw that room and the sea of applicants, all of them looking smarter and more qualified than I was, who were visiting from well known schools instead of my small one. There were so many if them and just one of me.

Fear can be a great motivator, especially when sprinkled with a bit of laziness and impatience. I share this with you because we don’t know each other well, and as I begin to share some of my advice with you I want there to be no illusions. I do not have all of the answers. I made many mistakes. What is right for me may not be right for you. All I can hope is that, if you share some of my experiences, insecurities or quirks, you will find my opinions helpful.

I also have to respect the other bloggers who will be participating in this discussion (& my very dear friends who I love very much) who have chosen other paths. I do not judge them in their choices. Rather, I respect their tenacity, their commitment, and, ultimately, what appears to me to be fearlessness.

With that, here are the top 5 reasons I have chosen a business career path.

1. The thought of not having health insurance terrifies me.

When I mentioned to a friend of mine who is a writing center director that I was talking to all of these folks who were working as consultants, she said “but what about health insurance?” This not only confirmed why I am friends with her but validated my own concerns. When leaving academia, I knew I needed to land in a place that had benefits. And I was lucky enough that the first few jobs I had even had GOOD benefits. It cost me $50 to have my babies. I never thought twice about buying medicine or going to the dentist. This was a huge comfort to me.

Karen says, when we talked about this, that it’s quite possible to have insurance when self-employed (especially now, post-Obamacare).  I just worry too much that my consulting gigs would dry up right when someone got an ingrown toenail (or worse)– Side note, my husband did not have insurance when he was putting me through school and had an ingrown toenail. It was not cheap–Some people can get insurance through a partner, which is great. For me, who had a stay-at-home dad and 2 kids to support, this was not an option.

2. I get bored very, very easily.

A lot of folks move from teaching to administration in their careers. My aforementioned friend did this. I think this is great, except for after the 6th month of doing it. Since leaving academia, I have learned that I do not like doing the same thing over and over again. I was starting to pick up on that the third time I had to teach literature. I would dread cracking open the book, let alone discussing it in class. Some people like reading and talking about the same stories over and over again. I would rather have a root canal (which I can pay for with my aforementioned benefits).

In a corporate environment, if you are so inclined, you can change roles very often. I rarely stay in the same position more than 18-24 months. Just when I have gotten the rhythm of things, when I get that same feeling as I did teaching Beowulf, I am off to the next thing. At Intuit, I was able to continuously grow and evolve my role and the teams I managed, changing scope regularly. That’s why I was there more than 7 years. It was interesting work, I was constantly learning and growing, and I felt challenged.

The other thing I like about the area I have specialized in (which is corporate training) is that it is industry agnostic. I have had the chance to to not just learn about new businesses and cultures but to understand different industries from the inside out. I find it fascinating to learn about things like how Intuit developed Turbotax or what a food innovation team does. Of course, I read magazines like Fast Company and Inc. I am that kind of nerd.

3. I am a social butterfly who likes to laugh A LOT.

Teaching college was lonely, especially when I wasn’t taking classes. When I no longer had buddies to hangout with but just students, I was restless and unhappy. I actually created a norming group so we could hangout and talk about stuff.

So when I started working in a corporate space, I loved stupid stuff like “team building.” This actually became the thing I did. I was a change management leader, helping people learn about changes, understand how it would impact them, and learn about what they would do differently in the future. One of the best times I ever had was being on a project team where we were locked in a room together to test a system for weeks on end. We laughed, we shared snacks, we had a blast. It was like going to a party every day (one where you are testing a system for placing purchase orders and managing warehouses, but a party none the less).

4. I like things that keep going.

After insurance fears, the thought of a consulting gig ending is also pretty unnerving to me. For the most part, whatever job I have today has existed as long as I wanted it to (or at least until I got bored of it). I didn’t have the looming chasm of a project ending. I had an ongoing position that would/could grow into a career. There were always options for me. A job search is hard work, and as long as I am satisfied with the role I have, feeling like I am adding value, and learning, there is no reason to do anything else.

5. I like not having to worry about money and am horrible at managing it.

The biggest thing that I struggle with is folks who leave academia just to take a different job that pays very little. I also can’t wrap my head around not having a steady paycheck between consulting gigs.  Also, see #4.

(Bonus— 6. I like to feel like I am making a difference)

When I taught writing, especially remedial writing, I felt like I was helping improve the lives of my students by helping them find their voice and giving them the power of the written word. What I did not appreciate were the students who would tell me they did not need to learn how to write and who could not connect what they were learning today to a future state in which they would need it. This is why I love what I do now. I can actually see the students I influence apply what they learn the next day. Sometimes, the skills they build are as minute as teaching them which buttons to push, but other times, they are learning how to communicate, to lead, to influence and make an impact. These are skills they will take with them and be better as a result of learning. So, in my own way, I feel I am making a difference in the world. And, beyond the fear, this is my ultimate motivation.

