more advice on tenure…

I spotted these posts this evening and felt compelled to reference them.

Philip Nel’s post hits home:

These days, I’m not “addicted to stress.”  Indeed, I would welcome fewer tasks.  And yet… I have more to do than ever before….

Having said that, to complain about this predicament (especially in these dire economic times) would seem churlish in the extreme.  After all, I am an academic with a tenure-track job.  Heck, I’m an academic with tenure.

I feel fortunate to work at the Libraries–and hope our pre-tenure folks do–after reading Meredith Farkas’ post “Invisible goalposts, support, and having a plan“.  I left the following comment on her post (and hope I sound like I know what I’m talking about):

I’m behind in my blog reading because everything at work has exploded AND I’m reviewing tenure & reappointment portfolios before our tenure committee meets this Wednesday. Funny though, I’d just posted on my own blog a bit–just a few thoughts–about the process.

My library has a formal mentoring program and encourages informal mentoring. We have an annual tenure workshop for pre-tenured librarians, their mentors and supervisors. I feel our T&P criteria are good, offering examples of non-directed (professional) service and research/scholarly/creative endeavors. We recognize that librarianship encompasses many new or non-traditional avenues for this work, and we’ve attempted to stress to junior faculty that there is flexibility built into our criteria. Our job descriptions, annual performance plans, and the Libraries’ and university’s strategic plans guide the process. The tenure committee provides feedback annually and expects to see action on that feedback.

As someone who went through the process as a single parent raising 3 children, I can say I rarely worked a 40 hour work week. I worked at home on nights and weekends. And I know a number of teaching faculty who, despite only teaching 2 or 3 classes and supposedly having time for research during their week, have numerous other tenure-related obligations that drive them to work in excess of 50 or more hours a week.

But finding balance is important because you DO need a life. The blog post in Scientific American has some excellent points. Find your passion in your work. Use that passion to drive your service and your scholarship. (We stress that to our pre-tenured faculty, too.) Be self-aware–know when you are taking on too much and work with supervisors and mentors to define your goals so you don’t get stretched in too many directions. Recognize that you cannot do everything you want to and that’s okay!

Professor Nel’s post supports my contention that most academics don’t do the 40 hour work week. (More power to you if you do!) I know that having a passion for the job and setting realistic expectations both for work and for home life helped me through the process.

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