Ok, so first off, let me say that I know I was snippy in the whole "thank you for your concern" line, and that probably wasn't necessary. But now let me address the implication that it's wrong that one look for a job while one is on the tenure track, and that to imagine the possibility of changing jobs - "casting around for a better gig" - is in some way acting in bad faith. The short answer is, I wholeheartedly disagree with this implication, but I would, right? So let me give you my reasons.
- My institution has not yet made a lifetime commitment to me, and so I'm not certain I understand why I'm supposed already to have made a lifetime commitment to it. People in the "real world" look for other jobs all the time. Doing so often is crucial to professional advancement. The same is true in academe. It is not wrong to want to advance in one's chosen profession.
- I am not "casting around for a better gig" but rather I am applying selectively to jobs that I think might give me a chance to do things in my chosen field that I will not be able to do in my current position. I honestly really value my current position, and I think that it is a very good one for this type of institution. I would not apply for a job at a similar institution not because I'm so horrified by my current job but because if I'm going to work at this kind of institution, I want to work here.
- One of the reasons that I am on the market is because I want to be closer geographically to people that I care about. This is, to me, an entirely valid reason to look.
- I have the support of my colleagues. I am not in danger of being denied tenure at my university. I have been as open as possible about my reasons for looking with those who I feel need to know about my job search activities, and they appreciated that openness and they encouraged me.
- My colleagues know that part of the reason I'm looking is because I don't want to become a faculty member who stuck with it to tenure and then resents never having seen what else was out there, resenting this place and condescending to one's colleagues and students. Indeed, perhaps this is the most striking thing about the tone of the above comments: this is a person who in one breath implies that one has no right to look because it will betray one's institution and so one should just shut up and be unhappy, and yet if one signals that one is unhappy by putting oneself on the market, the commenter implies, one may be out of a job. I'm unclear about what this commenter thinks: should an unhappy person stay off the market to become an unhappy tenured person, for the good of the institution, or should an unhappy person get the hell out because they are not wanted if they are unhappy? And what about if one is kind of happy but if one has ambition and thinks that one might be happier if one pursued that ambition? What then? I want to become a senior colleague like the senior colleagues in my department: a senior colleague who supports the career development of its junior faculty, and who keeps junior faculty not with threats and guilt trips but because they want to stay. I want to be the kind of senior colleague who supports junior faculty if they want to see what else is out there. And if a person goes on the market and doesn't get another offer, or doesn't decide to take another offer, I want to continue to support that colleague. If I don't see what else may be out there for me, the option is to become embittered, and I don't see where that benefits my colleagues, my students, or my institution as a whole.
- If I stay at this institution, even if I don't get another offer, I will know precisely because I looked for another job my value in the wider profession. This is important to me. It shows me what I've achieved. (Achievement is not only measured in job offers or in climbing the ladder: achievement, as I see it, is measured in being considered a viable candidate, even if one isn't ultimately the "chosen one." And yes, it matters to me that I am competitive in the field that I have worked so hard to achieve in, and I think that it is good for my current institution that I am.)
- Should I get another job, yes, I think that my institution will feel the loss. I have been a good worker here. I have developed interesting courses, I have served on committees, I have done quality research. But I will not be leaving my department in a bind. My department, because it is a good department and a strong department, can survive if a faculty member takes another position. I realize that this is not the case in all departments, but since this commenter is attacking me, I believe it's only fair that I state that I am not in a department where my loss would result in the need to hastily hire someone to do all the work that I do.