How Long Should One Stay?

Thinking about job changes.

September 7, 2017

My parents are baby boomers and, like most in their generation, it is still common to have stayed in one profession - and even one job - for their entire careers. For Gen Xers (and first generation millennials) this couldn’t be further from the truth. I don’t know many people in their late 30s/early 40s who have had only three jobs, let alone one. Even my colleagues who are tenured professors (or on their way) have switched institutions more than their predecessors. We switch jobs for many reasons: the economy, lack of mobility, care commitments, opportunity, desire for change.

This new academic year, as I transition from one job to another, I have found myself asking the question: how long should one stay?

In higher ed, this question often has an answer: if you’re tenured faculty, you can stay forever - or until a better offer comes your way. If you’re a Dean or Chair, these positions often have term limits. But for those of us with hybrid or administrative positions, sometimes the length of tenure is unclear.

I left my last position after three years. There was much more that I wanted to accomplish, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity offered with my new role. Before that, I was a consultant who took on shorter roles with different organizations, which had its ups and downs. While I enjoyed getting to know the ways that different organizations run, the constant switching of gears was challenging.

In my new administrative role as Associate Director of an academic program, I’m replacing a baby boomer who was in the position for 30 years. I imagine that even if I wanted to stay that long, life and institutional circumstances would prevent such an extended tenure. I’ve set myself an initial goal of ten years. The first five will be about institutional grounding, growth, and creating lasting structural changes, while the second five will be about transitioning - either to a different phase of the position, or out of the role altogether.

Readers: what are your thoughts and experiences with job tenure? How long do you stay?



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