Why Some Stay

Redefining the non-mobile academic (faculty and non-faculty) career.

October 24, 2017

Many academics (faculty and non-faculty) have no plans to go anywhere.

If all goes as they plan, they will spend the rest of their  careers where they are now.

As a group, they don't tend to advertise their non-mobility. In an age of competitive jobs, the fastest way to lower future earnings may be to remove the risk that you will leave for another institution.  So they tend to keep our mouths shut.

I’m convinced, however, that stayers are more numerous than is commonly recognized.

New college graduates are told that they will have 8 or 10 (or whatever) careers, working at numerous organizations and companies.  It is important, however, to recognize the other end of that story.  Building and then finishing a career within one one college or university occurs more often than is recognized.

There are some important lessons to be learned about what motivates people to say - and what motivates them to leave.  The reality is that academic career advancement (faculty and non-faculty) tends to require (at some point) going to another institution.

One of the challenging aspects of building a career in higher education technology is the lack of internal career paths.  It is often necessary to go to another school in order to gain more responsibility and authority.

The desire for great impact is the number one reason, I’m convinced, that people move to another job at another institution. Taking another job at a different school is seldom driven by the desire to make more money (although that is always nice), but rather the ambition to make more of a difference.

So why is it that so many good people stay?

That they don't try to go for the next bigger job?

One reason they stay is because they love their schools.  Loyalty to a particular institution and a particular place amongst both faculty and non-faculty educators is too often under-appreciated.  Just as alumni love their institutions, faculty and staff often feel a similar emotional affiliation with their schools.

It is also true that higher ed needs circulation, and the fresh ideas and outside perspectives that come with moves to another institution.

Like all immigrants, the people who are willing to overcome all the barriers and hardships of moving to another school (such as juggling trailing spouses and other family commitments), are almost always the most entrepreneurial, risk tolerant, and productive.

Those who choose to stay - and to keep staying - are perhaps not always making the most rational of career choices.  From a career progression standpoint, a willingness to move is almost alway essential if one wants achieve the professional positions that will enable the greatest contribution and impact.

We should find a way to celebrate both those who move on, and those who stay put.

Are you a long-term faculty or non-faculty educator at your institution?

Have you stayed at your school out of choice, rather than as a result of a lack of options?

For those of you that have changed schools, what factors were behind that move?

For those of you who have stayed, what keeps you where you are?


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