How To Negotiate Your Tenure Track Offer

Originally posted in 2011, with a few updates based on helping about a hundred clients negotiate their offers through my Negotiating Assistance services over the past three years.  If you have an offer and are interested in getting this help, please email me at


Today’s post is a Special Request post for Ally and Katy and several other clients and readers who wrote asking for help on negotiating their contract after receiving an offer. I’m happy to oblige, but keep in mind that this particular matter, more than any other, is U.S.-specific. I’ve been told that in the U.K., negotiating is not done and the attempt alone might cost you the job. Other countries, I can’t say. But in the U.S., negotiating is de rigeur [2014 update: except on the rare but increasing occasions where it leads to an offer being rescinded, about which more below]. And women, in particular, are terrible at it, as this recent Chronicle piece points out.

So what follows are my recommendations for how to proceed when (gasp!) you are the recipient of the coveted offer of a job.

Do not, under any circumstances, accept the offer the same day they make it. When they call or email, answer pleasantly and politely, “Oh thank you. That is good news. I’m so pleased.” And then say, “I’d like to know more about the offer. When can we discuss the details, and when can I expect a written contract?” If the Department Head tries to push you for a commitment, simply repeat, “I am very happy for the offer, but I will need to discuss the terms and see the contract before I can make a final commitment. I very much look forward to discussing this further. I hope we can begin soon.”

Now, there are several things you need to know. Once an offer has been made to you, the institution cannot legally offer the job to anyone else for a certain amount of time. While that amount of time may vary by institution, be assured that you have at least one week to contemplate your response, and possibly as much as two or three. During that time you are in the driver’s seat. While unscrupulous or panicky or pushy Department Heads may try to hustle you, do not allow yourself to be hustled. You are now the one in charge. Bask in that.

[2012 Addendum:  As noted in comments below, more and more frequently candidates are finding offers being rescinded, either for budgetary reasons, or administrative foul-ups, or most appallingly, sheer institutional malfeasance.  Check out the Job Wiki page "Universities to Fear" for more stories of this nature.  I am unable to say with any certainty how common this is, and how much it should influence your actions vis-a-vis the offer. My sense is that it is still uncommon enough that you should treat all offers as open to negotiation.  The most important thing is to be guided by a trusted senior mentor from the moment the offer is made.   In the meantime, I am soliciting a guest post from someone with more direct experience with the rescinded offer. (The guest post is up). ]

[2014 Addendum:  I've seen two offers rescinded in three years of helping clients negotiate offers, and heard one other such story from a reader. In all cases the institution abruptly shut out the client when the client simply asked for more information about/initially raised the option of negotiating elements of the offer, with a email that said something like, "thanks for your interest in the position; we will be moving on to another candidate. Good luck with your career."  These were all very low-ranking, regional institutions. It is shocking and unconscionable.]

(2014: With the above caveats…) All offers have room for negotiation. You should first see what the formal offer is in terms of salary, summer salary, teaching load, leave time, research support, expectations for tenure, graduate student funding, service expectations (particularly if it is a joint appointment), support for a spousal hire, and other matters. Until you have these in writing you cannot make an informed response.

Once you receive these, decide what you’re going to come back with in negotiation. Because, you ALWAYS come back asking for more. You are entitled. It is expected. Do not miss this one-time-only opportunity to negotiate greater gain for yourself and your family. [Please read comment stream for more elements of an offer that should be up for negotiation].

What you ask for will depend on you and your goals. A single person with no children might decide to prioritize research support —ie, additional leave time and a larger research budget to pay for overseas research. A person supporting a family might forgo additional research funding to prioritize a higher salary. A person seeking a position for their spouse might forgo both research support and salary in order to prioritize a spousal appointment. The point is, in all cases, this is the one AND ONLY time in your early years in the department that you can attempt to turn circumstances in your favor. So do it.

Always proceed courteously and professionally. Respond quickly to emails and calls, and never leave them hanging, even if just to say, “I received your latest email; thank you. I will study it and respond by tomorrow.” Ideally you should have a trusted senior colleague assist you in these negotiations. It is critical that you maintain positive relations with your likely future colleagues. But although they might grumble a bit as the negotiations carry on for a week or two, they will respect you. This is how the game is played.

Now, one aspect to consider is if you have another competing offer or possible offer. If you do, first off, lucky you—you have rocked the system. This is the absolute best position to negotiate from. If you are waiting on an offer from a second school, you may contact that second school and inform them of the offer you received from school one. You will write something to this effect, “Dear Steve, Thank you again for having me out to visit your department at XXX U. I enjoyed the visit immensely. I am writing to let you know that I have received an offer from another institution. My timeline for accepting this offer is approximately one week. I wonder if I could receive a response regarding your search within that time frame. I want to reiterate my interest in your position. I hope to hear from you soon. Sincerely, XXX”

You can be assured that this email will send a jolt of terror through the spine of Steve, if you are his department’s first choice. The greatest fear of departments once an offer is made is that the offerree will reject it and accept an offer elsewhere. The department may have a solid alternate candidate available, but often they do not. Departments often end up voting all but the top candidate as “unacceptable,” so failure to get the top candidate means a failed search, and the risk of losing authorization to hire that year. So all their eggs are in one basket, and that basket is you.

If you are their top candidate, and they just haven’t told you yet because they haven’t had a chance to complete their voting and offer process (offers may have to be vetted by the Dean before they can be made to the candidate), this small, courteous email will send the department into a panic. And a panicked department is what you want. Because a panicked department, sensing that they might lose you to institution one, will be more likely to agree to your demands for salary, leave time, research support, and spousal positions.

Now all departments have financial and logistical limitations. You cannot negotiate above those. If you try, you will quickly alienate them. They will not withdraw the offer, but they will resent you, and those feelings of resentment are dangerous for a soon-to-be junior faculty member. The key to negotiating is to always maintain good faith and honesty, and always have a highly delicate sense for when you are hitting a true wall of “we can’t do that.” Because when you hit that, that’s when you stop.

In terms of salary upper limits, this is particularly serious. Be aware that many public institutions suffer from salary compression problems. That means that associate and full professors’ salaries have not kept pace with the national market, and consequently new assistant professors are offered salaries nearly as high as those of the tenured faculty who have been on campus for years. Salary compression creates terrible feelings of resentment and low morale in departments suffering from it. The Head will be all too well aware of these feelings. When the Head tells you, “we cannot go higher than $68,000 for your starting salary, or we will offend some faculty,” take that as a hard no, because it most likely reflects the Associate level salary scale in the department. This doesn’t mean no additional money is possible—it just needs to be one-time-only, or short-term money instead of a recurring commitment. So, turn your efforts to summer salary for one to three years, one-time research support, a guaranteed graduate research assistant, and other shorter-term forms of compensation that don’t put pressure on an already overburdened salary structure.