What is “Research” Beyond Academia? – Jackson #2

In the post-ac transition, academics have to jettison the habits of speech and thought that work in an academic setting, and replace them with habits appropriate to a business or professional setting.  Usually, this means–work faster, talk less.  Sarita Jackson demonstrates. Echoing Stephanie Day’s post on mobilizing her academic skills and competencies in the business world, going post-ac doesn’t have to mean an end to your research life. It does require you to change how you talk about your research, and the pace at which you do it.

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by Sarita Jackson

Sarita Jackson

Sarita Jackson

April 29, 2005 is a day that I remember vividly.  My stomach was tied in knots. Any suggestion to relax or break a smile was like asking me to complete an algebra problem on the spot. That was the day of my dissertation defense. Several questions swirled around in my head. What would become of my five years of graduate school where I was trained on how to conduct and explain my research? Would I be able to adequately show that my conclusions after years of interviews and data analyses are valid? Thank goodness the dissertation defense went well.

Nevertheless, another challenge still remained. Around the same time, I was offered a position as a trade policy consultant, a profession in which I did not have prior experience. However, the position would still allow me to apply my academic research. What does research mean for consultants?

Research has a different focus in a non-academic environment such as consulting. As a political scientist, research means to build upon existing theoretical knowledge. As a consultant, research means solving real world problems.

For example, my current research in the area of international trade approaches the Who cares? question differently depending on the context. Who cares?

As an academic, I would respond in this manner. My work challenges existing economic models arguing that: 1) importers behave rationally and 2) the market determines an exporting industry’s ability to compete in the global market. Rather, I use an alternative model–path dependency—to explain the behavior of importers in specific markets that give the exporting industry a competitive edge in that specific market.

If international political economy is not your area, I am sure the only response would be another profound question: Huh?!?

My response as a trade policy consultant would emphasize tangible, measurable results rather than the theoretical implications. Let me try again. My research findings provide business owners with the tools that they need to increase their bottom line in the global market by taking advantage of free trade agreements (FTAs).

The person listening to or reading the second response would immediately know who benefits, business owners; how that group benefits, an increased bottom line; and the solution to attaining those benefits, taking advantage of FTAs. My message is tweaked depending on the audience, which may include government officials seeking to grow their economies or policymakers devising relevant legislation.

Notice that this information is provided in one sentence instead of a laundry list of words and technical language that has meaning mainly for the academic.

In addition, the process of research varies. As academic researchers, we are trained to know and comprehend current literature, identify a problem (theoretical or methodological), test existing theories, and either refute or complement those theories. This takes years.

On the other hand, as a consultant, that time is cut down to as little as three weeks. In my consulting experience following graduate school, the process entailed interviewing numerous public and private sector officials, identifying the problem(s) on the ground, applying a select theory, looking at the success of that theory in other comparable cases, using that theory as a solution to the problem, drafting a report with a series of recommendations and assisting with the actual implementation of those recommendations. Often times, the select theory, one that I was very familiar with and evaluate in my own work, was already established beforehand. In other words, my recommendations were not based on years of individual research. Going back to my first point, the emphasis is on the tangible, measurable results rather than just the theory itself.

By understanding the different goals and processes of research in alternative settings, you can better explain your research in ways that are clear, concise and resonates with your audience.

The next step is to actually craft your message. Nine years after graduate school, I even continue to craft my message in my current role as founder of a think tank/consulting firm to reach a business and government audience. My next post will be on that.

More on Negotiating–Thoughts from an R1 Department Head

Discussion of negotiating the tenure track offer continues apace.  Last week I was included in an email exchange between Rebecca Schuman and Mike Tarr, Department Head of the Psychology department at Carnegie Mellon University.  Mike got in touch with Rebecca to comment on the now infamous failed negotiation and rescinded offer that that Schuman discusses here (and that I discuss here, and commenters at Chronicle Vitae weigh in on here.)  I asked if I could share his thoughts on my blog, and he kindly agreed to have these posted and attributed to him.  As he says, “I am happy to have them attributed. If someone is going to say something, they should be able to say it on record!”

Mike’s perspective is valuable because it represents the side of administration–they’re not out to get you, but at the same time, they have various constraints, financial and otherwise, and they may be balancing a faction of the department that wasn’t necessarily your biggest fan base.  You, the candidate, just don’t have all the information.  So err on the side of caution. If you attended my free Negotiating webinar two weeks ago, you might recall that I gave a brief summary of how I approach the pace and tone of the negotiation process, and added, “and this is a relatively conservative approach.”  I take a conservative approach because I am always trying to help my clients balance BOTH the aim to get as much as they can with the goal of retaining warm, collegial feelings with the department.  Mike’s comments show why a department head who may really like and support you may still not be able to give you everything you want.

