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Should I or shouldn’t I?

11 October, 2009

should I or shouldn’t I?

So there is one reason at SLAC that I really do not love it. It’s nothing I can do anything about, sadly. It will play itself out, one way or another.

Otherwise, I love my job, mostly. I love my colleagues, mostly, and I have made really good friends here. I am happy to work with them AND play with them. I love working for Superdean. He’s a great boss in almost every way (nobody’s perfect), and knows me well enough to nag me about my scholarship. Frankly, I could use a bit more nagging, but that’s not really his job. I also just get along really well with him.

We have a cool new Provost and an energetic BoT, and I think that the direction SLAC is taking is one I like. In 5-10 years, I think we may have moved along to much closer to the kind of place where I want to end up. It’s a neat idea to think of myself as someone who can help take it there.

Speaking of which, I really think that there’s a chance of building a much stronger program, one known for producing good teachers, public historians, and grad students.

And I really like my students. Sometimes I wish they were more driven, but as human beings, they are some of the nicest I’ve taught.

So why am I thinking about applying for the really cool job? Especially when I really am not competitive compared to many of the candidates?

Well, besides working with an incredibly cool scholar I really admire, that is?

Because honestly, as much as I love SLAC, I sometimes feel that I work best when surrounded by people who function at the levels I aspire to. When I surround myself with people who are good teachers AND good scholars, I find myself more energized and more productive. It’s not that SLAC doesn’t do that, but …

so, my loyal readers, should I or shouldn’t I? Am I disloyal to SLAC if I do? Am I being selfish?

Or is it just smart to keep reaching higher?

9 Comments leave one →
  1. 11 October, 2009 8:24 pm

    You want to know if you have any chance to participate at that higher level. Don't pass up the opportunity and regret it later.If SLAC can't offer something you think you need, there's no disloyalty in trying.After all administrators seem to switch between universities constantly.

  2. 11 October, 2009 9:17 pm

    If you don't throw your hat in the ring, will you regret it? Regardless of what you/GWU decide?

  3. 12 October, 2009 1:20 am

    Especially when I really am not competitive compared to many of the candidates? Hah! Who do you imagine the candidate pool is? I'm not trying to denigrate your field, but I know you'd be competitive. (Actually, I think your main problem might be the "why is a successful academic like her leaving SLAC" question.)Then, what matters is the committee, which you can't control. You don't know what kind of unspoken preconditions they are using as a filter: you might be at the top of the list after the first pass, or you might be in the "send 'em the letter" pile. I can't answer the "disloyal?" question. Some institutions take loyalty/committment very seriously, to the point that open consideration of other jobs becomes grounds for evaluation difficulties. It's more convincing when it comes from institutions that put a premium on the intellectual and professional development of their faculty; otherwise, it's a form of social control, a way to control HR costs. Selfish? Though there's a sense in which what we do is a "calling," again there's nothing that requires us to subordinate our professional or personal needs to our bosses. We have a responsibility to teach, and to publish, and to be good citizens of our institutions. It's possible for a person to be indispensible to a program, for a departure to be disruptive — a healthy institution will be able to make the transition without a lot of trauma, and an unhealthy one… won't, and who wants to stay at an unhealthy institution?

  4. 12 October, 2009 2:07 am

    Thanks, all! I think that, realistically, there will be people out there with better publication records. I will be able to hit the ground running at teaching, and could contribute to a growing Med-Ren program. I think that, were I to have a lighter load, and surrounded by colleagues who were better at doing well at teaching AND publishing, I would benefit from the example. At present, I am lucky enough to have started hanging out a bit more with people at SLAC who are trying to do the same, so there's hope there, too.Mostly, I would rather not look like an idiot for applying, when I know there are people who do have better records out there. At least I *can* answer the question of moving pretty honestly. I'd say what I say here — there are advantages to both, but I sort of want *this* kind of challenge. At the same time, I'd be very happy to continue my work at SLAC for a while. The awkward part is that I am associate now, and would probably have to go back to being assistant …So, different jobs, different challenges. Both with advantages and disadvantages.And I'm lucky in that some of the administration at SLAC takes the view that we should be looking at other options, because it keeps us working and productive. Not everybody feel that way, though, so I am not about to apply for jobs just to do it, nor to try to jerk people around for a raise. Last year there was a Dream Job. This year, there are several great jobs, but this is the only one I'd be willing to consider leaving SLAC for, and part of it is for the same reasons I love SLAC — people who seem very cool doing some really neat things…Yes, I m talking about this on my blog. Maybe I'd better edit a bit…