In terms of the dreaded spousal issue…this is the hardest negotiation of all. In general, wait until you have a firm offer before you bring up the spouse. Any mention earlier than that could well work against you in the minds of the faculty, consciously or unconsciously. Once the offer is in hand, mention your spouse to the Department Head. Be aware that this is the one and only chance that you will have to negotiate for a spousal hire, so DO NOT WASTE IT! Push as firmly as you can for the actual tenure-track offer, and don’t be put off with the range of one-year, two-year, three- year, instructor, adjunct, and visiting positions that they will try to pawn off on you.

They may say something like “oh we can revisit your husband’s tenure case later, when this contract is up,” but DON’T BELIEVE IT. It is never, ever revisited after you lose the leverage of the initial offer (that is, until you gain the leverage of an external offer, and that’s a pain and time-consuming to manage).

Accept nothing in negotiations, but absolutely nothing in the case of spousal negotiations, that is not in writing. Any “informal” agreements or understandings that you may have with the current Head or Dean are meaningless if not in writing, because Heads and Deans change, and with no written agreement, all arrangements are void.

Make sure that your spouse is debut-ready. His or her cv should be spit-shined, the dissertation finished, and a polished research and teaching statement prepared. Be clear what departments the spouse would be eligible for an appointment in, and the full range of positions for which he/she is qualified.

Be flexible about any offered position that is tenure-track. There are many painful and difficult negotiations that have to take place to line up a spousal hire, and some departments and department heads will play ball more than others. Some Heads are incompetent while others are savvy. To some extent you are at the Head’s mercy.

Be aware of how spousal hires are paid for. Generally, the original department will pay one third of the spousal hire’s salary, the Dean’s office will pay one third, and then the spouse receiving department will pay one third. This obviously has a great deal of appeal for the receiving department as they are getting one full line for 1/3 cost. However, they may resent being forced to accept a faculty member whom they did not go out and recruit on their own, and they may fear that the spouse hire will derail the actual hiring goals they have in place (ie, that the Dean will say, “well you got a full line hire this year, so we won’t approve your other, original search requests”). Thus the interested parties may have to knock on several doors to find a department willing to take this “free gift,” and may well find it impossible, in the end, to accomplish.

The important thing, once again, is to hold firm and politely repeat, “My biggest priority is a position for my spouse,” without any escalation or emotionalism or drama, day after day, to person after person, until you either get the spousal offer, or get a flat-out NO that you read as unmistakable. As long as they are still talking to you about it, don’t waver.

Once you make your decision, call or email both departments immediately, and courteously and professionally express your gratitude for their offers, and accept one with warmth and enthusiasm, and turn down the other with kindness and respect. Remember that the colleagues in the rejected department will continue to play a role in your professional life for many years to come. You will see them at conferences, they might be external reviewers for your journal article or book mss., and who knows, one of them might end up one of your tenure writers one day. So preserve your good relations with these people at all costs. They will not be angry that you rejected their offer. They will just be disappointed. Be very friendly when you next run into them at a conference.


Questioning Your Future in Academia? Do This Now! – Jackson 1

by Sarita Jackson

Sarita Jackson was a tenured professor of Political Science before leaving academia in 2013 to found her own think tank and consulting firm, Global Research Institute of International Trade. GRIIT is a think-tank/consulting firm dedicated to analyzing the opportunities and costs of free trade agreements and simplifying the rules within these agreements so that businesses can take advantage of global market opportunities to increase their profits.  In this, her first post-ac post, Dr. Jackson shares specific steps you can take right now to build the “marketing capital” that you can spend later when seeking to translate your Ph.D. training into a non-academic job.

Sarita Jackson

Sarita Jackson

You may be in graduate school or just finished, or a veteran of the job search.  No matter where you are in the process, current debates on the profession have you questioning an academic career. Increasing debt of Ph.D. students. A declining number of tenure track positions. What are you to do?

Start building your marketing capital right now so that you can enjoy a variety of options to spend it on when you need to.

Marketing capital refers to the accumulation of skills and networks that will allow you to demonstrate the value that you add to any organization beyond the Ivory Tower (or Ebony Tower for those at Historically Black Colleges and Universities).

To start building marketing capital, it is important to think in terms of having career options rather than just a career. This helped me prepare for both an academic and a related non-academic career path while pursuing my doctorate. So then the next logical question is: How?

There are five things that you can do today to help you thrive as the academic profession continues to change. These tips have been beneficial in both my academic and post-academic positions in consulting and business.  I made it all the way to tenure before deciding to leave the academy to run my own think tank and consulting firm.

  1. Nurture relationships with non-academic mentors in your field


Mentors outside of academia were instrumental as I created a path of career options. These mentors helped with my transition by sharing advice on creating a resume or CV that speaks to the needs of the non-academic position, the interview process, and negotiating my salary. I met these mentors at events organized for policymakers, business representatives, researchers and consultants; through interviews that I conducted in Washington, D.C. for my dissertation; and from internships (see point #2). Ten plus years later, I still collaborate with many of these mentors.

  1. Complete at least one internship


Internships can be used to gain professional development training in addition to their teaching assistant duties. Internships provided me with the necessary practical training, networking opportunities, and first-hand insight into an alternative career path as well as access to resources for my dissertation.


I took advantage of paid internships where I would gain a substantial experience. I interned in the Deputy Secretary’s office at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., National Public Radio, and the U.S. Embassy in Panama. I had the skills to market myself should I decide to pursue a career in the Foreign Service or fall back on my undergraduate degree in Broadcast Journalism.


  1. Conduct informational interviews


Informational interviews are also a good way to introduce yourself to the decision-makers in a related non-academic position and determine if a particular alternative career path is right for you ahead of time. During my last year in graduate school, I held informational interviews over the phone and face-to-face with government officials, consultants, researchers at think-tanks and business owners.


As a matter of fact, my first job upon completion of graduate school resulted from a request for an informational interview. The consultant whom I interviewed because of her similar background similar responded with an invitation to a job interview. I enjoyed working as a trade policy consultant for the next year and a half before finally going on the academic job market.


  1. Set aside time for additional training


Even in graduate school I had an interest in running my own company in the future. So I took advantage of entrepreneurship training. A number of opportunities exist that are not too time consuming to participate in free local entrepreneurship workshops funded by the Small Business Association. The training from my days in graduate school, as well as thereafter, has been beneficial in my current role as founder of a think-tank/consulting firm.


  1. Make your work relevant

Scholars are trained to build upon knowledge by examining theories and methodological approaches. However, when a non-academic asks the So what? question, that person wants to know how the information will benefit him/her. In fields such as political science and economics, at least one chapter of the dissertation should also have practical applicability. The last chapter of my dissertation included a policy proposal that I was able to use when discussing my work with those outside of academia, especially with those who had the authority to hire.

Thinking in terms of career options and building marketing capital requires time. With proper time management and engaging in professional activities that serve you academically and post-academically can help you to lay the foundation for a post-academic career without prolonging or delaying the completion of your graduate degree.

