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When we asked people that have been working in higher education for more than a year for advice to people entering in similar positions to them, we received a wide variety of suggestions.  In this post we’ll share what tenure-track faculty (who represented 17% of all combined 464 survey respondents) would advise those just entering the tenure track.

Some of the advice focused on being aware of how much the world of higher education is changing – and how much the role of the professorate will change along with it:

“Enjoy it while you can – we’re endangered species.”

“Get tenure as quickly as you can – it might not be around for very much longer!”

Some of the advice focused on teaching and the transformative power of teaching:

“Though it’s incredibly easy, try not to get jaded.  Teach toward the one or two motivated students in each class.  You’re still making a difference and have more tools to avoid becoming embittered and therefore less effective.  (Though I’m still relatively ‘new’).” 

 “Try to be the best teacher that you can be.”

 “Be prepared for a killing teaching load and underprepared students, but also for some great students transforming their lives.”

“Enjoy the energy you get from students – be ready for some of that energy to be negative, and have strategies for learning from them but move past them.  It is the positive energy that will really keep you moving ahead.”

Other advice focused on what we might label as “general career advice”:

“Find an institution that is a good ‘fit for you; it may take several tries.”

“Be sure that you love your work or it won’t be worth it.”

“Focus on teaching and other activities you enjoy and you will continue to enjoy why you went into this profession.”

 “Don’t try to be a brilliant genius that doesn’t pay attention to details, people and stuff that ‘shouldn’t matter’; all these do matter.”

“Try to be low-maintenance.  Your colleagues will appreciate it.”

 “Learn to balance your work/home time.”

“Work on relationships; be prepared to be flexible while maintaining program integrity and strength.”

“Avoid cynicism by recognizing early that academe is just as fraught with petty squabbles, mean-spirited colleagues, and irrational rules as any other area of endeavor – but no more so than any other.”

 “Take long views.”

Some of the most sobering advice came from faculty that have been in the profession for a decade or longer:

“Find another job.”

“Don’t do it.”

“The idiots ‘above’ you will change, so just ignore them and focus on your teaching.”

“Be flexible, young colleague, watch your back, and I hope that you have given serious thought to a ‘back door’ career that will facilitate your exit from what used to be an institution that was the envy of the world.”

“I would advise such a person to seek a different career.”

“Manage your OWN career, not the institution’s.”

“Always stay under the radar. . . do the work you were hired to do and little else. . . don’t waste your time on committee work or hiring teams, because what you think does not matter. . . don’t try to be innovative or creative. . . administrators are looking for ‘canned,’ ‘cheap’ and materials with built-in assessments that will purposely PROVE some kind of improvement so that they GET THEIR BONUSES. . . focus your energy where it matters – on the STUDENTS.  You can change the world one student at a time!”


Are there other pieces of advice you would give to those entering the tenure track?


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