Wednesday, August 16, 2006

An Awesome Lunch, An Awesome Colleague, A Weight off my Shoulders: The Market

I just finished having lunch with Very Supportive Colleague (VSC), a higher-up in my department. I scheduled this lunch (an entirley uncharacteristic sort of a move for the non-ass-kiss-y me) with the purpose of revealing my plans to go on the job market this year and to ask VSC for a letter of recommendation.

What I said (basically): I am very happy here, I have felt very supported in my work, but I'm not place-bound, and at this juncture - midway to tenure - I think it would be good for me to see what else is there because if I choose to stay I want to really choose this university. I want to be excited about moving toward tenure here, and I want to be excited about the role that I would play in the changes happening at the university. I don't want to be embittered the way that some people at the university are.

What the colleague said (basically): I'm happy to write you a letter, I'm so glad that you have decided to tell important people in the department about your decision, I want you to choose this place, too, if you stay, and of course this is a smart thing to do at this point in your career.

And lunch was delicious.

Colleagues like VSC are one of the best things about this job.


RLT said...

I'm one of the non-academics who enjoy your blog, so I'm a little confused. Was this at all risky? Since you don't have tenure, couldn't they just replace you if they thought you were ready to jump ship? I was trying to equate this with how the business world works, but I know they aren't the same, so I'm not sure I understand.

Flavia said...

In a word: awesome! I'm so glad that it went well (and that you have such a cool, supportive, senior colleague).

Dr. Crazy said...

This is a good question. I think, as with a job in the business world, that the decision to inform one's employer or not that one may look at other jobs is situational. Let's say that some/all of the following were my situation:
1) I were in a department with a history of "weeding out" people at the tenure mark. This is very much not the case.
2) I had an uncomfortable or antagonistic rapport with my colleagues.
3) I didn't feel entirely comfortable with my tenure prospects in the first place because of my own performance.
4) I didn't feel like a recommendation from one of my colleagues would help in my search.
5) If I thought I couldn't trust my colleagues to be discreet about my decision.

Or any number of other things that don't immediately come to mind. In those cases, I don't think I'd have told VSC. My decision to do so was strongly influenced by the fact that I would like to have a letter in support of my candidacy that speaks to my performance as a colleague in a t-t job, and by the fact that I had a feeling that VSC would be, well, very supportive and that he'd both give good advice and understand my reasons for my attempt. The fact is, while I have letters from outside my institution that can speak to my scholarship, only somebody from here can really speak to my teaching/service. Since this is the case, and because i felt comfortable doing so, I figured I might as well get a honcho type to give me a letter rather than not.

Oh, and incidentally, one thing that may make this different from the business world is that VSC isn't technically my "boss," though he does have stature in the department, and the decision to reappoint me, promote me, or grant me tenure does not reside with him.

Oh, and while it's true my contract is year-to-year during my probationary period, the rules that govern reappointment are such that I would be in a good position to sue the university were they to terminate me given my performance.

Dr. Crazy said...

er, what I mean is that because my performance has been very good, I would be in a good position to sue them if they terminated me come reappointment time.

Hilaire said...

That's awesome! A very heartening story...Supportive senior colleagues are worth their weight in gold.

Dr. Crazy said...

Supportive senior colleagues ARE worth their weight in gold. And knowing that I'm being supported in this will make the decision to stay that much more attractive, should a decision have to be made, and while that will make things somewhat harder on me, what a GREAT position to be in.

RLT said...

Got it. Best of luck with it all.

Cats & Dogma said...

I think the logic that you present to VSC is incredibly compelling, especially with an eye toward choosing this place yourself. We so seldom have much, if any, choice in the job we get, and being able to exercise that choice, even (especially) if it means the same institution, should be empowering for both you and reassuring to the department you find yourself in next year...

Good luck!

New Kid on the Hallway said...

Very cool! I had colleagues react this way, too - much more than I had expected - and it is a wonderful relief/experience.

What I wonder is where we get all these awful messages about not moving, when every real person I've worked with has been very supportive of my decision to look elsewhere, even when they wanted me to stay... very weird.