A last note–As you’ll see, Mike advocates working by phone.  Many people do.  I don’t, for the reasons that I articulate here in my Vitae post on negotiating.  I’ve learned that the people who recommend the phone feel as strongly about their position as I do about mine. We’ll have to agree to disagree. I do not feel the phone is a safe or effective option for an inexperienced candidate who has no idea what the normal scope of tenure track negotiations can or should entail, and who should instead make sure she has the opportunity to run everything by trusted advisors before responding.

Anyway, aside from that quibble, Mike’s advice has that ring of hard truth that comes from decades laboring in the academic trenches. I am happy to share it.

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As an admin at a research university and having 20+ years of experience, I would felt I would make a few comments – one intended for any faculty in the process of looking for jobs/negotiating.

1. Withdrawing an offer is pretty shocking and poor form. In the same spirit that one might ask for things, not expecting to get them, the appropriate response from the administration would seem to be “Sorry, we can’t do any of that, but think we made a fair offer and remain enthusiastic about your joining our faculty.” One should be able to “lean in” without getting shoved over. At the same time, I would put maternity leave request in a different class than the other asks. Unless the pre-tenure sabbatical is an official policy it falls in the same “discretionary” category as the other asks, but maternity leave doesn’t. A candidate should always be able to ask about maternity leave without it having any impact on their hiring/promotion decisions. Indeed, any response to the contrary seems actionable.

2. As for whether “leaning in” is always the best negotiating tactic, I would like to caution candidates. Not that they shouldn’t try to maximize their offer(s). But practically speaking they need to know their audience. Email is very poor medium for communicating the nuances of one’s requests and the subtle responses of the administrator. Imagine had this candidate done this by phone. She might have said, “I am very enthusiastic, but I wanted to see if you had any flexibility on a few issues.” She should have ranked her issues by her personal priority and then started with the number one item. She could have said, “of most concern to me is x, is there any way we could do y?” Then she can gauge the administrator’s response. If they respond in the form “We don’t do that, we are a teaching college, I think the offer is fair,” she can back off and realize that this isn’t going anywhere and make her decision based on what is on the table. Or bring up something relatively painless, like number of course preps. But she can at least read the winds.

This might not be fair to the candidate but the fact is that there is an asymmetry of power (unless the candidate is highly sought after). In cases of such asymmetries, one needs to tread carefully – not because it is fair or just or right, but because you want something and you need to maximize your chances of getting what you want. For better or for worse, being savvy on these issues is part of success in academia.

The best administrators should understand this and be working with the candidate, but this is, sadly, often not the case. I would also add that there is no question that it is often the case that female candidates are disadvantaged relative to male candidates. It is another sad fact of both academia and society. But that makes it even more the case that a female candidate needs to gauge her administrative “audience”. Again, not fair, but a fact if one is to maximize their offer.

3. I would also add that candidates should realize that administrators are often trying to do the best for the candidate. Candidates sometimes think of universities as large, wealthy entities – which they are at some macro level – but candidates don’t always understand that at the local level there are a wide variety of real constraints. Space in a department may be at a premium. The amount budgeted for the position may be locked down by the dean. There may be rules that apply across the faculty regarding leaves, number of courses taught, etc. There may be internal salary equity issues. I think it is good rule of thumb to assume the administrator one is dealing with is trying their best. They may not be, but starting assuming an adversarial stance is never good.

Anyway, food for thought.

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Follow-up:

I would add one more thing. Although candidates may think that a department is very enthusiastic about offering them a job, that isn’t always the case. Many times departments are split or unanimously ambiguous. So sometimes perceived negatives in the next phase may be a tipping point towards a department or administrator changing their mind. So:
1. Be happy you got the job offer.
2. Don’t assume they really really want you.
3. Behave in ways that will make them want you more.
Finally, I would also raise the issue that more and more candidates use suboptimal jobs – from their perspective – as jumping off points (or the minor leagues if you will) for a more attractive job. While that is all well and fine it does ignore the financial and resource commitment made by the institution. So administrators may be leery about offering a candidate a job if they believe the candidate really has their sights set on something bigger and better in a year or two. Universities and departments have limited resources, so if a person leaves a position after a year or two there are real costs. The faculty line may disappear, the startup funds are spent, etc.
I actually think that it might not be so bad and lead to better initial offers if universities could hire as do sports teams – a locked in 5-7 year contract whereby the candidate cannot leave their position for another academic position unless they are released from their contract. Although this would disadvantage some people, it really might increase the quality of offers, plus it would make candidates give pause about committing to a position that they really don’t intend to stay in for the long haul.
Best, Mike Tarr