From English PhD to Digital Marketing Entrepreneur – Langer 1

Jessica Langer holds a PhD in English and is CEO of ideas in flight, a social media and digital marketing agency that specializes in strategy, training and implementation for SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises).  Jessica tells her post-ac transition story here. What I like most about this story is its specification of the “important decision” at every step of the way, and the “mission critical piece” of each decision.  The transition to non-academic work requires active strategizing; it’s not something you can fall into passively.  Jessica doesn’t just tell us that–she SHOWS it by identifying the steps she took all along her path to situate herself to be competitive outside the academy. I encourage everyone to start thinking about their own “mission critical” options now.

Jessica Langer

Jessica Langer

I thought I’d start with a story. This is partly because people love stories (I think I learned that in my first year literature class). And it’s partly because in my story, I’ll be identifying critical junctures and decisions that I made that helped me be successful later on.

So without further ado, here it is: my path from ac to post-ac.


I went to the University of Toronto for my undergrad degree. (I applied to U of T and Yale. Yale said no. My wallet said hooray.) I figured I was the kid who had always spent most classes in high school reading novels, so I’d major in English. I also signed up for Mandarin classes, which eventually turned into a second major in East Asian studies. Not, shall we say, the most ostensibly employable of combinations.

The important decision: Although I loved my classes – well, most of them – I understood that it would be important to start looking at potential careers from very early on. Marketing and communications appealed, because they seemed to appeal to the large part of me that was obsessed with narrative. I did think that I wanted to be a professor eventually, and at that time I had no idea the market was so terrible – but I wanted to make sure I had a couple of different potential plans.

The mission-critical piece: To that end, I got a summer job as a receptionist at a small startup called; I was soon promoted to marketing assistant. Why? Because I proposed a plan to turn the site from a pure search engine into a social network – an online forum, specifically. (This was 2001, when such things were reasonably newfangled.) In other words, I identified an opportunity to create something new and contribute to the business – what we sometimes call a “gap in the market” – and set about doing just that.

Graduate School

I attended the University of London’s School of Advanced Study for my MA, and Royal Holloway College at the University of London for my PhD. (I imagine that if I’d gone to Oxford or Cambridge or Yale, etc, I might have had a better chance at getting a top-tier academic job. But I must say that I never found my PhD-granting institution to be an issue on the job market.)

My success in grad school was due in part to a combination of luck and whimsy. Why was I in the UK? I’d met a lovely traveling Londoner at a bar in Toronto, and followed him there. (We’ve been married nearly 10 years now.) And why Royal Holloway for my PhD? I read a great science fiction novel and connected by email with its author, Adam Roberts, who happened to be a professor at Royal Holloway. We met, enjoyed each other’s academic company, and I became his PhD advisee (with a full scholarship).

Luck and whimsy aren’t enough, though. Many of my decisions during graduate school were made specifically to set myself up for success either in academia or outside of it.

The important decision: I chose to go to graduate school in a context where I was well-supported by my mentor(s), by financial aid awards, and by my departments. I would not have gone otherwise, not because I couldn’t afford it, but rather because I understood even at that time that my success would be determined in large part by departmental forces outside my control.

I also – and this is really critical – chose a UK program because it was a 3-year one, not the interminable 5- to 7-year disaster that the North American PhD often turns into. Therefore, I was finished with my PhD by the time I was 26, and was only a couple of years behind my BA-only peers in terms of workplace progression. It’s my understanding, though, that even an American PhD can be done in 4-5 years; this is crucial, if you want to go alt- or post-ac.

The mission-critical piece: Throughout my MA and PhD, I worked… but not just anywhere. During my MA, I worked in marketing, for a construction company in London, in a position that was a bit more senior than in my previous job. I also did a fair bit of freelance work in writing, editing and social media consulting the entire time I was in grad school.

On the academic side, during my PhD, I taught at Richmond American International University in London, but I also got involved in institutional governance wherever possible – going to committee meetings, contributing to curriculum – as well as on organizing committees for academic organizations and international conferences. And I published like mad… I think I ended up with 8 publications, 3 of which were in peer-reviewed journals, in 3 years.

Whatever I was doing in academia, I tried to make it maximally applicable to life outside of academia, and was already thinking about how I would explain its relevance to possible non-academic employers.


In my ABD year, when I was 25, I applied for 15 jobs across Canada, 12 of which were real possibilities. I was flown out from London for 2 of them. I got none of them.

And what shocked me more than anything was the relief I felt. Because I knew – I had always known, because of the decisions I made and because of the parallel paths I had taken – that there was so much more out there than academia. And frankly, because I knew where I wanted to live – in my hometown of Toronto – and with those rejections, I was free to go live there. And I’ve never looked back. (Except that I did, and do, teach part-time… but my experience as an adjunct is very different than the usual one, and I’ll talk about why that is in my next post.)

The important decision: This one’s pretty simple: I had to decide what was most important to me. I literally could not have everything I wanted. I couldn’t live in Toronto near my family and be a tenure-track professor. I decided that where I lived and who I lived near was more important, to me, than what I did for a living.

The mission-critical piece: Again, this is pretty simple, but it’s also one of the most difficult things you’ll do in your post-ac life. I had to empower myself to make that decision. Academia is so often cultlike in its requirement for unmitigated devotion; if you leave, you’re seen as having failed. It makes no sense, but it’s the case. I had not only to decide to disbelieve that, but to believe that I had the power to make that decision. And it’s one of the more powerful things I’ve ever done, to be honest.

The upshot of this whole story, which is basically a theme for my entire life: I am very, very good at putting myself in opportunity’s way. I have a good nose for an opportunity and am very apt at getting people to give them to me, and of talking myself up without bragging.  This is a trait that you must try to cultivate if you’re going to be successful in the post-ac world.  Possibly one of the most important arts of the entrepreneur – heck, for the businessperson in general – is to learn how to offer one’s services in a way that comes across as offering to add value to others’ lives, rather than requesting that others give one their money/time/business.

In my next post, I’m going to explain to you exactly how to do that.

Introducing More Post-Ac Experts: Jessica Langer and Sarita Jackson

Jessica Langer

Jessica Langer

Jessica Langer


Jessica Langer holds a PhD in English and is CEO of ideas in flight, a social media and digital marketing agency that specializes in strategy, training and implementation for SMEs. A veteran marketer with a decade’s experience in the field and a seasoned lecturer who’s been teaching since 2006, Jessica currently runs her business full-time and teaches in the Department of Marketing at the Schulich School of Business at York University and in the McMaster-Syracuse Master of Communications Management program. She is also devoted to helping her PhD-holding peers find paths out of academia and into fulfilling, sustaining work in the ‘outside world’.  Check out some excellent post-ac content on the ideas in flight site above, and find Jessica on Twitter at @DrJessicaLanger

Jessica’s planned posts are:

1. From English Ph.D. to Digital Marketing Entrepreneur
2. The Personal Psychology of Leaving Academia
3. Setting Up Your Own Post-Ac Business: The Nuts and Bolts
4. How To Make Adjunct Teaching Work For You, Post-Ac
5. What Is The Post in Post-Ac?


