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Academic Coaching & Writing

VIII. After Tenure: Design What’s Next

Oct 29, 2015 by Carol Stack and Kathryn Betts Adams

Tenure is a tremendous accomplishment and privilege, but it represents a new life stage that can require new responsibilities and adjustments. Among the many common issues we have touched on in this series are reentering your normal life, dealing with increased service expectations, indecision or confusion surrounding future research or other professional activities, and dissatisfaction with your institution or location. However, as a tenured Associate Professor, there are unique benefits that can help to make the adjustment easier and bring you new satisfactions:

Choices. A tenured faculty member can request certain assignments and pursue professional activities that are of the greatest interest. While some paths more likely lead to eventual promotion to Full Professor, many Associates choose to take a path that affords greater work/life balance and appeals to their deeper passions.

Sabbaticals. The tradition of a sabbatical granted every seven years affords tenured faculty the opportunity to go places or work on projects that would be impossible during a regular working academic semester or year. Make your plans wisely and enjoy this perk that no one else in the working world can claim.

Collegiality. A tenured faculty member has more opportunities to pick and choose which colleagues to befriend and confide in and not to worry about being “liked” by everyone. When you look up from the heavy scholarship load of the tenure track, you may also have more time to make friends elsewhere in the university.

Niche. If you stay in one place for a prolonged time, it is likely that you can develop a set of tasks and roles that are uniquely yours. This amounts to forming new habits and traditions around your own position in your school or department. Creating a strong presence and expertise in certain aspects of department life feels good and can bring respect from colleagues and superiors.

Home base. Credentials as a tenured faculty member and the affiliation with a university offer the best of two worlds: On the one hand, a steady job and paycheck, relationships with students, and a professional home. And on the other, the ability to reach out to community members or groups, to participate in professional associations, to travel if you wish, to collaborate with colleagues the world over, and to reach a wider audience through publications, blogging, and speaking engagements.

Work/life balance. Faculty positions offer some flexibility in terms of the time you need to invest each week or month. Along with sabbaticals and regular breaks from teaching, academics in many fields have some freedom to work from home or to set their own hours. Most colleges and universities offer generous family or medical leave, as well. Taking full advantage when you need these benefits can help avoid burnout and keep you fresh, improve your quality of life, and provide energy for the work you need to do. It’s important to recognize that your academic life over the long-term will experience ups and downs in the motivation and energy available for various types of work.

The transition from Assistant to Associate is an exciting but sometimes daunting time. As you face this next stage of your career, you may initially find yourself feeling exhausted or burned out, restless, or overwhelmed. In this blog series, we have sought to provide you with a fresh perspective on how you can navigate this new phase of your academic career with both its pitfalls and its numerous opportunities. We hope you come away with positive approaches to design a work/life balance, expand your connections with supporters and colleagues, renew your professional focus, and to set short- and mid-term goals for yourself and your career.

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