On the Job Market When You Have a Tenure Track Job (From the Hey Jane Archives)

May 1, 2009 at 1:24 am | Posted in Job Market, New Faculty, Tenure | Leave a comment


“Although I already have a tenure-track job, I have decided to go back on the job market.  I’m afraid that if I don’t include a letter of reference from a colleague in my current department, then the search committees will think that I am underperforming in my current job.  What advice can you give me about informing my current departmental colleagues about my job search?”


Generally, pre-tenure, it’s not advisable to let it be widely known that you are on the job market.  Despite your actual reasons for searching, people will come up with their own interpretations.  They may assume that you are unhappy in the department, that you are just trying to get a raise, or that you are afraid that you might not be granted tenure.  All of these interpretations may influence the way you are treated in your department by some people.

With that said, I think it is assumed in academia (and in most fields) that everyone is potentially always on the job market and if they find another job that improves their lives, they might resign.   One big difference between academia and other fields is that our job searches are spread out over a much longer time frame than most.  This leaves us with a much longer time period to feel like we are “keeping a secret.” I’ve known people who love their jobs and love their departments, but simply want to move to a different geographic location.  Because they have supportive colleagues, they feel guilty about even looking for another job.  There’s no need to feel guilty, I think most people understand that you “have to do what you have to do.”

As far as a letter of recommendation, if you have a departmental colleague whom you really trust to be confidential, you could ask her or him to be a reference.  It can certainly be handy to have a letter that says “so-and-so is an amazing scholar, teacher, colleague and human being who would be a terrific addition to your faculty.  We really would hate to lose so-and-so, but our loss would be your gain.” However, that letter doesn’t have to come from someone in your department, but might come from a trusted colleague in another department at your institution.  If it is simply not possible to ask anyone at your institution for a recommendation, don’t fret, search committees understand the delicacy of applying for jobs while you are currently employed.

As for informing the rest of your departmental faculty, I would say wait until you have a written offer on the table.  However, if you are hoping to receive a counter-offer from your home institution, you will probably need to begin talking with your chair and/or dean with only a verbal offer.

Once you are tenured, job hunting is a whole different story.  At this point, it’s perfectly reasonable to ask for a letter from a departmental colleague.  Ideally, you wouldn’t want to bother people for letters until you have made a short-list based on your CV, however, some searches will request letters right away.  In this case, you might contact the search committee and ask if you can postpone letters of recommendation until the short-list phase of the search. At this level, there is still no need to widely inform people of your search, however, once you’ve been invited to interview, it’s probably okay to let people know.  Often, someone desired elsewhere becomes more valued at home.  Once you’ve been offered the interview, you might want to inform your home institution because some administrators have the freedom to make preemptive counter-offers to encourage faculty to decline the interview.  The counter-offer might be attractive enough that you will choose to forgo the interview.  However, if you turn down the counter-offer and then are not offered a job, you have lost out on whatever was offered by your home institution.

A few more things to consider: Continue Reading On the Job Market When You Have a Tenure Track Job (From the Hey Jane Archives)…

Preparing for Your 3rd Year Review [From the Hey Jane Archives]

April 27, 2009 at 1:07 am | Posted in Hey Jane Column, New Faculty, Teaching & Mentoring, Tenure | Leave a comment

I am preparing for my 3rd year review and am wondering how to best address negative student course  evaluations in my statement. I’m particularly concerned that some comments seem to be a reflection of  the student’s perception of my personal characteristics and feminist teaching style rather than a reflection  of how much they have learned during the semester.  Help!

The first and most important piece of advice is: don’t be defensive in the framing of your teaching evaluations.  Instead, think of this as an opportunity to outline how you plan to improve.  Hopefully there will be at least one item or aspect of teaching for which you have scored well.  Start by pointing that out. Then, for items where your scores were not as high as you would have liked, be prepared to outline a specific plan for improving those scores.  Your plan might involve visiting your institution’s teaching resource center, subscribing to a teaching journal, or attending a teaching workshop at an ASA or SWS meeting. Your plan might be even more concrete, such that you propose a curriculum change or altering a current classroom practice.  By outlining your plan for improvement, when it’s time for your next review, hopefully you’ll be able to narrate a success story.  For a specific example, the excerpt below comes from my 4th year review statement:

On the overall evaluation item, the range of my scores changed from 3.4-3.9 for my 2nd year review to 3.6-4.6 with 4 out of 9 classes being above a 4 since the last review.  In the past I have been concerned with the evaluation items that purport to measure “points of view other than own,” “encouraged and responded to questions” and “respect for students.”  I have always done very well in these areas.  The last two years, I have focused on improving my evaluations on the items that claim to measure “lectures consistent with objectives,” “exam questions correspond with class material,” “unbiased grading,” and “informed class of grading criteria.”  Since I have been focusing on these items, my scores have been consistently high, ranging from 3.7 to 5.0 with most falling above a 4.0.  In the spirit of encouraging students to “claim their education,” rather than passively receive it, I have started asking introductory students at the beginning of the semester to articulate what expectations they have of their professors.  This usually leads to lively discussion.  In addition to helping the students formulate and articulate their expectations, this exercise helps me know what their expectations are at the beginning of class rather than waiting until the end of the course to see if I’ve lived up to those silent expectations.

It can also be useful to give some context to the evaluations.  One of my evaluators put it nicely by writing:

The committee notes that “Jane” teaches courses on deviance, crime, gender and health – courses that tackle issues of contemporary moral and political concern and in doing so raise the hackles of some students.  One of Professor “Jane’s” goals is to present students with a wide range of views on course topics.  Her success in meeting this goal may be seen in some comments written by students.  For example, Professor “Jane” is simultaneously too much of a feminist and not enough of a feminist.  Course content has a liberal spin and is even handed.  The committee reads these assessments as an indication that “Jane” is doing a good job of presenting a reasonably balanced perspective on topics covered in her courses. Continue Reading Preparing for Your 3rd Year Review [From the Hey Jane Archives]…

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