Sarita Jackson

Sarita Jackson

Sarita Jackson

Sarita D. Jackson, Ph.D., is the President and CEO of the Global Research Institute of International Trade, which she founded in July 2013. GRIIT is a think-tank/consulting firm whose purpose is to analyze the opportunities and costs of free trade agreements and simplify the rules within these agreements so that businesses can take advantage of global market opportunities to increase their profits.  Previously, Dr. Jackson was a tenured associate professor of political science at North Carolina A&T State University from 2007 to 2013.  She was awarded the Fulbright Scholar/Lecture Award to the Dominican Republic. In addition, Dr. Jackson worked as a trade policy consultant for the Arlington-based firm The Services Group, Inc. from 2005-2006.  Dr. Jackson earned an M.A. and a Ph.D. from Brown University. You can find her at her LinkedIn page and on Twitter at @IntlTradExaminr.

1. Make Yourself Marketable Now!

What you can do as a graduate student to make yourself marketable beyond academia so that you will already have the skills, which translate into options, when you need them.

2. Notes from a Recovering Academic: Expanding beyond the academic mindset

What “research” means to consultants and the business community. This post emphasizes  being able to also think beyond just the academic mindset.

3. How Academia Translates Into Entrepreneurship

Translating the skills that academics have from teaching, research and securing grant money into an entrepreneurial role. Explains how these skills apply to running a business.

4. Identifying a Need: Finding the practical value in your work

Explains how one can turn theoretical work into practical use and the right types of people to work with to help you sell your message.

5. You Are the Search Committee

How you can take control of your career and where to look to connect with the right people (mentors and sponsors) for the requirements for both consulting and entrepreneurship.

6. Finally, It is Not About You!

Focus on crafting a message that resonates with the business community and highlights your value.  Touches on the big mistake that many academics make when marketing themselves— giving a laundry list of degrees, publications, and research topics.

The 5 Top Traits of the Worst Advisors

On Twitter today I got pinged on a discussion among @ArchaeologyLisa, @DrIsis@LexMcBride about how much publishing is necessary for the tenure track job market. The discussion was prompted by today’s post on the Isis the Scientist blog, Writing At Much Less Than the Speed of Light. In the post, Dr. Isis describes a shocking encounter in graduate school when a mentor informed her that because she had no first author publications, she was seen as unproductive, and not a competitive contender for grants.

“I was stunned and replied ‘But, I’ve done X, Y, and Z.’  ‘Yes,’ he answered. ‘But you can’t prove it and your peers haven’t reviewed and accepted it.’”

She goes on to relate the importance of this exchange in her eventual development as a scholar:

“I am so thankful to the mentor who initially pointed out that, for as great as I thought I was, people around me saw me as non-productive. It was hard to hear, and many of our interactions ended with tears, but it gave me the push that I needed to right my ship before it sank. There seems to be a critical period where you can’t really recover from the label of “non-productive” and I was, luckily, saved from it by some painfully honest advice.”

This is perfect illustration of my thesis in this blog post I’m reposting today – The 5 Top Traits Of the Worst Advisors – that the very worst advisor is the nice advisor. Nice serves nobody in the academic career at this point in time. I write below, “If you’ve never cried before, during, or after a meeting with your advisor, something is amiss.”  Many have taken exception to this advice, but I stand by it entirely, for the reasons that Dr. Isis explains so clearly.  The stakes are unbelievably high in a market this awful.  An effective advisor will sometimes need to shake you out of lingering complacency, passivity, or delusion.  Ongoing abuse this is not (that must be rejected)–it’s targeted challenge to any comfortable but self-defeating habits of mind.

Never, ever believe an advisor who tells you it’s fine to “just focus on your dissertation” and “leave publishing to later.”  Dr. Isis explains:

“I am now watching the careers of a couple of young people around me capsize and fall to the bottom of the ocean  because people were too nice. It’s painful, but it was preventable.  No one made it exceptionally clear to these folks that not publishing *now* was going to permanently label them and hurt their chances for future success.”

And on the question of how many first author, peer reviewed publications you need:  well, that is field specific and can’t be answered definitively, except to say this-  you must have at least one, and preferably more.  They are the evidence that you are a productive scholar, an original thinker, an active member of your scholarly community, and finally a person who can produce the kind of work necessary for your eventual tenure case.  To go out on the market without at least one is madness.

Dr. Isis reflects on the evolution of her thinking about this question:

“When I started [my blog] I was of the belief that, if a student’s thesis was done and they had a viable job prospect, good ’nuff. Let them graduate. My thinking has completely changed since then. It is the most profound of disservices to let a student graduate without a first author publication. They may be eager to graduate and move on, but it’s like putting them in a boat with no sails and no paddles.”


The 5 Top Traits of the Worst Advisors

Those of you who have cruised around The Professor Is In. site are already familiar with some of my personal story of graduate school and the tenure track.  Those who haven’t–check out the page, Why Trust Me?

I had a fairly rocky road into graduate school.  I had won the prestigious, and completely portable, NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, and had been recruited with a fabulously generous package of supplemental funding by Cornell.  I was on the path to finish graduate school with a nest egg!

Then I traveled to a major national conference to have a personal meeting with my soon-to-be Cornell anthropology advisor….. and he behaved like a complete toad.

He was rude.  He was dismissive.  He sneered at my proposed topic (the one that had won the 6 years of full funding!)—an innovative (for the time–it was the late 80s) study of the impact of Japanese corporate culture on Southeast Asian workers in Japanese factories opening in countries like Thailand and Malaysia.  He kept looking over my shoulder to find other, more important people to talk to.

I was stunned, shocked, dismayed, heartbroken.  I didn’t understand what was going on.   I cried.  Slunk back to my hotel room. Raged to friends.   A week or so later, recovering some of my equilibrium, I called up the department to complain.  Come to find out,  the department and the Graduate College at Cornell had happily recruited me as an NSF awardee without first gaining the agreement of the one faculty member–the lone Japan anthropologist– who would have to be my primary advisor.  Are you kidding me?

But never one to linger in uncertainty, I made a quick decision, said to myself, “to hell with you stupid Ivy Leagues, I never liked you anyway…” and I took myself to the University of Hawai’i, to work with a very well known anthropologist there.

Things worked out sort of ok with her… and then, not.  It’s a story for another post.  Suffice to say, for most of the years I worked with her, she was good enough.

But over the years I learned a lot about what makes advisors good, bad, excellent, and terrible.  Not just from her, but from watching my friends in the program and their struggles with their advisors, and then coming to advise students myself, and watching my students’ experiences with me (!), and observing and talking to the students of my faculty colleagues in my various departments.

So, here it is:  the Top 5 Traits of the Worst Advisors. If you are still considering graduate school, test for these before you commit yourself to an advisor or a program!  If you are already in graduate school, and you recognize your advisor in this list, see if you can switch out.  If not, work to protect yourself.  And if you are in graduate school and your advisor has none of these traits, you’ve won the advisor lottery, appreciate your good fortune (and good judgment) and prepare to pay it forward with your own students later.