  5. 12 October, 2009 2:48 am

    I really don't think there's any good reason at all for colleagues or institutions to read "applying for other jobs" as disloyalty. (As Jonathan suggests, that doesn't mean it doesn't happen sometimes, but I think that's a ridiculous and childish way to be.)Very few of us end up in what we think are our "dream jobs" right out of grad school. Most of us end up someplace else–geographically and intellectually–and so we're faced with the task of either 1) trying to make not-dream-job the kind of place you'd want to be, or 2) finding another job. You've given a LOT of yourself in the service of goal #1, but that doesn't mean you can't also try door #2 once in a while.I live and work in a region of the country that happens to be the "dream" of a lot of people. That's nice for us when we're recruiting, but the fact is that (as you know, ADM) Baa Ram U. is in a pretty small town that doesn't offer much in the way of ethnic diversity, an arts community, or spousal/partner employment opportunities. (It's not the absolute worst, but it ain't all that, either.) I just take for granted that what works for straight, white, married people who have children probably doesn't work quite so well for my colleagues who aren't straight/white/married/with children/or any combination thereof. Besides–it's just an application. I find that tossing out the occasional job application makes me update my CV in thoughtful ways and forces me to explain myself in ways that are helpful to me in clarifying my immediate as well as longer-term career goals. So, if it works for you, think of it as a professional development exercise instead of as possible "disloyalty."

  6. 12 October, 2009 5:51 am

    Mostly, I would rather not look like an idiot for applying, when I know there are people who do have better records out there. "Out there" yes, but will they be in the search this year? If you're qualified for the position — and clearly you are — then an application won't result in any shame; anyone who knows the business knows that dozens of qualified people get tossed out of every stack. On the other hand, I've seen applications that were (or should have been) genuinely embarassing: people without terminal degrees (in some cases, without graduate degrees!), people whose interests only vaguely or slightly overlap the job description, people whose cover letters are clearly aimed at a different class of institution, people whose letter and cv seemed to come from different people.

  7. 12 October, 2009 2:53 pm

    You are not wallpapering the world with job applications; you are choosing ones that might address the one thing you find missing at SLAC. There is nothing disloyal about it. And if offered, then you have to think about the coming up for tenure again piece…

  8. 12 October, 2009 5:21 pm

    I am probably not supposed to say this but then again I am not in the History Dept. or so far affiliated with the search so: I hope you apply!

  9. 13 October, 2009 3:44 am

    First, let me say "ditto" to what Jonathan wrote above. Furthermore, institutions are just that – institutions. Healthy ones adjust to change just like healthy people do. Based on what I've seen, the unhappy colleagues we have are the ones who wanted to see what else was out there and didn't see it through. Furthermore, it may also unexpectedly lead to your valuing where you are more. You just don't know if you don't try. You took a big leap to take this position and I've sensed it wasn't quite what you thought it might be despite many good attributes. Listen to your gut and it appears your gut is saying to at least try. Ultimately, you want to know that you have found the best fit for you – in all the areas that matter. Also keep in mind that with the current job market, going from associate to assistant may be the only way to move. See if you can bargain years toward tenure and/or promotion if you become the final candidate and then see what happens. You might also want to consider that, after a few more years, you either have to be a "star" or people will wonder why a full professor wants to become an assistant professor. In other words, it doesn't get easier. And, with this job market that I fear will be with us for awhile, fewer opportunities such as this one will come along.Do let us know what you decide to do. We'll be in your corner no matter what you decide is best for YOU.

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