The Top 5 Traits of the Worst Advisors

5.    Steals your work.

This doesn’t happen too often.  But when it does, it means you have the very worst advisor.  This is a toxic advisor, and you need to get out immediately.  Talk to your department head, and the Graduate Dean.

4.   Is crazy-making inconsistent.

This advisor insists on one path of action one week, and the next week, insists on its perfect opposite.  One meeting they tear apart your diss chapter with, “too much poststructuralist feminist theory!!!  It’s completely unnecessary to your argument!” You make the revisions, send in the new version, and the next meeting, she’s all like, “where’s your poststructuralist feminist theory???  How can you possibly write this chapter without it?”

Don’t shoot yourself in the head.  Just follow up every meeting with a clear, short email that summarizes what she said.  Then include that email when you submit the next set of revisions, and be ready to whip it out if you find the advisor contradicting it some time later.

3.  Is abusive, negative and undermining.

This is sadly common.  This is the advisor that can’t manage a positive comment.  Avoid these advisors if you can, but it’s possible you can’t.  If you’re already over-committed to one, surround yourself with other, positive, mentors.  Remember that with all negative, undermining people, they are actually talking to and about themselves, and not anyone else.

Ironically, the best path with an advisor like this is to stand up for yourself.  Bow and scrape and apologize and trust me, the abuse will intensify.  I know this one from experience.  Set firm boundaries and stand up for your ideas… and chances are, he’ll back off.

2.  Is never around.

The more famous your advisor is, the more likely he is always jetting off to Amsterdam, South Africa, or Singapore for some high powered conference or symposium or keynote address.  This is also a risk if you have an assistant professor advisor in about his 4th or 5th year in the department.  Always away giving the next big talk.

Get self-sufficient fast, find mentors on campus who are more available, and schedule meetings with your advisor well in advance.  This one, you can work around.  Email, Google Docs, Skype…no one really needs to be anywhere these days.

1.  Is nice, and friendly, and available.

And never gives you the fierce criticism and the tough pushback that forces you to confront your weaknesses, take risks, stop whining, cut the excuses, get over your fears, and make hard decisions about reputation, money, and jobs.

This advisor has been the downfall of countless graduate students.  Too wussy to go after the big guns, these students circle around the nice associate professor ladies (and the occasional man) in the department, the ones who remember their birthdays and sometimes bring in homemade bread.

If you’ve never cried before, during, or after a meeting with your advisor, something is amiss.

Do not attach yourself to someone “nice.”  Attach yourself to someone “intense.”  They might not be all warm and fuzzy, but they’ll have you prepped to deal with the REAL assholes who are always circling out there, waiting to pounce.

Nice loses in academia.  Not because you need to be mean, but because you need to be fierce.

P.S. Bonus Worst Advisor: The Greybeard/Curmudgeon/Emeritus:  Never, ever have an emeritus as your advisor.   Emeritii are old. They made their reputations in decades past. They made have been highly successul and powerful. But that was in the past. Now they are old. Their peers are old, their connections are old, their publications are old, and most likely their theoretical foundations are old.

You, my reader, are about the future.  The Emeritus is about the past.  Do NOT be seduced by their corduroy patches, and their leisurely gait, and their home-brewed beer, and the endless, endless hours they have to spare for you.  Stay clear, keep a wide berth.

Don’t ever forget this rule:  If you advisor seems to have infinite amounts of time to talk to you….  s/he is a bad advisor.



Freeing the Academic Elephant – Cardozo 2

What do Foucault, Martha Beck, George Mallory, and Death Cab for Cutie have in common?  An ambivalent relation to the discipline required and imposed in the pursuit of a single-minded goal.  In your case: the academic career, and the ways that you’ve become fixated on this goal to the exclusion of all else.  Karen Cardozo shows you how finding and creating your own True North (to borrow Martha Beck’s marvelous phrase) can be the path out of indoctrination.

(For more on Karen Cardozo and the complete list of her planned posts, see this page.)

Dr. Karen Cardozo

Dr. Karen Cardozo

In my last post I argued that tenurecentrism has saddled us with a failed “Track” metaphor, since the untenured majority must actually navigate a crazy professional roundabout.  Let’s now think back to before you could drive, so to speak.  In a tenurecentric universe, Alt/Post-Ac discourse inevitably comes across as elegiac – a consolation prize for the lost academic career.  But what makes you so sure that an academic career was the right choice for you in the first place?

In fact, many of us ended up in the Ivory Tower not through a genuine sense of election but as the default position of bright but undecided or under-informed students everywhere.   Many of us keep doing it because we can, or, as British mountaineer George Mallory famously replied when asked why he climbed Everest: “because it’s there.”  (Take heed: he died on the climb, his body not found for decades!).  Did you ever—before the market made a decision for you—feel you wanted to leave academe, but had invested too much to turn away?

If this strikes even a faint chord of recognition in you, then joining the Alt/Post-Ac conversation may not be the stuff of mere consolation, but rather, a long-deferred awakening and liberation—what Martha Beck calls finding your own True North.  A recovering academic herself, Beck is finely attuned to the ways our internalized “social” selves drown out the “essential” inner voices that know what we really want.  Second only to our families of origin, perhaps, academic socialization has the loudest voice of all.

I recently attended a life coaching workshop where the speaker talked about “river-reed thinking,” a reference to elephant training.  How do you get a creature that outweighs you by several thousand pounds to do what YOU want, yet what IT can hardly find desirable – e.g. spend long days transferring felled trees from one location to another?   Answer: from young, tie it with an unbreakable iron chain to an immoveable iron stake until it gets the message: YOU CANNOT CHANGE THIS SITUATION NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO.  Once the animal’s will has been broken, chain and stake can be relinquished:  it will respond to even the lightest tug conveyed by a thin reed tied to its ankle.  Thus is a powerful animal prevented from realizing that it could walk away at any time, crushing most obstacles in its path.

Death Cab For Cutie offers a similar message in “Talking Bird,” the perfect anthem for those wondering whether or how to leave academic life.

It’s hard to see your way out
When you live in a house in a house

Cause you don’t realize

That the windows were open the whole time

Michel Foucault had a word for all this and the attendant structures of feeling:  Discipline.  Do you see, my little birds and elephants, what has become of us in our quest to be accepted into the guild?  To further crowd the menagerie, this educational system fails to teach us how to calm our monkey minds:  it only clutters our heads with more thoughts and insecurities as we swing from fragile branch to branch, seeking a safe place to land.

We need to get free of the monkey chatter and the elephant trainer’s tugs. Each of us needs to cultivate an interior identity that is less dependent on, or subject to, our external circumstances.  Yes, I’m talking about meditation, prayer, nature hikes, interpretive dance, yoga, inspirational reading – whatever takes you out of your tortured academic head to a deeper wellspring of hope and self-knowledge, what Tim Robbins in The Shawshank Redemption described as the place “they can’t get to, they can’t touch.”  As a wounded academic, you need to expand the size of that “place” till there’s enough room for new aspirations and realization of change.

It is a commonplace of many ancient theologies that thought IS creation, hence the oft-quoted mantra: “everything is created twice—first in thought, then in form.”  See, for example, this gloss on Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which emphasizes that our material, psychological and spiritual fulfillment depends on cultivating positive convictions.  As you think, so you shall become.  The flip side is that negative thoughts anchor us to the past and leave us feeling trapped in the present, with no direction or energy for moving forward.  Academe is the Bermuda triangle of positive thinking, and it will take strenuous navigation skills to get out.

Before I go further, let me remind you that I am a humanities PhD fully equipped for gloves-off cultural critique.  I could mount an effective diatribe about how spiritual, self-help or positive psychology movements are but the ideological handmaidens of late global capitalism working to disable our capacity for systemic analysis by making “the individual” the reason for his or her success or failure.  That we live in a time rife with the insidious displacement of social responsibility is clear enough.

BUT.  Such analysis doesn’t invalidate the equally compelling insight that, while we may have little control over our situations, we DO have significant influence over how we respond to those circumstances.  That choice determines what happens next.  You may rail against an unjust system (and I hope you do) but at the end of the day, you still have to deal with the mess of your feelings—despair, doubt, fatigue, and worry, to name but a few.  At such moments you need something more than Foucault, Hegel, or Marx.  You need living friends, a wider support network, and self-renewal if it is ever going to be possible for you to consider – and create – new options for your personal and work life.

So. Whereas The Professor has devoted herself primarily to improving the odds for those on the academic job market, my focus is on helping you genuinely consider the option of stepping off the faculty track – whether for a different position within Higher Ed, or another kind of working life altogether.  Ideally, you would have adopted a True North or Free Elephant mindset before you even knew you’d need it:  as inoculation against indoctrination while pursuing an academic career.  While this bit of tactical news may seem to have arrived too late for some well-disciplined folks, it is never too late to unlearn the elephant trainer’s lessons and adopt new guiding principles for your life.  If you want to experience the power of thought as creation, believe that!

Instead of viewing your Alt/Post-Ac situation as imposed upon you by external factors out of your control, carve out some time and space to heed whatever vocational desires are bubbling up from within –possibly long-buried ones rendered inert by your time in the academic trenches.  Don’t let financial concerns stop you, either.  You already KNOW how poor, literally, most academics are.  Beck argues, convincingly, that “in today’s climate, your essential self is a much more reliable moneymaker than your social self.”  As many academics have learned the hard way, few organizations or fields now promise a coherent career course over a lifetime –we’ve lost the “company man” structure that once reinforced and rewarded the plodding social self.  Thus, says Beck, in welcoming uncharted territory, the “creative and unorthodox essential self [is] the best chance you have of achieving financial security.”

So, what will YOU create today?

So You Want To Come to the Dark Side: Starting the #Postac Journey – Polizzi 1

Allessandria Polizzi has been in corporate education, change management and organizational development for over 15 years, and currently leads education for 7-Eleven.  She has a Ph.D. in English. In this post she helps you do a systematic diagnostic on your current career goals and life values.  “Decision by Excel” worked for her–give it a try!

(For more on Allessandria Polizzi and the complete list of her planned posts, see this post.)

Dr. Allessandria Polizzi

Dr. Allessandria Polizzi

The first question to ask is: why? Are you fed up with student drama? Lonely working by yourself? Tired of not having weekends off? Have carpel tunnel from grading? Looking to make more than a kid running a pizza joint? Wanting more job security? Tired of the hustle?

Or are these just the reasons I left academia?

I reached out to Karen because I wanted to share some of the experiences I have had in making the transition from adjunct faculty to corporate leader. This isn’t to judge those who stay committed to academia. This is not to say that you shouldn’t follow your dreams and embrace your passions. And this is ABSOLUTELY not to say I have all the answers.

My goal is to help those who want to explore a different path than the one they started. Karen has graciously invited me to do that in partnership with her and to provide a forum to pass along advice, share some of my experiences, and give a different perspective from the “dark side” of a corporate career.

So, lets got back to those questions, shall we?

It’s important when beginning to explore your career options to do a lot of soul searching. Identifying why you want to change is a big step in that process. If you know why you want to leave, you will know what to look for and what to avoid in your new career choice (or choices… There are a mind-blowing-lot of options outside academia). You will also be better able to answer this question when you get asked it during an interview (& you will get asked this A LOT because people in the corporate world do not understand why you would leave the”cushy” job of a professor and will tell you OFTEN how they have dreamt of one day going back to college to get their degree in French or Engineering or whatever and live the high-life of an academic).

I recommend making a pros and cons list. I know that sounds pretty pedestrian, but I like to see things on paper. Personally, I have actually used Excel to map out career decisions before. I wrote down the things I valued on the left column (time with kids, ability to take time off for personal travel, collaborative work, autonomy, compensation, travel through work, etc), assigned a scale based on priority (5 points for must haves, 3 points for maybes, and 1 point for optional), and then scored each option using Excel magic to calculate it all and spit out an answer like one of those old timey fortune teller machines. Stop laughing. It helped me graphically see if the current path was still the right one or not.

Should a “decision by Excel” not be your thing, there are other ways to get this process going. Speaking to a counselor, religious professional or a good friend can be a great way to talk through your options. As a former English professor, I find free writing particularly helpful (in case this isn’t something you have done, it is just writing nonstop for a period of time, even when you have nothing to say). Or research and find your own way to deconstruct where you are emotionally, psychologically, and perhaps even physically. The important thing is to have a clear sense of what it is that is driving you to begin considering an alternative, so you are clear on your goals and objectives and don’t just take the first or most obvious thing presented to you.

Of course, I did none of this when I first left. Rather, I stumbled into a summer temp job for a telecom company (this was the 90s before the telecom crash, so there were budgets galore and a lot of people spending it). I was a contractor and had negotiated $25 an hour (which is laughable to me now, but we will get to that a bit later). I thought I had struck the jackpot. I walked in, day one, met the people (who were nice and approachable), saw the work I would be doing (which was not mind-numbing as I had feared), did the math (I was making more in an hour than I made in a day teaching college) & called the hubby to announce I was changing careers.

The biggest thing to keep in mind at this point is that you aren’t actually leaving academia yet. You are just doing a quick “diagnostic” to ensure that the thing that sounded like a good idea when you were in your early 20s (or whenever you decided that academia was the right path for you) is still, well, the right path for you. It could be that it remains the best way for you to fill your needs and feel fulfilled. In which case, I hope Karen can help you land a tenure-track position and get a great spot at a fantastic place. If not, I hope you come back and read my posts and eventually attend my webinars on how I recommend navigating through the process.

Chronicle Vitae’s Free Dossier Service

As you probably know by now I am launching a post-ac branch of The Professor Is In, dedicated to advice and information for people seeking jobs outside the academy. I’ll be posting 2 post-ac posts written by my team of experts early in the week, and maintaining my usual academic-job-market post schedule on Fridays.

Most Fridays I’m going to be re-posting posts from the past 3 years that are relevant to the season of the job market cycle.

But today*, I want to pass along one piece of information that I learned while at the MLA meeting, where I spent time hanging out at the Chronicle Vitae booth.  I am a regular columnist at Vitae, where I do a weekly advice column.   Need job market advice?  Please put it in the comment thread right here on this post, and you’ll see the answer up on Vitae very, very soon.  (Please help—I really need questions for the column!)

Anyway, I like Vitae because it hosts some amazing news and advice by columnists like Rebecca Schuman, Sarah Kendzior, Josh Boldt, William Pannapacker, Joe Fruscione, and many others too numerous to mention.

However, it was at the MLA that I learned the most important thing that Vitae does for you, the job seeker: it hosts a completely free dossier service.

Yes, you can use Vitae as a replacement for Interfolio, and it’s free.

I hate Interfolio and said that in this blog post.  I should clarify, I don’t hate Interfolio per se, so much as I hate what it represents:  more professors who do even less to assist their graduate students, more professors too lazy to even write original tailored letters for each job to which they apply.  I don’t approve.

But the evil of dossier services exists, and if you must participate in it, well, Vitae is free.

Vitae has other capacities that also allow you to host your CV and publications and so on, making it also a replacement for (about which I have no feelings of any kind positive or negative).  Vitae is, I think, more multi-media friendly than, and can host a range of content, including videos of your teaching, for example, more easily or at least in a more accessible and visually appealing way.  And it allows for social networking in a way reminiscent of LinkedIn, but less weird and alienating than LinkedIn.

I want to be clear:  I am paid to write the advice column for Vitae, but I am not getting paid to promote Vitae.  I was never asked by anyone at the Chronicle at any time to promote Vitae in a blog post, and I never intended to do so.

However, sitting at the Vitae booth at MLA and eavesdropping on the information they were sharing about the free dossier service and Vitae’s other capacities (which I want to say to Vitae designers and promoters:  you haven’t done a very good job of communicating to the public!!) I was impressed. And because the cost of applying for jobs is one of the scandals of the job market as it’s currently constituted, I want to encourage everyone to check out Vitae and its free dossier service.


*OK, so technically I missed Friday this week. I was BUSY what with making chocolate-covered bacon rose bouquets for the family, and baking gluten free pumpkin bread for the high school teachers Valentine’s Day breakfast. What can I say?

Chocolate covered bacon rose bouquet

Chocolate covered bacon rose bouquet

Beyond Tenurecentrism – Cardozo 1

Karen Cardozo has worked in both academic administration (Harvard, Williams) and on the tenure track (Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts).  In this post she coins the term “tenurecentrism” for our collectively inability to “see” alternatives to the academic career.  She argues that even terms like “post-ac” further reinforce the harmful idea of a single, linear track through the Ph.D., and suggests the image of the roundabout instead.

(For more on Karen Cardozo and the complete list of her planned posts, see this page.)

Karen Cardozo

Karen Cardozo

As we learned from the postmodern linguistic turn:  language matters.  It is the container that determines the shape and volume of our thoughts, generating particular realities.  In A Postcapitalist Politics (2006), J.K. Gibson-Graham showed how “capitalocentrism” prevents us from acknowledging the existing diversity of economic arrangements and the different identities of economic actors that result.   By analogy, as I argued in “Contemplating Contingency” (Modern Language Studies Summer 2012) tenurecentrism robs us of meaningful ways to acknowledge the diverse lived experiences of the untenured “new Faculty Majority.”  The terms adjunct, contract/sessional, and non-tenure track each have a significant conceptual flaw. To wit:

The meaning of adjunct as supplemental or inessential fails to acknowledge that the untenured masses are the majority without whom Higher Ed could not function.  In emphasizing short-term employment, “contract” obscures the fact that most “adjuncts” work at the same institutions over significant lengths of time up to and including their entire career. It’s the jobs that are temporary, not the people, most of whom are persistent beyond reason and committed to and fully capable of being professional faculty.

“Non-TT” defines a whole group of individuals by what they are not rather than what they are and therein carries all the false assumptions and descriptive limitations of non-fiction, non-White and other such binary terms that betray the privileged standpoint from which one group confers the “non” designation in the first place. Non-men?  It’s nonsensical!

Similarly, in naming and framing the situation of folks who are wondering whether they should continue to pursue an academic career, I question the implied linear sequence in “post-ac” or second-best fallback in “alt-ac.”  These terms belie the new outlook that graduate students and even tenure track faculty need to maintain from the start, knowing what we now know about the uneven lay of the academic land.  The Track is a failed metaphor.

As Marc Bousquet has made clear, the doctoral system’s only interest lies in reproducing the traditional professoriate while ensuring the continual supply of adjunct and graduate student labor that underwrites both the job structures of Real Professors and the larger institutional infrastructure (How the University Works 2008).

Today, the pursuit of an academic career is best engaged within a larger controlling framework whose mantra from the outset is multiplicity (not a track but a “roundabout,” if you will, with many potential points of ingress and egress).  Acquiring the Ph.D. should not be viewed as an entrance ticket to The Big Show, but more like a highway toll (and oh boy, does it take its toll!)  allowing you to ride to any number of destinations and exit points.  In the same way that the literature on mentoring has reframed the dyadic  senior-junior kinship model of “a” mentor into a more functional and diversified team of mentors (including peers) who meet different needs, today’s graduate students and junior faculty members should view their academic pursuits as only ONE potential career path while genuinely and simultaneously exploring others.  Inefficient?  Maybe.  Necessary? Absolutely.

This new mindset requires assiduous participation in a head game that is antithetical to the disciplinary thinking or single-minded focus that is the hallmark of most doctoral programs. Instead, think of your life as a Windows operating system. The ONLY program that was automatically installed when you matriculated into your graduate program was Preparing for Your Academic Career (and as The Professor has amply argued, that is a shoddy program with a lot of bugs and very few updates).

You will need to download and open other applications, such as Keeping Your Options Open, Acquiring Additional Experiences and Skills, and Building a Broader Network (both within and beyond the academy). Indeed, the most fully disciplined among us suffer the most when the sustainable academic career doesn’t materialize.

As a graduate student and even as a faculty member, you need to keep building a broader portfolio of experience, interests, and skills beyond the strictly academic.  Many of you out of financial necessity have already done this by working multiple jobs; as have activists through community engagement, or parents by coaching or volunteering in schools, etc.  The real problem is that you’ve been disciplined by the doctoral system to jettison all that stuff from your C.V. and view it as irrelevant.

I knew something was very wrong with the system when I was once told by a sympathetic member of a faculty search committee for which I was a finalist was that my prior work raised questions about whether I was a “serious” candidate.  What was that prior work?  Not stripping in the red light district or working at Trader Joe’s (an ongoing fantasy of mine—no more “what’s for dinner!”), but the fact that I had held administrative positions.  Not in PLACE of garnering excellent teaching and scholarly credentials, but in ADDITION to having done so.  An academic department that cannot see the value of a scholar who ALSO knows something about how the university works is a unit destined for irrelevancy if not extinction.

My point is:  the academic system is narrow-minded and has no stake in developing you as a person of broader capacities and options.  Only you are the CEO of that corporation.

I can’t prescribe my own offbeat path as one that should be standardized or followed en masse, but its features are instructive in terms of how it made my more open-ended career search possible:

1) I did not go straight from college to a Ph.D. program but worked in career counseling/ administration for several years.

2) I first completed an M.Ed. in Higher Ed Administration, which gave me an understanding of the larger institutional context and broader job possibilities before

3) I matriculated into my PhD program, which I crafted as increasingly interdisciplinary, widening my capacity to represent myself as potential fodder for jobs in different kinds of departments.

I started my Ph.D. program with a 3-month-old in tow and for the full decade it took me to complete my degree I juggled kids as well as gaining teaching experience on multiple campuses.  As it turns out, what felt like an unwieldy burden at the time was more like a booster shot inoculating me against the worst kinds of disciplinary damage – even while seriously pursuing an academic career, I never fully identified with it as the single or only path for me and thus found it psychologically easier later on to both 1) reject rather than internalize a false or limited academic consciousness and 2) leave the faculty track.

Lest that sounds too glib, I want to assure you that I had many dark nights of the soul.  No one is immune.  The bodysnatchers get in regardless. I doubted myself.  I raged against the dying of the academic light.  But the more I moved around, held different jobs, and got a truly comparative sense of how the academy operates, the more I was able to see the system for what it is.  In the same way that Edward Said has illuminated the valuable standpoint of the intellectual in exile, this access to the Truth of Things is the privilege of institutional exile.  It is a melancholic space, but it is also freeing.

Introducing The Post-Ac Experts: Karen Cardozo and Allessandria Polizzi

Today I introduce two of my team of Post-Ac Experts, Karen Cardozo and Allessandria Polizzi.  The team as a whole includes experts in all of the following (see the full bios here [still in progress]):

  • Alt-ac positions in advising (Cardozo)
  • Corporate positions (Polizzi, Day)
  • K-12 teaching (Tebbe)
  • Consulting (Langer, Jackson)
  • Entrepreneurship (Langer, Jackson, Kelsky)
  • Government jobs (Fanetti)
  • Freelance writing (TBA)
  • Freeland editing (TBA)

Each writer will contribute a series of blog posts, and you can track the posts by the authors in whose expertise you are most interested, by searching under their names.

Dr. Karen Cardozo

Karen Cardozo

Karen Cardozo

Karen Cardozo first worked in higher education as a career counselor at Harvard in the 1990′s and returned to that field at Williams College twenty years later in 2012.  In between, she completed her Masters in Higher Education Administration at Harvard in 1993 and a PhD in English/American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2005.  Before, during and after the PhD she worked as a dean at Mount Holyoke College and taught a total of 18 discrete courses including ethnic, gender, film, literary and trauma studies across the Five College Consortium (Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, Smith and UMass). Currently she is Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies (tenure-track) at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in the Berkshires, where she hopes to model the academic freedom to which all faculty should be entitled regardless of job status.  Karen identifies primarily as a developer of whole human beings, and tries to be one herself by meditating, spending time with her husband and sons, hiking with her dog Sadie, and making music with her folk-rock band (

Karen will be contributing a set of 8 posts charting the post-ac transition with special attention to the alt-ac trajectory.

  1. Beyond TenureCentrism

Discussing the problems of language in a “tenurecentric” academic universe.  I suggest that a new metaphor is needed: not a track but a roundabout, not a single, linear path but a Windows operating system – a model of multiplicity from the start.

  1. To Leave or Not to Leave? Freeing the Academic Elephant

Acknowledging the difficulty of “stepping off the track” for well-disciplined academics.

  1. The Career Counselor is In!

Reviewing my background and credentials

  1. Full Frontal Liberation

Drawing analogies to feminism, considering the importance of shaking off the tenurecentric values that keep a good academic down.

  1. Taking Inventory

Recapturing a fuller sense of interests, experiences and skills beyond the narrowly academic. Discussion of MBTI and other instruments; exercises to stimulate ideas and possibilities.

  1. The Art of Translation

Packaging and translating an academic background for non-faculty roles; discussion of CV-to-Resume conversion and cover letters

  1. Spinning Your New Web

Conveying the critical importance of networking not simply to actual job hunting but to the broader process of career exploration; clarifying what the process actually entails

  1. No Regrets:  Making Good Decisions

Referencing “regret theory” and “Buddhist economics,” I end the series with a discussion of how decisions are always made in real time within a particular set of constraints and options. Self- knowledge and taking one’s own inventory carefully in the present is the best defense against future regrets.


 Dr. Allessandria Polizzi

Dr. Allessandria Polizzi
Allessandria Polizzi

Allessandria Polizzi currently leads education for 7-Eleven in her role as the Dean of 7-Excel University. She has been in corporate education, change management and organizational development for over 15 years, earning several honors in her field including a 2012 ”Best Place to Learn in Dallas” award from the American Society for Learning and Development, a “Top Innovator Award” from Chief Learning Officer magazine, and Training magazine’s ”Top 40 Under 40? award. She serves on the board of directors for the DFW Learning and Development Director’s Roundtable and participates in the Network of Executive Women and Women’s Food Service Forum. She has a PhD in English with a specialization in 20th century literature from the University of North Texas (2001).  She lives outside of Dallas with her husband, son, daughter and rescued pug. You can learn more about her specific experience by visiting her LinkedIn profile.

Allessandria Polizzi will be contributing a series of fourteen blog posts

1. So you want to come to the dark side (see below)
2. Granite countertops (or how I left academia)
3. Why I became a corporate shill and other ruminations
4. What to expect when your expected (an outline of how corporate jobs are different than academia and what to expect)
5. A little me time (Discuss the self assessment folks should do to determine what area they would like to go into)
6. Beef up! ( get the experiences and stories you will need to apply to the role you want)
7. Let’s do lunch… (Meeting people in your area of interest and learning as much as you can)
8. Get out there (job hunting 101… Resumes, LinkedIn, Glassdoor and more)
9. Lost in Translation (how academic work translates in a corporate environment)
10.  Let’s Talk! (Interview tactics and connecting your experience to what they are looking for)
11. I got an offer…. Now what? (Walk through the art of negotiation… )
12.  Is this the one? (How to pick your best first employer… And beyond)
13. What in the heck did I do? (Understanding corporate culture: what it is, what to expect and how to adapt)
14. It only stings a little (letting go of your old life and starting your new one… And how to keep yourself intellectually fed in the meantime)